Ranges EU Tour 18: Lyon and Freiburg

Ranges Hard Rock CAfe Lyon
Standard

Ranges Hard Rock CAfe LyonDay 3
Tuesday 8 May
Hard Rock Cafe, Lyon, France
w/ Cloud Shelter, Lodz

Everyone was in a great mood. Both nights of tour so far had been great, with good attendance, friendly people, great food and new experiences in foriegn cities. It was a welcome change from America, where people make less effort to support the music scene.

Tiffany and her grandmother provided a breakfast of toast, fruit and homemade honey and jam. The sun was shining with intense heat and we drank in the peaceful noises of birds chirping as we sat in the garden eating.

Ranges Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

It felt like a long drive to Lyon. I didn’t to get to see as much of Lyon as I’d seen of Paris, but Zeidler and I went off to find something to eat while the band soundchecked. We found a neat plaza behind the town hall which featured a stunning water fountain with steam that arose from the noses of the horse statues. We had some difficulty ordering, but eventually managed to order some crepes and had a nice meal before heading back to the venue.

The Hard Rock Cafe in Lyon stands among one of my favourite venues I’ve ever been to. Anyone familiar with the chain will know what to expect – a restaurant/bar, merchandise shop, and plenty of music memorabilia to look at on the walls. This one was relatively new (two years old, I believe), sat next to the Rhone river.

Most dedicated venues feel dingy. I’m sure you know what I mean – gross toilets, graffiti and stickers, sticky floors, dark spaces. Hard Rock was none of these things. It was bright, clean, had good access, they provided a nice meal and a good green room. And as an actual venue it was awesome. It sounded good, and the lighting was fantastic.

Cloud Shelter Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Cloud Shelter

First up was Cloud Shelter, featuring promoter Jean Sebastian on drums. They kicked the night off with a solid set of post-rock, crescendo rich and dynamic. The place was fairly packed already at that stage, showing that either Jean Sebastian is a great promoter, Lyon has a supportive music scene, or both.

Lodz Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Lodz

Lodz’s set began with an impact, launching straight into their hard-fitting energetic music. It was gloomy, atmospheric and heavy, touching on Deftones territory. Daylight had faded by this point, and the orange streetlamps shining in from outside added to the visuals onstage.

Lodz Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Lodz

The lights were simply great, adding a whole new dimension to the experience. Cloud Shelter had Edison bulbs on light stands, reminding me of Ranges’ set up on their American tour. Usually Ranges play with their own lighting rig, synced up to the backing track. But it wasn’t feasible bringing so much gear overseas, with airline fees being as expensive as they are. I’m beginning to have second thoughts about that lighting rig. I certainly helped Ranges to stand out last year, but these European shows have been even better without them. Plus they’re easier to photograph without their own rig.

I’m wondering if the lights are always this good at Hard Rock Lyon, because there were so many photographers in attendance. I sparked up a conversation with one couple who lived about an hour from Lyon. They were simply delightful to chat to. Come to think of it, everyone was friendly and happy to be there. Lyon gives off great vibes.

I’ve seen Ranges play close to 20 times by this point. I’m not even sure if I’ve seen Declaration AD play that many times – and I used to live with them! And I’m convinced that this is the best Ranges show I’ve seen. All the elements were there – receptive audience, good numbers, good audio mix, nice venue, great lighting, and the band played well. The crowd were lapping it up. At the end of the hour-long set the band went backstage and the audience began cheering and chanting for an encore. This placed the band in an awkward situation. Usually they just pay their piece and that’s it. This was a first – having the crowd demanding an encore. They didn’t even have any other songs ready to play. But there’s no way they could get away without a few more songs, so they returned to the stage played another two songs.

Ranges Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Jerome from Cloud Shelter hosted us in his apartment. Mark, Wilson and I grabbed some pizzas from a fantastic little shop nearby, and we spent most of the night talking rubbish at Jerome’s. They had French alcohol called Pontelier Anis (made in a neighbouring township) that we drank. It tasted similar to sambuca, and changed colour from transparent to cloudy white when you add water.

CJ and Wilson slept in the van, fearful that some local goon may try to break in a steal the musical gear inside. Zeidler was segregated to the lounge as penance for his bear imitations the night before. Mark, Joey and I cuddled up in a cozy space in the next room, where we slept for about for about three hours.

Ranges Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Day 4
Wednesday 9 May
Slow Club, Frieberg, Germany
w/ Nonsun

Touring takes its toll on one’s body. Long days spent sediantry in a van, unhealthy diets that consist mostly of gas station food, and lack of sleep all begin to wear you down. We had a blast in Lyon, but only a few hours sleep before the drive to Frieberg.

