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WPGM Reviews: Watchfires Live At Krakatoa

Krakatoa is a revamped dive bar down beside Aberdeen Harbour, and first were, the venue slowly filling up, Aberdeenshire-based, alternative rock/punk band, Where’s The Female Zombies? They consisted of vocalist/guitarist, guitarist, bassist and drummer. There’s was a lively, driving opener. Maybe a tad thrashy. Sparse guitar, then in the verses, meant the bass lent the song a moody vibe. A subsequent refrain accentuated this.

There was some minor heckling regarding the band name, which the band expertly ignored. What followed was moody, bass ringing and guitars galloping, the latter a tad triumphant. There were two out front dancing a jig. The lead playing was satisfyingly Wylde of the Zakk variety, and was, arguably, what underpinned the whole arrangement.

Next song, “Burn The Witch”, started in a similar vein, with tapping laden playing. It then became begrudging and despondent. Dissonance aspects added to this, too. Trudging rhythms were greeted with some tasteful drum fills. An exciting tangent was explored, driving then atmospheric.

“Demon” was, too, exciting, and high octane. It was punky, driving and moody. It appeared to have twin guitar moments, sometimes evocative of more folk based genres, and quite rousing. It then got passionate, full of majesty.

Here, “Dead”, the bass knocked out more ambience, before heightening drama. Imploring and immediate. The bass and bass drum displaying good dynamics, with bold and ambitious song structures.

“Allegiance” was crushing with dramatic, dissonant harmonics giving it a gritty edge. It then got a tad subversive before resuming choppy verse.

A chorus inflected guitar introduced another immediate, driving number. It was despairing and dark, with only the aforementioned chorus effect hinting upon any chance of hope. Lead playing was passionate, seat of the pants and wild.

Closer, “Delicious”, opened with a stabbing bass rhythm. It was sparse, with good dynamics which saw the full weight of the band only come in when necessary. A creepy, chorus inflected guitar lent some menace. Excellent fanfare for the song’s end.

After were alternative/rock/grunge/blues band Aberdonians, Cellar Door. They consisted of vocalist/guitarist, bassist/vocalist and drummer/vocalist. The venue had filled out by then, crowd a bit closer to dancefloor area in front of stage. They came in crushing, rooted in the blues, just amplified several times over. Moody bass and drum created great atmosphere, joined with rollicking and ballsy vocals. A breakdown featured grooving bass, moody drums and pummelling guitar that really hit the gut.

A rocking spectacle then unfolded, cutting back to minimalism for sense of dynamics, before piercing grungy energy heralded more high octane madness. Sparse, very much less is more. A ripping solo was underpinned by that moody, bananas rhythm.

The next one was slow and groovy. The intensity built but tempo remained the same, quite clever. Crunchy bass rang with satisfying clarity. At one the bassist appeared to say, “what the f*ck was that?”, regarding a crackling noise that, incidentally, sounded very much part and parcel of the set. Finally things did speed up, and then came to a crashing end.

Subsequent to that was quite groovy, too. The hi-hats indicated something busy and dramatic. Pressure unloaded and crushing riffs ensued. The bass was the main melody, combining with intermittent and, at times, explosive guitar. A moody middle section broke down proceedings before the song’s conclusion.

Slap bass opened the next one, groovy and moody. Then things quickly got crazy before calming down, again. It got yet more epic before turning speedball. Another shift saw a sneaky riff, one that became crushing. This shift between slow and fast, light and heavy, indicative of a band with an excellent grasp of dynamics.

Off the wall antics seemed to follow on from the previous, going from sneaky to full on night crawling, developing into a fair swing. It seemed depressed, yet schizophrenic. The drums were given space to breathe a manic breath.

A gnarly riff appeared, one so packed it never seemed to end. This greeted a serious effort, a moody and downbeat section. The vocals were mournful, instead of full on ballsy. Backing vocals had the effect of bluesy woes. Very sedate and atmospheric. By now the dancefloor area was slowly populating.

Soul/funk/rock outfit, FaR, meanwhile, split their time between Aberdeen and Edinburgh. They consisted of vocalist, two guitarists, bassist and drummer. Moody, the stock phrase for the night, also applied to this band’s opening salvo. Also, emphatic bass figured, and with a bit of a growl.

