Krakatoa is the premier venue for where all the headbangers and punks hang out in Aberdeen and these three bands – The Drunken Ramblings, The CundeeZ and The Rumjacks – on the night, were very much, in the latter category, and also with folky and Celtic influences permeating their sound.
First up were London-based The Drunken Ramblings. They consisted of guitarist/vocalist, bassist, guitarist and drummer. Intense, charging punk rock, vocals were at the top of his lungs; and wild, passionate guitar solos, but not too flashy.
There were some powerhouse performances. On the other hand, there was some climbing bass and jangly guitar. They were capable of thoughtful chords to build a sedate atmosphere, too. “… If you want to support a band that can’t even afford beer”, were the opening words that greeted an anecdote about the band’s travels to Dublin, using a guitar as a drumstick until it snapped.
Some of the music indeed evoked a beer binge drinking party, all fun bar the hangover. “… So this is a song about drinking. Who likes drinking?”, this was how proceedings came upon a smashing end, half of them playing in and amongst the crowd, out on the dance floor.
The main support act were Dundonians, The CundeeZ. They consisted of vocalist/bagpipes, bassist/vocalist, guitarist/vocalist and drummer. Proceedings kicked off with some pipes, regimented drum rolls, chugging bass and ringing guitar. The latter got distorted as the vocals took on a folky vein. Soaring vocals then urged crowd participation. Exciting. Thrashy.
Referring to one of his bandmates, the singer quipped, “He’s deaf as f**k”. This next song had moody, sliding and melodic bass, accompanied by crashing drums. Point of note at this point, as all were in kilts, and three of four of them were bald. Very intimidating. Anyway, the guitar was playing a cyclical riff, which lent the song some power, as did some glorious feedback. There was a jarring refrain before the end of the track.
The pipes were back, next, with some discordant harmonics on the guitar. The latter almost harked back to a somewhat metal influence. Furthering this effect were the pipes playing a power progression, as the drums, oddly, both clattered and played with precision. Some fine dynamics as a stop became a guitar break which built up everything.
At this point the bass occasionally broke free and got busy, dutifully serving its purpose otherwise. There became a spaced out, reggae vibe, seemingly. Things, again, reached a crescendo. The lyrics certainly had a Rasta patois style to them, a very much political edge to them. Powerful and epic was the conclusion, ringing of sound and wringing the crowd.
After that were passionate licks of guitar, interspersed with discordant harmonics. This seemed to concern their Dundee pride and revelling in that feeling of being on top of the “f**kin’ world”. It had a ska lilt to it, too. Bagpipes, again, came to the fore, with their next effort. There were pounding drums to announce this one. Also were emotive guitar lines, with the pipes evoking a Scottish homecoming. The guitars were simple, but the bass filled out more than just the bottom end.
“This is for all the punks in the audience”. And so begun their next, thrashy, effort. The drummer hit his toms with venom. It had an angsty energy, generally suiting the feel. It appeared to have an element of triumph, especially with the punky, gang vocals vibe going on. Folky, Celtic and melodic was the subsequent song; which then became stopping, then starting. A powerhouse of riff and rhythm. Another kilted man came onstage; another topless, sweaty Scotsman.
“You lucky folk. A brand new one, again”. This heralded some more pipes, with ducking and diving bass both making for crazy ska madness. The aforementioned bagpipes were definitely melodic, helping to carry the song. There then appeared to be a mishmash of punk classics, like “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” by Buzzcocks.
Headlining act were Sydney’s The Rumjacks, consisting of guitarist, bazoukist, vocalist, bassist and drummer. They opened with “Plenty”, an energetic rocker that, in a weird way, also dragged its heels at bit. Like a punk rock sneer, you could say. It certainly had a growl and swagger to it. There was some good dynamics; light and shade, loud and quiet.
Guitar and vocals kicked off “Barred”. This was followed by ducking and diving bass which, in turn, kicked off what became a driving rocker. Guitarist and bassist faced drummer for some of its more syncopated moments. It became choppy, powerful and anthemic, the kick of the bass drum then urged the crowd to go bananas.
