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Back at it.

Back at it again. And feels good to be back, doesn’t it?

Back into gigs in venues. Festival season well over the hill.

It’s been a great summer of festivals. Of big stadium gigs. The new and the old. The returning and the rising. But it’s good to be back.

I love festivals, and they’re very much their own entity in terms of atmosphere, in terms of short, sharp sets; but the intense nature of going to a gig lacks.

Whilst a festival feels like a party all your mates have been invited to, a gig feels a bit more closed off. More private, personal even. No tv cameras, no coverage. Word travels mainly by that, word. You and a select few. Bands at your feet. Hot, humid, atmospheric.

And it’s that personal feeling that creates the atmosphere. It’s about you, it’s about them – the bands.

The Foundry is a fantastic backdrop for a personal gig. A small room, a low ceiling, a terrifyingly loud sound. It’s intimacy at its closest, sweetest. Everything follows accordingly.

Sugarmen were first on with a good crowd building. The thing about this crowd was they were very much a The Jesus and Mary Chain crowd. A flash of nostalgia on offer but most, if not all, left with a glimpse of the future.

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It’s in these intimate venues that character assassination falls almost to the forefront. The music is the key but glaring down at you, from a minimal distance, is the character. Character is massive when there’s no place to hide. Sugarmen are characters. Axe-wielding guitarists, you’re drawn to them. Each as watchable as the next.

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The music suitably accompanies. Big, swooping riffs, a 60s vibe and an incredible tempo. An extremely tight and accomplished set. These guys were good. The Clash-like feel to some. Catch them whilst you can, things move fast.

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But back to that crowd again. The Foundry is personal, intimate. You look around the crowd, as The Jesus and Mary Chain take the stage, and this is a personal gig to so many.

The intimacy rings true. This isn’t the first time they’ve been to see the Mary Chain. It might not be the last, but the majority of the crowd are looking to replicate memories. Memories of their past, memories of their favourites. Yet a timeless, still somewhat ahead of its time feel, curb still grips hold.

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It feels like a suitable time to push on. The gig.

It was loud. My god, it was loud. The sound went up tenfold as they entered the stage. It may as well not have been turned down until the evening after but, importantly, it was fucking marvellous.

For something to be so melodic, so absorbing, so, well, shoegaze, to be so loud feels almost like an antithesis. But the punky underbelly still holds place. Harmonious lullabies breaking decibel meters. It was incredible.

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Now, I was probably in a pretty unique situation to most. While most were there to draw comparisons with their youth, I’m quite new to it all. A handful of the greats aside, the fantastic new album Damage and Joy is my foundation.

But nothing didn’t fit. Nothing felt out on a limb. The extensive set-list was beautifully crafted. A perfect weave of new and old. Again, it all felt so much more ahead of the curve than anything else. Anything that was around then, anything that’s around now. Little surprise Bobby Gillespie was one time drummer.

Banging straight in with album-opener and bass-roving Amputation they followed with Happy When It Rains. Darker, more mystique attached. Head On next, a fuzz. Makes you wanna feel, makes you wanna try. Makes you wonder why the timeless attracts few new faces. Still plucking stars from the sky.

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Of course I’ve heard the ‘big’ tunes; tunes from Darklands, from Pyscho Candy, they still stole the show. Nameless to me, a strong attachment to others.

I was as thrilled as the next man when they were played but Always Sad off Damage and Joy is a peach. As is All Things Pass. Those melodies seeping through to the core again. Still in keeping with an age old Mary Chain sound. A thrill of the ones I know. A thrill of how time doesn’t pass us all by. How can it? How can it when you’re ahead of it?

But what a sound. A sound for the ages. A sound that carries through the decades. The joie de vivre of a band still on their game. An appreciation of the trippy, the arty, the musicians.

22 career-spanning songs, 2 encores and an hour and a half of intimate transfixion.

Just Like Honey as good as always following a brief dispersion after Darklands – the first of 2 ‘this is the last song’s. A fascinating pull. Scintillatingly beautiful. Both as thought provoking as the other.

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Have I glossed over some of the more ingrained, more ‘this is what they’re about’ songs? Of course. To be expected.

Did I enjoy the gig as much as those throwing back to the mid-80s, early 90s? Most probably.

Different reasons? Most definitely. An insight to the past-future tense. Still future tense.

Blown away by a wall of noise, of groove and cohesion from start to end, new to old. The mystery, the ease. The harmonies the melodies.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, pleased to finally – if not somewhat overdue – meet your live acquaintance. Meet your back-catalogue. It was a pleasure.

The backdrop, intimate venues; it’s good to have you back.

DAN BEALE

PHOTOGRAPHY: MAL WHICHELOW

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