Bristol has been home to a great many doom titans over the last few years, its new standing as the home place of Temples Festival cementing it as the UK’s doom capital. The Exchange is tonight host to Brant Bjork, the bandanna’d ex-drummer of Kyuss.
The Low Desert Punk Band, in all honesty, are not the band you need to know beforehand to enjoy live. I would be prepared to wager that several members of the audience heard the words ”Kyuss” and “drummer and “playing in Bristol” and ditched their Monday night plans immediately.
Openers Gonga don’t have any microphones because they don’t have singers. Seems reasonable to me. They do engage with the audience between songs, which some might think runs the risk of falling flat; however with no option other than to cast their voices into the crowd it humbles them, a very appropriate gesture that foreshadows the headliners. Their brand of riffy post metal flirts with Pelican influences but with more groove and drive and arguably better transitions between parts; it never feels as architectural as their American cousins, a much more organic beastie. All three musicians stand roughly in-line with each other, all playing off one another though at the heart of things this is clearly a guitar-led band. By the time they get towards the end of their set they’ve won a great deal of affection from the audience, their flair and musicianship brilliant and captivating. I’m sure they’re bored with the comparison but for a band apparently named after cheese they’re anything but.
LTNT’s addition of vocals almost seems out-of-place considering how much I enjoyed Gonga. Fortunately this disorientation doesn’t last; their 70s jams are a lot more firmly rooted in rock tradition which the audience are overwhelmingly in favour of. Psychedelic and heavy-as-balls, their take on alt-rock is glorious and an excellent fit for the evening. A particular delight is their drummer whose lightning snare rolls and mercurial dexterity is a wonder to behold, though audience attention is split between him and their tousled frontman. Objectively Gonga’s delightful weave of passages and textures ticked all my boxes but LTNT’s electricity is much more on-point with the crowd as the energy grows for Brant Bjork’s eventual ascension.
Brant Bjork is wildly and vividly unpretentious. I had the pleasure of speaking with him briefly before the show; it’s a rare thing indeed to find a more relaxed human. His entrance to the stage bring maniacal grins to everyone. Rarely are so many people this excited; this is not an event that would attract miserable folk, but there is an especially palpable sense of glee. Part of the joy of an event such as this is to reject analysis and wall-hugging anti-fun and get involved with the sheer spectacle of a great live show.
Prior to the gig I wasn’t intimately aware of the LDPB’s material, deliberately hoping to approach it with as little pre-judgment as possible. This is part of the thrill of a respected artist, having spearheaded a movement, producing new material; there is a colossal potential for failure if the new writing isn’t enough of a progression or if it’s a dull re-hash. Bjork’s band-leading seems to have paid off; fuzz-drenched rumbling and aeons-long, devastatingly heavy solos are a mainstay of the evening. I love all of it. Everything about Bjork is legitimate. This isn’t so much expanding on what’s gone before but it is a new avenue for him to explore, and whilst I can’t hear the punk influences as heavily as the classic rock/ metal, I do get the authenticity of the music and the performance. This undiminished authenticity bestows upon this band a rare magic; absolute authenticity, absolute gravitas, absolute power.
There’s a mix of older and newer material on display – no Kyuss tunes, and why would there be? Of course they wouldn’t rely on the much older jams, though the elephant in the room is that he could if he wanted; sometimes forgotten is that Bjork was a major creative force in his most famous project, certainly not some kind of moustachioed also-ran. He has every right to jam older stuff and yet he doesn’t need to; his new stuff is just as righteous. Whilst I’m a little sad that they don’t throw in a song from his Icelandic namesake, this is perhaps an unreasonable request to make so I’ll be content with the material we’ve been offered.
Overall: magic. It’s such a treat to see a performance such as this, music that’s been re-born into brand new relevance with every successive wave of fresh new bands bitten by the riff bug. Bjork’s warlike stagger later in the set is testament to his power; he, like LTNT and Gonga, is here to fucking stay.
Listen to the new song from Brant Bjork here- Smarturl.it/