Friday night sees yours truly scurrying into Manchester to catch two new bands and one group of old friends. The gig has been put on by Luton-based Vandalism Begins At Home and nearly never is, due to a van breakdown somewhere outside Milton Keynes (another Pulp album title, for sure), meaning that it’s going to be a close-run thing for Sean Grant and his Wolfgang.

It seems that thankfully, replacement transportation has been sourced and as I’m standing outside The Castle after watching Sourdough, I see Sean Grant and his Gang of Wolves crossing Oldham Street, bearing a miscellany of instruments, so it seems we’re on course for all three acts after all!

It’s also going to be The Battery Farm’s last gig for a while as frontman Ben is taking some well-deserved paternity leave in preparation for the arrival of another small Battery Farmer (quadruple A, anyone?). Weapons-grade post-punk wholesomeness, for sure!

First up tonight are Dunstable’s Sourdough – formed in the summer of 2018 and comprising Jacob Kyte, (vocals/guitar), Charlie Burnette (VERY photogenic purple bass) and Connor Bishop (drums), these chaps are loud. And fast. Oh, and did I mention they they’re loud?

They manage to fill the gig space of the Castle with a ferocious wall of guitar-driven noise – I wouldn’t like to try to stick them in any one genre (nor do I think they’d thank me for trying), but if I threw in Garage Rock, Alternative, Indie and Post-Punk, you’d certainly be on the correct continent in the musical atlas.

There is a nice array of pedals at Charlie’s feet and he makes use of every weapon he has at his disposal, including a MOST powerful set of vocal cords.

Tonight’s set includes the four songs from September 2022’s “Outlet” EP in the shape of “Ragged Trousered Opinionist”, ”Mind and Body”, “Holocene Ending” (with its powerful environmental themes, it’s a standout track tonight, and you should check out the RBR Remix if you find yourself with five and a half minutes that need to be gainfully employed) and “Behind the Screen” although most recent release “Pastel” doesn’t feature in the evening’s proceedings.

Post-punk trivia – “Holoscene Ending” also featured inn Luton Town’s playlist for the Championship playoff final and it clearly did the trick as they won – pity about Saturday’s result though – at least there are still 37 games to go, eh lads?

In all honestly, there’s not much more that I could write about these guys that would do justice to the ferocious din that they deliver, but it’s also slick and controlled, rather than just noise – a trick that not every band manage to pull off, sadly. If you like your music powerful, grungy, and guitar driven, look no further and check Sourdough out. You may just be glad that you did.

Sourdough played: Ragged Trousered Opinionist, Mind and Body, Loose Chippings, My Lines, The Death of Broadcasting Lingers for Eternity, Portrait of A Boy, Holocene Ending and Behind the Screen.

The Battery Farm should need no introduction to anyone who’s had their ears open for around Manchester for the last few years. Comprising Ben Corry (vocals, occasional guitar, eye rolls and sexy dancing), brother Dom Corry on guitar and hair, Sam Parkinson on drums and Paul Worral in his regular garment of choice (a gorgeous yellow trackie) on bass, they’ve been lapping up the well-deserved plaudits around their “Flies” album since the day it was released.

Describing themselves as, “A gutter punk four piece from Manchester playing visceral punishing rock music infused with pain and passion”, they consistently deliver sets filled with scarce-contained rage but that still manage to have a twinkle in their eyes and tonight is no exception.

The boys have been busy in the studio recording new material, three of which are previewed tonight, along with some old favourites and a healthy selection from Flies. Debut single 97/91 opens the proceedings, seeing Dom swapping his usual boiling hot cardigan for an insanely sweltering combo of what looks like waterproof fishing gear.

I mentally start to work out how many songs it will take before this strong fashion statement concedes defeat, and given the temperature in here tonight, inevitably it’s not many.

The murderously brief mayhem of new song “A Time of Peace” (debuted at Night and Day a few weeks previously) merges into my personal favourite, the Killing Joke-tinged “Crude Oil Water” as Sam pounds away furiously on his kit at the back, doing a hell of a lot more than just setting a beat. New song “Hail Mary” supposedly should have been rehearsed the previous evening, but wasn’t, according to Ben, not that you’d be able to tell.

It’s a haunting, distorted guitar horror story which, if this is a taste of things to come, leave your Humble Reviewer in no doubt that The Legacy of the Flies is in safe hands. As Dom races between stage left and the audience, inadvertently threatening to maim any of us who get in his way, Paul’s bass from stage right pounds out an insistent, simple and totally unforgiving single note.

Ben takes up his guitar for “Working Class Lad” and with “Wooden Spoon Number”, Dom’s effects wizardry kicks in, complemented perfectly by Paul’s bass. I’ve only been following the guys since we first saw them at Hull’s Ultra Festival back in July 2022, but I almost feel like part of the furniture now.

