When Narrows announced they would be playing a select run of UK shows as part of their 2011 European tour, Thrash Hits collectively started whooping in delight and anticipation. As one of the best bands you’ve never bothered to see live, we sure as shit weren’t about to miss them when they rolled into town to give East London a Friday night ass-kicking. Hugh Platt was on hand to document it in words; Shaziya Niamh was there to handle the pictures.
Six things we learned when Narrows, Hang The Bastard, and Kerouac played the Old Blue Last:
1) The last time Narrows were booked to play London, they played to a less-than sold-out Camden Underworld. As tonight builds to its climax, the OBL is heaving at the sides. Sure, it’s a smaller venue, but even after taking that into account, the atmosphere of tonight’s show sparks in a way that last year’s just didn’t. This isn’t just a case of promoters doing their job properly – the slow but steady growth in Narrows’ reputation has come as a direct result of everyone who has ever seen them tear it up live spread news of the experience through word-of-mouth (well, the internet too, but hey).
2) Kerouac are one of those bands that I’ve found myself increasingly impressed with as times go by. I won’t deny they don’t have an off-day every now and again, but if their recent split EP with Pariso tells us anything, it’s that these once these boys from the south coast can consistently replicate what they’re capable of achieving on record, UK hardcore is going to have some new heroes to hand. The embryonic core of that future is what Keroauc display tonight – when they drop ‘Fiends’ towards the tail-end of their set, I damn nearly break my face from grinning too much.
Narrows @ London Old Blue Last - 20 May 2011 c/o Shaziya Niamh
All photos c/o Shaziya Niamh.
3) I don’t want to be one of those guys, but there’s no other way to say this – when it comes to Hang The Bastard, I prefer their early stuff. When we first saw HTB they pretty much upstaged Throats at their own launch party – once they finished up, we were straight over to the merch stand to pick up a copy of their Raw Sorcery EP and to throw money at their t-shirt seller. We’re not sure what’s changed tonight – part of our gut keeps telling us that their doomy bits seem more formulaic now, and don’t integrate so well with the hardcore sections, but I think that might just be me making excuses for my short attention span. But I find myself gravitating closer and closer to the bar.
4) Yeah, we pretty much stopped listening at one point and did some rounds of shots.
5) That Narrows haven’t yet been seized upon by the hipster-metal element and elevated to the band du jour of the metal/hardcore blogosphere is astounding. They’ve got former members of Botch (undoubtably the name to drop when trying to show-off in mathcore circles) as well as These Arms Are Snakes. They shout at the soundman to turn off as many lights as possible so they get to play in gloomy, atmospheric shadows. They’ve got a reputation for shredding faces first and asking questions later. Tonight’s performance only goes to reinforce that reputation.
6) That Narrows show from 2010 that we talked about earlier? It ground to a halt when they blew the venue’s entire PA by being that damn awesome. There are no such setbacks tonight – just an hour of supremely competent, extremely confident, skull-rattling music. The one thing tonight did have in common with last year is that once again, everyone present came out of the other side with a new found respect for what this band is capable of, and a brewing contempt for all the poser half-arsed math- and hardcore bands who fall so very, very far of the benchmark that Narrows set.
All photographs used with the kind permission of Shaziya Niamh. To see more of her work, go check out her blog.