Friday night sees The Humble Reviewer riding solo and heading over t’Pennines once again, but this time not to Leeds, but to Bradford to The Underground, a venue whose acquaintance I have yet to make (I don’t think I’ve been to Bradford before either, to be fair). I’ve had a bit of a layoff since last Saturday with five gigs in the eight days leading up to it (well, it’s a lot for ME, at any rate!), so renewed and refreshed, I head inside to see what’s what, although judging from my pre-gig research, I’m glad I brought my earplugs…
Section The 5th is shrouded in mystery, as least on the parts of the Internet where I’m searching – all I can currently find about him is the fact that he used to be known as Section Five and he’s been in the business for over fifteen years in various guises, and is now part of the CLC collective, along with tonight’s wingman and producer Ron Johnson on the SP404 behind him. He announces that he’s standing in for Keighley Sutherland who can’t be here tonight before launching into “The 5th Kingdom”.
It’s probably fair to say that my exposure to rap these days is minimal compared with the post-punk bands that I generally review (with the possible exception of Kneecap and maybe Cypress Hill many MANY moons ago…), but from the outset, it’s clear to me that this is powerful stuff, with delivered with a faultless, clear flow, backed up with (DON’T say, “Sick beats”, Pete – you’re 61 FGS)…well, sick beats – that’s what they were.
Section The 5th, dressed in red hoodie, baseball cap and shades which don’t come off until much later on in the set, prowls the stage confidently, announcing, “Bradford Underground – we’re goin’ to blow the fcukin’ ROOF off this place), much to the approval of a small, but dedicated group of fans who are right up at the front, early in the proceedings.
One of the problems with togging a lot of artistes is that you don’t have time to pay as much attention to the lyrics as you should while you’re running around and there’s a whole lot going on in this set to miss. Section The 5th pauses mid set to hand out CDs which are eagerly snatched from his hand, even by me, so even The Humble Reviewer has something to listen to on the way home. The background beats switch from sinister minimal electronica to full on drum and bass/grime (dear God, I hope I got that right…)
The delivery is relentless, with lyrics spat out like a sentient machine gun, and it’s absolutely captivating to watch (even though there isn’t actually much TO watch, if that makes sense), and after we slip briefly into the realms of sound system, before we know it, twenty-eight minutes of high-octane performance have drawn to a close, leaving me to wonder when I can catch up with Section The 5th again, so I can stop and actually pay attention to him. I think he has a LOT to say.
Sadly, I was double-booked for Drella’s gig in support of the trade union Acorn at the 1 in 12 Club in Bradford back in May (the day after the release of current single “Divide”), so I’m looking forward to finally meeting them almost 5 months later (where does the time go, as somebody once sang..?)
A comparatively new outfit, they delivered their debut single back in 2022 and their first EP “Silence” back in January, and tonight’s gig coincides with the release of newest single, “Nothing to Lose” which will be promoted on a UK tour in November which will take in Nottingham (10th), Southampton (11th), Sheffield (16th) Manchester (17th) and London(26th) plus a slot at Live at Leeds Festival. Folk FAR better informed than me say that if you like the likes of Kid Kapichi, IDLES or The White Stripes, then you’ll like Drella, so who am I to argue?
Comprising Jonathan Whyatt (vocals and lead guitar), Toby Mitchell (bass and backing vocals) and Alfie Rawlinson (drums), and with an ever so slight tip of their collective hat to Andy Warhol via the Velvet Underground’s “Songs for Drella”, THIS Drella got together to do their bit to fight against the economic struggles facing Bradford via politically-charged lyrics backed up by an all-round thunderous noise. Counting Radio 6’s Tom Robinson (“They not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk”) and Radio 1’s Alyx Holcombe (“They make me want to mosh and get feral!”) amongst their champions, let’s see what Drella are all about.
From the outset, it’s clear that feral moshing is VERY much on tonight’s menu – dragging me kicking and screaming from my post punk comfort zone and straight down Metal Avenue, Jonathan stage right and Toby stage left aren’t going to let up for ANYBODY, and even if they dared try, Alfie would be having absolutely NONE of it. “How’s everybody doing on this lovely Friday evening?”, asks Jonathan and it’s clear from the whoops of reply that, so far, if we were in Scotland, we’d be braw.
The mournful “Pride” slows down the pace briefly before things get back to normal with the two of them rushing back and forth with great enthusiasm. “Are you still with us, Bradford?” is the question, and so far, we definitely are.
“I’ll tell you what”, exclaims Jonathan, “Today’s a very special day for Drella, ‘cos we’ve just put out a new song” and this is, of course, “Nothing to Lose” into which the three of them launch enthusiastically with Alfie pounding away back in the gloom somewhere.
There are definite elements of the Pistols, The Birthday Party and even The Dead Kennedys lurking around in Drella’s basement, all of which are no bad thing at all, although you probably wouldn’t want to bump into them all at once. “It’s a tough old world out there”, remarks Jonathan, “If you’re here with someone you love, or your mates, tell them that you love them, put your arm around them”, he implores, before launching into the despairing “Who Am I?”
