- by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date: Label:
Californian sludge-punk pioneers Flipper have been through a number of line-up changes over the years. Tonight’s 40th Anniversary show finds David Yow and Mike Watt playing alongside original members Ted Falconi (guitar) and Steve DePace (drums). Heroin may have taken founding member Ricky Williams as well as vocalist/ bassist Will Shatter and bassist John Dougherty but Flipper lives on.
Yow’s sticky fingerprints are all over tonight’s opening act, with Leeds locals Blacklisters channelling the kind of rabid noise ‘popularised’ by The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid. Chief screamer Billy Mason Wood takes his cue from Yow’s ‘I’m in tremendous pain and very, very drunk’ vocal style.
I saw these guys play many moons ago and it’s good to know that time hasn’t dimmed their passion for noise. New songs like ‘Motivational Speaker’ and ‘Sleeves’ sound as unhinged (and fun) as you could hope for. It’s like being repeatedly hit around the head. In a good way, that is.
Next, it’s time for Austin, Texas freak-rock band, WE Are The Asteroid (yes, it’s written like that). Tonight will actually be the band’s first show in the UK. If they’re nervous then it doesn’t show. What initially appears to be a solid, slightly conventional rock show soon mutates into something far more satisfying. The band squeezes some good time rock through the Butthole Surfers psychedelic, sonic blender.
They’re clearly having a blast on stage, vocalist Nathan Calhoun attempting what can only be described as a celebratory running headbutt at guitarist Gary Chester. The on-stage shenanigans even inspire a spirited and rather brilliant two person ‘mosh pit’. Some folk look a bit confused. Must mean they’ve done a good job.
We’re mere seconds into Flipper’s set and the singer has leapt off the stage and wrapped himself around a member of the audience. His legs around his waist and his head on his shoulder as he carries on singing, ‘The Light, The Sound, The Rhythm and The Noise’. It’s a funny and brilliantly bizarre sight. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s David Yow.
Any concerns that this supergroup line-up wouldn’t hold up (to be honest, who would be concerned about a line-up with Yow and Watt?) are banished within seconds. Watt and DePace providing the band's substantial, hard-hitting, rhythm section while Falconi brings the noise. Fresh, filthy and urgent.
Yow puts every bit of his being into the performance. Pay attention kids, this is what commitment looks like. Coming into the crowd and putting his arm around fans like an overly affectionate drunk, he’s a whirlwind of energy and passion. He takes his top off and howls into the microphone like a wounded werewolf.
His performance creates an undeniable energy in the room, a feeling of shared catharsis. Yow is funny, angry and wholly immersed in every song. He’s been doing this a long time (he’s 59) and looks like a man having the time of his life. “I get to sing for Flipper” he tells us before joyfully flipping us the middle finger.
“Life! Life!” he yells over the iconic ‘Life’ “life is the only thing worth living for!” It’s so powerful, raw and life-affirming that I can’t keep the smile from my face. He even changes the words to ‘Life is Cheap’, screaming “life is not cheap!” again-and-again. Feeling a bit low? Go and see Flipper. You might not know it yet but it’s exactly what you need.
The crowd love every moment, losing their minds for the appropriately brutal, stop-start, punk-rock of ‘Brainwash’. “Nevermind” he sings “forget it/ you wouldn’t understand anyway”. But, of course, we do understand. One particularly enthusiastic fan ends up on stage, topless and screaming along with Yow. It’s getting sweaty in here.
It’s hard to believe that the band started with a different line-up 40 years ago. Who would have thought that a reformed and re-worked Flipper would sound this good in 2019? One thing is for certain, even with just two original members, this is definitely Flipper. They finish with the mighty ‘Sex Bomb’ (no relation to the Tom Jones tune) and my life feels just that little bit more complete.