The Wytches / Soup Kitchen, Manchester | 1st of December

The Wytches / Soup Kitchen, Manchester | 1st of December

It was 2014, and inside the unholy Dingwalls of Camden which throbbed with about 200 sweaty humans waiting to see the fiery two piece Japandroids. That night served me well; I gained a signed copy of a Japandroids vinyl, got to chat with the lead singer and was lucky enough to see the now widely acclaimed Wytches as support.

If I am honest, I never used to pay much attention to the support acts unless I had an idea who they were before. I have been to a fair amount of gigs in my life and would strain to name enough of them that went over my 10 finger limit. But without a doubt, Brighton based Wytches are certainly on one of those fingers. So you can imagine my excitement when I got to see them again, in all their main act glory, at Soup Kitchen last Friday night. Excited to compare and contrast to a time when they were just percolating below the surface of underground garage rock/punk, I squeezed myself to the front left amid the soon to be (very) sweaty Mancunian youngsters.

My first observation, with the opening song Ghost-House was that this noisy three piece had evolved into a even noisier four piece clearly to accustom to their growing popularity and hence increasingly larger venues. Two guitars were certainly better than one in this case with their jangly distorted feedback reverberating throughout the trendy Northern Quarter venue. The lead singer and guitarist Kristian Bell was humbly placed on stage left rather than the conventional middle. I felt that this was fitting for the vocals that he provided and that is not meant to be a criticism. What I mean is that his vocals are not there to emphasise ballad-like lyrics which one would strain the ear to listen to. No, instead his vocals sounded like an emulation of his destructive guitar chords that roar in your face. Rather than a simple accompaniment to the singer, the guitars and vocals were in competition, with the prize being the award of the most rowdy.

Indeed Wytches have gained quite a dedicated fanbase as they form part of the massive post garage punk rock scene that the likes of Ty Seagull, Drenge, Fat White Family and the Eagulls have all succeeded in. You know you’ve made it when every boy of the front row has the exact same long bowl hair cut of each band member. I did wonder at the time whether the fourth member was only allowed in if he too cut his hair this way. But then there is nothing more fun than a floppy hair and cacophonous indie rock combo. The mosh, which started right from the beginning (no dilly dallying about the issue), resembled a bunch of clones of my old long-haired guinea pig Poppy all bopping and bruising about. Sometimes I miss Poppy. Anyway, I digress.

Wytches manage to distinguish themselves from their peers by using their metalcore vocals, which instil an unadulterated energy into the crowd. In addition the drummer, Gianni Honey, pours every ounce of this energy into every hit. Taught by Morissey’s old drummer, he interacted the most with the fans with a classic tee shirt throw and a crowd surf at the end after the encore, Burn Out The Bruise which, while certainly welcomed, brought the opening scene of School of Rock to mind as I looked upon the passive reactions of the other band members that just simply walked off at the end.

Clearly The Smiths are an influence since the latest member, Mark Breed, proudly wore a shirt with the 80s legends on. This is obviously also a homage to Manchester. Perhaps this influence comes through in their pessimistic lyric style such as on their first hit, Gravedweller. But their aggressive sound clearly did not come from Mr Morissey & Co. Every time a song would start with a single guitar and voice my mind started to anticipate a break for the moshers. But every single time, I was utterly wrong. Each chorus of every song performed was blistering and in-your-face and, apart from when the newer member took a break every now and then, I could not distinguish between an old sound and a new sound. So if you consider consistency an important attribute, then Wytches are a band that are sure to satisfy that desire.

And while they have not broken much new ground, (their sound is often compared to In Utero by Nirvana) they are still providing a service to people that a new genre of music has yet to be able to do just as well. And that is creating a beautiful, head knocking wall of messy sound that starts the fire in your belly that protects you from the chilly Manchester weather.  This was perfectly captured by the comments of some lads I talked to after the show: it was “bloody mental”, “loud”, “had guitars and rhythm” and then finally after taking a pause one guy said “What else do ya need?”.


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