“In Chains” sets off at a furious punk pace, a bit reminiscent (to me at least) of very early Joy Division or even Buzzcocks. Jonathan pauses to thank the other artists on the bill before Drella launch into furious socially aware set closer “Divide” -SURELY, I can’t hear the ghost of “Seven Nation Army” in there, can I?
(No, of course you can’t Pete, now off we go, it’s time for your nap) And with that they’re off to the merch stand to engage in one of life’s necessities – selling merch so they can buy more – it’s the band equivalent of The Circle of Life, and I’m not lion (that was poor, even for me… soz) – catch them if you can.
Describing themselves as a, “genre-bending, brutal, rowdy, riffy, groove rap metal band”, “Five crazies from Leeds, UK on a mission to make the world party” and (provided by Jojo and my personal favourite) “Five Yorkshire puddings making rap grooove metal”, Pulverise are third on tonight’s bill. Regular readers of my reviews (yes, BOTH of you…) will know that I’m a fan of reviewing a new genre and, “Rap Groooove Metal”, takes its rightful place amongst its bedmates on my ever-expanding list.
Taking their influences from the likes of Cypress Hill, Nova Twins, Skindred and Biohazard (to name but a few), you can listen to what Pulverise are about on their Kickstarter-funded album “Chaos Games” (which they created, wrote, produced, recorded, mixed, mastered, launched, distributed, designed and promoted – BUSY people!) and also May 2023’s, “Tomb Raiderz” single. However, nothing can really prepare you for the live experience!
On the go since (if my calculations are correct) 2015, and made up of frantic frontwoman JoJo Millward, Luke Helstrip and Tom Fay (guitar), Daz Johnson (bass) and V Reader (drums), they’ve supported such luminaries as (hed)pe, Sumo Cyco and Hands Off Gretel, in addition to participating in festivals such as Bloodstock, Festwich, Breaking Bands, Hard Rock Hell – Highway to Hell and Rockprest. They’d recommend you try out their “Slam Time” hot sauce too, but apparently it all sold out within a week… and yet there was some on the merch stand tonight… perplexing… They also have a FB fan page “Pulverise Party Core Crew”, which you can find at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/273404066464262/
You just KNOW from the opening bars of “Breathe” that Pulverise are going to be trouble, but in the nicest possible way. Jojo is an absolute force of nature, whipping up both bandmates and crowd from the outset. Their music is a heady brew of rap, hip hop and metal and, as borne out by JoJo’s introduction, fun.
They don’t take themselves seriously at all, and as a result, the crowd are drawn into the mischief almost immediately. If you had to try to imagine a song with the title “Kittens and Unicorns”, it certainly wouldn’t be Pulverise’s version.
The Great Subconscious has already summoned up the Beastie Boys, Run DMC and Linkin Park and we’re only two songs in – strewth. Bassman Daz grunts gutturally down his mic in a MOST metal way, but there’s a thread of humour that runs through these guys’ quilt that you can NOT ignore. Plus, Jojo has the most amazing auburn dreads that are so much a photographer’s dream, that they threaten even the locks of The Battery Farm’s mighty Dom Corry. Challenge accepted, methinks.
Sadly, guitarist Tom is unable to make tonight’s show, but thankfully will be back for the rest of the tour, so Luke has the work of two men to do tonight, but he doesn’t seem to be overly concerned. “Tomb Raiderz” has, as promised, something of an Egyptian theme, but definitely in the vein of a Hammer horror film, rather than The Bangles’ saccharine interpretation, although Jojo works here way through the compulsory arm poses with great enthusiasm.
Bassman Baz is, it seems, a fan of an audience excursion and he disappears into the crowd at the slightest provocation, either to hand over the mic to give someone else a chance, to quaff a pint, or simply to thrash his bass in an alternative location to the stage – nothing wrong with any of that, to be fair, and the crowd are clearly in agreement.
He’s also a busy man, MUCH too busy to introduce “Breaking Point”, no matter how much Jojo cajoles him, as he retunes his bass while everyone waits. He also has NO time for half-hearted responses to, “How’re we all doin’?” “Fcukin WHAT?”, he demands, and repeats the question until he’s satisfied with the response, by which time we’re as hoarse as Pulverize themselves.
“We like a band called Cypress Hill – do YOU like a band called Cypress Hill?” queries Baz and judging by the response, we clearly do, before they launch into a medley of Insane in the Membrane and Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That”, much to my delight, because I actually know the words for once, as Baz glowers into his mic, sounding for all the world like a demon that’s been summoned from somewhere VERY bad indeed.
Wholesome family fare, for sure. Daz’s demon stays out of his box for “Stumble” too before “Fooled You” goes full-on metal and I have to put the camera away and wish I had hair as I join in with the moshing frenzy up front.
