EVEN IF MELT-BANANA DON’T RETURN FOR ANOTHER FOUR YEARS IT’LL DEFINITELY BE WORTH THE WAIT.
Saturday 30th of May saw The Fleece play host to Japanese noise-rock band Melt-Banana. They haven’t played a Bristol stage in four years so everybody was understandably eager to finally see them play again; especially those who, like myself discovered them during their four year dry spell. The night also saw two support acts with Giant Swan and Memory of Elephants.
As the doors opened, people gradually trickled in. First band, Giant Swan started a little later than planned, letting more people get inside before they started. Opening to a room half-full, they shared the stage with an enormous table of pedals, switches and flashy lights. On opposing sides, facing one another with their sides to the audience, they gave us the impression that we weren’t being shown their music, rather we were invited to look in over their shoulders and see the inner-workings of what they were trying to create. Their set sounded like one massive song; phasing in and out of sections, dropping down to the core rhythm, adding layers and eventually turning everything on to reveal huge sound structures — sometimes melodic and other times just raw, powerful bass. I enjoyed the last portion of their set, which had a deep, bassy, mellow groove at the core; I felt it was in this section that the audience really got on board with what the band were doing, feeding off of their on-stage energy.
By the time Memory of Elephants hurried onto the stage, the room had filled out front-to-back. With only a brief introduction they jumped straight into their first song. A concoction of guitar noise, enough time changes to nauseate a metronome, and these potently strong, technical melodic sections coming straight from the bass reminiscent of LANGUR’s Katie Mizen’s bass lines. These extremely dexterous bass sections filled every song. Each was full of surprises, sometimes bright, almost indie-style riffs and sudden drops into straight-up hardcore breakdowns. A song that stood out in particular came near the end of the set, a more mellow groove that gradually built up fantastically with guitar effects and drum fills, eventually peaking just to drop again with new riffs and sounds, to then be built up again as fun to watch perform as they are to listen to. The audience definitely woke up during their set, getting increasingly livelier with each song as they jumped around and bobbed their heads in time (or at least tried too).
As many made a last scramble to the bar to order drinks, others waited eagerly, shoulder-to-shoulder as both Yako and Agata set up their extensive on stage wall of amps and array of pedals before blasting out their first song. As to be expected of Melt-Banana, their performance was immaculate, even as they threw themselves across the stage – they truly put everything they had into the show. Crafting a set from their large archive of songs, they kept everyone happy with a nice mix of new and old whilst managing to acknowledge humbly shouted requests such as “play my missing link!” Followed by a solemn “please”. The front fifteen rows quickly turned into a void of moving bodies, crowd surfing and stage diving as people went crazy down below. The relentless song after song was interrupted by a short speech, “we are now going to play eight short songs! Ok!” Sure enough followed eight short songs. Names shouted out between each twenty to fifty second song. After playing out the classic ‘this is our last song, thank you’ trick, they returned to play their last two tracks: ‘Candy Gun’ and an interesting cover of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’.
All in all, the night added up to one truly unique experience with great bands and a great atmosphere throughout. If Melt-Banana don’t return for another four years it’ll definitely be worth the wait.