ENOLA GAY, MARUJA AND DEADWAX – LIVE IN HUDDERSFIELD! WHAT HAPPENED?
Giving myself a tentative prod in the ribs, I can finally confirm that the injuries I sustained going to see Enola Gay at YES Basement last March have now healed, so it’s clearly time to get myself maimed all over again. In addition to having had to miss the opening night of this tour at Gullivers in Manchester the previous evening.
The Humble Reviewer is flying solo tonight with a first visit to The Parish in Huddersfield. Editor Girl possibly has a little more sense than me in terms of minimising bodily injury and has elected to sit this one out… and also next week’s gig at Liverpool’s Kazimier Stockroom, which I’m also planning to take in to make up for missing Manchester.
Well, you HAVE to, don’t you? So, one swift wash of the pits and the bits and I’m out the front door and over the M62 with a medical kit in hand as well as a camera that I pray I’m not going to have soaked in lager, or worse.
The Parish is a fine establishment with a nice big venue space, but not so big that it’s hard to fill up. The cost of tonight’s entertainment rings in at £5.50 plus booking fee, and to see three bands of such stature for the princely sum of £1.83 each is, quite frankly, dumbfounding, so massive kudos to those who set this event up.
Whilst those in the know have been paying attention, Maruja have quietly been building up a dedicated following around their native Manchester and beyond. Comprising Harry Wilkinson (vocals & guitar), Joe Carroll (Sax and vocals), Matt Buonaccorsi (bass) and Jacob Hayes (drums).
I’ve been lucky enough to see them at Band On The Wall; their first headline gig at YES Basement; delivering a session at Deansgate’s Four Low Studios and most recently, supporting Talk Show at The Ferret in Preston.
When I found out they were on the bill tonight (this not being the first time they’ve supported Enola Gay either), I was mightily pleased, to say the least. If you had to make up a genre, you couldn’t come up with anything better than “Jazz Punk”, so we’ll go with that. To a child of the 80s, Chateau Maruja is a precocious little number, blending essences of A Certain Ratio, Kalima and 808 State, but with punky undertones (I think that might be the most pompous sentence I’ve ever written – at least I didn’t mention orange peel and pencil shavings)
With their first release, “Blind Spot” appearing as recently as January last year and June’s “The Tinker” hot on its heels five months later, March 2023 saw the release of their excellent 4-track “Knocknarea” EP which is a masterclass in the fusion of punk, jazz, intense vocals, guitar and bass squeezed to within an inch of Harry and Matt’s respective fretboards, with Jacob’s drums and Joe’s in-your face sax switching between sleazy late night club and an all-out assault on the ears.
Maruja are a band you absolutely can NOT pigeonhole – the best you can do is to sit back and let their wholesome goodness wash over you. Harry pauses to beat his chest furiously as he stares out at the crowd, defying them not to love him and his compatriots and it’s clear that he has no worries on this score, as heads nod at the quieter sections and fists pound when the tempo picks up.
I catch sight of Mr Liam Norton (featured in my Kneecap review, dweller of the parish of Dublin and friend of many bands from The Island of Ireland) in the crowd and a knowing nod passes between us, and if Maruja have passed the Norton test, it HAS to be a good sign.
Maruja have decided to spoil us with some new material tonight, and at the point where they launch into Thunder, Harry points out that none of the four tracks they’ve played so far has actually been released yet. They’ve already spent several weeks holed up somewhere far away working on their debut album, possibly with another EP lurking in there too.
As always, if you close your eyes, the unnerving sound of Joe’s sax makes you wonder if you’re being chased through a far eastern bazaar in a James Bond style, or through the backstreets of Manchester on a Saturday night. If you keep your eyes closed, the clever use of effects gives you the impression that there are far more people on stage than there actually are.
I sometimes get the impression that many songs are ad-libbed as they go along, as I can’t possibly imagine how switching effortlessly between tempos and styles even within the same song could possibly be accomplished by rehearsal alone… unless of course that’s exactly how they DO do it. Either way, Maruja are a joy both to watch and to listen to and you can absolutely lose yourself in their songs.
