Review of the the Blizzmas Ball with Evil Blizzard, Ruts DC and Ludovico at 53 Degrees Preston on 16.12.17
Let’s get this out of the way. If you can’t enjoy an Evil Blizzard gig then you know that you are suffering from anhedonia, which is “the lack of pleasure or capacity to experience it” (as Dictionary.com puts it). I’ve been to about five now, often with my son pictured here at an earlier gig (he’s the one on the right, I’m the one on the left).
I first came across Evil Blizzard as I arrived in time for their last song in a support slot for The Fall. Looking at their garishly-masked faces, my first thought was along the lines of ‘I think one Slipknot is enough’. This was unfair to both bands, especially as I don’t think that I’ve ever listened to Slipknot to this day and maybe I should. Never judge a book by its cover or a band by its masks (well, maybe Kiss but even then Crazy Nights is relatively harmless fun).
I got the full effect of a full set at a following Fall gig at which their four bass line-up made the walls oscillate like a sludgy jelly. Then, when seeing them in the sweaty box of a gig that was the much-missed Ducie Bridge in Manchester, Mark Whiteside ‘Side’ (their singing drummer) told me that they once had a mere three bass players and another, Pete Brown (Stomper), originally joined for one song mainly because he wanted to be able to say that he’d supported The Fall. I knew then that Evil Blizzard were, as Barrymore used to say ‘my kind of people’.
Mr Smith in turn was almost unprecedently effusive in being quoted as saying “I like Evil Blizzard, they give me hope that music is alive and kicking”. He’s been much less complimentary about say, Kate Bush, which for a man of a certain age like me was hard to hear.
Blizzmass has become a regular Christmas party and this year it was at 53 Degrees a post-industrial styled venue that deservedly does good business in the band’s home town of Preston. They were supported by Ruts DC who are often described as a punk/reggae/ska band and there were elements of that joyful trinity but that description didn’t really cover the breadth and depth of their set. There were likely some other numpties like me who started out absent-mindedly waiting for the hits from mine and their youth (e.g. Staring At The Rude Boys) but then forgot them altogether until they popped up amongst a rich set from a band that could PLAY. Thanks to The Fall for introducing me to Evil Blizzard and thanks to Evil Blizzard for re-introducing me to Ruts DC. They’ve been around as first the Ruts then Ruts DC for nearly forty years and unfortunately this was my first gig, it won’t be my last.
Ludovico, four younger men from Preston with a cheeky glint in the eye and winning ‘front’ in the patter, which they amply backed up with great musicianship, opened the gig. The Mod influence was clear in the parka worn by their guitarist, a Jam cover and their rattling closing cover of Tin Soldier but they had driven and insistent tunes of their own that stood up alongside the Mod hits. I would be more than happy to see them again too.
I/we really mustn’t fixate on the looks thing. Penelope Cruz is ALSO a very intelligent woman and great actress and Evil Blizzard also have the tunes to back- up the indisputable fun. The boys are lookers though, their characters Side, Kav, Filthy Dirty, Stomper, Prowler and their non-playing ringmasters Blizzpig (see above) and Mopman make for a disconcerting and trippy evening even before they properly get into their first trancey groove.
‘Side’ the singing drummer is not in the mould of Phil Collins (or indeed Karen Carpenter) he has more of an Ozzy-like register which adds to the Sabbathesque grooves in places and his droll wit is another favourable point of comparison between the two frontmen. Except that Side is at the back and so not a frontman like Ozzy but then he sort of is but there are four other front men on the bass actually at the front, in contrast to Sabbath’s comparatively statueseque Geezer Butler. Perhaps the Who’s sadly missed John “the Ox” Entwhistle stock-still template has been a little overused by subsequent bass players; why should those showy lead guitarists have all the fun?
You might come for the fun but you’ll stay and come back for the groove. My primary school recorder exploits don’t even halfway qualify me as a musician but I’m guessing that four basses (and a bit of synth), a singing drummer and not lead guitar shouldn’t work but it certainly does. Differential tuning….err… what am I talking about… just enjoy the fact that it does work.
The night included Hello / Like A God / Sacrifice / Stupid People / Unleash The Misery / Slimy Creatures and Are You Evil?. These tracks from their releases The Dangers of Evil Blizzard and Everybody Come to Church were all received with the now traditional booing that counterintuitively feeds the energy.
It’s a multi-layered melodic, punky, proggy, spacey, heavy, dancey, ravey, trippy, krautrockey, droney soundbath both live and on record. Acts ranging from PIL, to Embrace, to Hawkwind have asked Evil Blizzard to support them, so that shows that they’re not ready for an easy pigeonhole just yet.
Their latest single Fast Forward Rewind (12th February on Crackedankles Records) got a run out and it too did a familiar job of first disconcerting then pulling the crowd into the sonic tumble dryer, at which point they couldn’t resist movement voluntary and involuntary.
All that and I didn’t get around to baby’s head theremin which might seem like one last ‘waffer-thin mint’ after the sonic and visual roughing-up but went down nicely, as ever.
A new album is also on the way in the Summer, which Filthy Dirty tells me will be “longer, faster and more synthy”. Best to venture into the world of Evil Blizzard yourself than try and pin it down from my damaged post-gig psyche and here are the ways to do it.
http://www.evilblizzard.com/ for the gigs
https://evil-blizzard.bandcamp.com/ for the new single
http://evilblizzshop.bigcartel.com for the rest