Downstairs is described as one of Aberdeen’s newest and best live music and entertainment venues. Sadly, the venue is due to close by Saturday, July 30, with this gig being one of its last hurrahs before folding. This follows a noise complaint, which, in turn, necessitates £80,000 in adjustments to tick boxes, such as soundproofing.
It’s said that even being gifted this money by benefactors wouldn’t guarantee to keep it afloat, hence getting out before debt problems are insurmountable. What’s more, headlining band for the night, Audiokicks, had to pull out. Washington Whips did their duty to best fill this gap.
However, proceedings did their best to put a smile on everybody’s faces. First up, were Pasadena Milkshake. They consisted of vocalist/lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist/vocalist, bassist/vocalist and drummer. The dancefloor was practically empty, which was a shame because they had real energy. Vocals duties were shared like a gang of lads each having eachother’s backs. Some wild and tasteful guitar appeared in solo form. The licks got a tad heavy metal, but they definitely worked.
They were also intense and moody, very angst ridden. A passionate solo was reminiscent of Sum 41’s “In Too Deep”, in that it was very much a slice of metal majesty in a punky context. Having said that, some lyrics seemed ironic and tongue in cheek. The vibe sometimes seemed to be despairing and despondent. Also, talk of “hotel rooms” seemed like they were concerned with love unrequited, or one night conquests.
To these untrained ears, there appeared songs at least very evocative of “Crashed The Wedding” by Busted, and “First Date” by Blink-182.
There were also heartfelt and seemingly non-ironic moments, too, much unlike before. Their set also seemed to feature an extended jam at some point, aswell. Things got raucous, intense and, daresay, metal with some chugging guitar. A tapping laden end was a tad indulgent, but actually worked quite well.
Run To Vega were next. They consisted of vocalist/guitarist, guitarist, bassist and drummer. At this point, the venue was emptier than before. Odd vocals were the first thing you noticed, like what you’d hear from bands such as Faith No More and Primus; maybe even FNM related act, Mr Bungle. They had immediacy, yet were spaced out and atmospheric. Like fast with a slow backdrop, or something.
There were some very sparse arrangements, nobody competing to steal the limelight. At one point there was intermittent bass, via interlude, reminding one of “A Forest” by The Cure. The frontman, with his guitar, even appeared to put on an eccentric American accent.
They had some lovely guitar melodies, too. Things understated, but still heroic. Moments got suitably melancholy; guitar, vocals and organ pedal. The latter really lent an exploratory element to proceedings. Mournful and searching. The vocals definitely seemed earnest, not put on or attempting to be ironic or funny.
Addictive rhythms came, almost urging the crowd to dance. Many punters there seemed shy and distant, though. Slow, ambient guitar was greeted with the other guitar fast and choppy. Light and shade, dual speeds combining for a weird, contradictory effect.
Their finale was a seemingly indie rocker, it had hints of the alternative and grunge you’d hear from The Smashing Pumpkins. There was vocal riffing, vibing with the song’s rhythms. This one was scatty, crazy and, yes, addictive.
Worlds Apart followed. They consisted of vocalist/guitarist, guitarist/vocalist, bassist/vocalist and drummer. These guys came hammering in, fast and furious. Spitfire guitar and drum, with ‘spitfire’ the operative word for these suited and booted looking Mods.
The bass seemed climb up and down, like a jazz veteran. Raucous guitars rung and reverberated with punky, ballsy attitude. There was so much energy going about, as such both Mods and punks could enjoy. It got viscous and biting. The bassist, a point of note, not only did he play, and sound, like The Who’s John Entwistle, but also looked, in terms of playing posture, Entwistle. There was no let up, yet, the set as immediate as ever. Punchy, gritty and jumping.
The pace did come down a peg or two eventually, though. The bass got quite high register, tasty and melodic. It filled out the low end, too. Moody and atmospheric. There were flourishes of scratchy, wah-wah inflected guitar.
Then came syncopated rhythms that drove the set in a way almost alien to their material so far. Arguably getting the Mods jumping and the punks pogoing. There was a touch of dissonant solo guitar, screeching as the bass searched and things snapped to an end.