I spoke at length with Jacob after the show and he was telling me of their plans for the future – without breaking TOO many confidences, it’s clear that they’re aiming for the big time and aren’t going to be happy until they get there. From my point of view, something they have massively in their favour is that there’s nobody doing quite what they do, out there at all.
With the proud air of a parent-to-be displaying a scan of their firstborn, Jacob tells me that the physical release of the Knocknarea EP isn’t going to be just a vinyl version of what’s already been released digitally, it’s going to be a physical object to be appreciated and treasured – for me, there are echoes of Factory Records and their release of artifacts, rather than just products.
You can see a fierce determination in the way in which they’re going about things with the endgame firmly in sight, whether it be by eschewing headline shows in favour of support slots which will give them maximum exposure, or expanding their gigging beyond their native Manchester wherever possible.
A sign of their determination is that they’ve now given up their day jobs, which in these days of uncertainty in the music industry, is a massive step to take, but I can’t think of four fellas who deserve success more than Maruja. If you missed this one, you can catch them at Manchester’s Psych Fest and Float Along in Sheffield, both in September. But, Dear Reader why on earth WOULD you have missed it?
Maruja played: Zeitgeist, Hench Viking, One Hand Behind the Devil, The Invisible Man, Thunder and Kakistocracy
You will be delighted to know that I have yet ANOTHER genre to add to my collection – may I present to you… Alternative Grime Rock! Well, at least that’s how Straight Outta West Yorkshire’s Deadwax, comprising Jake Millburn (vocals), Henry Skinner (guitar), Solomon Price (bass) and Ben Millington (drums) describe themselves, so who am I to argue?
Plus, if you add a pinch of nu-metal, a sprinkle of hip-hop a few dance rhythms into the mix and give the whole thing a good stir with a grime-y wooden spoon, tonight’s openers sound like they’re going to bring something quite unique to the proceedings, off the back of 2022’s “Disconnect” and most recently March’s “Northern Behaviour” singles.
They’ve been together for ten years or so and have also been described as, “Yorkshire’s best-kept secret” with a reputation for explosive live gigs, so, having learned that “Deadwax” is a term used to describe the run off area on a record (who know?), let’s see what they have to offer…
Within thirty seconds of “Northern Behaviour”, I’m hooked, not only by the infectious energy emanating from Jake and his gang, but by the way in which they try to include the crowd at every given opportunity. Set opener “Northern Behaviour” ends with “What’s happening, Huddersfield, we alright?” – we enthusiastically indicate that we are and Deadwax continue into a raucous, rowdy and energy-filled thirty-eight-minute set that flips from genre to genre with ease. Hollow, with its reggae/ska undertones and sampled police sirens channels the spirit of The Clash with ease and the crowd are bouncing by this point.
FFTF switches to a heavier vibe, but Deadwax handle the flips between genres effortlessly. Henry batters his guitar furiously stage left, ably complemented by Solomon’s bass stage right while Ben almost drums himself inside out from somewhere back in the gloom, whilst all the time, Mr Millburn stamps, pounds and punches with more energy than he’s really entitled to.
I’m put on mind of my recent Kneecap outing at The Brude a few weeks ago – Deadwax are out-and-out entertainers, feeding off the approval of the crowd as Jake stands on the barrier, shouts demonically through a megaphone, then plunges into the crowd. The megaphone disappears somewhere briefly as he does so, but fortunately, Your Humble Reviewer is able to retrieve it and keep it safe until after the gig, much to their evident relief.
We will see Jake participate in crowd shenanigans during Enola Gay’s set too, but more of that later. In the meantime, he gives us everything he’s got from metal to rap, from hip-hop to head-banging heavy. He paused mid-song to check that there are indeed some rap heads in the crowd and signifies his approval as a goodly proportion shout up, announcing that this is a better ratio than usual, and that when they play to a more thrash audience, then try hip hop, it doesn’t always work. It certainly works tonight, though and there’s something for everyone.
Fazed is played live for the first time before we all join in with the chorus of “Watch your Step or Get Gone”, before we’re down to the last two songs in the blink of an eye. Jake gives a shout out to Maruja who were, “Fcuking awesome” and expresses his displeasure when we don’t shout loudly enough in anticipation of Enola Gay, so he asks us again, just to make sure. We get it right the second time.