If any band was going to get the crowd moving, you’d daresay it would be these guys. Funky, yet hard-edged, the band obviously concocted a good combination. There was a rocking chorus, flying with majesty. A breakdown of sorts also surfaced, the bass getting busy and the guitars building a twin melody. The two guitars seemed to be competing in chops without descending into laboured or contrived wankery. Suitable histrionics, however, brought the song to a close.

Smooth, daresay sexy, vibes began the next. It was funky, but not funk rock like the last. A tad subdued. Moody riffs thrown in, almost as an aside, worked well, giving it a slight rocking energy. Things, however, got a bit more balls out and full on.

After this things, again, were subdued. Bass drum, though, gave it a real heartbeat. There was a certain Latin flavour, a swing, that reared its head. Flourishes of guitar, arguably, accentuated that danceable rhythm. This built up in intensity, whilst hinting at a change of speed that never actually came to fruition. Too obvious for them, maybe. Strains of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” then became apparent, before some blistering lead playing took it to a direction unexpected.

“Empty Spaces” was steamy, the only thing not so, at first, was the bold slap bass. This turned into a driving rocker, with the bass also filling out the traditional low end, aswell as the aforementioned treble within its slap moments. Suitably wild guitar kicked in, heralding what seemed a grand end.

At least that’s what this reviewer expected but the slap bass reared its head, again. Subsequently the bass then took the song in another direction via a breakdown into tempo change. This was very clever and satisfying to listen to. A scratchy guitar added another layer to proceedings. A harder edge slowly unveiled itself before ending.

The last one was a slow one, ringing out and atmospheric. A tad funky but very soulful. The bass drum heralded a locking in with the bass guitar and, also, subsequent clapping at the hands of the crowd. Slowly this built to a dramatic crescendo.

Moving on, headlining act were another Aberdeen band, indie/punk/rock outfit, Watchfires. They were made up of vocalist, guitarist/vocalist, guitarist, bassist and drummer. They opened with “Porcelain”, a crushing opening statement, which, in turn, became searching and melodic. The singer put himself amidst the crowd, where, impassioned, he spilt, metaphorically, his guts. Big riffs followed, though still that searching element remained evident. Plenty of drama in this one, pained and crazy.

The crazed frontman spurred along another slice of drama in “WWAF”. His hand beat his chest as if to say hand on heart. The floor in front of the stage was just about full, though even then he stalked that space like a caged tiger. There was, however, a mellow moment, and then some awkward silence greeting the song’s end.

Dissonance of riff was how “Bloodstream” opened, almost urging those in attendance to jump. Excitement increased as the drama showed, and knew, no end. Atmospherics and some more uneasy silence ended things. Captivating.

Chugging dissonance and unrelenting drums formed the basis of “Ever After”, and the mental flourish of both lent a certain immediacy. Mad and invigorating. A middle section heralded another emotion, that of striving, perhaps, for something you can’t have. A final flourish ended with a buzzing, ringing, clarity.

Then the next song, “Departures”, came and you thought you could, indeed, have it. Very imploring. It was full of change and engaging. The searing emotion was like an amped up Morrissey. Chugging bass heralded its end.

Slow, plodding and ringing with trudging finality was “Arrivals”. This affair was quite spaced out until the strumming of chords reached an urgent level. This urgency built as the emotion soared to new heights. The middle section was a sizeable change in soundscape. Crashing drums brought a dramatic end to proceedings.

Rollicking bass introduced the heroic strains of “All That Glitters”. Things did also sound a bit downbeat, though. It was also quite powerful and empowering, somehow. Guitar and drum syncopated for some epic, machine gun fire moments. Tree trunk bass emboldened this. Impassioned, isolated wails heralded a very brief silence. Powerful.

Chugging and thick was what followed. Relentless. The crowd, finally, came closer to the stage, intensity building. Then galloping. Singsong vocals seemed to mock in their delivery. So much so, a solo seemed to herald that jester’s mocking majesty, before ending headlong into straight, right on rock.

Watchfire’s most recent album, 2015’s Ribbons & Shards, is available on iTunes here.

Words by Andrew Watson

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