THE BATTERY FARM – LIVE IN MANCHESTER! WHAT HAPPENED?
Saturday evening sees yours truly heading towards Manchester once again to take in the dark and seething mess that is The Battery Farm, plus the line-up of mayhem that is Oorya, Aye Hobos and Lynskey. It’s only been just over a month since Editor Girl and I took in Ben Corry’s fly mask of horror and its four companions, who were sharing a bill with We Are One and Ragged Tiger at The Star and Garter, but we’ve been following them for a while since our first encounter back in July 22 at Hull’s Ultra Festival, and their particular brand of dark mayhem has become a favourite with us both. Hopefully, somewhere in the back room, a vinyl copy of Flies, ordered many, many years ago (or so it seems) awaits my ministrations and, as I am reliably informed that there are going to be some new tees there too, it’s a good job that it’s already paid for, meaning that my money can flow freely once again into The Battery Farm’s maggoty purse. And so, without further adon’t, let’s delve into the world of Lynskey.
Lynskey describe themselves as a “2-year-old public transport-based dance-punk and/or nüwu-metal (new genre alert, everyone!) band from the North West, genre bending and loud, with an emotional sound that kisses peaks and smooches valleys with angular riffs and danceable drums.” Well, to be fair, who doesn’t love a bit of valley smooching?
Comprising B (they/them) on a modified guitar, synth, and vocals and Saul (he/him) on drums and vocals, Lynskey cite lots of influences including (but obvs not limited to) Rueben, Frank Ocean, Cardiacs, Mclusky, Enter Shikari and Bloc Party, but perhaps most significantly, they state that they play songs about gender, ADHD and Keanu Reeves and (adopts Duncan Bannatyne accent) “For that reason – I’m in”. And if not that, then because they’re cousins who pinched their Nan’s maiden name for their band!
They’ve just released their second EP “Eat that up, it’s good for you” and are unhurriedly working to complete production on their third, which has no release date as yet. Interestingly they’re not fans of a pit, and request that their audiences “Move mindfully to promote a physically safe gig space for everyone. No pits will be opened, nor crowds killed. Dance, don’t fight”, This is new, but nice, SO I am DEFINITELY ready to, “Dance around and move, but like, just don’t hit each other.”
Lynskey launch their set with the energetic “KickIT” which reinforces B’s dislike of mosh pits, so we all strive to make sure we don’t start one, apart from the one-person mosh that has already kicked off in the form of Oorya, who is with us in the crowd and who, one song in, already displays the energy of a cat with its tail in a power socket. This energy doesn’t diminish at any point during the evening’s proceedings, but more of that later. Saul crashes away for all he’s worth whilst B takes on multiple duties stage right on vocals, guitar, keyboards and Squirtle (Pokémon, before you ask) support
Their sound is raw, edgy, loud and uncompromising, and yet “The Song About Keanu Reeves” starts on a melancholy note before launching into a joyful and raucous racket which is unexpectedly cut short by an unexpected item in the drummage area as Saul encounters a technical issue with his kit, which results in a plea for a drum key.
A mild panic ensues, as this is going to be the kit that everyone uses tonight, but before B can leap up to the green room to find one, an audience member leaps to the rescue, finds one in his pocket and saves the day. B checks that we’re all having a good time and reminds us that as first band, they’re being paid to hype us up, and asks the question a few more times until they’re satisfied with the resulting whoops. M-M-M-Metal starts with some Drum & Bass wubbing before descending into some serious ear battering – these two people make more noise than two people should really be allowed to.
Kinda Takes Like Iron is prepared for carefully with some serious capo adjustment as apparently it didn’t go too well the night before, but there’s nothing wrong with tonight’s rendition. Gender Stuff is preceded by a little message from B, who announces that his gender is a little bit weird- there are a lot of messages that need to be got out about the challenges that many people face around gender issues, and thankfully, there are an increasing number of young bands such as Thus Love, M(h)aol, Sprints and most recently in my reviewing experience, Liverpool’s Shefu who are using music as the platform through which to do it. Gender stuff includes a pleasing number of whoops and trills of which Sparks’ Russel Mael would be most proud as B and Saul bring their set to a close with the usual round of thanks, followed by IDK, and Dub Me into My Estate Agent. Lynskey have a lot to say and a lot of energy with which to say it. I look forward to Lynskeeing them again soon.
Lynskey played: KickIT, You Got The “Scatterbrained” Perk, Something Something Else in 5/4, The Song about Keanu Reeves, M-M-M Metal, Mii Channel Interlude, Kinda Tastes Like Iron, Gender Stuff IDK and Dub Me into My Estate Agent.