After Lifestyle, Jake points us in the direction of the merch stand, and this time, resistance IS futile – I’m wearing my Enola Gay tee, I’ve left my Maruja one at home, so I OBVIOUSLY have to complete the set – plus free stickers too, I mean, come on… Set closer Disconnect is a poke at the pressure of mobiles and social media, making the observation, “Too long on the social, I never felt less social… if it says read, can’t promise I read it, sick of the sound of my own ringtone, sick of this Facebook, Insta, Reddit… I pull the plug, I disconnect, I’ve had enough, I disconnect.”
This clearly resonates with the crowd – sometimes, we ALL wish we could disconnect, just for a little while. Deadwax leave the stage to thunderous applause and I mentally add them to my list of bands to see again. Whilst they have some serious messages to deliver, they don’t take themselves TOO seriously and are thoroughly entertaining, whilst making a ferocious din – what more could you ask for. They certainly blew the wax from MY ears.
Deadwax played: Northern Behaviour, Hollow, FFTF (Fun from The Feeling), Warning, 6/8, Resist, Interlude, Fazed, Get Gone, Lifestyle and Disconnect.
There is an ill-contained anger permeating Iggy Pop-approved post-punk/noise rock band Enola Gay’s music that’s hard to ignore, and indeed, many of their songs are reactions to specific incidents either involving them or those around them. Formed in Belfast in late 2019, named after the aircraft that dropped a nuclear weapon on Hiroshima (and NOTHING to do with OMD, 80s kids – Google is deceiving you) and comprising Fionn Reilly (vocals), Joe McVeigh (guitar), Adam Cooper (bass) and Luke Beirne (drums), Enola Gay’s first single, June 2020’s
“The Birth of a Nation”, a recorded-at-home rant against racism, wasn’t originally intended to be released when it was, but events dictated otherwise. It ended up as a timely reaction to racial attacks in Belfast against a girl who gave a speech at a Back Lives Matter protest, and which first brought them to the attention of a world eager to be free of the shackles of lockdown.
October of the same year saw a filthily haunting Mount Palomar remix of the track, both versions highlighting the trademark guitar sounds that sound suspiciously like police sirens. We then had to wait until the following October for the release of the four track “Gransha” EP, one track from which, “Sofa Surfing” lends part of its name to “Sofa Scrolling”, their fan-run Facebook fan page. April 2023 saw the release of PTS:DUP which was a reaction to a member of the band being brutalised in a sectarian attack that left him with a fractured skull and May’s “Leeches” was yet another reaction piece, their collective ire this time vented on the corruption underpinning the British government.
Now signed to Modern Sky UK, like many of their Irish counterparts they have much to say that needs to be said, and in Enola Gay’s case, what they DO say is delivered to the accompaniment of chainsaw guitars, leftfield electronica, pounding drumbeats and visceral, hip-hop-inspired and socially aware vocals.
Enola Gay take to the stage and launch headlong into latest single “Leeches” with Fionn prowling alarmingly from one end of the stage to the other. Joe’s guitarwork from the near-darkness of stage left sits disconcertingly alongside Adam’s bass stage right whilst Luke attacks the extensive drumkit and pads with gusto.
Again, there’s little in the way of illumination apart from their trademark green lighting, which is a bit reminiscent of wither The Borg, or The Matrix (or possibly both), but Enola Gay are another one of those bands that need little in the way of distraction in order to get down to the business of the evening. We take a trip back to the “Granshsa” EP for Salt, with its accusatory, “Why’d you slugs vote for the salt, brainwashed by the Tory cult… didn’t your Ma ever say “Son, you’ll go blind by staring at the Sun” – with a Liverpool gig coming up next week, this lyric couldn’t be more appropriate.
