SUMAC at Tufnell Park Dome

Support: Oxbow
April 25, 2017 at Tufnell Park Dome
Promoter: Baba Yaga's Hut

Atmosphere is key; for a good show you need a good atmosphere, not necessarily a pleasant or ebullient one but, a satisfyingly, enrapturing one. Oxbow + SUMAC had atmosphere and my zombified corpse was reanimated by it.

I had to journey from work in Wood Green (I work a fixed, fifty hours, Monday-Friday and I have another part-time job doing some social stuff for Puzzle Factory Sound Studio but, I digress) to Tufnel Park Dome (a venue, I fondly remember as the place where I did my first review for Echoes and Dust; covering HEALTH a couple of years ago). Despite, finishing work early and rushing to the venue at top speed, I still arrived through Oxbow’s second song immediately spotting (my brother) Jake’s Stretch Armstrong appendages and Rough Trade’s own, Remi Lemarcq, (elected king of the free-peoples) in the crowd. A round of beer later and I found myself engrossed in the presentation of the band; you have a group of circa fifty years old men, each looking like they could skin the leather off a cow with their bare hands (maybe it was the lager) doused in this savage pink light. It reminded me of the whole Bret Hart “real men wear pink thing”, not that anyone who thinks there’s such thing as this idealised form of a “real man” is worth their weight in shit. The point is the whole performance to me is very disarming and I feel as though it’s intentional. These are punk as fuck, old as fuck, badass as fuck humans playing incomprehensible songs that sounds like a robot brain trying to digest pornography. I have actually seen Oxbow before by the way, I just don’t remember it because it was at the now-deceased All Tomorrow’s Parties headlined by Shellac; Jake and Remi remember it, apparently Oxbow had an orchestra; I was 17 snuck into a festival as a present ahead of my 18th and I got pretty wrecked. So Oxbow, have a very positive connotation in my mind as it is.

To a non-listener, the band would likely sound like members of Faith No More and Fugazi banding together with George Clinton to make a post-hardcore version of Maggot Brain. It has this weird psyche, porn-groove, funk thing going on at times, but for the most part it’s a game to headbang to and is generally, leading the listener by the hand through some foggy field most of the time. The singer has this whole preacher vibe going like he’s ragging a demon out of some poor, supposedly possessed bastard and the band play like a legion of tormented souls to boot. Here’s where the presentation turns to spectacle as well; it seemed as though the singer was supplementing his earplugs with duct tape because their band were that loud. Now, I’m not saying that’s the most stupefying thing I’ve ever seen, but imagine seeing someone doused in magenta rays of light and fog, shirtless, with tape hanging from the side of their head like dilapidated, black earrings. It was weird and amazing. Surprisingly, I didn’t understand a single word the fella sang but, it all seemed to work incredibly well with the music and basically, got me thinking that people in their 50s really are at the peak of their powers. Whether it be directors, artists, bands, whatever. I had gotten back from Wrong Festival a few days prior and saw Part Chimp and Evil Blizzard and regard both to be among the best bands touring the country right now, The Fierce and The Dead are another band in the same demographic that I consider to be absolutely incredible. I guess, it’s that same old thing, real artists die way ahead of their time, those who burn out before they fade away are usually just symbols for shit they don’t agree with drained for sex and money and tossed aside once used and dried up. Would you rather be fucked and disregarded or slowly discovered and adored forever? There’s a genuine quandary for human interest; your biology tells you the former, your sapiosexuality, the latter. Either way, we all look the same when we’re dead for long enough.


There was a fairly long interval for this show, definitely enough time for a pint. Noted sound wizard, Matias Duarte (you may remember from many other great gigs I’ve been to such as Bad Guys’ last ever show and ArcTanGent), man of great taste, suggested that this was actually due to the elaborate lighting the show used which essentially meant we were going from the bold pink brainstorm to a deep, incarnadine mass cloaking the room in a blood red aura. It was everything SUMAC are about: intense black and red, shadow and fury; blood-soaked chaos and misery.

According to Jake and his co-Batman, Marion Rankine, sumac is the name of a fairly tame, entirely not-metallic spice used for seasoning edible matter in the constraints of humanity. Now, the band SUMAC, on the other hand, are heavier than the deepest fathoms of the ocean. There’s no elements in sound when they play or melody; it’s just decibels angrily roaring towards you in regiment. Although, it is the cohesiveness of the band’s sound is key to my enjoyment of the music; the uniformity of SUMAC’s performance meant that live they were incredibly tight and entrancing, I actually found them to be really relaxing though, equally unpredictable as Oxbow. It was highly satisfying to keep in pace with the entire show and I have to commend Baba Yaga’s Hut for essentially, putting on the most anti-rhythm gig I’ve ever seen and I don’t mean that there was a lack of rhythm; I mean, they flipped the entire notion of rhythm and time signatures and all that shit on its head and blasted fuck out of it. On the record, I thought the vocals for SUMAC sounded more or less when you burp mid-singing and create a strange orc-like sound. Live, the vocals were entirely textural; again, it was like there was no words and it was all just insane rhythms and brutality. In a weird way, the two bands reflected each other as two weird sides of the same fucked-up coin. A headbangers, snaggletoothed, ying and yang. I have to say, I was very impressed.

For a good time call Baba Yaga at their Facebook page – You’ll find that there’s a constant stream of excellent gigs there and Oxbow + SUMAC was just another example of a fucking brilliant show put on by fucking brilliant bands for a fucking brilliant promotion.

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