Voodoo Bandits Live in Manchester – What went down?

A mild (is it just me who hates that word…?) Saturday evening sees your humble reviewer heading into Manchester, destination 33 Oldham Street to see three bands, Blond Blood, Supera Morza and tonight’s headliners, Voodoo Bandits. I’ve seen Supera Morza on a previous occasion at the Peer Hat supporting the now sadly defunct (at least for the time being) Byker Grove Fan Club. Those familiar with that venue will vouch that it’s not the BEST place to take pictures if you don’t want to use flash (which I try not to do wherever possible – a band’s job is hard enough as it is). Blond Blood and Voodoo Bandits are an unknown quantity to me, but upon climbing the stairs to the venue room, at least the light doesn’t disappoint (in that there actually IS some), so my spirits are raised from the outset.

Blond Blood describes themselves as “A surf punk band who are the raddest, baddest band on Planet Manchester, here to bring you some music as if it was written all the way over on west coast America.!” They certainly don’t disappoint on that score and bring a sense of fun and energy to a compact Manchester crowd. Technically they’re a three-piece, comprising Rory (Lead Guitar/Vocals), Luke (Rhythm Guitar) and Morgan (Drums, with seemingly many friends in the audience) but tonight they have acquired charismatic bass man George, sporting a blue baseball cap that makes it hard to see his face, but whose performance more than makes up for that.

They deliver a compact 7-song set (Freaking Out, Feelin’ it, Blonde, No California, Ocean, Oh Sh*t and Surf God) that has the audience (including enthusiastic members of Supera Morza) bouncing up and down appreciatively. Points of comparison could well be The Misfits, Sublime and Fidlar, whose songs they have covered on previous occasions.

Don’t expect to hear The Beach Boys in amongst this particular interpretation of “Surf”, but these fellas clearly enjoy what they’re doing whilst making a fine sound, and I’ll be following their progress with interest.

Next up are Supera Morza, who, by their own admission weren’t at their best at the Peer Hat, so expectations run high. Grungy comparisons with Nirvana, Baby Strange, and the Pixies abound and they’ve already gathered interest from BBC Radio 1’s Gemma Bradley and Jack Saunders as well as BBC 6 Music’s Tom Robinson. However, the raucous racket that the band emit can only  be appreciated by witnessing the live performances that given them a solid reputation as one of Manchester’s best new live acts, a reputation that has earned them slots alongside a string of fellow newcomers such as the aforementioned Byker Grove and Generation as well as headline shows in their own right at The Castle Hotel, YES and Gullivers.

Having bagged a shiny new record deal with Modern Sky in September, they’re anxious to show us their wares. The band originally began life as a three-piece with Jack Barrett (vocals) Josh Barrett (Drums) and Finn  Joseph on guitar with bass man Harry Ackerman joining the fun later on. Their set also consists of 7 songs, (2 4 50, Tainted Spring, Dull, Past Vibrations, Yardskin, Damageland  and I’m Working It Out)

Think gritty, think grungy, think unfiltered, high intensity, distorted and brutal. Oh, and yes, loud. VERY loud, but not so much that you can’t hear the hard work that goes on under the noise to deliver their music, which is lapped up by an appreciative (and growing) crowd. Always, ALWAYS get to a gig early enough to see the support acts, folks – you never know what you might be missing. On the strength of this performance, 2023 is going to see great things from Supera Morza.

Finally, what do we know about tonight’s headliners? Genre-wise they describe themselves as, “A punchy four-piece garage rock/surf punk outfit hailing from the Isle of Man” Sound-wise, we have “Fuzzy indie punk sound deriving from their USA and Australian based influences” They’ve had plays on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 6 and Radio X amongst others, and have supported You Me At Six, Two Door Cinema Club, McFly and Nile Rodgers & CHIC as well as appearing at Kendal and Calling and the Y Not Festival, so an intimate gig at 33 Oldham Street holds no fears for them.

Their infectious energy is apparent from the outset, as your reviewer manages to get a shot of front man/guitarist  Ben Donaldson leaping from the drumkit into a frantic setlist that I’m still trying to interpret, but there was a LOT of it. Backed up by Corey Vaughan (Lead Guitar) twin Nathan Vaughan (Drums) and Charlotte Wilby (bass), this bunch are out to entertain. The boys from Supera Morza are at it again in the crowd causing all sorts of mayhem, but everyone is clearly loving the Isle of Man’s progeny deliver (what appears to be) Yesterday’s Jam, AAH!, I’m a Loser, Demon In My Room, Drag, Dave’s House, Hot Dog, Mid 00s, Killer Sweats, Backyard Wrestling, Chandler, Lawn Chair Sunburn, Superblue, Fuzz My Life, Nice T-Shirt, Diet Punk and Empty Swimming Pool).

Mr Donaldson is a more than natural frontman and makes several forays into the appreciative crowd, which rapidly descends into a ferocious mosh accompanied occasionally by guitarist Corey. He also commands an alarming range of facial expressions which add emotion into an already lively,shenanigan-filled 40 minutes. Nathan underpins the whole thing from the drum stool and Charlotte wisely avoids the crowd-based mayhem from stage right. Similar to Supera Morza, she joined the original three-piece line-up later on (maybe this is a thing, who knows?)

Voodoo Bandits complete their set with a much-appreciated cover of Wheatus’s “Teenage Dirtbag”, ending off a night of noise, fun and entertainment. All three of tonight’s acts are worthy of your eartime and your footfall if they’re playing anywhere nearby.

Your reviewer was at Fontaines D.C. the night before and he absolutely knows which gig he preferred. Take my money and buy me a surfboard.