By Kate Haresnape
A swift replacement for Crosa Rosa tonight, Nottingham-based, three-piece Shiftwork, are billed last minute to kick this evening off. Being a singular support band is no doubt a little nerve-wracking and without having had much time to prepare or even book the day off work, the three-piece are unassuming about how tonight might go. Set to start promptly at 8pm, the first ten minutes or so slip by with the band playing to a relatively small crowd. People begin to enter the room in dribs and drabs however, and the space is filled before the last song. Noise envelops the room and it is interesting to watch people walk into the area mid-way through the set and unquestionably bow to the band’s cacophonous volume. Poole’s vocals have a gravel like raspiness that belies his age and he possesses an air that does not ask the audience to like him. Through this, he controls the room with an ease of assumed officiality; occasionally he moves away from his designated mic space area and wields his guitar centre stage, facing the audience with a glare that he retains until he nonchalantly decides that enough is enough and returns to the microphone. There’s a certain sense of despair to Shiftwork’s sound and charisma that binds them to the post-punk genre in a way that points to contemporary class issues. They embody the political climate in a similar way to bands like Sleaford Mods, Eagles and Idles. Although musically they don’t share much in common with any of the latter, their positioning in terms of where they come from and why they’re doing what they do comes from a similar place. The band purvey an encouraging lack of pretentiousness and after a decade of austerity in Britain, logically this is an accompanying sound to a backdrop of ever-increasing wealth disparity. The songs are not overtly political though, and in this way the band represent the post-political climate that society is easing into today.
Shiftwork are a unique outfit at this present time because their sound is actually much more akin to the early emo-post hardcore bands, signed to Ian MacKaye’s record label Dischord in the late eighties and nineties. This is largely due to the rawness of their sound, the long instrumental stretches and the use of atmospheric reverb that works to cloud listeners ears with a sense of endlessness. Rites of Spring are band that come to mind in terms of musical comparison, although Shiftwork have much more control and mastery over song structure than Rites Of Spring ever did. Their music in its current form sits alongside bands such as Lungfish, Jawbox and June of 44. The song Hypertension (Interlude 4) is the highlight of the set, featuring an addictive urgency of pace combined with introspective lyrics and an intensity that draws the audience out of the comfortable flow they seem to have sank into. The band finish with their single release Domesticated Living, which is a catchy, psych-inspired effort that sounds a little bit like a Sonic Youth side project. It’s an odd crowd tonight; a mixture of hipster types and crusties both assuming rather separate spaces, but looking around I notice that everyone is engaged and nodding along, if not requesting ‘more krautrock’ as one gentleman at the front put it. Shiftwork may not have been around for long but I don’t think anyone questioned their presence tonight.
After a short intermission,Acid Mother’s Temple appear as if from a lamp, a time-machine or maybe just from the seventies. Obviously the audience knows what they’re in for – an hour long set of tripped-out psych that is embellished with so many guitar solos your brain will melt. They do not fail to deliver and it is easy to see that they have been doing this for many years; I gauge a lack of glances between members, indicating that everyone can simply read each other’s sounds without even having to look. Tonight’s set features an extended ‘disco jam’ that intersperses the otherwise psych-laden songs with a danceable flash-mob like moment. The songs bleed into each other, creating an experience of sound occupying a moment in space and time, rather than feeling like a stop and start gig. Acid Mothers Temple need not wait for any applause; they absorb the stage dripping in sonic radness. A particularly memorable moment of a mad guitar solo takes place towards the end of the set, as the lead guitarist shreds up the stage and slings the instrument around his shoulders repeatedly. There are cries for more at the end but Acid Mothers Temple don’t offer an encore, as this would probably eat another thirty minutes into the venue’s closing time and so we, the audience, follow each other out in reflection as though we’d all just collectively micro-dosed (I expect a few of us had), to catch what’s left of the fireworks and to wander the night.