Gorilla, Manchester, UK
14th July 2016
Gorilla lies on the edge of Manchester’s city centre, from the front it appears to be a bar that serves a fine array of alcohol and food, but behind this façade lies a mid sized venue that resembles nothing less than an outsized air raid shelter, albeit a well appointed one that has an extensive range of alcohol for sale. Gorilla lies directly across the road from The Ritz, where Mudhoney played when they last visited Manchester, it seems to me that the more intimate setting for tonights concert is one that should suit both of the bands that are playing tonight perfectly.
Due to the inevitably awful early evening Manchester traffic the opening act, Los Pepes, have already taken the stage by the time I arrive. The bass from their bone crunching punk ‘n roll immediately starts to rattle my ribcage and it is clear that the volume at Gorilla is reassuringly loud. Los Pepes play a pummelling brand of punk rock, they have been together for a few years and have toured extensively in Europe, but this is their proper first foray into the UK. The prestigious support slot for Mudhoney means they are playing to an appreciative and receptive audience, and they are a band I am left wanting to hear more from.
I personally last saw Mudhoney live in the late eighties at an appearance at Reading Festival, for some reason my memory of the event is a bit hazy so I’m embracing the opportunity to re-acquaint myself with Mudhoney‘s brand of punk infused garage rock. As it approaches the time for them to take the stage the bar is five deep and the sold out Gorilla is packed to capacity. The temperature is steadily rising in the intimate venue and it keeps rising from the opening instrumental, Fuzzgun. Their trademark fuzz heavy riffs energise the mosh pit from the opening chords until the closing notes that mark the end of the relentless barrage of distortion.
This is the kind of show that turns the clock back to when Mudhoney were at their critical and commercial peak, there is clearly a sizeable chuck of the audience who remember the era when Mudhoney was an essential part of the alternative scene, and was part of the soundtrack for an entire generation. The clubs and venues from that era are now largely a distant memory but Mudhoney seem to remain as vibrant and energising as ever, whilst they have a tried and trusted style and signature, it is one that has evolved over the years, but importantly it is one which has remained distincty and uniquely their own
Inevitably the audience explodes into a frenzied mosh pit during Touch Me I’m Sick, pint glasses are launched skyward from the sweaty and delirious crowd as their debut single from 1988 receives a frenetic outing. Mark Arm then ditches his guitar for the final stages of the set and he prowls the stage like a hybrid of Henry Rollins and Iggy Pop, stopping only to take hefty swigs from a bottle of wine. The enthusiastic crowd howls, stamps and claps for them to retake the stage and, after a brief hiatus, Mudhoney return for a fine encore that inevitably culminates in a stunning and frantic rendition of the classic In And Out Of Grace.
A bra was thrown onstage during the set, much to the bemusement of Mark Arm, and one member of the audience will clearly be leaving the venue somewhat unsupported, this is not something that Mudhoney will ever have to worry about based on the reception from the enthusiastic Mancunians who were present for tonights concert. There are few bands that have managed to retain the energy levels that were on display during Mudhoney‘s set tonight, after nearly three decades and nine albums that is a testament to their unyielding commitment to remaining truly independent.
Tonight has been a triumphant return to Manchester for Mudhoney, they played a career spanning set and it speaks volumes about the quality of their later material that it blends seamlessly alongside the established and well known crowd pleasers, this has been one of the loudest gigs I’ve encountered this year and despite it taking three days for my ears to stop ringing I have no complaints. The sweat and beer drenched crowd is herded out in the warm Manchester night and I am not alone in hoping that it’s not too long before Mudhoney return to my neck of the woods.
Photography is by Paul Husband, he is an award winning, published photographer based in Manchester, England, you can visit his website here
Set list photo courtesy of Marcelle Jones
You can visit Los Pepes bandcamp here and their facebook page is here
You can visit Mudhoney‘s website here and the Sub Pop Records website here