Slow Club was a cool venue. Almost polar opposite from the modern Hard Rock Cafe, it was a more traditional style club. They cool thing about it is that it is a community resource, run and operated by volunteers. There was something reassuringly familiar about it. And the best thing about it is that there was a studio apartment upstairs, with bunk beds that remind me of school camps and a small kitchen. Staying on site is amazing – taking away the process of packing up and driving to a place to sleep at the end of the night.

In other ways it was vastly different from other places I’d been. People smoked inside the venue. This was outlawed in New Zealand well before I was old enough to go to bars, so the only times I’ve ever experienced people smoking inside is at casinos in Las Vegas. There was even an ashtray fixed to the wall between the urinals in the bathroom. The staircase and hallway featured artistic photos that reminded me of the band Pussy Riot – controversial images of topless women with ski masks.

Ranges Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

After sound check Joey and I went to check out a local attraction with a friend of Jared’s. Frieburg Munster cathedral, like most cathedrals, is a gorgeous building with large spires, stained glass windows, ornate sculptures and an overall awe-inspiring feel. My favourite feature was the many gargoyles – all different from each other. They had a mass on when we went inside so we chose not to stay long, but it’s always worthwhile seeing even the smallest sample of a new city.

Ukraine-based Nonsun recently signed to dunk!records. They play music so heavy and slow it’s oppressive. Zeidler described them as making Glacier look cheerful. I don’t like that style of music so I stayed upstairs and rested while they played.

Ranges Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Apparently that rest was inadequate. I helped Mark set up his drums for the Ranges set, and then sat down on a couch next to the bar to watch the set. I managed so catch maybe half, but true to form, I dozed off half way through.

There were only six bunks upstairs so I pulled out a spare mattress and slept on the floor. The next morning I was told that everyone was kept up by loud German singing all night. I was so exhausted that I never noticed a thing.

On to Zottegem, and dunk!festival!

Ranges Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Photos and words by Joseph James

Ranges EU Tour 18: Ghent and Paris

Ranges L'International Paris
Standard

Day 1
Sunday 6 May
Kinky Star, Ghent, Belgium
w/ Astodan

At 17 hours and 40 minutes, the flight from Auckland to Doha is the longest in the world. Not that I knew this when I booked my flights. I had asked my friend who is a travel agent to help me sort travel to Brussels, and this flight was what she came up with.

I can tell you first hand that spending close to 18 hours on a plane does not do wonders for one’s health. I’ll even go so far as to say it wouldn’t be ideal even in first class. And when you consider that the flight to Doha only constitutes half of my trip to Brussels, you may soon come to the conclusion that I felt slightly worse for wear once I’d arrived at my destination.

Not that I needed to dwell on this. Because once I’d landed and cleared customs I was reunited with my close friends in the band Ranges. Tiredness be gone! Excitement replaced feelings of fatigue. It was like we had seen each other just yesterday.

Ranges Luggage

Regular Will Not Fade readers will know that I joined Ranges on tour last year in America, travelling from their hometown of Bozeman, Montana all the way to the East Coast, up to Vermont for the inaugural dunk!USA festival, and then back to Montana. It was one of the best times of my life, and I grew extremely attached to the guys I was travelling with.

When it came time for me to return to New Zealand they invited me on their next tour – this time in Europe – which would include dunk!festival in Belgium. How could I turn down an opportunity like that?

To sweeten the deal, our friends in Tides of Man will also be playing dunk!, as well as a few other people I’ve met along the way, such as Phil from Caspian, Au Revoir and Rosetta. And I’ll also have to opportunity to finally meet many Facebook friends who are part of the global post-rock community.

Reuniting the lads from Montana was emotional, to say the least. We had spent two weeks stuck in a van together in October, meaning that we all knew each other’s idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. David Zeidler from Arctic Drones and Young Epoch will join us in a few days, and I wonder if he will pick up on the absurd in-jokes that dominate life in the van.

Mark standing outside Kinky Star

Mark standing outside Kinky Star

First stop was the gear rental place that is providing the van and backline. We got good gear from them. I don’t know much about amps and speakers, but the drums are a sweet C & C kit. And the van is amazing. Roomy enough for all the gear, plenty of seats, and a loft up top. Having this much space is such a luxury.

Next we drove to the venue, The Kinky Star in Ghent. A neat little club with little regards to safe building codes. The walls around the stage were covered with black and white photos of gigs at the venue, making for a cool wallpaper effect. There were the stairs from hell heading up to the green room: super steep, small steps with no handrail. I’m honestly surprised that no-one fell and died.

