LIVE: Viagra Boys @ The Eagle Inn | 24.10.18
WORDS BY ROBERT HUDSON PHOTO BY PHILIPPE REDMOND
Viagra Boys are a band to be reckoned with and are currently touring the UK forcing fans across the country to have their shows embedded into their memory. The Stockholm post-punks have recently released an album titled ‘Street Worms’, a very worthy album if you seek a strong dose of creative and dark guitar music with interesting lyrics. A lot has been said about their shows to date, mainly including terms such as ‘riotous’ and ‘aggressive’ but those words barely scratch the surface when watching this band. I got the chance to see them in the intimate, characteristic Eagle Inn in Salford for what would cement a memory of a great gig.
First up on the bill is Manchester’s native MOLD who perform a gripping set with their tunes that fall somewhere short of post-punk and some kind of nightmare groove creating a sound hard to pin down. The MOLD manifesto states “MOLD IS AN ABSURDIST REACTION TO THE WORLD WE LIVE IN/ IN NATURE, IN YOUR KITCHEN, IN POLITICS, IN GUITAR MUSIC, MOLD ONLY GROWS WHEN THINGS ARE STALE AND START TO ROT. LIKE DADA AND WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU CALL CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, WE SEEK TO RE- INTERPRET OUR MEDIUM” this becomes fact in their live appearances.
Adopting a theatrical appearance with all members of the band wearing black and red face paint, their performance felt somewhat like a show at the west end, especially during their single ‘Puppet Master’ where singers Dan Caldwell and Shane Dickenson performed as if he was a puppet upon strings. Playing up to that showmanship aesthetic the band amazingly performed a cover of ‘Pure Imagination’ taken from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film. It would usually sound bizarre for an artist whose music is sometimes dark and serious to perform this choice of song. However, this outlandish rendition proved only to make their set stronger. For the last few songs Caldwell handed the guitar over to the percussionist and synth player, grabbed the mic from the stand and joined the audience for what would be a truly intimate ending to a strong set.
Next up is Viagra Boys. The Eagle Inn stage is tiny, perhaps just 10 ft x 7 ft in size and the venue space is not much bigger. With six members in the band – who seem to turnover at a similar rate as The Fall – the stage is crowded but full of character. Front man and tattooist by day Sebastian Murphy addresses the crowd and starts talking about his diet whilst touring the UK: “Vodka for breakfast and Taco Bell for lunch”, a healthy balanced diet for any touring punk artist.
The room is filled to the brim with anticipating fans. They open the set with ‘Down in the Basement’ a fitting song due to the size of the room. The interesting thing with Viagra Boys is the sheer amount of what is going on. The whole entente playing just comes across like a tornado of sound, in such a small venue this feeling is amplified further. Murphy talks to the crowd in between songs, shortly describing the brief behind each tune such as his description of ‘Frogstrap’ where he says something along the lines of “We’ve all been in an awkward situation involving a frog in a room” I think we can all agree – at least the crowd went along with it.
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They play a number of songs from their recently released debut album ‘Street Worms’ as well as their single prior to the release ‘Research Chemicals’. The set list was delivered in an interesting way, playing slower tracks at the start such as ‘Just Like You’ then later building up to tracks such as the disorderly ‘Slow Learner’. The aggression in ‘Slow Learner’ came across boldly, Murphy delivered a passionate performance with his trademark dance moves, sadly the thick-rim black sunglasses didn’t make an appearance on the night, but they make up for this lack of continuity by delivering a remarkable set.
Viagra Boys finish the set in what seems to be a hurry, all rushing out the door, forcing their way through the crowd one by one. But they leave the saxophonist unattended playing solo on stage. Playing just one note for what felt like at least five minutes. He stood comfortably as he did so. A drummer ending the set with a cliché solo is common place for modern guitar bands, but a saxophonist? An interesting way to end a set but that’s just what Viagra Boys are: uncommon.