There’s been a somewhat annoying move recently to start shows earlier and to have the support band playing almost the second the doors open. Whilst this might mean there’s no standing around, it also means that the hapless opening band gets lumbered with playing to a half empty room. Such was the fate that befell Prosperina who played to a small (but enthusiastic) crowd at the ridiculous hour of 6:45 on a Friday evening. Those that were there will, no doubt, agree with me that Prosperina are quite ridiculously talented. The band played with a blistering intensity and matched crushing riffs with perfectly phrased, melodic vocals in the manner of Tool and the Deftones at their most relaxed. Hailing from Wales, the band have clearly caught the wider public gaze and they thoroughly deserve it, delivering an amazing show both with consummate skill and fiery passion. They slotted perfectly onto the Monster Magnet bill and by the time the band concluded in a hail of massive riffs and squally feedback, the venue had filled appreciably. Next time we expect to see Prosperina higher up the bill, but we couldn’t have wished for a better opening band.
Continuing the vein of quality, bombus take to the stage like leather-clad rock gods. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Motorhead, Kyuss, High on fire and even a hint of youthful thrash, the band are powerful, ridiculously tight and they deliver a show that recalls the alcohol-fuelled excesses of the Wildhearts at their peak. Perhaps the most aggressively rock band on the bill, Bombus are fronted by Feffe whose voice falls somewhere between Lemmy and Matt Pike. The riffs are super-charged, nitrous packing beasts and the band know exactly how to work a crowd, even if that crowd pledged their allegiance aeons ago to the mighty Bullgod. Of course, a band can piss fire and brimstone all it wants and still get nowehere if the songs are lacking, but Bombus proudly boast the sort of steel-tipped tracks that work their way into the very centre of your skull and stay there. The band are returning to the UK for Downoad 2015 and you can bet your bottom-dollar we’ll be there.
With absolutely no disrespect intended towards the first two bands, both of whom were quite brilliant, there is still a surge of interest when Monster Magnet take to the stage like conquering heroes. The first time I ever saw the band they were in what Dave now laughingly calls his “leather pants” days. I remember those shows as being amazing feats of showmanship. I remember whole-heartedly believing in crop circles and proudly declaring that I would never work another day in my life thanks to the intervention of the gods and, most of all, I remember a damn good rock show. Dave is not so sure. He knows the shows were great but he believes that the music was not played as well as it should have been – well, that’s certainly not the case now. Monster Magnet 2015 are a band on fire. In the last year the band have delivered two of their finest albums to date – ‘last patrol’ and ‘milking the stars’ – and their set is a masterpiece of updated psychedelic rock. If a young David Gilmour had teamed up with Lemmy in his Hawkwind days, the sound would not have been too different from what this multi-faceted, riff-fuelled show presented.
With his band clearly fired up and a rabid audience at his command, Dave Wyndorf did not disappoint with the set list. Opening with ‘right stuff’ from ‘monolithic baby’ is a genius move and that song’s arrogant swagger becomes a molten statement of intent. From then on the set is a near perfect trawl through Monster Magnet’s extensive back catalogue. Songs like ‘dopes to infinity’ and ‘look to your orb for the warning’ and ‘twin earth’ are greeted like old friends, whilst ‘I live behind the clouds’ and an epic ‘last patrol’ (if you don’t believe me, check out the stunning live version on ‘milking the stars’) slot in like they’ve been there all along. Dave spends his time these days wondering between the mic stand and his weird, waist-high fx rack preferring to let his band do the rock star bit, and the result is a show that is both spectacularly tight and yet has plenty of onstage riff action to watch. Throw in the fact that the lighting resembles Pink Floyd’s famed oil and water backdrop and you’ve got a full-on psychedelic convention on your hands. With just one nod to the band’s leather pants days (a massive ‘space lord’) it’s heartening that the crowd are ecstatic to hear the band rocking their unique brand of patchouli-scented hard rock and whilst the entire crowd does go ape, chanting the “space lord motherfucker” refrain with glee, the sense is that band and audience are happier to explore the denser space-fields of ‘last patrol’ and the band’s earlier works rather than unleash a greatest hits set from the band’s period of rock star excess.
It’s times like this when a review simply fails to do a show justice. Look at the pictures, listen to the live tracks on ‘milking the stars’ (at mind-shattering volume) and you’re maybe part of the way towards the intense, mesmerising experience that is Monster Magnet live. The band are so tight now and the audience so tuned in to what they’re doing that the concert passed in the merest blink of an eye. If you get the chance, get yourself to a show because Monster Magnet live is not just another gig, it’s a voyage of like-minded souls; a communion at the altar of rock and you have to witness it to understand it. With three excellent bands on the bill, the show was quite simply earth shattering.
Amazing live photography by Jola Stiles