Music Review: The Louisiana’s 30th Birthday Party
by Alice Lacey

The Louisiana should be in the top ten of any respectable music lover’s bucket list.


Whilst it’s been serving pints since 1987, The Louisiana’s legendary status wasn’t initiated until 1996 when a fire broke out at The Fleece forcing it to temporarily close their much loved doors.  Fearing the wrath of irate rockers should the gig be cancelled, the savvy promoters moved the whole show to The Louisiana and thus, a star was born. 


Since those fledgling days, The Louisiana’s floorboards have been trodden by some of the biggest names in music (Mogwai, Coldplay, Kasabian, Blocparty to name but a few) as evidenced by the many signed gig posters that adorn the walls. However, the venue’s real pride and joy lies in its promotion of new, exciting, and (often) homegrown talent which is what makes it such a celebrated cog in the Bristol arts scene. 

It seemed only right therefore that The Louisiana’s 30th Birthday Party had a line-up representing a wide range of some of the most innovative, vibrant music coming out of this city. The message was clearly “it’s party time” and OTB were lucky enough to have an invite.

To mark the sense of occasion, an exclusive screening of short film Treble acted as a perfect opener to the proceedings. The documentary, created by Florence Pellacani and Laure Noverraz, captures the thoughts and passions of some of the most creative and inspiring people in Bristol music  (including Joe Talbot from IDLES, Harry Furniss and Bristol Live Editor, Loki Lillistone). Although only ten minutes long, the film delved deeply into what music means to musicians in the truest sense of the word, what makes them persevere in an age where few bands see success, and provided a moving and powerful insight into why this art form is loved so much.  As Victor Hugo wisely wrote “music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” and Treble seemed to encapsulate that thought. Definitely worth a watch.


And now for the music itself.  To celebrate the milestone of 30 years, The Louisiana kindly put together an impressive line up of 10 bands from the South West including: Oh The Guilt, October Drift, Flag Fen, Oxygen Thief, Human Bones, Last Hyena, Poisonous Birds, LICE and (pause for breath), Bubba.  A veritable cornucopia of local talent and almost (but not quite), too much to take on board for a wintery Sunday afternoon. Whilst there were no weak links, OTB cherry picked the highlights for your delectation below.


The first highlight of the night, and kicking things off were Oh, The Guilt, a post punk/post rock/genre defying trio comprising of Ami Amp, Chris Nicholls and Hannah Layhe who, in a refreshing twist, share the centre stage with affable equality and real chemistry. Whilst named after a Nirvana song, their influences seem more akin to Joy Division, Sonic Youth, Mogwai and even, particularly when Amy is on vocals, War Paint given how their songs deviate between cold dystopian bleakness to, at times, gorgeously soaring post rock soundscapes. Standout tracks included 'Wired Jaws' and 'White Car'. The former, a thudding, art-rock piece with a vicious attack of noise punctuating an unexpected silence half way through. The latter, a violent, chaotic track propelled by the mechanized drumming of Layhe, ending in a sinister climax.  Overall, it was an intense, gritty, emotional set but it left me wanting to see so much more; a fact that clearly speaks for itself.

Oh, The Guilt, Image Credit Bristol247

Next to the party, and arguably, the stand out band of the night were October Drift, and my goodness, did these guys know how to put on a show. The quartet comprising of Kiran Roy, Chris Holmes, Alex Bispham and Daniel Young from Taunton (of all places) had a presence far greater than the small stage they were playing on, blurring the lines between audience and stage with wonderful confidence and raw, visceral energy. Their influences clearly harp from the indie scene, but also, given the deep resonance of Roy’s vocal’s legends (reminiscent of Ian Curtis and Paul Banks) heroes such as Joy Division and Interpol. Each song surged with wonderful, driven energy and although heavy with distortion, beautifully balanced by a heartfelt melody and poignant lyrics. 

Stand out tracks included ‘Cherry Red’ and set opener, ‘You are, you are’.

The former, a catchy, almost pop-like number with an omnipresent bass line that built into a brilliant pinnacle and the latter, the perfect show case for Roy’s soulful voice with echoes of My Bloody Valentine in the distorted, atonal guitar line. Overall, there is no doubt in my mind that this band should taste the tang of success soon (if not already) and have what it takes to go all the way.

Another highlight of the night was Human Bones, a lo-fi/folk duo spearheaded by the charismatic Jamie Cruikshank (of Jamie Cruikshank and The Gnarwhals fame). Indeed, Human Bones gave an engaging, stripped back performance teaching us that a song doesn’t have to include a glut of technical wizardry in order to sound good or memorable.  Against all the odds, the detuned guitars and laconicism, produced a sound that was alternately raw and abrasive but also folksy and somewhat adorable. This was everything great about Lo-Fi in a 24 brief minutes and there was not a bad song in the scrappy, low-tech set.


Last Hyenas, a three piece, instrumental post rock math band also captured the audiences’ attention. There clearly are scores of experimental UK bands whose music has aligned with the math-rock movement.  However, Last Hyenas seem to clearly identify with the genre; they're students of sonic soundscapes steeped in numerous math-rock and post-rock records. Though they favour the quiet-to-loud swells and 'atmospheric' intent of post-rock, the Bristol trio also stray into the world of polyrhythmic jazz and hip hop, creating a sound and performance so clean, precise, and, exacting, that arguably math-rock devotees will struggle but to favour them.


Finally, and by no means least, came LICE, a sardonic, vitriolic art punk band clearly intent on shedding light on a world tainted with social inequality, misanthropy and xenophobia as evidenced by their recent single ‘The Human Parasite’. There is no beauty or space to breath with their music, but it was a captivating performance led exquisitely by volatile front man Alastair Shuttleworth.  The crashing cymbals and gnashing teeth kept the whole set on edge as Shuttleworth’s, atonal, mocking vocals permeated through the chaotic assault. Indeed, with instruments dripping with bitter spit and sweat, the hatred was intense, but oddly enjoyable. It’s hard to put a finger firmly on their influences, but if pushed, The Fall and Country Teasers clearly feature high on the list. Not for the faint hearted, but a performance worth witnessing nonetheless. 


Overall, the M.O of the night was clearly to celebrate established, new and emerging talent and there is no doubt that this was achieved with great aplomb. But perhaps more importantly, this night brought home the importance of establishments such as The Louisiana without which, the Bristol music scene, nay, the UK music scene, would be a duller, less beautifully varied place.


Happy birthday The Louisiana, here’s to another 30 years! From OTB, with love. 

LICE, photo by Simon Holliday

Oh, The Guilt photo by Simon Holliday

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