LIVE: Pellethead @ Head of Steam

Located at the Newcastle Head of Steam, the gig saw a decent turnout, especially for what was, in the truest sense of the word, a line-up of thoroughly underground bands.

The main support Hold Music certainly gave an air of gloom to the venue, with a dark and intense, yet incredibly expressive set. Despite some somewhat questionable vocals from the frontman – a grungy, mumbled style that was certainly interesting if nothing else – their sound very rapidly grows on you until one becomes absorbed in the rich harmonies, incredible dynamic range and captivating structures. Much of the set was instrumental, yet unquestionably kept everyone in that room consistently mesmerized with an almost psychedelic quality. Despite this general darkness, the band themselves were in high spirits, with the frontman gleefully commenting on the number of Kronenbourgs he had drunk. Perhaps most remarkable was the finale, which saw him run into the crowd with his guitar and frantically thrash around (accompanied by a beautiful mess of distortion) undoubtedly leaving a lasting impression. Indeed, it really was a miracle he managed to stay upright!

Pellethead had no subtleties to them; several of their tunes took on a droney, trance-inducing sound suggestive of a bizarre Velvet Underground

Pellethead certainly provided somewhat of a contrast to Hold Music. The first thing that struck me was their choice of clothing, giving the impression they had raided a charity shop and put on whatever they could grab. Somehow, this was a startlingly good look. This, combined with the fact Pellethead are no longer quite the youngest of bands, meant I was not entirely sure what to expect from the show. What proceeded however, was quite unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.

To put it bluntly, Pellethead were nothing short of awesome. Immediately launching into an incredibly quirky, yet massively clever series of tunes, each song was noticeably unique to any other before or after. Though with clear influences of post-punk and new wave, their sound is uncompromisingly punk at its core, further reflected in their somewhat manic stage presence and twang of irony reminiscent of the likes of Dead Kennedys.

Their three-way vocals were certainly used to the full potential, with the more traditionally punk sound used by both guitarists beautifully juxtaposed with the high-pitched, almost Devo-esque singing of the bassist. Indeed an abrasive sound, but one complimenting their music perfectly, and similarly allowing for the sheer complexities of their songwriting to shine through.

However this is not to suggest Pellethead had no subtleties to them; several of their tunes took on a droney, trance-inducing sound suggestive of a bizarre Velvet Underground. It was these moments especially that accentuated the fact this band is composed of very seasoned performers, with the ability to create an almost paradoxical (and very ‘rock n roll’) form of controlled chaos throughout.

their sound is uncompromisingly punk at its core, further reflected in their somewhat manic stage presence

Their surreal ramblings between songs certainly added to the experience, from quips at the Tories’ expense to describing a song as about “having no house and living in a skip”.

If I was to have one complaint, it would be the ending of their set. Finishing on a new song called ‘Black and White’, it felt somewhat unsure compared to the rest of their tunes, and ended the evening on a bit of an anti-climax. However the rest of their set more than made up for this, leaving me, and I’m sure many others, in a state of amazement.

Charlie Isaac 

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