The Windmill in Brixton is, exterior wise, a really nasty looking venue, a small prefab community centre with a flat roof. Surrounded as we are in London by misused Victorian architecture it seems weird to pay to spend time in a building that could be in any housing estate or project in the western world.
What the Windmill does have though is great bands. Time Out voted Windmill Brixton last year as one of the best music venues in the UK
And it has the famous symbol of the Windmill, Roofdog, who patrols the flat roof above. Inside behind the battered bar is a selection of t-shirts bearing the slogan “I BELIEVE IN ROOFDOG”
Roofdog looks mean.
Roofdog contains some traces of Rottweiler ancestry but most of his DNA has been recovered from the prehistoric ancestor of the Rottweiler, Candidae Lycano, an animal that roamed the later Cretaceous period ripping the testcicles off Tyrannosaurs. Six feet long and four feet tall at the shoulder I have personally seen airliners flying over London veer off course when Roofdog barks at them.
Night of Black Moth + Black Belles I had arrived typically early and in the apparent safety of the low ceiling-ed venue I saw the Black Belles tune up.
Black Belles were nibbling walkers crisps like spindly crows.
I nervously reassured a Black Belle menacing the bar that I wouldn't take any pics while they were tuning up and got a look of pure evil.
"Yeah because WE'RE TUNING UP"
"You need to be - in the zone – right?"
"WE'RE TUNING UP"
"WE'RE TUNING UP"
Then some instinct for self preservation engaged in my head and I was able to shut up and back off slowly.
(So this is why I don’t have any pics)
By the end of the evening after some drinking I came to feel that that Evil Eye look from Black Belle may have turned my foot into that of rabbit, (not an actual rabbit but the foot of a rabbit), but it appeared my foot had just gone to sleep from the way I way balancing on a chair against the bar.
The Black Belles
Nashville Goths managed and promoted by Jack White (of White Stripes, Raconteurs and Dead Weather)
First thing that has to be said about Black Belles is that the promo for. “What Can I do”- (Directed by JW) is massively influenced by Mario Bava's Black Sunday, one of great surreal nightmare Italian horror movies, so they can already do little wrong in my book on principle (Similar status is accorded to Metric, after the promo for Monster Hospital.)
Despite the witchy hats and costumes Black Belles (when on stage) are not scary really, more like Deadite face pulling (Deadites are from Evil Dead). If you want a really scary look from a rock act get up front when Souxsie Sioux is on stage, that woman really knows The Evil The Lurks In The Hearts of Men.
Being Nashville Goths give them a whole heap of kooky charm though, the kind of thing you might get if you bumped into Dolly Parton at Halloween.
Comparing Black Belles with other products of Jack Whites stable, the actual music much more White Stripes primitivism (see BBC’s brilliant doc Motor City Is Burning) than Dead Weather’s superficially similar bad trip swamp rock, and you might go so far as to say Black Belles tunes are even more stripped back than early Jack and Meg. It must be refreshing for JW to come across a band that sounds like White Stripes but makes their last album sound like Yes. (Apparently the Belles are missing a keyboard player which might explain this and their apparent witchy twitchiness)
One area they did obviously stand out from early White Stripes is in vocals, I swear I heard lead Black Belle channel warbles of Pete Murphy Bau Haus amidst the Nashville twang.
There you have it, when “We have all types of music, Country AND Western”, is starting to assimilate Bau Haus, when Nashville Grand Ol Opry is sitting down having a cider and black with classic British Glam Goth Opera, you know that you are watching something different even if it isn’t particularly sophisticated at this stage.
Lead Belle gave a nice Nashville twanged shout out
"great to finally meet Roofdog” (big cheer) “we've heard so much about him" - you might think a coven of multi sized witches in heavy black makeup were saying that about Lucifer or Nyarlothotep but actually it was about the grumpy mutt prowling about the roof of the venue.
(Jack, if you or your entourage get to read this send some flowers or something to Lauren Laverne at 6 Music for gods sake - she's still hurting)
Fresh Faced Yorkshire Supernauts
Totally unreconstructed, soon to be enormo dome conquering teenagers(?), who could have all fallen out the back of a Ford Transit anytime between now and 1968 and obviously are not remotely bothered by it. In direct contrast to the Belles, their total disregard for 'image' was quite refreshing.
High chance the lead singer Harriet Hyde will be the Suzy Quattro/Joan Jett of the 2030s, though though her accent and voice seem to go from Karen O at the start to Micheal Parkinson at the end (great singing voice remained unaffected). Where, in mannerisms, the Black Belles were toned down Country and Western Alice Cooper menace, Black Moths Harriet really owned the stage on her own, with an impressive amount of showman ship and presence from someone so young. Difficult to see others from our vantage but kudos to lead guitar Jim Swainson, pinning the head of the guitar against the low ceiling of the Venue and then playing it like a harp.
Though Black Moths seemed to be technically well ahead of the Belles I suspect the pagan primitivism of the Belles tunes meant they we playing well within themselves.
If the new songs Tony Iommi has been crafting for the Sabbs reunion are half as good as Black Moths set it will make millions of gloomy bastards very happy. The “Mothic” new album, Killing Jar, will be my next purchase.
We've now had several generations of bands influenced by Black Sabbath and it's fascinating to compare them. I only got into Aston’s finest sons via Soundgarden, the 90s grunge, Seattle take on their sound. Since then I’ve found the desert rock variety in KYUSS and Queens of the Stone Age, and the golden poppy upbeat variety of Sabbs riffs in Foo Fighters. You can even see their influence on a band as pop as The Cardigans, who covered a Sabbath song on every album they released.
Still unconvinced about the influence of Black Sabbath? Robert Downey Jnr’s Tony Stark spends half his time saving the world in The Avengers wearing a Never Say Die tour t-shirt.
At the end of the we stood outside the windmill looking up at Roofdog, who suddenly strained to jump off the roof and attack a nearby Porsche which had the temerity to just move down the road slowly past the venue.
Just as quickly though, Roofdog calmed down and got sleepy, and we realised that when Roofdog goes to sleep, all of Brixton goes to sleep too.
|The Grand Ol Opry that is Windmill Brixton Friday night (for the Three Johns), that is Roofdog looking sleepy top left.|