[2015120] Vampillia

[2015120] Vampillia

The Red Paintings, Fourteen Nights at Sea, Vampillia @ Freemasons Hall

8:00pm, Fri 6 Mar 2015

David Sefton had giggled when announcing Vampillia at the Festival Launch; he had me on-board with the words “Japanese” and “chaos orchestra”. And, even with a cunningly-acquired running sheet for the bands on the bill, there was still little else for me to do this evening… no other shows could be squeezed in. Vampillia had dominated the planning for the evening, and I was expecting great things.

First up were (half of) The Red Paintings, with Trash McSweeney (acoustic guitar) and Alix Kol (violin) delivering a handful of decent tunes in a short, twenty minute set (though, as a longtime Tears For Fears fan, their cover inspired by the inferior version of Mad World annoyed me somewhat). More curious, though, was their stage prep: for such a short set, they seemed to spend a lot of time organising their dancing Groot doll, jarred alien foetus, and (toy) hamster wheel onstage.

Then came the five-piece Fourteen Nights At Sea: two guitars, bass, keys, and drums produced an forty-minute set of power-instrumentals, generating a massive wall of noise that could conceivably be oppressive. However, I found it super-exhilarating, especially when I started marvelling at the bass player who only played five different notes in the first half of their set.

I was watching carefully. I counted. I loved it.

Now – before The Red Paintings had kicked off their set, I’d grabbed a standing spot on the fence, just off-centre. After Fourteen Nights At Sea finished, a bit more of a crowd started gathering around the fence – Freemasons Hall was nowhere near capacity, so the fence-line was only a comfortable five-or-so deep. And a slender young woman – a little taller than me (not difficult), long black hair, slinky black dress, black lipstick – had joined me on the fence. Despite her incredibly soft voice, we’d got to talking: she was a big fan of Festival music (Morricone, Zorn), and she’d asked me whether I was as big a fan of Vampillia as she was.

The fact that I’d not heard any of their music before left her bemused, but the conversation continued amiably.

But, with the opening guitar chords of Vampillia, she threw both arms forward in a proper Hook ‘Em Horns salute (that had me almost feeling claustrophobic) and started head-banging more violently than anyone I’ve ever seen, at times almost losing balance over the fence. She was, most certainly, a devotee.

And then, at the end of each song, she’d demurely retract her limbs and gently cheer with a quiet little “Yay!”, accompanied by a soft golf clap. When the next song started, the Jekyll-and-Hyde cycle would begin anew. She was quite amazing to watch.

But even more amazing was the frontman of Vampillia himself.

He’d arrived onstage via the crowd, wearing a ghillie suit and clambering over the fence as best he could. Once he’d arrived (and removed the suit)… wow. Super-impressive guttural vocals, and a presence that just demanded your attention.

He roamed the front of the stage like an animal, pausing only to bellow some unintelligible Japanese into his microphone, and then he’d leap into the crowd while the rest of Vampillia played on: the drummer was relentless with his violent drumming, the guitarists and keyboards provided bizarre textures. And then there’s the bass player: painted white and wearing only a loin cloth, he appeared to be almost ghost-like, and had a bizarre presence onstage.

On one of his frequent trips into the crowd, the vocalist had dragged a table from the back of the Hall almost up to the fence, and started singing and stomping on it while gathering the crowd around to dance. Towards the end of the show, he disappeared outside the Hall completely, returning with a couple of wheelie bins; as the rest of the band petered out of their final song, the bass player jumped into the crowd and leapt head-first into the bin.

So… yeah. Vampillia’s music was exactly what was promised: a noisy, chaotic orchestra, and visually compelling to-boot. Add onto that the brilliant set by Fourteen Nights At Sea, and I was supremely happy with my lot. And, as I was leaving, I noticed David Sefton in the crowd, a big Cheshire-Cat shit-eating grin on his face. I went up to him, told him what an awesome experience I’d just had – “Told you!” he laughed – and I stole a selfie:

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