Dunfermline-based Aye Hobos played alongside The Battery Farm on their recent tour date in Dunfermline, so it seemed appropriate that they should travel down to Manchester tonight to return the favour. The formed in 2016 with the intention of giving classic country songs a punk edge and the resulting fusion is what they refer to as “Cunk” (yes, I ran my spellchecker three times, just to be sure).
Comprising James Barney Ward on keyboards and vocals stage right, Callum Ward (son to the aforementioned James and a worthy successor to original guitarist Alan Comrie who sadly left This Mortal Coil as the album was nearing completion) stage left on guitar, Scott Watson on drums and Graeme Smith on bass front and VERY much centre, sporting a beard, shades and baseball cap that would make ZZ Top stand up and take notice.
Whilst their set consists entirely of covers, these definitely aren’t covers in the way you’d expect – their mission is to bring these songs to a new audience by way of making them more accessible TO that audience and their 14 track CD “Cunk It Up”, recorded during lockdown, is an excellent place to start should you want to see what these guys are all about.
What they’re about TONIGHT is plain to see during set opener Umbrella, as the band’s manager encased in a terrifying gorilla suit makes an unexpected entrance brandishing, yes, you’ve guessed it… a massive transparent umbrella with which he proceeds to poke the air with great enthusiasm. It seems that most of the band weren’t aware that this was going to happen either, so it’s to their credit that they’re able to continue their performance without breaking down with the giggles. Surely Rihanna NEVER foresaw this, but now the bar is set.
A brief foray into 7 Nation Army veers off suddenly into These Boots Are Made for Walking although I don’t remember the chorus advising that the boots were “Going to kick the fcuk out of you” – still, who am I to argue? Their description of their offering as, “Cunk Music for good time people, with references of mild humour” is spot on. These guys are here to party and they give off the energy of a line-up half their age (or even less). Nobody is safe – Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, Glenn Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy”, Kenny Rogers “Ruby”, Del Shannon’s “Runaway” – they all come in for the Cunk treatment and amazingly, they all work. It’s country, Jim, but not as we know it.
As Working in a Coalmine draws to a close, James tries his best at a Manchester greeting with “Eeh up, Manchestoh”, that sounds like Liam Gallagher has relocated to Holmfirth, but to which the crowd respond enthusiastically. As the sets nears its end, James emerges from behind his keyboard to take centre stage, again displaying a level of energy that makes ME tired, but he spots my questing lens and stares right down it with a variety of expressions – someone who recognizes a photographer’s need for a special shot is always good in my book!
Scott, Callum and Graeme keep up the furious pace as they launch into set closer “California Dreamin” – flower power was NEVER like this. This has been 35 minutes of glorious mayhem by a gang who don’t take themselves too seriously, but whose love for the songs they cover is evident.
If you’re quick, you can catch Aye Hobos on their annual Pirate Cruise on a boa on the River Forth up in that there Scotland, with headliners Penzance-based Jolly Roger (I kid you not) – catch them if you can – you’d be a complete cunk not to.
Aye Hobos played: Umbrella, These Boots Are Made for Walking, Sorrow/In Zaire, Jolene, Ruby (Don’t Take Your Love), Li’ Ol’ Wine drinker Me, Working’ in a Coalmine, Runaway, Rhinestone Cowboy, Friday on my Mind and California Dreamin’.
Pronounced “Who R Ya?” (and yelled back and forth frequently during this gig to great effect), Oorya’s bio states that they’re “A Queer electro punk-folk sonic excavation pulsing against the tide of inequality with guitar, beats, synth and Eon the emotional support dinosaur”, and whilst not exactly a new genre, EVERYBODY loves a dinosaur. Described as “Incendiary” by BBC Introducing, “Breathtaking and unforgettable” by Louder Than Words, “Unique” by Birkenhead’s FutureYard, and by themselves as “ Artist, Poet, Noisemaker”, this all adds up to someone I definitely want to see and hear, so it’s time to push to the front and see what Oorya is all about.
They state, “For me poetry is about getting to say a million things and none of them all at once – big aspirations from an artist who’s only been Ooarying for 6 months or so! They even challenge their own “Electro Punk Folk” label too as no gig is approached with a predefined setlist, rather allowing the vibe of the venue determine the content, so a set may well consist of lots of different styles. “Screaming Who Are Ya, is a challenge to the self, for you to show who you are, and for us collectively to grow who we are – tracking down and sacking off oppressive socialising and reclaiming the bravery of fuelling ourselves and fuelling each other – with play at the centre of it all”. Playfulness is definitely a key element of this set and you can’t help but smile.
