Strange Bones once again tear it up on a lively Cardiff night
There’s no other band quite like Strange Bones. Going to one of their gigs is always a special kind of experience, not just because of the striking visuals, stage charisma, and high-energy delivery, but because of the level of participation they can get from any audience. I have rarely seen another band capable of getting a mosh pit going from the get-go and keep it getting crazier and crazier to the end of the set. Strange Bones gigs have a tendency to go by in a flash – they are so immersive and intense that it’s like being carried away by a stream, and getting out on the other side panting and wondering what hit you.
Their appearance in Cardiff, courtesy of This Feeling and setting Independent Music Venue Week to an excellent start for the Welsh capital (still recently plagued by the loss of more grassroots venues to ruthless landlords, and therefore much in need of celebrating its music landmarks), was no exception. The Moon is the perfect setting for a band like this, small enough to feel intimate and amplify the connection between performers and audience; even the bitter cold of the January evening dissipated quickly as the performance went from zero to a thousend in the span of the first few bars.
An excellent set of supports had kept the audience on its collective toes. Cardiffian trio Frakard did the honours in opening the night with a set that carried some bite, heartfelt, cutting, and in places political. This is a local band that rightly deserves a place on the to-watch list of anyone who enjoys bluntly direct, no-nonsense punk with sharply sincere lyrics and a feisty attitude. Think of the likes of IDLES, Fontaines DC, and The Murder Capital, with a Welsh spin and a lot of buzzing ideas (and an excellent pair of leopard-print brogues on guitarist Ben Jones). They delivered a lot of noise in a technically tight set, an excellent opener for the rest of the night.
Dead Naked Hippies.
Where Frakard evoked the never-dead spirit of classic punk, second support Dead Naked Hippies brought with them a number of suggestions hailing as far back as the alternative rock of the Seventies, passing through a hint of post-punk and wrapping it all up in a very distinctive sound. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong to suspect there might be a shade of Ziggy Stardust in the performance of vocalist Lucy Jowett, whose stage presence – both stark and theatrical – is one of the most genuinely magnetic I have seen from younger artists in the last few years. The whole set had a slightly spaced-out buzz that felt like the deep breath before the adrenaline-packed jump that was the main attraction for the evening.
Strange Bones are one of those bands that have to be seen live to be fully experienced. Sharp and well-produced as their studio work might be, one needs to hear the raw, dirty, unrestrained explosion of sound all of their tracks turn into when played on stage, to completely appreciate the heftiness of the punch they deliver. From the second Bobby Bentham strolled onto the stage like he owned the place, the audience was entranced. From then on, it was an endless thrumming of electronica-inspired bass, wailing of pure-punk guitars, and one of the most remarkable strings of serial crowdsurfing (yes, I have no better term for describing the absolute abandon with whom both the band and various audience members launched into it) I have ever seen at a gig. The somewhat enclosed space of the Moon lent it all a slightly claustrophobic vibe that fit the general mood perfectly.
Strange Bones aficionados will have been happy to recognise all of the band’s trademark tunes; the crowd enthusiasm and raucous collective singing on ‘We Are The Rats’ is testimony enough to the power of some of these tracks. My personal favourite, ‘Vicious’, with its harsh, barking vocals and rough-edge guitars, made it into the setlist as well. ‘Snakepit’ and ‘God Save The Teen’ brought on a wave of intense participation that perfectly capped a rough-and-fast evening. If anyone truly deserves the label of post-punk, it is this band, in the way they have to preserve the rebellious, defiant vibe of punk while mixing it with more modern, but no less primal, types of sound.
One of my favourite things about Strange Bones, aside from the wild fervour they seem able to inspire in any room – I am yet to see them get a lukewarm reaction – is how visually striking they are, their physical performance buzzing with an energy that matches the raw mood of their sound. Newcomers might have been slightly taken aback when the by now iconic gas mask came out, but the thrill of long-time fans was palpable. In the moments when Bobby jumped off-stage and went striding through the audience, there was an electric connection that is lacking in too many performances these days. At the end of it all, heart still thumping against eardrums, one is left with the feeling that this is really one of the greatest live bands right now – and with the need to see them live again as soon as possible.