Stiff Bizkit / Spotlight Cannibal / Darko / Flesh Trench [Live Review – The Star, Guildford, 14/3/15]

stiff bizkit starI normally hate tribute acts. I’ve seen a fair few in my time, and they never fail to bring out a borderline-allergic reaction in me. After witnessing a Rage Against The Machine tribute whose guitarist looked like Alastair Campbell, I secretly swore that that was enough. I’d stick to original groups and the occasional function band, and that would be it.

This lineup, however, was enough to make me take a risk. And it was worth it.

Flesh Trench are the kind of band who just happen. These guys have made a serious name for themselves with a series of beyond-insane live shows – and for a band who label themselves as “shit,” they’re actually improving in a musical sense. If you’ve ever been offended by anything in any way, a Flesh Trench set is not for you – but if you can stomach the thought of listening to a song about how JFK was Lee Harvey Oswald’s father; another not-very-jaunty tune which (to quote the band) is about “curb-stomping a whore”; or a brutal metal cover of N.E.R.D.’s Lapdance…well, Flesh Trench are worth the £1.25 you’d have paid to watch them last night.

Flesh Trench have 78 likes on Facebook, but their shows are always packed. Says it all really.

Darko and Spotlight Cannibal were the serious acts on this bill, and nailed a pair of very different but equally excellent sets. Darko go in for hectic and melodic hardcore, complete this time out with winning run-throughs of epic tracks Atlas to Atlantis and Timepieces & Lock Shaped Hearts and topped off with a crowdsurfing competition. By the time Darko’s bassist had showed the contestants how it’s done, and their always-wicked techy, fast, and raw set had run its course, it was time to let the sweat cool and move things down a gear.

Spotlight Cannibal are the perfect band for shifting said gears without completely bottoming out into wishy-washy territory. British Americana (a label almost as bad as vintage modern, but which still works here) is the name of the game with Spotlight Cannibal – but as with many of the best bands, no amount of categorisation can properly do them justice. Think a stripped-down British version of the Dave Matthews Band, and you’re in the ballpark.

The most incredible thing about Spotlight Cannibal is that they not only have their own well-established style, but also seem to have a bunch of fresh songs written and nailed down for each new show. As a result, every time I’ve seen these guys live, it’s felt fresh, vibrant, relevant, and exciting. On top of all that, their closing set-piece (made up of multiple virtuosic solos and a brief segue into classic Dizzee Rascal/Calvin Harris collaboration Dance Wiv Me) never fails to push proceedings toward a top-notch climax. Come the end of Spotlight Cannibal’s set, the room was ready for…

Stiff Bizkit – who nailed their set so well that it fucking stunned me. I’ll say up front that Stiff Bizkit are the best tribute band I’ve ever seen, which to be fair isn’t saying much, but these guys are so far ahead of the pack that it’s just unreal. Bar a handful of shaky moments, Stiff Bizkit’s set was just plain fun – something that all tribute acts probably aim for, but rarely achieve with the level of success that Stiff Bizkit hit in the Star.

One of my favourite things about live music is how unpredictable it can be. You can walk in with all the preconceptions, prejudices, and expectations in the world, and still have them blown away – and that’s exactly what happened to me at this show. Even the world’s most jaded music fan would have been caught up in the moment once Stiff Bizkit kicked in – from a flawlessly paced setlist to fastidiously researched riffs and a crowd who were more than up for it (grinding hips and starting mosh pits in equal measure), this set was one of the best times I’ve had as a reviewer in some time.


Stiff Bizkit on Facebook and Twitter.

Spotlight Cannibal on Facebook and Twitter.

Darko official website.

Flesh Trench on Facebook.

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Posted on 15 March 2015

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