Gransha’s “Sofa Surfing” casts a watchful (and loud) eye over the themes of addiction, depression, bad choices and homelessness. while the crowd are already at full throttle down at the front. Mr Norton, bedecked in obligatory Enola Gay tee is the ringleader of a crowd of similarly-clad and (possibly) angry young men moshing away furiously. The green light’s beam flickers from one band member to the next as we launch into new song “Naked Names”
There is absolutely NO let-up in the intensity of the performance as we drift into two new songs, “Headphones” and “Figures”, before returning to “Gransha” for “Scrappers”, a loving examination of the role of the bouncer, “Professional arsehole, PhD in sleazy, degree in wreckin’ your nights and making women uneasy… On the door, lookin’ for a fight – “I’m sorry, son, tonight’s not the night” – let’s face it, we’ve all been there at some point.
One of Enola Gay’s motifs is taking a song back to almost nothing, winding it up to fever pitch, then letting it off its leash like an illegally-bred bulldog and the crowd know it, anticipate it and drink it in when it happens. You really DON’T want to be trying to keep a camera safe against the barrier when it all goes off, and much as I love to take pictures, I’m thinking that I actually don’t want to cart it to Liverpool and just want to enjoy the ear-shattering, headbanging, pounding, stamping experience without any distractions. We’ll see…
Next up is April’s “PTS:DUP” which looks at the plight of disaffected youth searching for an identity whilst caught up in the confusion of “Alt-right political parties, masquerading as conservatism, such as the DUP”. The underlying theme is one of how Unionists feel and why they fear that they will be left with nowhere to call home if and when the much-discussed reunification of Ireland ever happens. Strong subject, strong lyrics: “One hundred years living under the blood-red hand, a state of fear, forsaken by the mainland, never, never, never had to handle the truth, because only the winners write the history books”.
Enola Gay aren’t just about noise and bluster – they have something to say, it just happens that they have a loud way of going about it, and when they’re on stage, you can’t take your eyes off them for a minute. We have three new songs now in the form of “Cold”, “Malone” and “Cortana” before going back to “The Birth of a Nation”, where it all began “The Black gets whacked, six warning shots in the back, but the White gets a slap, on a better day sacked; the black gets killed for the white man’s thrill, ’cause the white man gets off, labelled mentally ill”. Thought-provoking stuff indeed.
It’s clear from the new songs that Fionn, Adam, Joe and Luke have been sonically searching for new ways of delivering their message, sound-wise, but one thing that WON’T be changing any time soon is the passion, intensity and volume that’s involved in said delivery (OK, that’s three things, but you know what I mean…)
Pleasingly, both Maruja and Deadwax have stayed to enjoy the mayhem and they’re all dow1`n the front, drinking in the atmosphere and the aural assault. At one point, Deadwax’s Jake is hoisted and held aloft by the crowd, his expression switching between joy, apprehension and terror in equal proportions. Bodies disappear underfoot and are swiftly recovered by fellow audience members whilst Fionn, with one foot on the barrier. points his mic in the direction of anyone who fancies a holler – and, dear reader, many DO.
There’s a strong bond between crowd and band that will only grow as they grow in stature and their message is heard by more like-minded folk. We’re treated to a brace of new songs in the form of “Knives Out” (featuring some nifty IDLES-like guitar play) and “For God” (“another song about Belfast”), which opens up with a simple two-chord riff which sounds like it could herald the opening of the gates of Hell itself.
Best leave the lights on when I get home tonight, or at the very least, make it safely under the quilt before something clawed and unsavoury catches up with me. We’re treated to a brief encore of the chorus from “Scrappers”, before all too soon, fifty-eight minutes of pandemonium draw to a close, Enola Gay head off to get ready to support Metallica at Download the following day, whilst the rest of us head out into the Huddersfield night, a little shell-shocked, but very, VERY happy. This kiss they gave, is never EVER gonna fade away (one for the 80s kids, bruh).
Think IDLES, Gilla Band, Yabba and Rage Against the Machine, but above all, think something that takes from all the above, then adds something very, VERY special on top, while you’re soaking in their noise (preferably with the aid of some industrial strength earplugs if you’re anything less than ten rows from the front) and anticipating their eagerly-awaited second EP. You can find out more about Enola HERE.
Enola Gay played: Leeches, Salt, Sofa Surfing, Naked Names, Headphones, Figures, Scrappers, PTS:DUP, Cold, Malone, Cortana, The Birth of a Nation, Knives Out and For God.