Last Updated on March 5, 2023
Last night saw the triumphant return to Suffolk of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. I last saw them at The John Peel Centre in Stowmarket back in October 2019. The venue tonight was the brilliant Baths in Ipswich. What better way to celebrate 303 day than to go to a sold-out gig at a local venue?
I’ve promised myself that I won’t use up this live review raving about how brilliant The Baths is, and how it’s the mid-size venue we’ve desperately needed in Ipswich for decades. Suffice to say it’s RAD, go there. Give them ticket money, spend money at the bar, buy merch, do your bit to support this great place if you want more touring bands to hit Ipswich.
First up, Kulk took to the stage. I’ve not seen this local(ish) two-piece for a while, and the last time I saw them I was left impressed and deafened. I’ve not seen two people make such a noise since Lightning Bolt.
Kulk have been about for several years now and it has been cool to watch them develop and grow, sometimes with huge leaps forward. Kulk started young and started right. They first came to my attention when a friend told me I should make an effort to see them because they were a band that makes zines. This may sound like an odd reason to investigate a band, but in my book, any band that digs into its aesthetic by creating anything beyond its sound should be celebrated.
Kulk doesn’t just make sound, and zines (and probably other things I’m yet to learn about), they also make the occasional limited run of guitar FX pedals. I bought one of their fuzz pedals and it’s a terrifying bastard of a pedal. It’s all or nothing. It’s on and destroying, or off and plotting to get stuck into more destroying the next time it’s activated.
While we’re on the subject of FX pedals, I had a chat with none other than the legendary pedal wizard James Pickletech (aka Talking Sleeve) while we were waiting for the music to start last night. He told me about a pedal he developed with Thom of Kulk. It’s a vocal effect with a reverse footswitch, so it’s always on, unless Thom stands on it. The switch is momentary, so there’s no way to actually switch the pedal off. Seems nuts to me, but admirably nuts.
I’d love to say that the Kulk FX pedals were a good metaphor for their live performance, but that would be grossly unfair. It has been a total joy watching (and hearing) Kulk develop over the years, especially because they have the aforementioned wild ability to make huge leaps forward with their sound.
Kulk have always sounded great, but tonight they were showcasing one of the facets that make so many people love the band. They have evolved. Again. In a big way.
The soaring and swooping riffs, and pounding drums, were still very much the heart of the set, but there were elements that were new (to me at least). The most noticeable was the synth arpeggios they started the set with. At least, I think that’s what they were, with Kulk I can never reliably report on anything they do from a music tech perspective.
Thom Kulk also appears to play a down-tuned (or drop-tuned) guitar these days. There was also a lot more feedback than I remember from previous times I’ve seen the band play. It’s not the screechy Jesus and Mary Chain school of feedback; Kulk feedback rattles yer fillings and troubles your guts. The effect is the same as the feedback in early Jesus and Mary Chain recordings – it sort of ‘mops up’ all the frequencies, creating a formidable wall of sound.
While Thom is doing fuck knows what, Jade keeps the pace driving forward by doing her best to test the structural integrity of her drumkit. It’s a hell of a backbone; a steel-reenforced backbone.
One of the issues of being a musician (like what I am) is that we can sometimes get too caught up in the technical side of what’s happening the other side of the crowd control barriers at a gig. I love the fact with Kulk I’m never really sure what’s going on, but whoever it is these two are doing on stage, it works very, very well.
You may have noticed that I’ve not made any great efforts to describe what Kulk actually sound like, or to directly reference bands they might sound like. That’s deliberate. If anyone dares pigeonhole Kulk they’ll dent the magic.
Take the advice of a music writer you’ve never met before, and if Kulk play within 100 miles of your hovel, then make sure you go and see them. Especially if they’re playing through a PA that’s loud enough to wobble your eyeballs.
When I first saw Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs at the hallowed John Peel Centre, I went along out of curiosity. I love the heavier side of guitar music and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs had recently made a stink on the BBC 6Music playlist. Hearing a hearty bit of riffing stamping its feet on daytime radio made it worth investigating the stink-makers in the flesh.
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs are another band that has hit a seam of brilliance of late. When I saw them back in 2019 I was left with the impression that there were a few points in their set where they might be padding with a bit of noodling. It’s important to remember that I’m just an observer; I dare say I was missing the point, and I’ll gladly be proved wrong. But I left the gig all those years ago with the feeling that we had seen an excellent band who were still ironing out a few creases. And what better way to do the sonic ironing than aurally eviscerating a venue of warm bodies in rural Suffolk?
Tonight I saw a very different band. The friendly, welcoming confident bonhomie of vocalist Matthew was as strong as it ever was. The riffs were as huge as I remember. But something significant was different at The Baths here in Ipswich.
If Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs had taken people by surprise back in 2019 then now in 2022 they had taken us under their wing and made us part of the gang. It’s really difficult to describe how on-board with the band the audience felt tonight.
To put it into a clumsy sci-fi analogy, it’s like the Borg in the Star Trek film ‘First Contact’. They’ve adapted.
Being in a riff-driven band can be challenging in the long run. People come to expect the riffs, and having an audience who are waiting for the riffs can start to obfusticate the nuances that make a band unique. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs have somehow sidestepped this trap and have adapted themselves into a threat that is multi-faceted and fascinating.
Sure, they were punishing, but there were many shades of light and dark, tension and release that I simply don’t recall existing before. They’re onto something. I get the feeling that tonight might be the last time I see Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs in a 400-capacity venue.
The joy of bands like Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs is that you can revel in, and absorb yourself, in where they are now, while also looking forward to seeing what they do next.
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs + Kulk photo gallery
Cheers to James Howard for the gallery photos. The inferior photos elsewhere on this page were snapped by me.