At one point, people were finally starting to dance. Well, one guy, anyway. The bassist then handed his instrument to the guitarist, in favour of what looked like a trombone. Things got almost psychedelic, in a way. Like an early Who or solo Entwistle track.
Things, subsequently, got rather topical, opening the song with, “It’s a tragedy this place is going”. This was jumping and immediate, a call to arms for an ailing venue.
Headlining were the Washington Whips, made up of vocalist/keyboardist, guitarist, bassist and drummer/vocalist. They opened with the regimented drums, doomy guitars and ringing bass of “Navigation To The Stars”. Their frontman proceeded to jump around like a loon, with some Fred Durst passion.
Their next effort, “Rebecca Loos”, was very garage rock, the drummer’s vocals combining for a gang shout punk effect. The cyclical bass really developed a nice groove. Keyboard seemed to then search for the skies, space and time in “Geyser”. Aspects of it seemed to evoke some sort of carnal Big Bang Theory.
“…semiautobiographical, I haven’t been sacked. Yet”. Thus began “Yellow Pages”. This is apparently about forever consulting, out of some strange joy, that well known phone directory, even when he’s meant to be holding down some sort of responsibility in his non phone directory related office job. Much fanfare heralded the song’s conclusion.
“This is about hating southern fried chicken Roysters crisps”, the opening gambit for “Southern Fried Chicken Crisps”. The song proper was greeted with squelching synthesiser, and you were under no doubt you’re meant to laugh. After that it hammered, the intensity really building.
Ducking and diving bass was met with, almost, Pulp, “Common People” type keyboard in “Supermarket Sweep”. This didn’t last long, though, with the strangely satisfying screaming vocals bringing that comparison to an abrupt end. It continued with the keyboard crawling an eerie melody, before ending proper.
A guest vocalist came onstage for his rendition of “Daily Diana”, as the actual vocalist himself walked offstage for some refreshments. The guy in his place appeared to be reading the lyrics from his smartphone. Interesting.
In “Where Did The Good Dinosaurs Go” rumbling bass followed a prologue via the drummer. This seemingly was about digging and methods of excavation. This was all choppy and intermittent, and it definitely ticked the boxes in the dynamics stakes. The drummer proceeded to make a grandiose gesture with his free arm, stick still in hand, loving the triumph of it all.
“Swimming Helicopter” was tad bombastic, with the drums driving and propelling the song forward. There were toms aplenty, in this one.
“Loch Ness And His Secret Door To The North Sea” celebrated all things conspiratorial. The band were dying for some acknowledgment from the crowd, for somebody to share in the discussion the song was meant to bring. It was a very stripped back effort, with the usual vocalist/keyboardist now vocalist/acoustic guitarist. For reasons unfathomed by this reviewer, the crowd, however unresponsive at the start of this song, were now, it seemed, singing back all the words.
The next, “Cheetahs, Jaguars And Leopards Are All The Same To Me”, had a similar flavour, then ended suddenly.
They remained yet stripped back, bass intermittent but booming for “How Dare You Dislike Pantera”. The chorus saw the whole band back into the fold.
“Are you okay? Have you fallen asleep yet, mum?” There were booming tom rolls over this one, titled “Mummy’s Little Soldier”. It was quite a nasal effort, with wayward guitar and driving drums. Ringing, grooving bass heralded, in turn, crashing drums. Real moody and ambient. Wailing guitar built this atmosphere up, definitely. Cowbell, via vocalist/keyboardist, was offered, like gift, to the expectant drummer.
The mighty opening riff of “The Roar Of Middle Scotland” trundled like that classic riff from Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”. This was then thrown together with what sounded like impassioned, nu metal raps. There was, then, a sudden change in pace that got the crowd, increased sizeably since earlier, going.
Set closer, “Political Icon Of Our Lifetime” was quite punk, despairing and very despondent. It really ducked and dived. It then picked up with incredible speed for its climax, before taking a turn to more normality and before ending abruptly.
You can find out more about Worlds Apart on their Facebook page and official website. You can also purchase their The Hard Times That Make You EP, here. Upcoming album Change My Grey Skies To Blue is due soon.
Words by Andrew Watson