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Martinfest 2018 - The Pack Horse, Leeds 25.01.2018

The night starts off with Joel Heyes, a guitar and an mp3 player. He’s a younger version of The Wonder Stuffs Bass Thing with a goth style. His discordant guitar over a drum machine beat, found footage is excellent, it has a dark beauty to it, and at times he is reminiscent of Nick Cave in his delivery. His version of 'Hellhound On My Trail' is stunning, as is his spoken word style 'Sympathy For The Devil'. He builds up atmosphere right through his set. I will be looking out for more of his stuff. The night would not be complete without a nod to the sadly departed Mark E Smith and his passing is marked with a reading of his lyrics, his words work well as poetry!

Next up is XLerators with their new backdrop. I have the pleasure of being friends with these guys, they are a great bunch. They kick off their set of Punk covers with 'Sonic Reducer', they sound tight, loud and brilliant. Ians bass lines are brutal, Kens stage presence has increased as his confidence has grown, he is on fire tonight, he owns the place. Andy is very unassuming on stage but his guitar does his talking for him. Martin keeps it all together with his huge drum sound. 'Transmission' is always a personal favourite of mine from their set, it’s the best cover I have heard of this song, it retains the stark qualities of the original. There are special guests on 'The Day The World Turned Dayglo' from, well, me actually. I was called up onstage to provide the sax parts which I do badly with a kazoo, I can’t remember the parts, miss my que and can’t here anything but I bloody love it. Grape from Expelairs finds out I’m a hard act to follow as he joins the lads for 'I Wanna Be Your Dog', he manages it. The guys have even added a relatively new track in the set, 'Kill The Pain' by Ruts DC, they do it justice but I feel it needs more kazzo! As usual Ken and the guys finish with 'Jet Boy Jet Girl' with its medley of songs added into it. They improve so much every time I see them; maybe I’m biased but hey, check them out and see how right I am.

Last on tonight is Expelaires, celebrating their Ruby anniversary. The band make it all look effortless, they own the stage, the room, us. Wolfie shows us just what he is capable of with some fantastic guitar work, Gerards guitar (a handmade metal guitar that kills people, ask him about it) is possibly the sexiest guitar I have ever seen and he plays it with swagger. Grape growls his lyrics, the perfect frontman for such a lively band. 'Bad Adrenaline' is mean, moody and magnificent, 'Respect' has Wolfie and Gerard echoing guitar parts which is a nice touch and reminds me of Thin Lizzy. 'Wall Of Sound' is probably my favourite of the night with its Pixiesesque chorus. It’s hot, apparently the heating is on, the band are tired but still going, we are certainly getting our money’s worth! And then it’s done, the silence is overwhelming after such a sustained assault on our ears. Expelairs may have been around for a long time but they play with a fire in their bellies.

Review - Andrew Forcer

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