If you do the sums, Gold Sounds makes sense musically AND mathematically. 2 days, 2 stages, 24 acts (all hyped or rising and scheduled in consecutive clash-defying fashion) over 14 hours, for £35. That’s £1.45 per performance; nose-thumbing anyone who says, ‘you get what you pay for.’ So, whilst overlapping the same weekend as Brighton’s The Great Escape festival, the gospel of Gold Sounds proves why its annual takeover of the Brudenell Social Club is the North’s smart alternative:
1. Thou shalt embrace the party:
Contrary to their name, North Carolina rock’n’rollers The Nude Party are wearing shirts to match the Pantone colour scheme of a Disney Pixar parade. Their vibrant attire jumps from the Main Room’s shadows and at the Fender twang of ‘Feels Alright’, a burst of West Coast-tinged splendour spills from the stage. The freewheeling Dylanesque drawl of cautionary tale ‘Chevrolet Van’ trundles along and, like Allah La’s performing a sun-kissed ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, the 6-piece’s 60s psychedelic swirl is wise beyond their years. Party-starters indeed, the floor becomes a nodding, grinning, singalong. This much joy shouldn’t be allowed. Fuck the fun police. This band is as unapologetic as they are unGoogleable.
2. Thou shalt watch out for secret agents:
“My name’s Trixie, Trixie Whitley,” the singer responds, to an enthusiastic and curious crowd member. “It wasn’t my decision.” Excusing her name but nothing else, there’s far more than a hint of 007 about the Belgian artist who appears with a measured, inner strength and confidence. Striking at the strings of her guitar with her fingertips, the raw ferocity of her live set punches harder than her recordings. Inviting her drumming partner on stage, the pair pummel through with the jagged sneer of Skunk Anansie and PJ Harvey, before they swap positions and Trixie takes a seat at the drum kit. Returning to the guitar, she has barely broken a sweat but grimaces when her instrument bites back and slices at her fingers. Resilient, she fights on, leaving the crowd shaken and most definitely stirred.
3. Thou shalt applaud bare-chested boldness:
The temperature in the Main Room has hit meltdown. Working Men’s Club have thundered through 25 minutes of smart post-punk stompers and singer Syd is pulling out his signature Iggy moves to the beat of their New Order-meets-LCD Soundsystem finale, ‘Teeth’; shirtless, exploding with rage into the microphone and locked in a forehead battle with an unsuspecting member of the audience like the rhinoceros equivalent of an arm wrestle.
Shirtless is a seed Stockholm’s Viagra Boys have been sowing for some time. Displaying the impressively inked canvas of his half-naked chest, complete with gold chain and shades, frontman Sebastian commands the crowd to a bounce. Bongos and the squelching sax of songs from their Street Worms debut are as uplifting as the band’s name suggests and big hitter ‘Sports’ is knocked out of the park. “You could suck dick for heroin,” Sebastian suggests through the echo of his raspy deep Texan drawl. “There’s so many different sports you could try.”
4. Thou shalt brace oneself for an explosion of spontaneity:
“What’s your favourite Robbie Williams song?” Queen Zee asks, before heaving a Frank Sidebottom-sized horse head over his own painted face and sticking the microphone between its gnashers. The crowd has barely noticed. Bodies part as a mosh-pit ruptures the audience; a masked drummer pounds out a brutal beat and there’s head-banging, chanting, barging, toing and froing. Ringleader of their own circus of chaos, in torn Persil-white jeans whilst fiercely thrumming at the guitar that shields a sleeveless stars’n’stripes tee, Zee stalks the stage and yells to the high-octane fist-punch chorus of ‘Loner’ and grimy punk rock of ‘Sissy Fit.’ Unyielding with Sid Vicious spunk, it’s brutally sweet whilst exposing open wounds that run just as deep
5.Thou shalt find calm amongst the storm:
If there’s one thing alt-country 3-piece Ohtis have, it’s a knack for creating an atmosphere. Far from their Normal, Illinois home, songwriter Sam Swinson sips tea between songs (he tells us his voice is ‘shot from lack of sleep’ due to his time on the road) whilst stars of light bounce off the mirrorball and twirl across the dimly lit stage. Through half-spoken Adam Green intonation and the graceful bend of pedal steel guitar, it’s a gloriously sensitive set offering a refreshing antidote to toxic masculinity. They tell Dixie-twang tales of Sam’s stance on the devil and Jesus plus personal reflections of post-addiction recovery. Dedicating ‘Little Sister’ to his sibling who “turned out alright” and will be best man at his wedding, the audience is invited into Ohtis’ gentle and candid world.
6. Thou shalt sympathise with poor early-career decisions:
There’s a collective exhale of relief as Hand Habits take a pause between songs. “Use them for coasters or whatever,” the band’s singer Meg suggests whilst tuning a guitar and gesturing to the band-branded Frisbees on the merch stall. “It seemed a good idea at the time.” Lifting the mood between the ethereal simplicity of the band’s dreamy electric lullabies, Meg’s witty interludes and wry smiles run drier than a pile of wood-chippings but add charm to the intensity of the LA via NYC 3-piece’s performance. ‘What Lovers Do’ is doused with the sweeping sorrow of Angel Olsen vulnerability, it’s earnest like Big Thief, and on ‘Placeholder’ each instrument chimes with the soaring vocal delivery of Julia Jacklin.
