The Bastards Of Fate @ The Green Door Store, Brighton, 27.04.13
Words and photography: Lucy Cage
Marvellous maximalist mayhem and everything I hoped it would be, The Bastards Of Fate at Brighton’s hipster-garnished, cobbled-floor venue are so good, so very good in fact, that I may have jumped up and down and squealed when relaying this information to Mike on the merch stall. The sort of good that necessitates a bit of mutual whooping with fellow audience members as the band leave the stage, that demands ear-to-ear beams and a compulsion to hug their cat-faced debut album to one’s chest. It’s kinda head-spinningly peculiar and wonderful and absofuckinglutely right that this bunch of good people have apparated in a warehouse under the station in my little British seaside town all the way from their own little town in the far far away American South. Some kind of (huge) magic must be at play (especially when I reread Scott Creney’s account of stumbling across them unexpectedly in a smoky bar in Roanoke, Virginia and realise the unlikely but glorious string of circumstances that has got them to Brighton).
So here they are and putting on a rocking, skronking, maniacal steam train of a show for us. Once the music starts up in the gloom of the Green Door Store, singer Doug Cheatwood is transformed from mild-mannered, bespectacled and besuited regular guy into a screaming, jabbering, intensely enthralling frontman; lit up in the darkness, he prowls among the audience, swinging a lamp on a cable round his head, a circular space understandably opening up before him as the crowd back warily but happily away from his erratic whirling. He’s in constant motion, pacing round and round, the hand-held lamp crazily illuminating grinning faces, implicating us all in the Bastards circus. There are several near-misses when I think he’s going to – literally – lamp someone, but whether through genius spatial awareness or sheer luck, each time the dazzlingly bright bulb is swung away from danger to brighten the features of another gawping member of the crowd. He is, as is pointed out by a friend who escaped injury by the skin of her teeth, a health and safety nightmare. But such fucking fun.
Bastards songs career all over the place from headbangingly heavy rock-outs to skithering keyboard jaunts, from melodic prettiness to howling blasts of skree. Cheatwood seems possessed by legion voices, whispering, yelling, choralling, funking it up, shoehorning every conceivable reaction into a single song, channelling preacher and demon in turn. It’s dizzying. It’s exhilarating. It’s disorientating. It’s alarming. And behind him, up on the stage, there’s the band, bouncing through the coils and curls of the songs, wailing and yelping and having a blast, letting the tunes warp and distort, resolve themselves into charm and light then scatter into tiny gnarled pieces. They’re clever and daft, suppliers of groove, pop, funk, darkness and absurdity.
I look at what my friend’s written down: John Zorn; Cardiacs; Kenny Process Team; Max Webster; Primus; Lazer Boy. You can make what you will of that list, there’s truth in it, however tangential and dated the references (look ‘em up). You could easily rustle up more connections (Arial Pink; TV On The Radio; Beefheart; Zappa) but the truth is that while there are many (excellent) bands BoF might be said to sound like actually, of course, they sound only like themselves. I find myself in rushes of excitement that I’m lucky enough to be here, now, experiencing music that is genuinely different, unique, original. It’s not merely good. It doesn’t merely rock. It won’t merely entertain. It, in fact, deserves multi-choired fanfares and kaleidoscopic bunting and wahwahwahing klaxons. Wake up you lucky bastards! This is transformative, inspiring, innovative stuff, all of which are dull-as-ditchwater words for music which is really, really anything but.