Date: March 10, 2017-03-16
Venue: The Deaf Institute
Now entrenched on foreign soil, there is no better way to mark the occasion by witnessing a band that has eluded me for some time (or more specifically, me eluding them – refer below). Portland stalwarts, Grails. Having previously missed their 2013 Brisbane show due to a major fuck up on my part (criminally, I thought it was the day after they played), from a personal point of view, this show has some historical implication.
Manchester’s Deaf Institute is a nice venue, with loud acoustics evenly spreading out the sound across the well-worn floorboards. Opening act, Majeure, is a worthy choice, producing a frenetic kraut/space rock pastiche but expanding the boundaries further to something likened to Lightning Bolt.
After Majeure’s warm reception, the stage is set for one of Portland’s finest acts. With little fanfare, after their sound check Grails enter the stage and shred ‘I Led Three Lives' - an excellent opening track and performed with a raw vigour that is not replicated on record. Later in the set, ‘Deep Snow’ receives similar treatment, washing over the Manchester faithful very nicely indeed.
Throughout the night material from the band's Black Tar Prophecies series provides a nice psychedelic back drop and gives the crowd enough time to catch their breath. Cuts from new long-player, Chalice Hymnal, are scarce and given the performance of drummer, Emil Amos, it's hardly surprising.
Where Hymnal possesses more cinematic leanings, Amos' craft behind the skins remains fully harnessed by the band’s back catalogue of work. The mastermind of the excellent Holy Sons (I know, I’ve talked about that project at length throughout these parts), Amos could be mistaken as the mongrel offspring of either Keith Moon or John Bonham. As drummer for the spiritual doom purveyors, Om, Amos’ drumming is more of a shimmering undercurrent of percussion as opposed to the thunderous and behemoth-like snare toil that is the centrepiece to the Grails cannon. Guitarist, Alex Hall's heavy-ended riff-a-rolla cuts through perfectly while the underrated Zak Riles adds the intricate harmonics and noodlings with clever finger picks that round out the band's sonic manifesto.
‘Origin-ing’ is a full on post-rock assault and is the perfect way to end the night, or so I thought... The encore sees 'Reincarnation Blues' ripped through at a snarling pace while arguably Grails' finest cut committed to disk, ‘Silk Rd’, is a blood and thunder bastardisation of anything Ravi Shankar ever did. It is quite simply flooring.
It's a stellar performance and one that dispels the notion of these hipster dickheads suggesting that the post-rock genre is on the wane. Band's like Grails continue to be a beacon for instrumental music, providing sonic interpretations that enhance the post-rock pantheon. In the live arena, Grails can match it with any other. They are simply that good.
Words and photo by Simon K.