I helped myself to a handful of beers from the drinks fridge in the green room and then went off on a wee walk to explore Ghent. I’ve never been to Europe, so this was very new to me. A quaint, idyllic town, Ghent boasts beautiful cobblestone roads lined with pretty cafes and bars. Impressive churches tower above canals, and an imposing castle perches rises up, half encased by a moat. I was thoroughly enjoying my wandering, although the beers inhibited my sense of direction, and I got lost in no time. Not to despair, I’d had the foresight to download an offline map of the region to my phone before I left NZ, so managed to find my way back to the venue without too much strife.

Astrodan Kinky Star Ghent

Astrodan

Astodan opened the show, with a blend of metal and post-rock that trod the balance of heavy and melodic nicely. I still don’t understand how they managed to fit the whole band on such a tiny stage, but it was a great set.

The small club filled up quickly, unexpected for a Sunday night. Everyone appeared enthusiastic, and one punter shouted out “PERFECTOOOO!” after each song Ranges played. Wout from dunk!records attended as well.

Ranges Kinky Star Ghent

Alas, I was losing my fight against jet lag. As excited as I was to catch a Ranges set, I couldn’t stay awake. I caught myself nodding off a few times while standing up, giving me that horrific scare you get from the sense of falling as you sleep. I decided to head upstairs for a lie down, lest I collapse from exhaustion. The guys gave me a good ribbing afterwards for that. I’d been fairly drunk earlier on when I got lost in Ghent, so I guess it looked like I was just sleeping that off.

Ranges played for an hour, which is a longer set than I’d seen them play for most of the last tour. I could hear them as I rested from above, and I noticed that they’d added some more lively songs like “Babylon” to their set.

I felt more alive After a 40 minute snooze. Joey and I headed across the road for some terrible fried substances that they tried to pass off as food. I had ordered curry sauce with my fries, and it came with a sickly sweet sauce, almost a syrup. The chicken burger featured unidentifiable “meat”. One of the issues with not speaking the language is that you just have to hope for the best when you order food. As unappetizing as it was, I hadn’t eaten anything other than airline meals and snacks for a few days, so I wolfed it down.

That night a local promoter named Lut hosted us. She had a lovely place with plenty of beds. She treated us to walnut salami and cheeses before bed. Her shower had two shower heads. I don’t know why, but I thought it was very exciting. Wilson had brought some Man Mountain beard oil for me from America, so I gladly tried it out after my shower.

Outside Lut's house in Ghent

Outside Lut’s house in Ghent. L-R: Wilson, Joey, CJ, Mark, Jared, Joseph (me)

Day 2
Monday 7 May
L’International, Paris, France
w/ Nord, Nordkapp

Ranges L'International Paris

I saw a different side to CJ today. He’s always in control: driving, running things, planning the itinerary, keeping order. But the crazy Parisian traffic caught him off guard. It doesn’t help that none of us knew what the road signs meant, or that the SatNav started to malfunction, or that the other drivers on the road cut us off without warning or a care in the world, or that a zillion cyclists clearly have a death wish and decide to ride as close to the van as possible.
But the final straw was news from David Zeidler.

Some of you may know of Zeidler as a writer from Arctic Drones. Apparently he’d figured that organising a few small shows in New England had earned him the right to write the Ranges tour blog – the same one that I’d been promised exclusive coverage of. Typical American, deciding to muscle his way in and take over my established position. Anyway, the guy didn’t even attend the first show in Belgium, and decided to join us in Paris. He hadn’t even been on the city for ten minutes before managing to get pick pocketed.

So picture this: you’re driving through a foreign city. The road rules seem unclear – or at least nobody else seems to stick to them. Suicidal Parisians on bikes keep pulling in front of you as you navigate. You’re entering a busy roundabout without lanes and you get a message from Zeidler: “Help, I’ve been pickpocket and need to get picked up”. As you can imagine, it was all a bit much for CJ.

Joey jumped to the rescue, ordering an Uber to pick up Zeidler and get him to the venue. We found the street that the venue was on, parked the van, and had some time out. Thankfully for Zeidler, he was able to ask his parents to send him money via wire transfer, so wasn’t completely without funds.

L'International Paris

Mark watching Nord at L’International Paris

Our promoter was Tiffany, a lovely girl in red overalls who runs post-rock events in Paris. She, and Guillame the sound guy made the night a total breeze.

