The Do-It-Yourself, community-first style, John Dwyer illustrates in his currently named Oh Sees band and his joint-partnership in the running of Castle Face record label is also in complete evidence tonight. As support band Beak>’s drummer Geoff Barrow explains during their set, the three bands on tonight’s bill clubbed together in an arrangement to sell their merchandise at the neighbouring pub, the Bull and Gate, to avoid the crippling commissions imposed by the Forum venue. This response and solution to find answers for bands to financially survive is met with the same determination and intelligence as his sonic explorations.
But first, it is down to Flat Worms to start proceedings, and they do so with aplomb. They deliver tuneful revved up blasts of frenetic fuzz, squeals of feedback, and motorik rhythms as they showcase many of the gold nuggets from their very impressive self-titled debut released last year on the aforementioned Castle Face label. The instant catchiness of ‘Pearl’, ‘11816’, and ‘Question’ are infectious; and the band rip through their set while also successfully projecting their sound, which is traditionally mostly suited for smaller, intermediate-sized venues, onto the Forum’s larger stage.
They may often be referred to as a side project, but with drummer Geoff Barrow’s more acclaimed and famed band, Portishead, inactive for a decade or so, and Beak> releasing their third album imminently, it suggests they are indeed his current main creative enterprise. They provide more atmospheric textures and Krautrock dynamics, which take a little while to get uplift. But when they do, it is best achieved when they venture into more sonic stabs of noise. They are a different musicality to both Flat Worms and Oh Sees but despite this the venue fills up quite quickly during their set, and they receive a good response. However, the energy and adrenaline stirred up by Flat Worms could not quite be maintained by Beak>.
Whatever momentum was lost during Beak>, the Oh Sees pick up the momentum in an instant, as the four-piece showcase why Dwyer is a current hot property in psychedelic, progressive, garage rock, and sonic adventurer circles. The synchronised double-drummers are not only a mesmerising watch, but they pack an extra bounce in every song across the whole set. Not only does this stir an instant energetic mosh pit, but a bolt-of-lightning energy connects with many individuals surrounding this reviewer, and a rewarding buzz, created by both band and a pumped-up crowd, is felt throughout the venue.
Then there is John Dwyer himself with an array of pedals all layered out in waiting at waist height for him to control. The sound he creates is loud but the guitars are crystal clear, with minimal distortion, which imposes a sharp clarity like their recent recorded product. Along with his trademark whoops he is thoroughly energised. Usually, I would pick out standout songs, but the whole set is a testament to Dwyer’s vision captured in a varied, exhilarating, trailblazer of sonic wonderment.
Beak> were not wrong when they warned the Oh Sees would “whip your arses”!