The Black Ryder and The Vacant Lots Live – Birthdays, London – 16/3/2015


Okay, I admit it, this is not a review from Brighton. This is however a review from London of a band that never quite reached Brighton on their recent jaunt round the UK, however, the support band – The Vacant Lots – played at The Joker last Friday. These links feel tenuous so here I am digging myself a hole. Essentially, it was a hell of a gig, something worth writing about. Meeting a buddy in London at rush hour in London Bridge is always asking for trouble, the atrocity of the Southern train lines leaving me light years in delay never helped either. Alas, I emerge amongst the smog, sharp suits and shiny shoes of London’s business district. I somehow stumble to Monument underground and then proceed upon a journey to Dalston, via every ruddy stop on the grass green District line.

Now I’ve only ever been to the splendid Birthdays venue once before where I caught Brighton boys, Demob Happy in summertime. What a cool little venue though, global beers on tap and behind the fridge ensure any thirst is quenched regardless of the desired nationality, whatever your flavour. It’s easy to understand and it’s very thrust upon you that you are in one of London’s ‘cooler’ ends; the daub of black and stench of leather echoed around every chasm and human in the venue, from the smoking area, to the decor, to the name of the headline band – The Black Ryder.

The Vacant Lots arrived on stage at just gone 9. I was regretting missing them in Brighton the week prior therefore saw it as essential to make sure I caught them this night. They had a phenomenally loud sound, opening with ‘Mad Mary Jones’ we were taken on a roller coaster through the post-punk/new wave 80s. The Vacant Lots demonstrating a sound suggesting New Order on speed, energetic and sharp drum samples with that distorted reverb of The Jesus and Mary Chain. If McGee’s Creation label was still going, you could probably expect to see this lot on the roster. Next on were the main act, the band that has remained enigmatic within their live performances and significant releases for the past 6 years. The Black Ryder’s previous album: ‘Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride’ was released back in 2009, they have recently emerged releasing their second album: ‘The Door Behind the Door’ in February of this year. They opened with their lead single off the new album entitled ‘Let Me Be Your Light’ and from then on, we were in for a treat of diverse garage rock/psych sweets from all across the contemporary span of that genre. The Black Angels were squeezed in somewhere, a bit of BRMC, not to mention; what struck me throughout many of The Black Ryder’s songs, particularly the new album, was the sense of the Western villain. What I mean by this is the black clad killer before the tangerine dawn – in each of the new songs played live, ‘Seventh Moon’, ‘Santaria’ etc, there is an overarching idea and pounding image of the assassin walking through a pitch black, icy cold, Mid-Western desert post shoutout. It’s fantastic how they can demonstrate such vivid images within their music. When turning back to the earlier album, there suddenly reappears that dirty, grotesque distorted guitar sound such as in ‘Grass’ which leans much more heavily on the garage rock attributes.

All in all, I first heard this band back in 2011 and have longed to see them since, after falling for both The Black Ryder and The Morning After Girls, it was a pleasure to finally catch them at a rare appearance. Thank God for The Black Ryder.

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