Bristol is like band central tonight, Angelic Upstarts, Terrorvision and Fat White Family are all in town and with all of them playing within easy walking distance of the rather splendid Hy-Brasil Music Club you could be forgiven for thinking that a gang of five nerdy Norwegian garage punks might be struggling for a crowd in such a claustrophobic gigging situation.
Rest easy though my RPM chums because common sense (and that Ash support tour from last year) has saved the day and by the time Death By Unga Bunga take to the venue’s compact and bijou stage the dance floor if full of people, who just like me, have just happened to have discovered one of the best-kept secrets in rock music right now.
Up first though tonight is local Indie (as in proper mid-80s/early 90s Indie) trio Seek Warmth who plough a kind of 4AD furrow whilst managing to be somehow understated yet also remain intriguing all at the same time. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this kind of music personally, but the band is tight, have some very decent tunes and have one hell of a drummer behind the kit. I actually found it kind of refreshing to be whisked back to that age before grunge when Indie guitar music didn’t sound as forced and manufactured as it does today, so credit indeed to Seek Warmth for making that happen.
With Iron Maiden’s ‘Ides Of March’ booming out from the PA there is an immediate shift in my 80s throwback mindset, as I travel back to an age when metal also was nowhere as stylised as it is today and taking one look at the five musicians that are clambering onto the stage like extras from the Ant Hill Mob it makes me feel warm inside to say Death By Unga Bunga are never going to be called fashionistas. One look at the already sneering face of frontman Sebastian Ulstad Olsen and I can’t help but chuckle at his ‘70s Dennis Waterman meets Blakey (from On The Buses) image and he radiates that bad boy you love to love persona to absolute perfection. On the downside, he’s forgotten his Killers T-shirt tonight and is instead sporting a Dickinson-era Iron Maiden affair so he loses a few instant cool marks for this. Still with songs as amazing as opener ‘Into The Night’ who really give a flying fuck what Death By Unga Bunga look like, the sounds they create are some of the most original feelgood sensations you’ll ever experience live, and I’m just going to let myself be totally immersed in the next 30 odd minutes of absolute powerpop perfection.
With their roots in the Norwegian punk scene watching Death By Unga Bunga is not unlike that fist in the face experience you would expect from a hardcore show, especially when Sebastian is off the stage and prowling the raised area of the club looking for even more converts to join us on the dancefloor, its just that songs like ‘Turn My Brain Off’ and the knock out blow of ‘Soldier’ could very easily be hit singles and have seen the band on Top Of The Pops, if such a thing still existed of course.
Amongst all the tongue in cheek between song banter there’s also an underlying appreciation of all things hard rock that makes the Bunga truly bounce live, with ‘Cynical’ sounding even more like Thin Lizzy live than it does on the band’s amazing ‘So Far So Good So Cool’ album, and is something which manifests itself into all out fanboy status when the guys (jail)break into a brief segment of ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ before leaving us all wanting “10 more songs” (something the dreadlocked punk next to me is screaming like his bus fare home depended on him securing the deal for us).
Watching Death By Unga Bunga live makes you smile, it makes you sing and most of all it makes you want to dance, and in the world we live in right now that’s all you can really ask for from a great rock n roll band, the thing is watching Death By Unga Bunga makes me want to do it every night. I wonder if they need a sixth member?
Author: Johnny Hayward
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