A decade of Eureka Machines. I don’t think Chris Catalyst ever dreamed his “silly little band” as he calls it, would still be around in 2018, let alone celebrating their 10th anniversary and the recent release of their 5th album ‘Victories’. But here we are, they may not be doing it full time these days, but they are still here and still releasing quality albums, and what better way to celebrate than with a short run of live dates. Not London though, why travel to stupid London when we have the best venues up North, which also means the boys can be home in time for tea and biscuits before bed each night.
The Fulford Arms is the first of just three dates the band will play this year, a bit of a letdown for those who live farther afield yes, but hell, a fan will get on a bus, a plane or a train to see their favourite band if they really want to. Me… I just walked here!
Of course, Eureka Machines don’t do these gigs on their own, they bring their mates along for the ride. So, as well as fellow Leeds band The Idol Dead here to back them up, they also have Manchester three-piece The Empty Page to open the evening.
Kelli, dressed in Day-Glo tie die, her bleached-out hair in bunches, smiles, and giggles for the entire set. A stark contrast to the dark and brooding alt-rock her band The Empty Page deliver. Their debut album ‘Unfolding’ takes the best parts of The Pixies and Veruca Salt and adds a heady dose of Northern charm. Live, it comes across as well as on record. The strong, visceral vocals cut through the mix, as she slams out deep, pulsating bass lines. To her side, the animated Giz weaves sonically seductive guitar lines as strangely quiet drummer Jim keeps a solid beat behind the duo.
The melodic suss of Robert Smith and the raw, chaotic power of Daisy Chainsaw make the likes of ‘Deeply Unlovable’ a killer tune full of angst and prove The Empty Page are a band with a fire in their collective belly.
Kelli introduces new song ‘He’s Good At Swimming’ as a story based on a high profile rape case, that’s topical right now, right? It’s a haunting and mesmerising tune that the singer delivers with passion and it bodes well for a release in the near future. The Empty Page goes down well tonight.
A few observations about The Idol Dead: They have more people on stage setting up their gear than Metallica, they have the most impressive merch on the table and they have a strong set of songs that can compete with the headliners.
Like Eureka Machines they have been around for a decade now, even Chris Catalyst later jokes from the stage that singer Polly “has his bus pass now”. He may look like a pound shop Billy Idol at first glance, but the barefooted singer is a great frontman with charisma to match and has all the right rock star moves to front a band with the caliber of The Idol Dead.
Opener ‘Summer That Never Was’ is full on buzzsaw guitars and euphoric gang vocals and ‘Black Dog Down’ is a killer highlight from their latest album that sounds ace live. These dudes remind me of Hull herberts Rich Rags, those scruffy bastards had some top tunes with a metallic punk edge and they were also ace live. It’s no surprise then that The Idol Dead’s most recent album ‘Tension & Release’ made my albums of the year list last year.
The singer uses every inch of the stage available to him, whether that be standing on the monitors up front or holding up the low ceiling. Between songs, the singer and guitarist KC joke and slag each other off, it seems they have a bit of a comedy double act going on. Behind them, drummer Nish adds much-needed backing vocals.
This band is pros make no mistake, they channel the energy of their songs with a confidence and conviction of a stadium-sized outfit and should be playing larger venues to larger audiences more frequently than they currently do.
A Eureka Machines gig is always a high energy night of fun and frolics, that is a given. And now with 5 albums to pull material from, the band are spoilt for choice when choosing a set list.
Dressed in the customary black shirts, white ties & creepers combo, Leeds finest sons launch straight into ‘Champion The Underdog’ and continue with a relentless barrage of hits that should’ve been, fan favorites, deep cuts and comedy capers from the always entertaining Chris Catalyst.
While the cramped confines of The Fulford Arms stage make for a truly intimate experience, Chris Catalyst still makes full use of his space and even manages a few trademark jumps without banging his head on the ceiling or bumping into bassist Pete or guitarist Davros. Behind them, drummer Wayne Insane keeps time with frantic precision and a look of immense concentration on his face.
New songs ‘Little Victories’ and ‘Misery’ fit perfectly in a set rammed with ridiculously catchy anthems to sing your heart out to. ‘These Are The People Who Live In My House’ is glorious and ‘Affluenza’ remains my favourite Eureka moment. But there are many highlights to savor; the sentiment of newbie ‘My Rock n Roll Is Dead’, the epic harmony vocals and intensity of ‘Scream Eureka’, and the pogo-inducing closer ‘Zero Hero’ are up there, as is Johnny Cash’s ‘Fulsom Prison Blues’ which is given the high energy Eureka treatment.
It’s hot and it’s sweaty, Chris sticks plectrums to his forehead and takes phone selfies for those down the front. The only thing even remotely close to disappointment is not witnessing a Stevie Ray Vaughan style smooth-as-you-like guitar switch when Chris breaks a string mid-song, but you can’t have perfection every night, right?
Always engaging with his fan base, Chris thanks the crowd for coming, for supporting underground bands. Always humble, always entertaining and always on fire Eureka Machines played like they had never been away.
It says something about the state of the music industry today that these 3 bands do their thing part-time. 25 years ago it would be unheard of that bands of this caliber would have day jobs, but the struggle is real people. Times have changed for good, there are no record deals, and bands don’t make money selling albums anymore. Bands like this survive by selling merch at gigs and it’s up to us punters to keep them alive and touring.
Support DIY bands, go to gigs, buy a t-shirt and a CD or these bands will disappear for good and that really would be a crying shame.
Pictures by Neil Vary.
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