Bong - Chunk, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:
Bong - Chunk, Leeds
Bong - Chunk, Leeds

It’s getting decidedly cold out as we approach the end of the year but it’s not quite time to curl up by the fire just yet. Newcastle Upon Tyne’s finest doom-merchants Bong are playing at local DIY practice space-come-venue Chunk alongside five other bands well-versed in the art of noise. It seems too good to miss. Besides I haven’t got a fire.

Hidden away on Meanwood Road, Chunk is a pretty inconspicuous venue. There’s no obvious sign telling you that you’ve arrived, just some bright lights in a window and a few smokers assembled outside hinting that you might be at the right place. The definition of a hidden gem, Chunk is an independent, non-profit organisation that’s run by musicians and volunteers. It’s a reasonably small space inside but that only adds to the intimate, happening-in-your-front-room vibe.

When I arrive, local two-piece Open are already playing. Playing furiously-paced garage rock with excitable, indecipherable vocals. The frantic guitar and tub-thumping drums get things off to a suitably rawkus start. I think I recognise the drummer from another local act (Ecate- who I thoroughly recommend) but that wouldn’t be unusual, there’s a real sense of community around a lot of these bands. Friends playing music with friends. Like it should be. The vocals get more unhinged as the set goes on, the singer sounding like a cross between a monkey and a tropical bird. Lots of fun.

There’s a change in tone with the arrival of new hardcore outfit, The Wound. The music is aggressive, primal and unashamedly brutal. The band themselves also take quite a confrontational stance with the audience. The mangled riffs spill out at 100mph as the vocalist prowls back-and-forth. The vocals, although delivered with plenty of intensity, seem to mainly consist of the singer growling expletives and don’t really do the trick for me.

There’s a real friction in the room as the drummer , aware that people aren’t going wild, points at us all and angrily asks, “what did you come for?! Throwing the mic stand around, the singer lunges into the crowd. The mic cuts out and a Chunk rep appears from out of the crowd. The set ends abruptly.

The night continues with new desert-rock instrumentalists, Hung. The band’s sound revolves around the kind of heavy, hazy riffs that the likes of Kyuss and Orange Goblin used to do so well. The songs frequently settle into a hypnotic, head-nodding groove; willing you to get lost in the sound. They seem to go down pretty well to, with one exited punter loudly proclaiming that it was the biggest fuzz pedal he’d heard in his life before adding, “that thing sounded ridiculous”. In this instance ridiculous is most definitely a compliment.

Next up, we get a set from garage-rock mentalists Black Pudding. Like some incredibly noisy, distorted and manic reinterpretation of the iconic 60’s garage-psychedelia compilation Nuggets, the band don’t hold back. Reverb-soaked hillbilly music meets the heady days of nineties alternative rock. There’s a particularly catchy song towards the end that perfects encapsulates that grungy/ slacker vibe, the band singing “because there’s nothing else to do”. The mantra gets firmly stuck in my head. All this and they’ve got a song called ‘Tomato Sorcerous’ (get it?). Energetic and passionately played stuff.

Jon Jones and the Beatnik Movement are up next. With some distinctly Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster vibes going on, Jon Jones throw themselves wholeheartedly into a set of bone-rattling, hip-shaking noise-rock. I honestly can’t believe this is the first time I’m hearing them and I feel a little like I’ve inadvertently stumbled across some kind of cult. A good one though. There’s no stage at Chunk and that lack of barrier works perfectly for a band like Jon Jones, the singer performing the set surrounded by clamouring, sweaty fans. Songs like ‘No Brainer’ and ‘John Doe’ are as inventive as they are explosive. What a great discovery.

Between acts I go outside with my friend while he has a cigarette. A few minutes later and I’m back inside to find the whole room subsumed in smoke and the faint smell of incense in the air. It’s after 12.00 now but finally the scene is set for the mighty Bong. Frustratingly some people seem to have left (last trains and such perhaps), leaving about 20 of us by the time the noise ritual begins. That’s unless I’m just not seeing the rest of the crowd through the thick layers of smoke being pumped into the room.

Bong are so drastically different to any other band tonight that nothing really could have prepared us. The three piece switch on their amps and the immense wall of drone fills the entire room. It’s intense yet hypnotic, the relentless reverberations turning the small room into a prism of pure sound. At one point the bassist adds chants and ominous, spoken incantations to the mix. I actually find some of the bands recorded output weirdly relaxing but this is too frazzled, too distorted to send you into a dream state. The sound instead submerging us in its groaning, rhythmless void.

Eventually the drummer joins in, a slow and methodical beat backing up the feedback and one-note bass stylings. It's powerful and unrelenting. People respond differently to it; some sitting, some standing and swaying while others put their fists in the air in a sign of noise worshipping solidarity. One guy is even managing to dance and clap along. I’m not quite sure what he’s hearing but each to their own.

Now for a quick word of advice. While the other bands certainly had things turned up, Bong are insanely, unforgivingly loud. Colonic irrigation for the mind. Stupidly I forgot to pack my earplugs and don’t even wear the one’s provided at the door by Chunk. I won’t go into it but, seriously, wear earplugs. Us music fans need our hearing after all.

Towards the end the guitarist puts his instrument to one side and drops to his knees to fiddle with the settings on the amp. Bong are now playing the amplifiers. By this point the drummer has withdrawn and the bassist is stood stock still; time itself slowing down under the weight of bands almighty drone. It’s about one in the morning by the time we immerge. It’s been a great night but it’s time to go home to my imaginary fireside. The gigs over but somewhere out there the drone carries on forever.

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