There’s a glorious blend of horror and humour that permeates these songs – I’ve never heard anyone get away with using the term, “Smorgasbord” when describing a setlist – but this is testament to The Battery farm’s uniqueness – you’ll go a long way to seeing anyone that comes near their power, but with their tongues very firmly in their collective cheeks at the same time, you can’t help but love them.

“House of Pain” is another taste of the future and it’s a banger. The Brothers Corry are fairly bouncing off each other by this point and the crowd are absolutely loving the proceedings as Ben wanders menacingly amongst them. Paul’s bass turns up the funkometer whilst all the time Sam snares no prisoners.

It’s to be hoped that Ben won’t have to hail a taxi after tonight’s gig as he’s likely to have no voice left at all. The slower “We’re at the Top” from the “Dirty Den’s March of Suffering” EP comes next as Ben advises us to, “Grab our sweethearts and tell them that we love them and that it’s going to be OK, even though you know it’s not”. Sobering stuff indeed.

Tonight’s set concludes with “While the Black Smoke Rise”, (with subtle undertones of Enola Gay, to these tired old ears), but not before Ben thanks us for all coming out and warns us that it’ll be four months before Manchester sees us again (tenner says it’s not, though…)

The guys have clearly been determined to go out on a high note prior to their next appearance at Liverpool Jimmy’s on Friday the 6th of October, and in this they have been most successful – one can only imagine the visceral mayhem that will ensue when The Battery Farm are released onto an unsuspecting world not having had a gig for eight whole weeks? Whilst you’re imagining, best crack open the piggy bank for a ticket, then head over to Jimmy’s to bear witness – go on, I double dare you.

The Battery Farm played: 97/91, A Time of Peace, Crude Oil Water, Hail Mary, A Working Class Lad, Wooden Spoon Number, In the Belly of the Beast, A Full Pigeon Skeleton Lying at the Side of the Road, House of Pain, We’re at the Top and While the Black Smoke Rise.

What do we know of Sean Grant (and indeed of his Wolfgang)? Well, we know that he/they hail from Newport Pagnell. We also know that after a recording career spanning many years, the critically-acclaimed “333” album was released in July 2022. Skip forward a year and yea verily didst June 2023 deliver unto us the “Kyballion  Part 1” EP which is due to be followed on September the 1st by (you guessed it) “Kyballion  Part 2” via Vandalism Begins at Home Records.

We also discover that Mr Grant has inadvertently provided yours truly with yet ANOTHER genre to add to his collection, namely, “Darkgaze”. If you care to steer your car through the city limits to the road of Joy Division, taking in the delights of The National, Ride and Afghan Whigs along the way, then you should be paying VERY close attention to Sean Grant and his works.

Although within the confines of the studio he writes the music and lyrics in addition to playing all the instruments and producing the recordings (it makes me tired just writing that), tonight he is accompanied by the fine trio of Phil Andreas (guitar), Chris Stocker (synths) and Darren Stephens (drums).

Sean was previously signed to Fierce Panda records between 2016 and 2019 but decided to step back for a couple of years and take stock, when he (in his own words), “Stopped enjoying it when it became more of a job”. “333” was released in support of CALM (leaders in the movement against suicide, in the unlikely event that you weren’t aware) and we open with three songs from “333”, which has been described as, “A darkgaze opus that transcends a life-affirming treasure trove of inner power and universal truth”.

Darkgaze seems to be the perfect description for such musings, and much of the gazing is definitely Looking Inwardly. Montreal (Watch Me Bending), is a dark, loud and grungey –  close your eyes and it could be thirty years ago,  squeeze them really tightly and go back another fifteen and you might see a certain Mr Curtis staring into his own personal abyss.

Sean has put his own Heart and Soul into these songs and he certainly shows no signs of letting up any time soon as Indeed, it’s a testament to both Sean and his fellow musicians how well music performed by a single person on the recorded versions translates to being performed by four in the live environment.

What you also notice is the beauty of the songs and the thoughtful, intense lyrics that sit behind the volume as well as the vocal and emotional ranges of Sean’s voice, alternating between power and tenderness, fear and elation. We scarcely have time to catch a breath as the songs melt into each other and the only gap I can remember is the one just before set closer (and opening single from Kyballion Part 2) “We are All of One”, where Sean pauses to thank us, his record label, tonight’s supports and the venue which is, ”Fcuking great”, apparently.

This track has been described as “Recognizing the power in us all and  realising that it’s a miracle that we’re all here in this apace and this time.” For once, I feel that maybe I can’t possibly do this music justice within the confines of a 2,500-word review (I’d be struggling with twice that, to be fair), and when you realise that tonight’s 9 songs are but a subset of a career spanning many years, I can only suggest you Wolf down out the wonderful back catalogue and have a listen for yourselves. I know that’s JUST what I’m planning on doing.

Sean Grant & The Wolfgang played: Montreal (Watch Me Bending), Crucify My Hurt, Something in the Water, AI (Nothing Rests, Everything Moves), The Principle of Gender, Everything Flows, Brother, Bodies of Christ and We Are All of One.

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