L’International had a bar at ground level, with an underground room for the music. There was a perspex window between the stairs and the stage, giving you a good “side of stage” view from the stairwell.

After load in I set off for wander around Paris. I didn’t have any set destination, but simply wanted to experience some of the city. Narrow alleyways opened into grand courtyards. Countless apartments lined the city blocks, with balconies that feature ornate cast iron railing. Impressive churches, cathedrals and other such buildings stood out every block or so. The most impressive sight I found was Notre Dame.

Earlier that day Mark had mentioned wanting to see some art from notable Parisian street artist Space Invader, so I took a few photos of some I saw on my walk.

When I got back to the venue I showed Mark. “Where did you see this?” he asked, gripping me tightly, “Is it far?”

Nord L'International Paris

Nord

So we set off on another venture onto the streets of Paris. We were surprised to find a few Invader pieces within a few blocks of the venue, as well as a handful of imitations, and an Andre The Giant paste-up by Shepard Fairey, who featured along with Space Invader in the beginning of the Banksy documentary Exit Through The Giftshop

Mark was grinning madly, happy that’d he’d achieved his goal of finding some Invader art.

Nord L'International Paris

Nord

We arrived back at L’International in time for the second act Nord. Mathy riffs gave an upbeat feel to the music, and I loved the singing – not something you come across much in post-rock circles.

The turn out for this show was great. We thought that Ghent was good, and Paris was even better. Ranges had a great set, and everyone was on a big high following on from it. Tiffany told us that many attendees hadn’t even heard of Ranges, but still showed up anyway.

We were stoked. It was a good audience, good sound mix, and fun time. The guys in Ranges were pleasantly surprised to see some beers from their breweries available. and everyone was in a good mood.

Tiffany took us back to her grandparent’s house to stay, squished into two rooms on the upper floor like sardines. Zeidler sounds like a bear when he snores.

Ranges L'International Paris

All words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: Royal Blood at TSB Bank Arena, Wellington

Royal Blood Wellington
Standard

Royal Blood

w/ Dead Favours

TSB Bank Arena, Wellington

Friday 4 May 2018

It’s weird to think that it was just over a week ago that I last saw Jared Wrennall onstage. The Dead Favours singer had joined Skinny Hobos during their set when they opened for Biffy Clyro in Auckland last Tuesday.

The Hobos had done well, but this opening set that Dead Favours played in support of Royal Blood in Wellington tonight was heads and tails above it. The sound wasn’t even that great – TSB Arena is notorious for poor acoustics. The singing and guitar struggled to feature above the heavy low-end mix. Despite this, Dead Favours still managed to do themselves proud.

The crowd response was unbelievable. It was a big turn out for so early in the night – roughly 1700 people at that stage – and they were lapping it up, clapping along without prompting, cheering, and encouraging the band. I attend a lot of gigs and to see this kind of crowd support for a local opener is unheard of. Well done Dead Favours!

It’s hard to believe that Royal Blood have risen to this status on the back of just two albums. In fact, they’d already earned a lot of attention from their eponymous début, and latest album How Did We Get So Dark? only helped to cement their place in modern rock stardom. I was out-of-town when the duo last played Wellington three years ago, but they were already a much hyped-about band back then. The packed out venue tonight goes to show how popular they are. In fact, the crowd started up a chant “Royal Blood, Royal Blood!” after the first song, showing the strength of their collective enthusiasm.

“It’s a shock to come so far from where we live and see so many people here” singer Mike Kerr confessed, “We count ourselves lucky.”

I review a lot of solo projects on this blog, and the odd two-piece. But the fact remains that I’ll always be impressed with what just two talented musicians can pull off. I’d say the standard rock band has five roles: a singer, drums for the beat, bass for the low-end, and two guitars – one for rhythm and another for lead. And often you can get by with fewer players if they are talented enough, but creating a full sound from just two players is quite the feat.

Kerr employs a lot of technical wizardry to pull of the tones he creates with just a bass guitar in most of his songs. He’s like the swiss army kit singer, filling a range of duties, providing singing, banter, bass, guitar sounds, even playing a Rhodes organ at one stage.

Drummer Ben Thatcher is no slouch either. He came across as super casual, wearing a Slayer t-shirt and snapback cap, and spending as much time supping tequila from a red plastic cup as he did playing drums. He only spoke once during the set, coming forward to recite a poem, just to demand that we party with him when screams from the crowd interrupted his prose. But when he played you knew about it. A thunderous back beat, with deft playing that remained unbusy. He had interesting mannerisms. He threw his sticks high into the air as he played, just as he frequently threw his red cup off to the side between songs, only to fetch it and fill it, just to repeat after the next song.