Tin whistle opened the pounding rhythm of “Kirk”. This was very folky, and certainly had a Celtic spirit to it. It really let loose, urging the crowd to dance. “Tam”, following, was triumphant and chugging. The song took almost a hard rock turn, gritty and with bite. It was like a rebel’s tale, or something akin to the account of an outlaw. This ended with a flourish. It became acapella bar the bazouki, before kicking in, again, and finally ending for real.
Vocals lead “Sober”, with scratches of guitar, before the song proper kicked in. The crowd were pogoing out front, the bassist responding in same. The singer took to guitar, too. “Matilda” was a bouncing effort, and chugging. Another rebel’s tale, the derring-do of the outlaws of the world. The crowd were going bananas with the song’s last swagger, the feedback ringing in their ears.
“We’ve got a really f**king slow one” was how they introduced “Pockets”. Very fast, of course, with a bouncing folk vibe. There was pogoing not too far from the moshpit out front. There was a flourish of guitar and drum that met, seemingly, with the vocalist’s roar of a wildcat.
“Balliuchain”, following, was an epic, folky and Celtic concoction. It was another bouncing syncopated rhythm, which, in turn, became crashing rhythms with, what seemed to be mandolin, thrown in for good measure. “Pinchgut” had intense scratching guitar, which preceded another chance for the crowd to lose their minds out front. Melody, possibly bodhran, was heroic, indicating a rebel’s anthem, where folk heroes are rarely speaking, strictly ever good guys, as such.
“Home (Time Again)” was more restrained in its composition, with a subtle reggae vibe going on. It had a nice change, a show of good dynamics. The crowd were now dancing, rather than bobbing. They were all still animated, though. The bassist broke out, his play getting nice and busy. The song seemed evocative of the drive to see through adversity, and onto better days.
“Uncle” was full on, with helter skelter rhythms, its intensity unrelenting. “Jolly”, meanwhile, had regimented drums before it went ballistic. Its changes in tempo were manic. It then broke for a drum and bass fill, only accompanied by vocals. It talked about an executioner, and the triumph of evading death, the latter conveyed via yelping vocals.
Following this was “Leaky”. This was another change in pace, almost genre, especially with the use of tin whistle. The music was still bouncing and syncopated, particularly with a drum break focusing on the toms. A final flourish wrung the applause out of an appreciative audience. “Wild” was a rousing anthem, the vocalist imploring the audience to rise and be counted. Scratches of guitar were uber cool and rocking. Machine gun drums cued the song’s end. Applause, of course, was granted.
Football chants and more tin whistle were amidst the next song, “Irish”. Bazouki combined with the latter to give it that real authentic folky feel. Jangly guitar greeted a subsequent vocal refrain. Histrionics from the tin whistle at end gave conclusion to a Celtic flavour. The pounding toms of “Summer” then did a power of work. Folky punk exemplified the entire set, bar two or three choice songs, and this one rung with triumph. Backing vocals, gang vocals, added power to it.
“Thank you all for coming, really appreciated” were the words that cued “Blows (Tell Me)”. Vocals, with occasional chords of guitar, told Celtic tales with some swagger, before the song proper kicked in. Madness ensued before a vocal refrain.
Strumming guitar then gradually got bolder, with the drums hammering in with that guitar, and the madness started all over again. The crowd were clamouring for the songs closing moments, too. Machine gun drums, and strumming gradually descending into a wall of noise, heralded the final end.
“One more song, one more song!”
…so what the crowd wanted, the crowd got. This came in with ringing chords, and a mandolin melody. The floor was shaking with those bouncing feet. It sounded familiar, with the words, “she’s a…she’s pretty”. This reviewer still hasn’t been able to place the song and artist, but the crowd were singing back every word to the band onstage. The machine gun flourish made a final cameo appearance before the climax was reached, and the gig was over.
The Rumjack’s most recent album, 2015’s Sober & Godless, is available from their online store here.
Words by Andrew Watson