It’s certainly the night for a mind-altering statement. At the very same time as one great Mancunian artist is subverting all expectations in front of a global audience, another group of them are tapping into the dark recesses of our imaginations on a far smaller scale. But whereas Danny Boyle might be taking the opening ceremony into uncharted territory, this is just another night in the life of Plank.
It’s the Hookworms that set the tone for the night. The Leeds 5-piece have a screeching confidence in the sort of music they want to make, and for half an hour they offer no compromise to the growing crowd. Julian Cope recently described the Hookworms as the shoegazing Lynyrd Skynyrd, and with their tendency for finding the cosmic rhythms inside their heavy, muscular riffs, you can understand the comparison. But it only scratches the surface – here is a band exploring sonic extremes. Taking notes from the off-the-rails melodic noise of Wooden Shjips and the free experimentation of Glenn Branca, it divides the room in two. The frantic head nodding of much of the front few rows more than caters for the confusion of the rest. The frontman – who seems to be known solely as MJ – has a presence that seems to fall somewhere between Mark E. Smith and James Murphy, and his incomprehensible vocals may upon further inspection on record uncover yet more levels to this fascinating band’s thrilling work.
Following that, Plank! could appear to have a cleansing effect on your eardrums. Their crisp riffs and sense of control and discipline offer some considerable contrast to the support, and demonstrate an entirely different approach, if equally exciting. The local lads clearly have heard their share of German electronic music, but are not about to emulate or offer their studied imitation. Their music comes to us through a modern prism, informed by underworld electronica that submerges crystalline melodies deep enough to resist obvious clichés. When they are interested though, tunes are certainly not beyond them, most obviously on display on ‘La Luna’, the lead off track on their debut EP. Met with comfortably the greatest cheer of the night, the Focus-like lead guitar line swirls through the Soup Kitchen freely, soaring high on occasion. Not constrained by the distraction of vocals, you wonder whether they might suffer from their place in time. Are Plank! making 21st century attention span-resistant music, and will it be their downfall? Quite possibly it will, but they have an adoring audience already, and an album hitting stores. And that is worth celebrating.