Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
Just a couple of miles north, a literal stone’s throw, outside of the very centre of London Hoxton goes, largely, unnoticed somewhat overshadowed by near neighbours such as Camden and Islington.
It’s this unassuming air that gives the area an easily accessible charm that leaves with a quite non-London feeling. The skyscrapers of business cast their shadow across this thriving corner of Hackney but somehow the bustle seems to largely pass by.
Scratch beneath the surface and Hoxton has a notorious past. Cast an eye just a short radius about this evening’s venue and you’ll discover a hidden history. In late October 1605 a letter, warning of an impending attack upon Parliament, arrived at the residence of Lord Monteagle; the thread that led to the unravelling of the Gunpowder Plot. Described by the eminent poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge as ‘The Hoxton madhouse’ the rapidly expanding Hoxton House served as one of the city’s asylums operating in intolerable conditions. Just up the road, on Stean Street the equally feared and celebrated East End gangsters the Kray Twins, Reginald and Ronald, were born and raised until they were five.
It’s claimed that the renown writer Charles Dickens could be seen propping up the bar at The Macbeth, then known as The White Hart, before popping over the road to the now long-demolished Britannia Theatre. A young William Shakespeare premiered a number of his plays, including Romeo and Juliet, in the area back in 1597.
It’s this playwright’s tragedy which gives the venue its name and from which the Victorian painted tiles, which greet arrivals, depict the banquet scene (Act III, Scene 4). Overall, in one sense it’s the most unlikely of locations for the unleashing of a maelstromic cataclysm in the wholly distinctive form of Yorkshire alt-grime rock outfit Deadwax. Yet given consideration and the eclecticism in Hoxton’s history perhaps it’s the perfect epicentre.
Inside The Macbeth the venue is busy, and a bustling energy reserved for the most special of occasions buzzes. From the very off Deadwax – hollering out of Holmfirth – are in the crowd’s collective face. It’s furious and frenetic and just a couple of minutes into the groove infused mayhem of ‘Warning’ those gathered surge forwards engaged with the Rage Against The Machine channelled angst. This is powerhouse engagement not standard for a relatively unknown outfit on their first outing in the capital. It’s high energy and the levels of kinetic border on off-kilter chaos that somehow the quartet manage to keep a firm hand upon whilst generating an electric despatch.
Vocalist Jake Milburn is clearly impressed “Sweet, this is our first time down ‘ere” he notes before Deadwax unchain the fury of Massive Attack colliding with Skindred with the unrepenting phenomenon of ‘Resist.’ Either side of the blur of Jake there’s the reassuring quiet presence of guitarist Henry Skinner and bassist Solomon Price who provide a complimentary contradiction whilst drummer Ben Millington is a percussive dervish.
With a ska undercurrent the quickfire grime vocals of ‘FFTF’ present an unlikely but wholly affable alliance. Henry slots in some subtle jazzy interludes to further mix up the matter; there’s something for most in the melting pot with a dash of reggae overlying a solid hardcore industrial metallic foundation. A 21st century alloy of urban endeavour if you like.
Demons engaged the thunder rolls with ‘Hollow’, Jake engages “We’ve come a long way! Are you with us? London stand up for yourselves. Wax in the building!!” These four lads have endured the mega-bus on their trek down from Yorkshire and face a six-hour overnighter on the return leg!
The crowd are bouncing with the vast majority of what was a full venue now squeezed like sardines into the front half. There’s a connect with the exciting balls-out ‘Disconnect’, its instantly relatable lyrics carrying the message of the negativities borne of social media. This is the new tidal wave of forward thinking that rock requires in the new century.
The funky rap of ‘Get Gone’ literally explodes and the crowd, in response, erupts with a volcanic surge. Bringing the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to the party to stand shoulder to shoulder with Massive Attack is genius; a move on the chessboard that ensures checkmate. The skeletons in the picture above drummer Ben look on somehow appearing to approve.
Latest single release ‘Northern Behaviour’ delivers a spine-tingling dynamic that lays waste with the ensemble a writhing mass of movement. Closing track ‘Lifestyle’ demonstrates further the skillset possessed, its jazzy oft funky impressions ensuring that Deadwax will be recalled as pioneers upon a new musical frontage.
It’s exceedingly rare for something to be described as pivotal but Deadwax have smashed it out of the park tonight with their own revolutionary tornadic destructive. They’ve challenged the ‘norm’ and presented an alternative that leaves electrical surges charging through the veins of those who have witnessed. This is the dawning of something very new and very different. Ground-breaking in a way that seems befitting with The Macbeth and its environs.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM