Now here’s a crackin’ combo if ever I saw one. Dwarves guitarist He Who Cannot Be Named and our very own punk rock faves The Hip Priests joining forces for a string of UK shows. A trip to the Brudenell in Leeds was a given for me, The Hip Priests were mighty with Thee Hypnotics earlier this year and He Who Cannot Be Named…well, how can you not be intrigued by a guy who wears just a ski mask and a codpiece on stage? I can’t wait to battle through the punk rock hordes to the front for a magnificent hot and sweaty punk rock show.
Hang fire a minute! Have I got the wrong night or even the wrong venue? There’s some shite indie band called 77:78 on in the main room and this show is in the Community Room tonight. Ok, I’ve seen bands in there before, it’s not the same atmosphere, more of a school gym feel, but hey ho…let’s go!
It’s 8.30pm, The Hip Priests are due on and there is nobody here, literally nobody! What the hell Leeds, is there some other show going on I don’t know about?
They give it 15 minutes before cracking on as the Spasm Gang Leeds massive finally filter in, 25 people at a stretch and it doesn’t get any busier for the whole night. If this was York, I could understand it, but Jesus, this is Leeds! We are in the heart of studentville with the Uni just around the corner and the bar next door is jam-packed with alternative looking dudes and dudettes who seem none the wiser about some punk rock show going on next door.
Zero fucks are given by The Hip Priests, they play a blinder anyways. From the opening salvo of ‘Livin’ Breathin’ Lightning’ and ‘Instant Delinquent’ to the closing ‘Sonic Reproducer,’ they deliver 40 minutes of high octane rock ‘n’ roll with all the thrills and spills you could desire.
The black denim clad brothers, led by panda eyed singer Nathan Von Cruz, blast their way through a selection of 7 inch singles and choice album cuts from their very strong back catalogue of Stooges/Hellacopters influenced rock ‘n’ roll.
To Von Cruz’s left, bassist Lee Love keeps the low end tight and guitarist Silent Mike keeps the riffs coming, giving Austin Rocket the freedom to pull all the rock guitarist shapes he can muster stage right. With his back arched and his guitar pointed to the stars, he peels off sonically powered licks and wah-wah induced solos on the likes of ‘MF Superior’.
With chanting choruses aplenty, the likes of ‘Jesus Died So We Could Ride’, ‘Sha Na Na Na Nihilist’ and latest single ‘Cheers To Me’ would make even the most staid of observers nod their heads and sing along.
The Hip Priests look and sound fantastic, and with more than a handful of glorious anthems to get high and get wasted to, can you really deny them their claim to be “the best band on shit island”?
When you come on stage with nothing but a studded leather codpiece, a Mexican wrestler mask and an arsenal of quirky punk rock anthems such as ‘Getting Pissed’ and ‘Duct Tape Love’, the chances are you will not fail to entertain. And Dwarves guitar slinger He Who Cannot Be Named does just that, with the help of a very tight band.
Running through his solo back catalogue and a few Dwarves songs for good measure, the band veer between catchy Ramones styled goodness and fast as fuck hardcore. They even chuck in a fantastic cover of ‘Commando’ for good measure. Rarely have songs about drinking, fucking things and killing things sounded so uplifting!
While HWCBN handles lead vocals, quirky moves and switching between two battered road worn guitars, its bassist Bobby Wilcox who takes center stage and does most of the talking. With his bass hanging from his knees and sporting a Ramones shirt, he looks and plays the part to perfection. To his side, Keith Mueller plays the leads and Eric Borst seems to be having the time of his life bashing away on them skins behind them, what a drummer!
Talking of behinds, the drummer wasn’t the only one to get an eyeful of bare punk rock arse. The moment HWCBN bends over to change his amp settings will be embedded in my mind for some time. Let’s just say that codpiece was a little on the loose side. Unfortunately, you can’t un-see some things!
‘I Eat Babies’ sounds amazing, pure pop-punk goodness, and there’s plenty of “oi oi” style chanters thrown in for good measure. ‘Good Problem’ from the newly released album ‘The Good, The Bad and the Brutal’ is instant and fits the set perfectly.
To be honest, He Who Cannot Be Named were the most entertaining band whose songs I don’t really know, that I have seen in a long time (if you catch my drift?).
The Leeds punk massive may have stayed at home, but the faithful few were treated to two great bands tonight that truly deserved a bigger crowd. I just hope the crowds are bigger for the rest of the dates, as I don’t believe this is just a Northern thing, is it?
I am trying not to be too downhearted about gig attendances, but with disappointing turnouts at the last 4 gigs I have attended, it does make me worry about the future of underground music. I feel for the bands, I really do, it must be soul destroying playing to empty rooms, but the likes of The Hip Priests and He Who Cannot Be Named are consummate professionals and continue to play every show like its packed, and it’s up to all of us to continue supporting live music before the bands we love disappear for good.
Photos courtesy of Neil Vary Photography