“There’s a party at Chad Hogan’s place?”
Not quite. But there was an event hidden behind the residential doors of Seel Street; and there was a band whose trans-Atlantic accents helped support the illusion of your archetypal ‘high school party’; and I might have even spotted someone drinking luminous liquid from a red cup; so you know, close enough.
Chad Hogan did not organise this gathering, however. This was very much the collective brainchild of Liverpool’s own KYC Management and Erstwhile. Despite the unconventional setting and rather than just any old arbitrary gathering of students, music was to be at the forefront of the nights entertainment. First support Shrinking Minds were brought forward straight from KYC’s roster of emerging local artists, which also includes the likes of Andrew Laval and Vynce.
Alternatively, the increasing noise (in every sense) made by three-piece Mothers, who can be found on a double page spread in the most recent edition of Bido Lito! was the contribution of the relatively new Erstwhile venture. Still in their early days, Erstwhile have tasked themselves with the mission of curing Liverpool’s apathy towards heavy music, promoting styles ranging from Alt, Punk, Math and everything in between. With plans of a regular night dedicated to the aforementioned genres, the basement gig would be a test, and a possible preview of what’s to come.
The booking of Twin Peaks was/is as impressive as it was lucky. The chicago quartet had briefly posted a status online asking for anyone in the UK to help set up some secret DIY shows. James Pyrah from KYC decided to contact them about a possible Liverpool show, and it went from there. Having chatted to Cal, also from KYC, at a gig a couple of days before, he told me the night was initially going to be held at Maguire’s Pizza Bar, which is still not the largest of spaces. However, after a few more emails crossed the pond, a basement was deemed more ‘suitable’; specifically Brendan’s (creator of Erstwhile and incidentally prompting their involvement) Seel Street basement. The buzz behind Twin Peaks after the release of 2014’s Wild Onion was most likely the largest contributing factor which caused well over 100 people to put their name forward for exclusive guest list, of which only 70 were allowed entry on a first come first served basis.
It was Brendan’s grinning face that greeted us after a knock on the door, not too dissimilar to a 1920’s speak-easy. We were told our group of three made it 71 people, and as we descended downstairs past warning posters to respect resident’s privacy/belongings – this was a house, not a venue after all – another loud knock spelled disappointment for future hopefuls. Disappointment was, however, a necessity. We found the 68 people crammed underground were already spilling out of the ‘venue room’ and back onto the stairs.
Image Credit: Fern-Rebekah Bywater
As a result my view for the opening half of Shrinking Minds’ set was somewhat restricted to the neck of a guitar and the occasional face. This only proved a minor setback, as Shrinking Minds’ brand of psyche-rock was loud enough to soar through the whole house. Colourful bass lines reminiscent of the 90’s madchester scene, along with a languid vocal deserving of its lurid backdrop, are beefed up with distorted guitars and a proclivity for classic solo work. As personal space became a luxury ill afforded to anyone and yet more of us manage to cram into increasingly tiny spaces, I think I may have heard their debut single, Sense – a five minute showcase of all the above, boldly ambitious in style.
As one set drew to a close, the tidal force of hapless torsos shoved me somewhere near the corner, and Mothers began what must be the quickest turnaround of equipment in live music history. Formerly Aeroplane Flies High, Mothers’ reputation for sheer, visceral, offensive loudness when playing live is becoming legendary – so I was thrilled to find myself wedged next to a monitor. Within seconds, my expectations (fears) were realised – Mothers really are THAT loud. The noise they do make is unadulterated and brilliant, and contained in a room so small it is fist-clenchingly violent.
Image Credit: Fern-Rebekah Bywater
As their growing fan base will testify, the severity of their live performance has a large amount to do with drummer Lewis O’neill whose astonishing balance of skill, power and speed transforms recorded tracks like Honey, into a visual spectacle as well as an attack on your eardrums. O’Neill’s “Fuck me can we play a slow one” was probably as astute an assessment as I could write in many more words. My unfortunate positioning next to the speaker meant I only heard the occasional vocal, and therefore the set appeared to resemble one large instrumental bridge. A monumental bridge nonetheless; a bridge a Geordie would be proud of.
A word of mention must go to Erstwhile and KYC, who managed the smooth transitioning of 50 or so people in and out the room in order to get Twin Peaks, and their equipment set up. This was not only an underground event, but a clinically well organised one. In keeping with the rest of the night they didn’t take long to sound check, meaning the green lights were given for everyone to come rushing back in. Either I severely underestimated what 70 humans look like, or whoever was on the door succumbed to begging, but the room was packed even more than it had been previously.
Standing on amps, leaning on crowd members and facing in every direction Twin Peaks began a set rife with the explosive youthful vigour which their fans, just inches away, reflected straight back at them. That fourth wall distinction between band and audience was blurred and reshaped. The basement became more than just a gimmick, allowing everyone present to participate in a sense of liberating hysteria, with cigarettes, beers and microphones being shared around the room.
Only having one full length album worked in Twin Peaks’ favour. The set drew heavily from their debut Wild Onion, whose critically acclaimed Chicago garage-rock anthems seemed no more out of place than the local acts who preceded them. Making Breakfast and I found a New Way drew massive reactions from every corner of the room, a kind of unerring positivity which makes it impossible to remain unaffected given the proximity. If basement-rock has not yet been coined as a genre, I’d like to think this is what it sounds like. Riffs and power chords and sweat and actual headbanging – none of the pretence of ‘cool head nodding’ – and screaming, and undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable experiences, never mind gigs, I have ever been a party to.
There lies the key; everyone, drenched in sweat and deafened by tinnitus, knew that they had been a part of something, if not just for one evening. In a current Liverpool culture where live music is becoming ever more a social experience, where locations and decorations are taking precedence, it was not the grand and flamboyant that people were talking about. It was something all the more subversive, basic and underground; all it took was a basement and great music, and I’m not the only one in hoping that it will happen again soon.