Baz takes a break from demonic bass activities to plunge into the crowd in case there is still someone at whom he hasn’t yet screamed, making way for digital creator and friend of the band Mike, along with MOSHUA! on guitar. Jojo tells me that they’re proud of having helped and encouraged him to pursue a career in music from an early age when they got him up on stage many years ago. Honestly, how much MORE can I like these people?
The energy from the stage is immense and both band and crowd are loving every minute, even though we know that sadly we’re down to the last brace of songs. And so it is that we drift into four more minutes of mayhem with set closer, “Slam Time”, prefixed by the usual heartfelt plea for merch sales after the set.
You really need to experience the joy of Pulverize and if this review is out by then, you can catch them at Manchester’s Grand Central on Sunday the 1st of October. Oh, and I also quite like being a “Muthafcuka”, it seems. Just don’t tell my Mum.
Comprising Tyler (TyTy) Richards (vocals), Neil Fletcher (lead guitar and soundpad) and Aden Scott (drums), headliners Rupcha Farms conclude the evening’s Bradford-biased/based shenanigans, their bio proudly announcing that they, “Combine potent rap vocals, high octane metal riffs and punchy electronica, and both represent and resonate with the energy, rage and escapism of today’s disgruntled generation”
Starting out as a Grime/Hip Hop due comprising Ty and Neil back in 2020, with Aden joining not long after, their July 2021 self-titled debut EP is available in all the usual places (including Amazon, who added “Poison Ivy” to their Best New UK Bands” playlist), and they’ve recently been seen performing around t’North including Lancashire’s Beatherder Festival and supporting acts such as US’s rap metal Dropout Kings and our very own metalcore noisemakers, Borders.
A tick is placed in another box as I add “Alt Rap Metal” to my list – whilst it’s definitely something that I THINK I haven’t used in any of my previous reviews, maybe I need to check back on what I wrote about Enola Gay and Yabba first, as I’m getting definite vibes of both of those while I’m doing my pre-gig research, not to mention Linkin Park.
The introduction to Rupcha Farms’ set is bleak in the extreme, punctuated with echo-ey vocals and disturbing samples as TyTy takes to the stage, combining verbal dexterity with a ferocious guitar/drums backdrop from Neil and Aden. “How accustomed we are to the self-serving lack of talent that constitutes the British Conservative party”, announces a sampled voice from deep within Neil’s pad, and from the response from the crowd, it’s clear that there would be little sympathy for anyone of a right-wing persuasion here tonight.
“Put your fcukin ‘ hands in the air”, demands TyTy as he launches into a wonderful rep metal version of the Pistols’ “God Save The Queen” – except it’s The King who feels the extent of his vitriol this time, and I definitely DON’T remember the original having a chorus of “Fcuk the Tories” in the middle of it, though that could just be my age. But while it sometimes DOES feel that there’s No Future at the moment, with the mantra that is, “Live, Laugh, Limp Bizkit” taking us into, “Break Stuff”, maybe there IS a glimmer of hope after all.
Although they have serious messages to deliver, both politically and on the challenging subject of mental health, behind the anger, it’s all done with a genuine warmth that makes the messages easy to digest, such as in Crash Test Dummies – “Contagions live in my structure, infect when you touch one another, look around for your sisters and brothers, give yourself to the sound of the Rupcha”. As if to prove their humanity, mid-set, TyTy pauses to ask if there’s a Ryan Firth in the crowd, as he’s apparently been selected as the random recipient of a t-shirt.
Ryan doesn’t make an appearance to claim his prize and in true Spartacus style, a large part of the audience claim to be Ryan in the hopes of snagging the valuable prize, but TyTy is having none of it – we hope that Ryan turns up at some point though.
In many ways, the scarce-contained rage displayed by Rupcha Farms reminds me of Dublin rapper Meryl Streek – another lone voice crying out at the injustice and inhumanity of a troubled world, but whilst we may not be able to change much individually, as part of a collective anger, who knows what we might achieve?
We might also achieve more if we could stop talking at gigs too and pay attention to the artists that we’ve come to see, but unfortunately, the inane chatter doesn’t stop tonight, even for someone with important messages. Please – if you’re going to go to a gig, if whatever you have to say just CAN’T wait for forty-five minutes, just go outside and don’t spoil it for everyone else AND the artist. Rant over – at least until the next time. In the meantime, we continue with next single “Brave Hollow Prayer”, which channels the pent-up emotion of Linkin Park perfectly.
As the set draws to a close, I find myself exhausted and with a VERY sore neck that I know is going to be MUCH worse tomorrow (and, as it turns out, it is), in addition to the ringing that tells me that I forgot to put my ear plugs in, even though I packed them) but somehow tonight, it doesn’t matter too much. It’s hard to describe the power and emotion of a Rupcha Farms gig.
You just have to go and experience it and if you’re not moved, I really wouldn’t know where to send you next. However, should the mood take you (and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t, Dear Reader), you can catch up with them at The Ferret in Preston (6th Oct), The Hive in Rotherham (10th Nov) and the 1in12 in Bradford (22 Dec).
For more information about Rupcha Farms click HERE.
For more on the latest RGM news and gigs click HERE.