Of all the venues in Brighton, it’s the Concorde 2 that for me most embodies the punk-rock spirit. Decently removed from the bourgeois veneer of the city centre, it lurks under the promenade like a vagrant, wine bottle in hand and slurring obscenities at passers-by. My first time there I saw a couple having sex mere metres from the door, and I was inside less than a minute before being offered drugs, a record still unbeaten.
Far apart from the soulless right-angles and anodyne bookings of the Brighton Centre, it’s a venue that revels in its seediness, its walls echoing a Victorian decay at odds with the cutting-edge nature of the line-ups this place attracts: acts tending to occupy the fringes of the mainstream but the tips of people’s tongues. You could draw symbolism from the disused lift in the main room, as if we’re in a realm beneath the world above, nocturnal and half-formed, although you’d probably be spat on before you finished your sentence. If Graham Greene were writing Brighton Rock now, this is where Pinkie would hang out.
So I actually feel winded to find the toilets newly-decorated, cleansed of the contributions of a generation of club and gig-goers, their messages torn from the walls in an exorcism of a large part of the place’s personality, and replaced with a sign telling us not to do it again. Sure, it’s nice to have taps that work now, but this new attempt at hygiene seems entirely misplaced, out of sync with its environment, like the fence at Glastonbury. And it’s a facelift that I hope never extends to the bookings policy.
It takes Youthmovies all of thirty seconds to dispel this fear. They’re stunning, frankly: it’s been a week and I’m still finding myself recommending them to strangers in the street. It’s like a form of Tourettes, but then they are the most impressive support act I’ve seen since Saul Williams (who they’ve performed with, apparently…).
Theirs is the type of music that forces you to reassess what a song is capable of, and like all such bands they defy conventional description. Though they reference pretty much every band worth referencing – Tool, The Mars Volta, Mogwai, Radiohead, Muse… – they’re still their own sound: you could throw a bucketful of genres over them and none would quite stick.
With many of their songs loitering around the ten-minute mark they’re a demanding listen, but never a dull one, their sound constantly shifting, their song-structures erratic, constantly thwarting our expectations. The trumpet invokes jazz, but it’s dark and twisted, mangled out of shape by the jagged rhythms and sparing electronica.
Frontman Andrew Mears is a natural focal point, with hints of Thom Yorke in his voice and an intensity that at times borders upon frightening. But it’s trumpet-player Sam Scott that really holds the attention: looking like a younger Philip Seymour-Hoffman he sways hypnotically around the stage, ominous and pensive all at once. It’s the kind of music that causes those present to forget themselves and their inhibitions, sending our minds inwards as our bodies adopt a kind of solipsistic rhythm. All around me this is happening: the long-haired teen in front, the mid-thirties couple to my left, the Goths, the Emos, the Punk-kids and the Dance-freaks, or whatever other tired and lazy label you want to apply: one by one they all surrender until only I seem left, back up against a column unable to shake the ending of Invasion of the Body Snatchers from my thoughts.
65 Days of Static’s uneasy mesh of glitchy electronica, thrash, classical piano and pounding, pounding drums makes a definition problematic (and irreversible damage to hearing near-certain), but the best attempt I’ve seen was in a recent album review: ‘Math-rock’, they called it, on account of the complex time-signatures, and whilst it isn’t the coolest-sounding of labels, it’s unlikely the band care. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a group more indifferent to the whims and trends of musical fashion: their song titles are effectively literary tracts (my favourite: The Distant and Mechanised Glow of Eastern European Dance Parties), they only release records on independent labels, and their own newsletter goes out of its way to condemn the CD single even as it attempts to market their own. Only Godspeed You Black Emperor exceed them in sheer disdain for the mores of the record industry.
So it’s almost a surprise that the band take to the stage at all, and even more so that they give such an impassioned performance as they do. Their opening is stunning: a genre-subverting assault of furious beats, humans and machines combining to create a track as much dance as rock, the crowd as yet unsure whether to mosh, bounce or just pulsate in the manner of the walls, ceiling and every other inanimate object in the room. Indeed, you wish clubs were this good: attempting to describe the intensity of it with mere words alone makes me realise how inadequate words can be.
Without a pause they launch into Await Rescue, one member trading drum sticks for a guitar in an impressively-fluid move undermined only slightly by the sweat already flowing from his head, and suddenly the crowd know exactly how they’re going to respond. For me this means a mouthful of someone else’s hair, who sadly seems yet to discover shampoo.
There are no vocals to speak of, excepting some twisted samples and the ever-present baying of the crowd, their song requests drifting across the calmer moments of the set like a low mist. Not that there are many of those: indeed, it doesn’t quite seem possible that all this noise could be created by just four people, even if they are glistening as though struck with fever. I’ve never seen a band looking so much like they’re about to expire.
Their sound isn’t so much post-rock as post-everything, and whilst at times the quiet-loud-louder formula risks repetition, they’re still way more inventive than most other bands. Honest, too. ‘We’re 65 Days of Static’, mumbled their guitarist in a rare audience address, ‘and for some reason we’re really nervous about playing in front of you people tonight.’ They needn’t have been. Mere minutes after they left the stage, one fan had felt compelled to daub the nice clean toilet wall with his review of their performance. ’65 Days of Static’, he wrote, ‘you fucking rule.’