The set opens with some distinctly medieval sounding keyboard effects, which immediately make me think of The Human League’s “Almost Medieval” from the 1979 “Reproduction” album (I AM that old, remember), but Oorya’s unique delivery, mixing song, spoken word and a delightful variety of whoops, gestures and sticking out of the tongue soon shakes off THAT particular memory. If I’ve got it right and my ears don’t deceive me, she is of the laudable opinion that you’re able to “Play out damage with love and care”, which she then proceeds to try to do over the next 30 or so minutes. They’re certainly a unique artiste – decked from head to foot in gothic attire, finished off with an intriguing set of horns which look suspiciously like one thing, but almost certainly aren’t (and which cast excellent shadows over the illuminated backdrop, much to my photographer’s delight), they flit across the stage like a demented pixie.
If I’m old enough to remember pre-Joanne and Susan Human League, then I’m DEFINITELY old enough to remember Lene Lovitch (“Lucky Number” anyone?), whose performance style shared some similarities with our Oorya (try saying THAT after four pints). Playfulness and cheeky audience interaction are key elements of this set and you can’t help but smile.
Master opens with some excellent robotic rhythms which get the crowd bounding – after energetic thrashings to both Lynskey’s and Aye Hobos’ sets, I’m surprised they have energy left for their own performance, but they do – in spades. In between songs we are given insights into Oorya’s thoughts on many subjects in a witty and entertaining way. A couple of songs in and you feel like they’re someone you’ve known for ages. We are invited to check out the video for “Irons” which “Lives inside the Internet”, by all accounts, but in a very real sense, dear reader, don’t we all?
The music and effects are minimalist but draw you in all the same, as Oorya switches to acoustic guitar – some of the dramatic delivery brings to mind Kate Bush at her most leftfield, but whilst maybe subconsciously channelling a number of influences, there’s no doubt that Oorya is unique as a performer – you’ll go a long way before you see anyone with as forceful a delivery of the spoken word and such a complete conviction in what they’re singing about. Anyone who shares the story that the first time they saw The Battery Farm, they danced their arses off so much that they were only left with coccyx (and gets you believing that that actually happened) has GOT to be worth your attention, and FOMO is definitely a thing here – you don’t want to take your eyes from the stage for a second.
There’s a shout out to Lynskey too and the obligatory plea for merch sales (“Because lives depend on it” – and they DO). Community Lives is an entertaining, if slightly disturbing jumble of images, lyrics and screams over the top of the by now familiar minimalistic beats. Awe sees only its third outing after being aired the previous evening in Manchester and the night before that in Liverpool (Oorya clearly doesn’t believe in letting their creativity lie idle) “This will be number three – and that’s my lucky number (which takes me nicely back to Lene Lovitch – how about that?) is the introduction to “Awe” which “Might be called that, but it’s still deciding on what it wants to be.”
Awe is a quieter and introspective guitar-only affair which slows down the pace for a few minutes, before it’s time for an introduction to each item of instrumentation including Eon the dinosaur (yay!) a description of self as an Irish Scouse Catholic and an invitation to have our spirit levels consensually measured (“I’m a professional”) with – what else – a sprit level. The spontaneity in the interactions with the crowd is a joy both to behold, and to be part of. We are told not to underestimate our power in the room and that we are to give The Battery Farm EVERYTHING – which it turns out is exactly what we do.
Whirly air pipes (No, I DON’T know the proper name for them) give your Humble reviewer a brief Chameleons flashback before we launch into Doctor Who sound effects, the footie terrace cry of “Oorya?!?” and the opening vocals of “Chips” – “I’m five now. I’ve had a bag of chips and this is how I feeeel now – watch the news and cry now, oorya oorya – are ya genuine?” – wonderful stuff.
Words are insufficient to describe the artistic might that is an Oorya performance – just go and experience it for yourself. You may just find yourself asking yourself, “Who Am I?” as you’re chanting, “Who Are Ya?”
Oorya played: Master, Irons, Community Lives, Awe and Chips
It’s been a busy few weeks for the Battery Farm, who describe themselves as “Furious-maudlin-sardonic punk-tinged shitstorm from the North of England” and it would be a brave person who would argue with that. “Flies Alive”, a recording of their gig across the road at Gullivers back in September has been a great success on the pre-order front and was officially released the Friday before this gig. Released in a bewildering array of legacy formats including cassette, Minidisc and Mini CD, thankfully, it’s also been released in a standard CD format that the rest of us will be able to play too.
The Castle is a particularly poignant venue in which to host this gig as it’s the scene of their very first gig back in June 2019 and it’s also going to be their last non-festival Manchester gig until November (unless we chant, “One more gig” loudly at the end of tonight’s proceedings, maybe…) The vinyl copies of Flies have become available in the last couple of days and I’m looking forward to getting mine in my grubby hands, all being well. This gig pretty much sees the end of the Flies promotional lifecycle as the band have already been busy recording the beginnings of its successor (no, I don’t use the word “Sophomore”), but thankfully tonight is a sell-out (and why on earth WOULDN’T it be?)
