Every now and then you are suddenly struck by just how far a band has come. Whether you really know them, or you’re seeing them for the first time, you find yourself wondering when fiddling about on an acoustic in their parents basement on an idle Sunday afternoon gets thrown to the wayside? When does pubescent garage-rock become cascading guitar solos? When does the well-placed revving of a bass hammering over pounding drum lines suddenly set in? This is a rare phenomenon, and so when it happens twice in one night you are left clasping tightly onto the moment to come back to again and again.

For a Friday, the Water Rats is surprisingly empty, yet the communion of the gravel voiced aggression of Fiction’s Katie Bush, and the bawling gait of Vinyl’s Graham Dodd leave you with little space to breathe. These are both bands that specialise in flourishing warehouse rawk, and the Big Loud.

Plugged as femme-led Brit-rock, Fiction’s aggressive take on love and asshole ex-boyfriends is more Phil Spector with a hangover than cocky popsters. Considering there are only three people on stage they fill the room entirely. Richard Sandling’s thrashing bass and Steve Cook’s thumping drums growl a fierce trip to Katie Bush’s Joan Jett girly goodness. Between songs, it’s hard to believe that this sneering dominatrix is the same person. She flushes with satisfaction after the first two tracks and shyly apologises in advance for the state of the third ("This next one is new. It doesn’t have a title. Actually, we don’t even know if we’re going to keep these lyrics. So, um, let me know what you think"), before igniting into gruff sincerity that lets you know who’s in change. Fiction swings from the haunting to a pummelling hard edge without stopping, rounding swiftly on anyone who fell for the Just a Girl routine.

As the gritty halo that surrounds the departure of their seven song set begins to ebb, you doubt there’s anything that can follow.

Without the sound, Vinyl seem like a whole lot of Slade hair and extravagant posturing as Graham Dodd struts round the stage with an air of premature Jagger. Yet this Dublin quartet’s brand of garage-rawk defies the usual taxonomy. The sharp squalor of Alan Dodd’s ricocheting guitar colliding with the gorgeous leer of Wayne Barry’s bass makes like a feral animal. Add James Nolan’s thundering drumwork and Graham’s infectious howl and the result is no mere auditory porn, but a resounding brainfuck.

The sweeping physicality of 'Call It Out', and vigorous force of 'New York' harken to the better days of rock; while 'Surrender' is much more melodic and lyrically conscious. Graham’s hooliganistic jiving sets the stage alight, feeding off the rest of the band. He sinks to his knees under the weight of driving drum solos and scrawling guitar, revs the crowd in a bucking runaround, and air-plays everything. At one point in their final number, he falls off the stage and just watches from the floor as though bored with the whole proceedings before slinging the mic over his shoulder and crashing back in full swing.

Not bad for a couple of bands that have yet to be signed.


The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Bob Stuart and orignally appeared on his website www.underexposed.org.uk
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