Hurricane Tapes & Hip Flask VIrgins live at The Old Con Club, Malvern 29th July 2022
It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Hipflask Virgins on stage, Jay Kimber and Will Diment, now becoming mainstays of the Worcestershire music scene, and it’s quite a surprise to see how much they’ve developed since the last one I caught. Usually a band finds a sound or a groove that suits them and they tend to just drop into a repetitive rehashing of the same three types of track – a heavy one, a light one and a soft one – and build a set based on that formula, repeated. So it’s definitely reassuring that there are still bands that aren’t happy with sitting still and doing the same thing over and over. When they first started out there was a strong Seattle 90s grunge vibe going on, they even covered the whole of Nirvana’s Bleach at one memorable Parradiddles gig, but they’ve moved away from that sound, very notably.
They are loud. I mean, super loud. Honestly take ear plugs to the gig and you will be glad you did. But get those nice ones that don’t dull the sound, it’s a worthy investment. But their music is so good you won’t mind if you did forget them, the tinnitus will seem worth it. Their sound is incredible, not just the volume but the balance of the mix. We know from previous Flam and Flange interviews these guys are really careful about their recorded production and evidently it translates to the stage. The sound is clear and well spaced, and for a two piece they fill the frequency range in ways that you just wouldn’t expect. And their performance is always tight, hardly a note out of place or a beat missed.
The playlist has developed too. Sure, there’s some well received classics in there- like Line of Fire, an absolute stomping, grunge floor filler, but there are a few new things in the mix that are quite surprising in terms of style and tone; some from their recent EP release “Electric Dinosaur” (a must buy for any rock fan) and a few from the 2020 release Isolation Shitbox. They kicked off with Minotaur and Icarus, both great for the riffage addict to get their fix, they then followed that with Line of Fire which I was very happy to hear hasn’t been dropped from the set. From then they moved through the tunes with aplomb and the energy did not drop. An interesting feature of this stage performance is they moved from one song to the next without really dropping the sound, so one had the feel of continuity as you move from one track to another. Catching up with Will and Jay afterwards, it transpires that this is intentional and they will be doubling down on this by introducing samples and field recordings in the future- by way of a drum pad triggered sampler- to give that continuous flow. It’s going to be very exciting to see how that develops!
You couldn’t partner them with a better band than Hurricane Tapes. After a short period of rest we (stage) dived straight into an excellent, up-beat and thumping set from John Rose, Steve Crews and David Savager. Hurricane Tapes are fairly new to the local scene, this is their third gig, but they are already establishing themselves as serious players on the circuit. John has been around a bit now, if you ever caught Pablo Alto you’ll be familiar with his style, but you might have also come across his more electronic work in the form of Pink Drone. If you like post-punk, Hurricane Tapes are the guys for you, and if you don’t you probably will by the end of their set. Certainly that was true for the audience who were up and dancing/moshing to the very excellent tracks that were rolled out.
Hurricane Tapes are quite different to your average band. The sound is something that on one hand is tried and true, but on the other hand is delivering something exciting and original at the same time. John is playing lead guitar and he’s very influenced by the post punk Manchester scene – partly I think because that’s where he hails from originally, but also because, if we’re honest, it’s really good. He’s certainly an aficionado and enthusiast for the genre and his talent and knowledge is apparent in his expansive and haunting guitar soundscapes and intelligent lyrics. You’ve got the riffage you need, but it’s melodic and psychedelic in equal measure. It’s not long before you’re caught up in it, Steve Crews’ heavy rickenbacker sound is rich and deep and the basslines are bouncy so straight away you’ve got a real groove on. He spends a lot of his time delivering that heavy punk sound around the counties as he’s also playing with Ledbury based The Youth Within, so you’ve got a winning combination already. Dave Savager lives up to his name on the drums so you’re not left wanting for anything.
They kicked off with a brand new track, So Alone, which was a little more subtle than what I’ve come to expect from them, a nice lead in to the set which brought a thoughtful tone to things to start with, but quickly it shifts up a gear in to Parasite that had that really gritty punk vocal and gets you moving. Then came Hot Knives which is one of my favourites, and not just because there’s a definite nod to the Pixies here, but also because the grumbling lo freq/lo-fi bass just gets to parts of my body that up till now only my GP has had access to.
The whole set was fantastic, you’re not limited to one type of tune here and, like Hipflask, they don’t fall into “local band” repetitive tropes. John’s dry banter between tracks adds to the vibe too and like some sort of reverse psychology gets you feeling like you want to move around and bop about like a nutter even more. By the time you get to the fantastic Pablo Alto tracks Breathe and Fever you’ll definitely be jumping about like you’re 18 again- indeed a lot of the audience were. Afterlife is another one of my favourites. I have the Pink Drone version on vinyl and it gets played often, but this version is so much more in-your-face and driven that it certainly makes me think that a vinyl and CD release with all of these tracks would not go amiss. The final track, Tear You Apart, is a clear homage to Joy Division and that is no bad thing at all. Dark and mysterious to start with but then moving into a psychedelic soundscape without in any way dropping the energy levels is an achievement in itself and was a really good ending to a great set.
I’m really excited to see what’s next in store for both of these bands, they’re both so very good at what they do and deserve to be playing more gigs to larger audiences. I seriously recommend checking them out if you see them on any line ups in the future, and if you’re a promoter or venue reading this then you really should consider getting them on the stage as they are definite crowd pleasers. You can certainly catch both of these bands in the Worcester Music Festival, along with loads of other amazing acts of course, so why not make it an essential part of your plan for September? You won’t regret it.
By: Stu McGoo