Front man Ben Corry (vocals, guitar, fly mask and erotic dancing) and guitarist brother Dominic (he of the RIDICULOUSLY photogenic hair and spooky effects pedals), and drummer Sam Parkinson are joined tonight by Dead Retinas bass man Chris Gaduzo, as regular bass pounder Paul Worrall is otherwise engaged. No flies are to be spared as they launch into the noisiest of the three versions of “Flies” on the album (the album opener, coincidentally) before Dom’s mangled pedals drags us kicking and screaming into Crude Oil Water, with Sam’s drums still channelling Killing Joke at their mightiest (at least for me, anyway).
“There’s a fucking gap here”, shouts Ben, pointing crossly at the space between the front of the crowd and the stage, “And I don’t like it!”, so we shuffle forward nervously. The fly mask that has been a feature of so many gigs over the last 12 months flips from its mike stand, to Ben’s hand, to the floor in quick succession, but it has yet to reach his head. Regular readers of my reviews will remember the fateful evening in Birmingham where, for some bizarre reason, I asked if I could try it on and pose for a selfie.
This was POST-gig, Dear Reader, so you can only imagine the horrors that dwelt within. I swear to God, it’s watching me and waiting for its opportunity. I’m keeping a VERY close eye on it for the rest of the set, as my fellow gig goers sing along to the chorus of “Wooden Spoon”, oblivious to its evil powers.
Ben introduces tonight’s bass man Chris Gaduzo, who is met with a round of applause before we launch into Flies favourite “A Working Class Lad” – with its plaintive chant of “I’m a working-class lad, with a working class dad, I’ve been working class had, now I’m working class sad”, it allows us to both sing along and howl back as Sam pounds away with manic delight, Dom churns out all manner of strangled noise and Chris looks most comfortable in his one-off appearance, dipping in and out of the crowd, much to our pleasure. You know that when to go to a Battery Farm gig they’re going to give everything and tonight is no exception. Ben’s expression ranges from the pensive to the ludicrous, from the happy to the furious, all in the blink of an eye, tongue out, eyes rolling, while sibling Dom’s expression is mostly one of extreme concentration as he fights to churn out their trademark sound.
Ben asks us if we’ve had a nice Gutter Party and we all reply that we have. There’s a round of “Oorya”s before a brief foray into Pigbag, accompanied by a VERY rude suggestion as to what we should do with our current government and their supporters, which is echoed back enthusiastically. We dive back into the bloated carcass of the Flies album in the form of the melancholy “Everything Will Be OK”, showing a more introspective side that tells you that this gang aren’t just all about the noise – “I’ll do what’s easier, and if that’s pleasier to you… that’s good…” I Am a Man is an explosion of frustration – “I want to talk but I don’t know!” – the ill-contained anger exploding in one of tonight’s most furious songs. It’s hard to know where The Battery Farm will go next after Flies, but it won’t be anywhere quiet or complacent, that’s for sure.
The set continues into The Belly of The Beast, before a couple of pre-Flies surprises in the form of “I’ve Never been To Gorton” and “Roy Keane Isn’t Real” from 2021’s “Dirty Den’s March of Suffering EP”. There’s a final nod to Flies with the album’s closing track (also going by that name), which has a few false starts as Dom suffers a guitar malfunction and has to borrow Ben’s, only for that not to deliver what he’s after either, resulting in it being unceremoniously punted under the drum kit. Ben and the others wait patiently until Dom is able to continue the set and a, “You’ve got this – WE’VE got this” moment passes between them which tells you all you need to know about both these two and about the band as a unit.
They’ve fought hard to get where they are and for Flies’ official send-off to be thwarted by something as annoying as a malfunctioning guitar must be mightily frustrating. The issue is eventually resolved and though Dom is clearly miffed, we take another trip down Nightmare Lane with 2019 debut single “97/91”. Tonight’s rabble-rousing, grungy, Doom-Punky, but ultimately joyous and uplifting set is brought to a climax (oo-er, Missus) with a visit to the 2020 Endless Unstoppable Pain EP in the form of “When the Black Smoke Rise”.
The Battery Farm PLAY RGM LIVE AT Night & Day supporting Sinclair on the 16th June.
Please try to attend, if you can – a Battery Farm gig is a thing of rare joy, and the adage that “Time Flies (aha, see what I did there etc…) when you’re having fun” was never more poignant. Flies’ time has waxed and is about to wane, and we can only wait in wonder and anticipation for whatever emerges from the studio next, regardless of how many legs it has. Oh, and never forget – the mask is always watching…
The Battery Farm played: Flies, Crude Oil Water, Wooden Spoon Number, A Working Class Lad, Poet Boy, Everything Will Be OK, I Am a Man, In the Belly of The Beast, I’ve Never Been to Gorton, Roy Keane Isn’t Real, Flies, 97/91 and While the Black Smoke Rise