[All images credited to David Campbell Olson]
Opening the evening was Dave Hick, a slide-wielding soloist with a sulky yet amicable undertone. Hick played previously with Das Pain in October and – despite not sounding anything alike – it was evident why he had been asked to return. Hick’s renditions of old blues tunes alongside hoarse vocals seemed to thaw out the winter-weathered Leeds crowd while his evident passion for the genre emanated from the stage, adding an almost interactive and informative dimension to his performance.
For the majority of his set, Hick swapped between two beautiful resonator guitars, a further insight into his passion for the blues.
The metallic sound of these guitars alongside Hick’s effortless sliding around the fret board gave his performance a natural rhythm perfect for renditions of tracks like Cocaine Blues and Mary Don’t You Weep.
In stark contrast to the guitars that came before, Hick finished his set playing Hendrix’s Voodoo Child on a polka-dot Flying V, created out of a guitar body and two old broom sticks. Bringing the strings to his mouth in true Hendrix style, Hick screamed the vocals through the fuzzed-up guitar pickups – a humorous finale to a well crafted and executed set.
Second on the bill were Hilary and the Hate Crimes. The three members of the band entered the stage with an air of confidence and stormed right into their set.Instantly, Wharf Chambers was filled with a sludgy darkness, emanating from gnarling vocals and deep, distorted bass. The group began with a slightly down-tempo introduction, then rattled on to faster tracks, Three Ravens and The Black Horse Disco. In this section of the set the band highlighted their ferocious edge, blending together a punk rawness with hints of blues and surf.
Throughout, the bass-brandishing frontman sneered lyrics over eerie guitar parts and almost hypnotic rhythms, making it hard for the Leeds audience to look anywhere else. However, while he was certainly a focal point throughout the set, the guitarist and drummer both played a big role in swaying the Wharf Chambers audience back and forth. As was exhibited particularly heavily in the slower, more progressive track, Away in a Stranger, intricately sculpted parts cut through the mix, above the darkly intense lower frequencies.
Hilary and the Hate Crimes concluded their set with another frantic track, screaming the lyrics ‘you’re one of us’. Despite their darkness and feral ferocity, the Leeds crowd seemed not only captivated but convinced.
After being positively prepared by two fantastic support acts, Wharf Chambers was now ready for the headliners of the evening: Das Pain. Despite being previously likened to Tindersticks and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Das Pain sound distinctive in their own right, bringing together a blend of emotional piano parts with rigid bass, dream-like guitar and vocal lines rich with stories.
The group portrayed dark, winding tales with their compositions – a darkness different, however, to the band they followed. Whereas Hilary and the Hate Crimes’ gloominess stemmed from unsettling guitar parts, a menacing front man and a wired intensity, Das Pain gathered their sombreness in a more emotional format. Each song unfolded itself slowly, lugging the listener deeper into the music and out of the room in which they stood.
At one point, Das Pain dragged the audience back in time, performing a track that featured lyrics the singer had found in an old pamphlet in Leeds Town Hall.
From a performance point of view, McArdle – the band’s front man – was certainly the epicentre of energy. The rest of the band seemed deeply focused on their instruments and cues; the result being a show that was weighted heavily centre-stage. However, with credit attributed to the rest of the band, the singer-come-guitarist was propped up by an extremely tight and sturdy blend of bass, piano and drums, which allowed him to toy about with delayed guitar parts, and provided him with space to project sombre vocal lines. As the set progressed the rest of the band seemed to acclimatise to the stage, and by the end of the show, they caught up with their charismatic leader.
Throughout the evening the music inside Wharf Chambers was accompanied by a series of cinematic projections, which added another dimension to the show, engaging the Leeds crowd deeper with the bleak romanticism presented by Das Pain. Not only did these projections complement Das Pain’s performance, they highlighted an intricate attention to detail and artistic focus, ever-present in Leeds’ D.I.Y. scene.
The band brought their set to a close with Cubist Blues, and this is where they sounded their best, crashing through loud, murky sections to climax at an almost march-like ensemble of harmonised cacophony. By the end of the song McArdle was bowing his strings with the blade of a knife, the result being a textured scratching which ebbed and flowed through the rest of the mix. The imagery provoked by the knife alongside the band’s dark drone made this last track feel not just like the bookend to Das Pain’s set, but also a murderous conclusion to a deep narrative that had been unwound before the Wharf Chambers audience.
David Campbell Olson
Catch Das Pain when they play at The Fox and Newt on the 30th January.