Mudhoney @ The Ritz Manchester

Mudhoney @ The Ritz
Manchester 29/05/2015
Review by Toria morgan

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Upon my arrival at The Ritz I can honestly say I did not know what I was in for, I knew to expect to be treated to the grungy sounds of Mudhoney but I had no idea that the other accompanying acts, Wolf People and Barton Carroll would be so varied and intriguing!

First up was Barton Carroll, a Seattle based Singer Songwriter with a definite folksy sound to his acoustic music. With things like the Harmonica, he breaks up this night well and adds a new flavour. His songs had a certain degree of what I can only describe as an original authenticity. They really sounded like they were his own. The words and sounds we were hearing were truly what he was all about, his style, flair and talent shone through as he stood up on the stage. I was able to appreciate his wit and banter as well. He regularly threw in a light hearted joke, well received by the audience, it actually felt like I was watching a friend up there.

By the end of his lovely to listen to set I was well an truly in his corner. While his light and flowing songs are fantastic to listen to and the man obviously has a lot of talent, it was his warmth and personality that won me over. Being humble and friendly goes a long way in my book!

I enjoyed one of his more folksy sounding songs names ‘Poor Boy Can’t Dance.’ Upon gauging the crowd reaction, though they were here for a night of grunge and post punk, they were fully won over, as was I.

Towards the end of his set, lead guitarist of Mudhoney Steve Turner took to the stage to give us a little more variation. The two performed a duet, slightly different in sound to what either of them usually play. This song was a little more country and I honestly enjoyed it. It certainly had me tapping my foot. Having country music in my blood, it definitely made me sit up straight and pay attention. In all honesty I wanted more like that! Whatever these guys are doing together really works for me and I think an album collaboration is in order.

Wolf People were up next. A band I was delighted to stumble across accompanying Mudhoney at The Ritz tonight. They are English, based in London/Bedford and Manchester according to their Facebook page. They began as mere bedroom act by front man Jack Sharp in 2005 and categorize themselves as classic rock meets psych folk.

Their influences are extremely eclectic but it works quite phenomenally, some of the obvious influences are Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull. Two names I grew up with and can identify a mile away. These guys include a multitude of sounds and techniques in their music, they have flutes, harmonies, jazz style drumming which sometimes leans towards the funk sound.

They really amped up the mood of the night, introducing the first taste of a heavier sound that leaned more towards rock than folk but while maintaining folksy undertones in keeping with the night. I saw toe tapping and head nodding from the get go. A song in particular that struck a chord with me was the almost medieval sounding ‘Morning Born.’ Doing my research I discovered that this stemmed from their passion for old English fables. A touch that I personally loved, having a liking for them myself. Their songs tell stories and they are fantastic at delivering these tales.

Another thing I liked about these guys was their trance like playing. They seemed almost not to notice that the audience was even there. So absorbed in making good music and perfecting every beat , timing everything to the millisecond. So good is their musical technique you would never know the band apparently still tour in a van. I tip these guys for the top soon, maybe it has been slow going but no matter how fast or slow a snowball rolls, it always gets bigger and bigger. I see these guys doing the same.

Mudhoney now take to the stage, the American alternative rock band from Seattle were quite obviously what people were here for. Formed in 1988, the band includes Mark Arm as vocalist and lead guitarist, Steve Turner on lead guitar, Guy Maddison on Bass and Dan Peters on drums. The only change to the line up since their formation has been the recruitment of bassist Guy Maddison. The original bassist was Matt Lukin who left the band in 1999. The addition of Guy Maddison, though it occurred over ten years after their formation, has not hindered the band’s success.

The band fall definitely into the category of ‘grunge’ and even influenced the likes of Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth, an influence which is prominent if you hear their sound. Mudhoney’s early releases such as ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ were heavily influential on the Seattle music scene at the time of their release and even now. Superfuzz Bigmuff was the debut EP of the band and managed to cross the pond and enter the British indie charts. This album was hailed by Kurt Cobain himself as the album most influential to his giant of grunge band Nirvana.

It would seem these guys might be the godfathers of grunge, inspiring the dirty, high distortion sound that we all recognise today as ‘Grunge.’ A huge honour for the band I’m sure even if it does ring a little hollow, though they inspired the likes of Kurt Cobain, they were never quite as successful. Personally I would hold the knowledge of influencing such prominent people as a both a trophy and a mild annoyance in the fact that they would be able to say ‘We were grunge before grunge was cool.’ Though even Kurt Cobain was unhappy about how commercial his music was becoming so perhaps these guys are living the defiant grunge dream and are happy this way.

In their later career the band experimented and dropped tones of heavy blues rock and punk into the mix. It would appear the band had little commercial success during their long career, but in my book that is often the sign of a genius. Household names such as Vincent Van Gough and Claude Monet were artists who went unappreciated in their time, look at them now. I’m sure that is a sentiment that provides little comfort but it is often a sad truth in the world of the arts.

I personally am a fan of their sound. I have always been keen on the grunge scene, especially in my teens and to discover these guys in my home town was quite a treat. They sound edgy and rebellious. Their sound is not pretty or flowery, it is raw and real. These guys are ultimately cool in their demeanour, the way they conduct themselves with quiet confidence. They know their music is great, I just wish that everyone else who is into the grunge scene did. I found myself wondering why on earth they weren’t absolutely massive chart toppers because they fully deserve to be and I could think of people I know that would adore them. But at the same time I felt like I had stumbled on to something secret that I could appreciate alone. I could delve into the lyrics and ponder upon the meaning as well as enjoy their signature influential sound and dance around my living room with defiance, feeling oddly closer to the band than I would if they were plastered all over the TV all the time.

It conjured to mind the nineties, the decade I grew up in. Being a huge fan of Nirvana and Sonic Youth anyway, these guys delighted me. It was almost sacrilegious that I had not given much thought to this band in the past but since then I truly have stopped to take them in. Though they aren’t leaping about the stage like they did in their youth, the energy and power of their songs is still carries on. These guys are truly individuals, I really admired just the way they were. So effortlessly cool. Quiet leaders of the scene and pioneers of the grunge field.

During the set, they treated us an astonishing twenty six songs from their extensive career catalogue kicking off with ‘Suck You Dry.’ They included such fan favourites as ‘Get Into Yours,’ ‘I Like It Small,’ ‘F.D.K.’ and the super famous ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ to huge crowd response. This is a song that could have quite easily been as big as the worldwide phenomenon as ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ such as the catchy tunes and the screechy dirty guitars that drag you into their spiralling world of darker tones and fitting vocal tone. The song was met with everyone moving and swinging their heads around regardless of whether they had hair or not. The set included a rebellious cover from The Dicks ‘Hate The Police’ and set ended with a massive five song Encore, giving the fans what they want and finishing on ‘In ‘N’ Out Of Grace.’

In conclusion I was so glad to be able to see these guys. It was a real privilege to catch them live at The Ritz in Manchester and it is safe to say I have been listening to them since. I thoroughly enjoyed their sound as it was right up my street and totally recommend them to any grunge and punk fans that haven’t heard of this talented bunch.

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