Fontaines D.C. + Warm Drag
Stylus, Leeds University Union, Lifton Pl, Leeds LS2 9JT
Friday 22nd November 2019
It’s not so long since Fontaines D.C. played at the Brudenell in Leeds. A small(ish), intimate venue in which it’d have been a real ‘I was there’ night. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it to that one. Tonight’s gig at Stylus sold out almost as quickly and no wonder. Debut album Dogrel has been one of 2019’s highlights, been awarded Rough Trade’s album of the year and must surely be set for yet more accolades.
Before Fontaines D.C. it’s a very early slot for Warm Drag. Doors opened 7.00pm, Warm Drag walk on stage at 7.30pm so it’s little wonder that there’s only about 40 people in to see them. Warm Drag are Los Angeles based duo Paul Quattrone (synths, beats etc and drummer for Thee Oh Sees) and Vashti Windish (vocals). Self-titled debut long player was released last year.
Backed by a huge stack of speakers with Quattrone and his electronics off to the right, Windish swaggers and struts around the stage delivering vocals that are warm, husky over a background of electronic beats and tones that rumble around the venue. It’s dark, underground, grungy club music. Hard hitting opener ‘The Wanderer’ is followed by the more mellow, slower, repetitive noise of ‘Cave Crawl’. Warm Drag continue to switch perfectly between fast, driving noisy numbers such as ‘Lost Time’ and more melodic, hypnotic songs such as ‘Hurricane Eyes’. Surrounded by a wall of dark red, occasionally blue lighting Warm Drag deliver a set of sounds that would form the ideal soundtrack to any number of thrillers on the big screen. And by the end of their set there’s a sizeable crowd in to appreciate what they do.
By 8.30, when Fontaines D.C. are due to walk on stage the place is rammed and there’s an energy filling the place that can be felt from back to front. Ten minutes later the band appear and whilst those with instruments get ready vocalist Grian storms round the stage, a ball of pent up energy so tense it’s palpable. Occasionally pausing to raise a hand to the crowd he continues to pace, eyes staring at nothing in particular. His mic stand is too high so he pummels it into the stage until it’s where he wants it. Then he paces some more. All the while the atmosphere tenses, a crowd waiting to release their own feelings. Then ‘Hurricane Laughter’ erupts with its rumbling bass and stabbing guitar riff and finally crowd and band can let go. The floor becomes a mass of jumping bodies. ‘Chequeless Reckless’ continues the furious assault on our senses and is followed by ‘Televised Mind’ – not yet released but played live throughout 2019 – continuing the punchy lyrics and driving noise. Fontaines D.C. live up to their reputation as a hard hitting, gloriously noisy live band with crowds to match. The sublime ‘Roy’s Tune’ slows things down, has couples at the bar dancing in each others arms whilst others just stand mesmerised as they sing back the words. For those on the floor it’s likely a welcome, but short, break from the leaping around. ‘Too Real’ brings back the mosh pit, some crowd surfing and that charged air that only comes with a crowd having a great time.
Throughout the set Grian utters not one word between songs. Just paces the stage, letting seconds pass before the opening notes of the next song. ‘Boys In The Better Land’ brings cheers, more bouncing and more surfing from the masses who know every word then ‘Dublin City Sky’ sees them simply swaying, gathering their thoughts. Dogrel’s opener ‘Big’ is tonight’s closing kick ass tune and with that they’re gone. No encore, no bowing to the crowd, no adulation seeking. That’s it.
Walking out there’s just a horde of punters drenched in sweat. Punters that span the age range. Teens that might just recently have discovered a band they’ll follow for years to come through to those who were teens during the musical revolution that was punk rock. That’s the beauty of great bands nowadays. No one demographic ‘owns’ them. Long may it continue.
Words + Pictures: Steve White