There had been a running order change – Guapo were now going to come on last, so we pinned our ears back for two helpings of spitgrowl-thrustgargle.
First to serenade us was Haxan, who impressed me tonsorially more than musically. There was a guitarist with one of those dandy V-shaped axes, and almost arse-length hair, which looked ever so shiny and clean as he tossed it hither and yon in traditional metallic fashion. I was mesmerised by it; I began to wonder whether he used Pantene. The music was alright I guess – I am truly, terribly ignorant of that sort of thing, so it was hard to judge. I did not take to the singer, really. He seemed a snotty individual. His first utterance was “Can someone turn that stupid CD off?” (The PA system was still blaring RAWWWWKKK as they mounted the stage, you see.) He went on to give us lyrics like “The forest devours your pain” and “You messed up and now you must pay”, all delivered in exactly the same tone of voice as you might use when telling a waiter that a drink you ordered ten minutes ago hasn’t arrived yet, and this here cutlery doesn’t look very clean. It was more… peevish, perhaps, than truly angst-ridden. (Indeed, Esau the Hairy Axe-Man was disloyal enough to look almost cheerful at times.) “I went to the forest,” sniffed our narrator, meanwhile. “I knew what I had to do!” It was all I could do not to suggest a rousing chorus of ‘The Lumberjack Song’. (Truly, had Michael Palin entered stage left it would have been perfect.)
Still, enough of my levity! I will admit they were rather handy with their guitars; indeed, another moment of unintentional comedy was enacted at the end of their set when, with faces contorted in concentration, guitar necks pointing upwards at 45 degrees, they did a spot of what I can only call ‘communal strumming’. I shall leave my readers to form their own mental image.
Next on our songsheet: Esoteric. Our disgruntled Guapo-hatin’ commentator from earlier had heaped praise upon them; he had mentioned that they were fairly growly of vocals, “but it’s all part of the music”. I must say, this sort of music generally has the effect of making me giggle rather than Feel the Awesome Power of Thor or whatever it is one is supposed to feel; still, I had to attempt to approach this with an open ear.
Well, let’s just say… Esoteric were… LOUD. I mean, horribly, repugnantly loud. They were so bloody loud that it was actually difficult to hear any kind of nuances in their music. In fact, one might make out more ‘nuances’ in repeated bludgeonings about the bonce with a paving slab. Occasionally some guitar pyrotechnics emerged from the haze of ear-numbing cacophony, but other than that I was distracted by the singer, who had on a headset mike rather like the ones worn by motivational speakers. If the vocalist (I think ‘singer’ is not really the right word!) could have motivated me to do anything, it would have been to buy him a packet of throat lozenges. The most bizarre thing was how diffident and unconcerned he seemed when not roaring incoherently about god-knows-what (because it was impossible, of course, to hear what he was ‘singing’ about). Between songs, he just mumbled “Cheers,” more as if he was thanking a shop assistant than accepting the applause of an audience.
The most amusing moment for me came right at the end (…not just because the torment was about to end!). In a moment that echoed the climactic twiddlings of Haxan, all the band members save for the drummer suddenly got on their knees and started… fondling their effects pedals. (The drummer lightly teased the edge of a cymbal instead.)
Context was not wearing a Saxon shirt. QWP