Having hit the scene in 2014 with the punchy 'Eighteen Visions Of Static' Brooklyn post-hardcore/noise rock outfit Big Ups have been one of the most exciting punk bands in recent years. Their sound is loud, loose and off-the-wall owing much to classic 90's bands like Fugazi or The Jesus Lizard, with distorted guitars and tough bass. However Big Ups still sound fresh thanks to Joe Galarraga's vocals which are distinct when he's not screaming the way he'll mumble a lot of his lyrics giving off a defensive vibe, contributing to their raw power. Their debut was packed with energetic songs mixing well with a few sludgy slow burners, whilst their recent sophomore album 'Before A Million Universes' sees them focusing more the slower side of things, but still being just as intense and impactful. Tonight they return to Leeds to remind the city what a racket feels like.
Before Big Ups though we have local heroes Super Luxury whose combination of feisty noise rock and zany stage presence is a perfect formula to leave you speechless. Whether it's their vigorous riffs, frontman Adam Nodwell dressed as a cowboy in sports gear, him parting the crowd just to set off a rattling teeth toy or shooting confetti, you're bound to find something to love when this band play.
Crows deliver no-wave injected, wirey post-punk that's intensely obnoxious and hypnotically repetitive. They give a visceral performance with their frontman stomping around on the floor and through the crowd with two mic stands, like he's marking the room as their territory and whilst Crows are on, it feels like it is.
Big Ups carry the noisy baton on from Super Luxury and Crows with their own brand of eccentric punk. New songs from 'Before A Million Universes' crush live, even more so than on the record. 'Contain Myself' has hazy natural harmonics contrasted with stompy, meaty guitar stabs. 'National Parks' timidly takes you on a walk before suckerpunching you with a riff that feels like a brick to the face and the screaming of 'CAUSE SHE'S ALL ALONE, YEAH SHE'S ALL ALONE'. In a live setting the feedback and distortion can be felt more and it's really the savageness of Big Ups that propels their sound. Of course being more than just being another loud band, Big Ups have quite the oddball element to their music the way their quieter parts are spidery progressions of slow burning nervous notes that creep and crawl into their thicker and more aggressive moments.
As well as Big Up's music, there's also a weird and wonderful quality to their performance. Watching Galarraga is like watching a human lizard the way he bends his arms and legs so much and flops about, but in a robotic manner. And then there's just the random things he'll do like going through an exit to sing outside, but come back in before anyone can follow him out there as well as wrapping his mic wire all around his body. Speaking of random Big Ups throw in a new tune tonight which Galarraga describes as a 'trial by fire' and says the song is about if he owned a dog and it's one of the highlights of the night. The song itself rules, taking its sweet sweet time to build up with light, tingling notes only to eventually explode, but also it's just a great spontaneous move that adds to the excitement and enhances Big Ups' offbeat nature.
This was a killer show where every band was great and the headliners did not disappoint. Big Ups have two fun and strange records and they continue to be a fiercely wild live band. If you've got a taste for the off-kilter and Big Ups aren't on your radar, do something about it.
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