You’d be forgiven if you drove right past this hidden music venue as it isn’t readily recognisable within the street scene, and located within a pocket of one of Leeds suburbs that continues in its struggle to establish a defined identity, being wedged in a hinterland muddled with local business and industry, a scattering of student housing, wasteland and abandonment, a petrol station, a longstanding pub that is still holding firm and has a particular die-hard clientele, access to a Valley Nature Trail and a main arterial road that feeds the daily commute into the City Centre. However, dig in there, and you will find Chunk. A compact venue space for live music, with a connecting network of room spaces that serve as much valued rehearsal & recording rooms and equipment stores, reminiscent of those garage band days or student digs where underused basements provided an ideal den for house parties and band practice sessions.
There’s no signage outside, no advertising, not much resembling any gig info, and no ‘welcome mat’. But hey, once in through the inconspicuous metal front door, you cross a palm with silver & earn your stamp, then up-step into the venue space where it immediately feels inviting and home-like – perhaps owing to its compact and intimate size, or the tiny array of light pearls around the performance area framed by a more than adequate PA and a sound desk neatly tucked into one corner. The decor is industrial, natural and raw. It’s standing room only, it’s invasive with no boundary between the artists and the audience, so you claim your ground, stand eye-to-eye and brace yourself for an immersive assault of penetrating sound & vision.
First on at this nights billing, hailing from York – young pretenders My Wonderful Daze open proceedings with a carefully crafted alt-rock song set, composed of a heavyweight pounding rhythm section and crushing guitar riffs, juxtaposed and perhaps confusing in parts to the searing vocalist prowess of Flowers, segueing between the hard-edged tonality battles of ‘Tommy’ to the more gentile aspects of ‘Same’. Nonetheless, warmly received and watchable.
Post-interim, entering the darkened frame, initiations begin with the solo acoustic offering ‘Fairy Tale Ending’ from Leeds-own Witch of the East‘s protagonist Aeris Houlihan, setting the scene for the newly typecast royals of ‘grunge-porn’ who served up a heady brew of curiosities, dripping with controversy yet equally beguiling – a set of supercharged stompers set largely to the rhythmic complexity of the drum patterning and digital backing insertions, thrust forward with intensity and depth alongside the prowling bass-heavy lead guitar work bastardised by a field of over-cranked effects pedals that fed back wailing screams through the loudspeakers at every opportune moment, only adding to the brooding atmospheric landscape painted by their goth-tinged artistry and cleverly arranged songwriting. Barely a touch on the sonic soundscapes that you can hear on their debut album ‘Queen of Insecurity’, Witch’s set however served convincingly enough for the onlookers to believe that they are by no means another cleverly veiled studio-based band by delivering a highly accomplished and engaging journey through their coven of delights. Feed your mindstore – ‘Queen of Insecurity’
Texas-based proto-punk flag wavers Pleasure Venom forego any formal introduction and turn Chunk inside-out with their immediate takeover of every conceivable aspect of the room. And why not? This was the perfect arena to showcase their dominance during a whistle-stop UK four date tour. Forget intimacy, deny the economy of space, Molotov’s lit – Venom are deadly intent to bite deep with a no-let-up explosive set that was animated and angry throughout, much to the delight of the room who were supercharged by the energy and were all to keen to lose control at the behest of the feral singer Audrey Campbell, who precariously wielded the mic stand and stamped her ground – larger than life, down-sized only by the even larger hairpiece-crown that admirably resisted deconstruction.
The band were a loose caboose of sorts, running away to what would inevitably become a predictable demise, but they managed to exercise enough control of the steering to keep the abridged set-list glued together for the duration, despite the over-cranked vocals perhaps overshadowing the musicianship of who periodically sounded like a very capable trio. The odd flourish of lead guitar work was welcoming, managing to pierce through at points, but despite all the grimacing never really took flight which was a pity.
Naturally the focus was on the outrageous antics of Campbell who engaged with the onlookers throughout, regularly cavorting and contorting, mounting tables, rebel-rousing and never intimidated. All the traits you would expect from a dominant leader, so there wasn’t a lot to be disappointed about, attested by the fact that the audience gave rapturous applause and left that heated-up arena with a maximum sense of fulfilment.
Kind thanks to Jenny Bunn @ Nerve Grass Promotions