Concrete Fun House and Shanghai HostageReview
Some years back, I was lucky enough to attend the live debut of the Folly Brothers (back when they were a duo) and in the intervening time, I've not been there for too many more births of bands, that is until last evening in the Tin Community Space for the very first performance of Concrete Fun House.
I suppose that my being there may be merely a quirk of circumstance, but I do feel privileged when it happens & in practical terms it brings forward the moment I can tell our readers all about it, so you can check them out yourselves at your earliest convenience.
In its way, a sort of local "supergroup" (like The Rollocks whom we covered back in September & who appear on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Ten': indeed they were represented last night too), Concrete Fun House features Joe Wilson on guitar, whom I saw only a couple of weeks ago playing bass for Duck Thieves at COVtember 2023 & whom you'll also know from Deathsex Bloodbath (whose lasting influence becomes more and more obvious as time passes) and his solo Year Without A Summer project. It also has Sarah Croom from that most happening of bands Septic and the Tanks (how do they find the time?) on bass guitar, Tom Gibbs (Don't Blink, Duck Thieves, Queen Under Cover, 9 Carat Purple plus guest stints with Deathsex Bloodbath & Year Without A Summer) on vocals, Sarah-Beth Gilbert who is a long time Deathsex Bloodbath associate and sang on "Piledriver" by Cause of Accident earlier this year is the group's drummer & Andy Macan-Lind plays another guitar.
However, looking at the CVs involved, you'd be wary of things being too straightforward and in fact two of the band were making their band debuts & live performing debuts: so a "supergroup" but in an unusual way.
Equally, given the bands these people have been in or are also in, I was cautious of anticipating what they might sound like: except sticking to the helpful rule of "expect the unexpected". I certainly didn't think it would be conventional. I ran a Stooges influence theory (given the band name) past Joe beforehand which he politely declined (and they don't sound like the Stooges). In fact I understand that the name choice came from among twenty odd which Sarah dreamed up & nudged past Brutalist Bouncy Castle…..
They also didn't remind me of Duck Thieves, Septic and the Tanks, Deathsex Bloodbath etc either: having created a new band, their senses of originality clearly nixed retreading ground already covered: the sound is certainly more overtly the rock end of the punk continuum: quite brutal in fact at times & certainly belying any senses of inexperience within section of the band.
Given this, you're probably assuming I saw some rather grim, industrialist outfit: but remember again who they are. The whole affair was conducted in a party frame of mind (thankfully I retained my goody bag as a memento) and balloons and glitter abounded. Yet the songs themselves and the between song dialogue highlighted the seriousness of the themes and in fact the political character of the project (they are not Conservatives).
So we have a marvellous dichotomy which creates a most handy artistic tension & above all makes one think.
I was chatting to Dan & Freja from We Are a Communist (who let's face it employ a similar dynamic) about this between bands and noting how many of the great bands emerging at the moment have this characteristic of approaching profound and often unsettling subjects via a medium of humour: which I think really works better than simple gloom & pessimism & if it causes the audience to react by considering the theme through the shock of the apparent contradictory nature of the style, then clearly it's more effective at getting its point across. As I said In a recent review, it tends to make a lot of more humourless bands around seem rather old fashioned.
What I did not expect from the Concrete Fun House set was a song I knew: I was certain they weren't a covers band and they haven't released anything yet. Nevertheless, to my delight we heard "What Happened To The Caterpillars", a Year Without A Summer track which you can also hear on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Three' and indeed Joe also confirms that this gem was making its own live debut.
If you look at the rest of the setlist ("Vol", "141 2/3% Chance", "Waxing Gibbous", " News Broadcast" and "Caught Wanking") then you'll probably get as good a sense of what Concrete Fun House are about as anything I could attempt to write. "Waxing Gibbous" alone deserves some sort of prize surely? As for "141 2/3% Chance", Joe steered me towards this link for illumination: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msDuNZyYAIQ which is just as well as I would have struggled with my own guesswork.
I don't know precisely where Concrete Fun House are going next, especially considering the rising success of other bands they are in, but they've triumphantly surmounted that first hurdle of going public & hopefully will find opportunities to play live again for you to see them & maybe in time get some of those songs recorded.
In my review of their COVtember set a fortnight ago, I said that "..Shanghai Hostage have a musical restlessness & curiosity which means that they don't deliver identical performances ever.." and naturally they proceeded to do just that. While that last one was their "heaviest" ever, this time, with quite a similar setlist, they switched more to the funky side of their talent: by this time, the party mood was heating up considerably (one member of the band was contending with sweat related spectacle slippage syndrome) and by the time Sophie had incited mass nun action (for once wholly audience orientated without band nunning) for "Convent", it was getting pretty frenzied with plenty of Concrete Fun House's balloons still in play. We even got an unscheduled encore with another ‘Hot Music Live Presents' featured track in "Nomad" to offer a hoedown ending to a splendid evening. However, their set also reinforced what I had mentioned earlier: Shanghai Hostage songs are huge fun (and the band seem to be having a ball playing them), but as my reviews of so many indicate, most cover serious topics. Though I dread having to voice an opinion about what the deeper meaning of "Mole/Butterfly" is. Analysis of that one my end is ongoing.
There was dancing, there were balloons, glitter, stickers, lollipops, plenty of applause and great humour and well thought out songs which with wit & genuine meaning. Each band had a lepidoptera centred song: what are the odds? Everyone enjoyed themselves. What more could you ask for?
The gig was a invited one to get Concrete Fun Hose up and running and so the audience was full of highly supportive friends, representing a galaxy of great bands. Credit to Mason Le Long for the sound: as noted above, the gig was not in the usual stage space at the Tin & he clearly worked hard to get a great balance in an environment not normally used for full-on performances of this nature.