ARCHIVE. First Published – 15 November 2016. Approaching a quiet midweek gig, hopes are high as on the line-up are three bands for the price of one and not only that, it’s one of the only venues left in London that supports live music and is free.
Dirty Thrills/Piston/The Killing Floor – The Big Red, London
Words: Philip Welford, Pictures: Eric Duvet
The Big Red on Holloway Road is a diner come Americana bar which most of us press lot frequent a lot. It’s run by the beardiest and most benevolent pub landlords, Ben and Theo, who keep us all well oiled with very reasonably priced drinks – and it sure helps that their bar staff are definitely easy on the eye as they pour the beers. As we stock up on our beverages, the Big Red is filling up nicely.
Cue eight o’clock and the mayhem commences.
The Killing Floor
A new upcoming band that spans the Atlantic, from the southern states to Brighton, The Killing Floor take the stage.
The backline is more than capable of handling this mix of mayhem. This four-piece band of punk rock and rollers could have stepped straight out of The Wild One as Marco the frontmans rough and ready twenty Malboro style vocals scream out – this bunch of guys mean business!
Sonically switching between old school blues, post 80s punk and some freakish dark hypnotic vibes, the side burns and quiff pull out a dramatic and exciting set. Chopping bass and drums keep these black leather rockers more than interesting and with out any shadow of a doubt the crowd are feeling the vibe.
The Vikings (a gang of hairy dudes all shouting out they were Vikings) are immediately up shaking their long hair and beards to the riffs while the “I’ll just have a quick pint after work” and the rest of the regulars are settling in for the night.
The set is a far too short five song intro to the band and their new album, ‘Antisocialmedia’, and what an appetiser it was. Throw in a Nirvana cover to end the show and the stage has been set for Piston to follow.
Before you get a chance to draw breath, Piston blast into a cracking set.
Their established and loyal following join us and the regulars here at the Big Red and the place is full to the brim – great to see this on a school night.
The power chords and power posing are here in abundance. As the LA strip sound is hammered into Holloway Road or for one night only, Hollywood Road. The Piston sound is flavoured with Sunset Strip rock with a twist of Southern sleaze with a hint of garage and a serious feeling that there’s some real shit going down, this band are doing what pistons do best and they are a rock machine.
Even the chicks who have been playing Table Football are now entranced with this dose of heavy, messy, ball squeezing wall of noise. The camaraderie is shown between bands as support act The Killing Floor pick up their pints and rock out with the aforementioned Vikings.
As the Pistons power into Tina Turner’s ‘Proud Mary’, this tub thumping finale has us all dancing, laughing, drinking and loving this band. Championed by our friends from Legends Of Rock at Great Yarmouth, Piston were definitely firing on all four cylinders and will be powering our engines of rock for a very long time.
It’s headline time and London blues rockers the Dirty Thrills take the stage. Fresh from playing with Probot and a slot at Ramblin’ Man, this is a band that come with great expectations.
With little drama they launch into ‘I’ll Be With You’ and I seriously forget I’m in a London pub, not an arena. Their huge sound shakes the walls of this mahoosive space from the pool tables at the back to the big crowd of us at the front, Cowboy boots are stomping and the crowd are a-rocking within seconds of this opening belter of a song.
This is a band that is dirtier than their own moniker. Sleazy, sonic and with a sassy falsetto that just says “to the Fuck with you”, we have an honest to God band that have demolished the distance between London and LA. This is a band that truly enjoys forcing their set in your face and no-one is complaining!
As the gig continues full on petrol powered rock garage blues continues to assault, and bass lines, dirtier than that kebab you thought was a good idea, just keep on coming.
‘The Man’ brings in some 70s blues rock with some up to date tricks and honorifics as the set continues into some old school rock’n’blues – the band’s chests come out and the porn star moustached bassist, Aaron Plows, ploughs (!) into full on gurning action as do his Flea-esque moves.
Whiskey and thoughts of Louisiana spring to mind as we travel down the ‘Rabbit Hole’ and some sublime drumming leads us into ‘Go Slow’, a truly amazing tune of slide guitar, sleaze and sing-along choruses.
Frontman Louis James has an assured future of songwriting ahead of him as his creations take us to highs and lows. No better juxtaposed than with ‘Lonely Soul’, a sad song that leads us into something slightly removed and beautiful, written about his late, great father, Nicky James, singer of Moody Blues.
With some subtle yet warming slide guitar, this ballad demonstrates the Thrills moving and mature sound, roaring vocals aren’t always needed to get your emotions across. Even the Vikings are now brothers in arms, gathered at the front, arms around shoulders and showing a surprising amount of man love.
After a deep breath, the Dirty’s crank it right back up as Louis howls: “How about some fuckin’ rock’n’roll!” With his vocal range to rival many including the Rival Sons, the Dirty deep south sound continues. It’s a little bit country, a little bit rock’n’roll, a lot of in your face!
Giving us Thrills that are multiplying, the dirty dudes simply own the place by now and with some heavy references to Sabbath and Purple they motor through the last few tracks – grinding girls, pumping fists, Vikings chanting and rockers moshing they are doing what they do best and that’s pure rock’n’roll entertainment! As the set comes to an end with ‘Follow Me Home’ and ‘Sigh’, we all sigh not from relief but from frustration that they aren’t on for another hour.
It’s no wonder that they are Europe frontman Joey Tempest’s favourite new band. With his endorsement and everyone at this gig’s too, check out their latest EP ‘Devil’s Wine’ (Amen to that!).
To cool for school! Massive dirty thanks to Ben and Theo for keeping live music live, Marco, James, Aaron, the Vikings for making this school night rock.
The Big Red. The place to be.