One of the best scenes in 24 Hour Party People occurs near the end, with the club remix of Happy Mondays’ ’Hallelujah’ playing over the top of Tony Wilson, played by Steve Coogan, lamenting over his love of Manchester, ‘the crumbling warehouses, the railway arches, the cheap abundant drugs. That’s what did it in the end’.
The legacy of Tony Wilson, Factory Records, and The Haçienda isn’t to be compared to that of Maidstone, the county-town of Kent. But looking at the boarded-up buildings, the stale streets, the dead air, it’s easy to sympathise. Thank god we got rock and roll to lull our troubles for as long as the amp feedback lasts.
For a good two years, Stepping Stone Studios, Earls, Rafters, and the reopened Drakes were our haven, giving us dirty, fun rock music to dance to every week. A strong sense of community, of building something. Since then, Stepping Stone Studios has closed down, and the great promoter Factotum Productions has slowed down, but as shown by the great success of this years’ Maidstone Fringe Festival, the scene isn’t down and out. A lot of things have happened, but the beauty of rock and roll is it’ll always find its way. If the bands and songwriters listed here aren’t from Maidstone, they’re from nearby and have helped make the scene what it is today, they’ve helped make the days and nights of the people living in this Conservative-led monotony that much better.
Youthblood have been around since the birth of the current scene’s incarnation, previously in the form of the more synth-driven Trophys. But where before they filled empty spaces with chirpy electronics, now they ramp it up with their raw, psychedelia-driven shoegaze. ‘100 BPM’ was a guitar-ripping start to their current form, Mitch Duce’s vocals snarling. ‘Sleep’, meanwhile, is an absolute anthem, with swirling guitar tones and bass that know when to pull back, and when to fucking soar. They’ve been absent from the live scene for a good year now, but when they’re back you’d be a fool to miss.
Weak Nerves are a veteran of Maidstone’s live circuit, always around to deliver their sweaty, slacker-grunge nastiness. The vocals on ‘Bedroom Rot’ are drowned out by the fuzzy, heavy guitar tones, and their energy live always delivers. They recently released the EP Posteverything, and it’s already one of the tastiest things this year, displaying the subtle advances in songwriting they’ve undertaken over time.
False-Heads’s new EP Wear and Tear is the bastard child of Nevermind’s deep-cuts, ‘Wrap Up’, offering the same nice riffs and rushes of angst-driven adrenalin that the 90s coughed up in spades. All the right vibes are here.
If the first three bands are distortion-glazed and reckless, Cosmic Thoughts are timid and anxious. Stop-start rhythms abound in the math and post-punk-inspired alt-rock, but they know a good chorus isn’t meant to be missed. ‘No Youth’ drives forward steadily, dead-eyed until the chorus hits and the relief soaks over you.
Appearing on a recent conceptual split EP together (Yee Naaldlooshi), Frau Pouch and Bear Vs Manero both deliver fast-paced, kinetic art punk. On each band’s stand-alone tracks on this EP, Frau Pouch’s builds and drones, where Bear Vs Manero’s slams heavily and dirtily, like the best of early Gossip and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Calling themselves ‘death grunge’, Fuoco have been named one of the best live bands in Kent, and it’s probably due to their sweaty, bug-eyed bodies that these two flail about the stage. ‘Fluoxetine’ has had Huw Stephens frothing at the mouth almost as much as the song does itself, sounding like a load of punches falling down the stairs.
They’re on the down-low right now, but for a good year Jodys Flat got everyone dancing, their indie rock fun, youthful and full of the right feel-good grooves. ‘Keep It Rollin’ has everything they do best: vibrant energy, good songwriting, and an utterly tight and tasty flair. If they’re back soon, it’ll be a treat.
Now, Get Inuit are something else. Back in February, they released 001, easily one of the best EPs of the year, and have since stormed the likes Y Not? and Glastonbury. Their sun-kissed indie pop is both blissful and ramshackle, capturing those moments as you dance with your mates across cornfields. ‘Coping With Death In A Nutshell’ and ‘Mean Heart’ are both wonderful displays of songwriting chops well beyond their age. Possibly the loveliest band in Kent.
Part Two of Liam’s scene report from Maidstone will be published later this week.