Saturday (November 26) saw punk and new wave legends, 999, play Krakatoa, a revamped dive bar down beside Aberdeen Harbour. They were assisted by Aberdeenshire melodic and skate punk band, Skizofrenic. The bar and stage area looked sparse at first, but the night was still young, and filled out nicely later.
Opening act, Skizofrenic, consisted of vocalist/guitarist, guitarist/vocalist, bassist/vocalist and drummer. They opened driving, distorted and despondent; ringing sparsely before going headlong into chugging intensity. Backing vocals, of “woah, woah”, added to the dynamics satisfyingly; their opening gambit short and sweet.
Dirty bass was then greeted with feedback of guitar. Tragic, wailing and plentiful energy. It hammered jack knife before ending.
Imploring bass rung before the rest of band kicked in. A couple of people were losing themselves to the music out front. Immediate. Skizofrenic, in turn, bunched up together as a band of brothers, with real show of physical chemistry. There was an emphatic jump from bassplayer, in tandem with final flourish of drummer, ushering the song’s end.
The next was unrelenting, fast and furious. It slowed right down for tasty, mournful licks on the bass guitar. Brief mournful lick, in turn, of guitar before leaping into a fast unknown. The vocalist was raspy and imploring. Scintillating solo at the hands of said vocalist brief, wild and satisfying.
Then there was ringing, full of doom before bludgeoning into an upbeat speed. Despair was only around the corner despite this change in tempo. A defiant middle finger for audience from bassist conveyed a shared rebellion.
“Everyone looking forward to seeing 999?” they asked as guitarist/vocalist tuned up. It later transpired, naturally usually being a bassist, that he came onstage with just five strings and that, sod’s law, one of them snapped. “…we’ll play a boring song as a three piece”.
This was a rocking number, ironically enough. Mighty and triumphant. Flourishes of lead line were passionate. This then stripped back with muted guitar, building those dynamics before kicking straight back in, again. It ended with, albeit, a whimper but the crowd were happy, nonetheless.
Then guitar melodies, packing a punch, again. It was almost infused with heavy metal power, epic and, yes, triumphant. The backing vocal arrangement very much complementing that call and response feel. Dynamics pulled back, stripped to accentuate that element of singing your heart out.
Grungy chugging opened a quite despondent of tracks. Despairing and maybe a tad forlorn. Girl out front, wearing Skizofrenic t-shirt, grooved to the music. Wailing lead line conveyed a sense of tragedy and all that’s lost. The one that got away sort of thing.
“You Can’t Stop Us” was as much a mission statement as it was the title for their next song. What it says on the tin, sort of thing. Unstoppable, intense. Bassist took reins of singing duties, this time. An harmonic dissonance rung out as the drums pounded, doubled up and joined for muted intensity that built and built. Guitarist did a jig to this anthem.
The sound next was massive and crushing. Biting bass definitely panned out this feel. Almost galloping, in a way. Raspy vocals, with call and response, made for immediate and urgent listening. Tattooed, half naked drummer pumping final flourishes to indicate set’s emphatic end.
Headlining that night, as said, were punk and new wave legends, 999. Apparently this was their only Scottish date on their tour. They were made up of vocalist/guitarist, guitarist, bassist and drummer. “Good evening, everybody!” a proclamation that greeted what was the performance obviously of a tight band, but not from an overly slick one.
“Black Flowers” got the band going; ringing, hammering bass heralding high octane rock and roll. A section of the crowd were right up front, in the band’s faces and loving it. Their “woah woahs” persistent as they were infectious.
“One, two, three, four!”, and so “Inside Out” began, bass ducking and diving. Wails of guitar lick impassioned and free, backing vocals bratty and self-assured.
An aside, feeling like it could be another song (“Hit Me”), or continuation of previous, began. The guitarist gave it large before bass drum pounded another round of muted strumming; stripped back dynamics, imploring the crowd to go bananas.
“…f*ckin’ freezin’, thanks for singing along”. This one, “Crew”, was moody and driving, despairing and despondent. This was pulled back to just drum and bass, very intermittent. Flourishes of guitar, and then machine gun drum signalled the end.
“Lie Lie Lie” saw funky flourishes of guitar opening a jumpy number, a troublemaker’s anthem. Really grooving. The bass climbed with an almost jazzy inflected rock and roll enthusiasm, the song finishing with much precision.
Then “Rael Rean” was a swinging rocker, daresay a tad funky. The groove of the bass was isolated to really feel the crux of song’s main melody. Really evoking lads with an eye for trouble and high jinks. The bass then slowed in tandem with the song croaking a slow death, before speedy flourish tricked the audience into false sense of what was coming next.
“’Boys In The Gang’. One, two, three, four!” This a driving one, one a real punk rocker might over exuberantly pogo to. Sparse guitar really let the drums and bass anchor the song. A cry of passion was the song’s wailing conclusion.
Foreboding was “Riding Hood” and its riff, before ensuing into some ducking and diving trouble. “Little Red Riding Hood/You sure are looking good”. It was choppy, climbing and on the prowl.
“Sport” was mad and off the leash, hammering, fast and crashing. Stabs of drum syncopated with guitar for intensity you half expected to come off the rails.
It then transpired that the bassist, Arturo Bassick, was one of the “new boys” of the band, despite having served a far from measly twenty-seven years with 999. Anyway, “Really Like You” was immediate and urgent. Everything a good punk song should be. However, this got slow and emphatic, its end ringing for posterity upon the minds of the audience.
“…it got banned by the BBC. It got fined in America”, and so, it appeared, began “Don’t You Know”. This was dragging heels punk rock. Triumphant. The guitar faded out for a military precision flourish of guitar syncopating with drum, as the bass grooved a sparse rhythmic melody.
“’No Pity’!” chugged true of a band with no remorse or mercy. It was pedantic, in a way, climbing of the bass; manic and off the wall. The frontman implored the audience with a half crazed look in his eyes.
“This one is called ‘Last Breath’”. This evoked a feeling of loss, but, at the same time, seemed to indicate that of turning the corner enough to know that you don’t care anymore. Life goes on, kind of thing. The “La, la, la, la” certainly reinforced this attitude of no longer caring. This, in turn, was reinforced by the hit of the drum. Latter with extended break and refrain for audience to absorb and singalong to.
“The audience is as important as the band”. Distinctive drum roll punctuated a sparse guitar. Despairing and despondent, as if life disappearing down the plughole. “Emergency”, indeed. The bassist passionately recited the lyrics without mouth to microphone, a la Steve Harris of Iron Maiden fame.
The audience singing back to the band certainly proved 999’s previous assertion. This was before going headlong into rip roaring number, “Nasty”. The guitarist really showboated with a fiddly riff. The bassist then waded in with a precise assault, too.
“This one’s called ‘Homicide’!” This evoked drunken lads out on the hunt for candidates deserving their enforced kind of capital punishment. Grooving bass high octane, before driving the song to impassioned heights. Two members of the audience were up onstage singing into the microphone.
“You’ve been a fantastic audience”. Cue encore. Almost thrashy, before engaging in a climbing, high octane punk rock. The guitarist pointed his axe at audience like a gun.
“Thank you very much, everybody!” Intense and off the wall was their parting shot. Really riff orientated, crashing and dramatic. A guitar solo ripped like the roar of a wildcat.
Purchase the 999’s 2007 album, Death In Soho, here.
Also visit their website page to keep tabs on 999.
Words by Andrew Watson