The duo treated us to their arena rock with a hint of danger. A touch of blues, a sinister vibe, a noticeable swagger. Hard hitting, with crunchy riffs and clearly defined beats. They’ve clearly been at it for a long time. I noted that during the breakdown of “Lights Out” they managed to play as a tight unit, despite various tempo changes.

I could draw comparisons from other notable blues rock duos, but that’s just lazy. That said, I did see another two-piece, 21 Pilots play this same venue last year.

21 Pilots are great showmen. It’s all gimmicks and theatrics. They get away with playing as a two piece because they rely heavily on backing tracks. But hey, it makes for a great show. Royal Blood, however, are more straight up. No messing around with backing tracks, video screens, and odd stage costumes. They play hard, and they play well. And I respect them for it.

Royal Blood take notes from top-tier rock legends. The stark lighting show of vertical light bars and blinders could just fit in at a Nine Inch Nails gig. During “Little Monster” they paused, launched into a spellbinding drum solo, built the intensity, and came back to finish the song five minutes later. It’s the kind of move that Foo Fighters used to pull back in their prime.

Two backing singers came on for a handful of songs throughout the night, dressed in glittery black outfits. They were barely audible for most of it, but their haunting coos certainly enhanced “How Did We Get So Dark?”, from the album of the same name.

One of the key attractions is that Royal Blood make things things appear simple. Obviously it isn’t – getting those tones from a bass guitar isn’t normal at all – but it seems simple. Good riffs, fairly straightforward beats, stark lighting. It’s minimal, efficient – even down to the amount of people on stage. No-nonsense rock and roll. And it’s all damn good.

Joseph James

Album Review: Ashen Swan – L’appel du Vide

Ashen Swan - L'appel du Vide
Standard

Embrace oblivion.

It’s often difficult to write a review about an album created out of negative space.  L’appel du Vide, Ashen Swan’s latest record, is a lesson in embracing oblivion.  It’s a lesson in recognizing that there’s much more to music than packing it full of notes and flourishes to convey an idea when just playing the right note can accomplish the same.  There is an old adage that exists that less is more.  Ashen Swan takes this aphorism and runs with it.  This album is meditative magic.

So how does one write a review on nothingness?  I could give you my thoughts on instrumentation and composition.  The way in which Ashen Swan’s music sounds like the throaty whisper of a new dawn. I could tell you that Ashen Swan evinces qualities employed by the likes of Hammock and Lowercase Noises.  EBow heavy phrases of lush sound framed by billowy and Spartan piano..  I could do all those things, but the music inspired me on a more esoteric level.  L’appel du Vide begs you to reflect inward.  It asks you to dust the cobwebs from the lesser traveled inroads of your soul, to stop, to consider.

L’appel du Vide translates roughly to “void’s call” or “the call of the void”.  Most humans, in all their daily struggles, will often wonder what it would be like swerve into oncoming traffic.  Or perhaps your hiking here in Colorado at Royal Arch Trail.  You’re near the top and standing at the edge of the trail and get the sudden urge to just jump.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re suicidal.  It’s simply a phenomenon of the human psyche.  A phenomenon the French called “l’appel du vide”.  It is nothing more than morbid curiosity.  I found myself experiencing this urge years ago so I did a quick Google search.  It was comforting to know I was not alone.  There were others out there that have felt the pull.  Ashen Swan’s new album explores this concept in a musical sense.  And pulls it off.

L’appel du Vide is a barren landscape.  The short, quiet piano utterances are the green lichen hugging the rocks as they wait for a summer thunderstorm.  Soft reverb the slow rolling thunder of an alpine tundra.  A dreamy susurration whispers throughout each track like a lulling breeze that dances lightly through the purple forget-me-nots.

Ashen Swan’s newest venture is a contemplative and horrifically beautiful ride of ambient bliss.  You get the overwhelming feeling of just wanting to let go.  The music plunges straight for your heart and urges you to answer the void’s call.  To feel the rain in your face and the wind as it thrashes through your hair.  L’appel du Vide wants you to be free and as the album goes on it becomes increasingly difficult not give answer.

L’appel du Vide comes to us by way of Nathan Kwon who also composes for Chicago post-metal project Crawl Across the Sky. Ashen Swan came to us in the year 2017 with the desire to cross section the more ambient elements of the aforementioned Crawl Across the Sky and turn it all up to 11.  And thank the void he did.

 


Ashen Swan links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

Instagram