Weakened Friends are heftier in melody but no less honest. The Portland, Maine trio admit that the pun of their name was a drunken mishap. “It sounded good but then we realised we’d have to spend the rest of our lives explaining it,” joke the housemates. With a casual jeans’n’tees aesthetic they’ve Marie Kondoed their punked-up choruses, offering a cleaner calamity to their bratty take on 90s throwback grunge. Like False Advertising with, at times, the vocal tenacity of Gwen Stefani in her 90s ska-punk heyday.
What both bands seemingly lack in entrepreneurial spirit, they more than make up for with a solid punch to the gut.
7. Thou shall embrace romantic revivals:
Lazy Days? Lucid Dream? Leeds District? Or something else? As their frontman wanders the stage in his Nike Airs with a hand in his pocket, there’s only guessing at why local post-punk outfit L.D. Moses have chosen their moniker. Creating a noose from his microphone lead, occasionally taking to the keyboard and joining the crowd for the band’s closing number, he bears a striking resemblance to a younger James Dean – if Hollywood’s tragic hero had a penchant for smoggy 80s sounds and sang, with the misery of The Cure’s Robert Smith. On ‘Close as the Ceiling,’ the guitars glisten and cymbals shimmer with a neo-noirish tone whilst a rhythmic, deadpan repetition of the words “It’s just a feeling” reveal the anxious hearts on their sleeves.
Scotland’s Lylo are one member down tonight (whose sleeves, we’re reliably informed, include well-worn cardigans) but they’re not letting that stop them. Offering up a danceable Talk Talk sound through Boomerangable running-man moves and borrowing the hip-swivels of Dutch Uncles’ Duncan Wallis. Their mellow grooves, fuelled by a swooning ice-cool sax, make them just one pair of wicker loafers away from finding themselves living it up in Rio with Duran Duran.
8. Thou shalt dance, dance, dance:
W.H. Lung have transformed the Brudenell’s Main Room into an enchanting Krautrock Under the Sea ceremony. Submerged in deep blue spotlights, arms flailing and bending knees that give rise to his turnups, frontman Joe looks like a rubber jellyfish limbering up for action. As summoning a shoal of space-rock disco fans to move to the band’s infectiously motorik beats, hypnotic mantra ‘Simpatico People’ is tribal and heads nod along to is static. Balancing on the tip of the stage, Joe keeps his gaze on the crowd and sways with arms aloft, channelling the bombastic command and showman spirit of Brandon Flowers, rendering resistance futile and earplugs completely useless.
Nothing is stopping Lumer either. With the rage and power of Idles, fellow Hull outfit LIFE, and the intonation of Protomartyr’s Joe Casey, bassist and singer Alex is pelvis-swirling with gusto to rival the swift moves of Bruce Lee who poses on his tee. Hurtling through an unfaltering set their rhythmic and ruthless energy runs on full charge until Alex collapses to the floor. Lying on his back in the wake of their destruction, resounding chants of “Yorkshire, Yorkshire” entwine with the sonic fuzz which hangs in the air.
9. Thou shalt seek refreshment and keep cool:
Riding into the Community Room on a hype wave from SXSW and freshly saltlicked from Brighton’s Great Escape a day earlier, the heat building around Montreal’s Pottery is borderline inferno. “Wait a minute,” commands guitarist, Jacob mid-song, signalling the band to dial the level down. He smirks, “It’s too damn fucking hot and I can’t breathe, I need some… Pepsi. Cola. Power!” Like a surgeon performing miracle surgery, he revives the thumping heart of the song’s final bars. Stance wide, and blonde bowl-cut shaking, the band power through an onslaught of gleefully messy call’n’response rock n roll. ‘Hank Williams’ fires off with all the best of Parquet Courts’ obtuse angles, the jagged stomp of The Modern Lovers, and works up a sweat on stage and off.
Hull 5-piece bdrmm should probably pace themselves. Opening Day 2’s proceedings, it’s unlikely they felt the fire of Pottery’s set with each member just a chord away from melting their own microphones. Originally the bedroom (or should that be bdrmm?) project of songwriter Ryan, who is wearing a bobble hat, each member rocks back and forth, hammering away at their instruments in their own hypnotic worlds. Fortunately, perspiration allows the majestic soundscapes to seep from the band’s soul. Like DIIV having a sonic stand-off with Mogwai, each number explodes and builds from shoegazing to a monstrous barrage of noise with enough friction to cause third-degree burns.
10. Thou shalt share an appreciation for baked goods:
There’s a resounding cheer for Linnea Siggelkow and her band but they haven’t yet played a note. Hailing from Toronto, it may be the first UK tour for Ellis, but they have already unlocked the secret to northern music fans’ energy levels and happiness. “I’ve discovered Greggs,” the band’s singer confesses. With that, the entire room rests in the palm of her hand. The warm husky tones of ethereal heartbreak fill the room and just like a third act, when the protagonist changes their mind 20 minutes before the ending, each song is full of hope, uncertainty and vanquishing all that’s gone before. Swaying to its beat, ‘Something Blue’sparkles with the glittery haze of Mazzy Star melancholy whilst ‘The Fuzz’ swells to the driven crescendo of a dreamy wig-out of smashing cymbals, synths, bass and wailing guitar.
Also appearing: The Blinders, Pip Blom, Fat White Family, Pigs Pig Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Emerson Snowe, Harkin, The Beths, Alex Lahey, Sistertalk.