Its almost an unspoken rule in Bristol, that when you’re at a gig where local hero Big Jeff is also in attendance, you’re in for a good one. Wednesday April 17th at Thekla was no exception when Belfast based instrumental post/math-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar graced the stage in the bowels of arguably Bristol’s 2nd most famous boat (but when do you ever get the chance to start a mosh pit on the S.S. Great Britain?) for a gig as part of a tour supporting their newest album All Hail Bright Futures.
Original supporting band Gallops weren’t able to attend the gig so Antlered Man stepped in having only apparently finding out the day before after asking ASIWYFA merely for guest list to their show. Their hard, experimental and diverse array of rock perked the crowd up right as it grew and grew until the lower deck was pretty much full. When the Belfast boys came out they started brightly with the two opening tracks from All Hail Bright Futures, Eunoia and Big Things Do Remarkable. The newest album features more vocals from the usually instrumental band. They’re still limited but they are vocals nonetheless that add a bit more life to their music, and gets the crowd involved a lot more. It also proved these boys aren’t an instrumental band purely because none of them can sing, the chants of ‘this sun is in our eyes‘ echoed around the boat like holy chants in a cathedral before the band cranked the speed up a few notches.
They really gave it their all for every song and were visibly humbled by the packed house especially after telling the story that the last time they came to Bristol and played The Junction it was to a crowd of, and I quote ‘negative four’. At one point, drummer Chris Wee’s bass pedal broke, something which the band had to improvise to, that I honestly didn’t notice until the new bass pedal came out. A testament to their brilliant chemistry, the apology for the improvisation for cover up was lost on me. The set list was well constructed with the more melodic newer material such as Mend And Make Safe not really clashing with the older heavier stuff like S Is For Salamander that preceded it before they slipped into their three part, calypso-esque and violin sample laden The Stay Golden.
The main part of the set was finished with Don’t Waste Time Doing The Things You Hate, complete with euphoric chanting over the sustain and feedback at the end left and aided by the dozens of pedals that both guitarists and bassists had in front of them. Left like this, I was content with the gig, but of course it wasn’t over yet. The feedback from the last song faded right into the first of two encore songs, Set Guitars To Kill which just filled the room with so much energy after a the lull of the end of the original set. The band finished with their progressive and powerful The Voiceless, which featured the two guitarists gettng into the middle of the crowd, one handing over his guitar to a fan with the bands logo tattooed on his arm to generate noise for feedback until the amps were switched off for a brilliantly sudden but perfectly timed finish. A great end to proceedings that left me very tempted to see them again at the upcoming ArcTanGent festival in Somerset along with other great post/math rock bands such as Talons, Maybeshewill, Future Of The Left; headlined by 65DaysOfStatic and Fuck Buttons. After this Wednesday night at Thekla though, its worth it purely for these four extremely talented performers who even though they played to a full house of about 3-400 as if they were 10,000. A cliché, but an apt one.