Transformer Festival – Swans – The Fall – Royal Trux – Loop – Manchester Victoria Warehouse – live review


transformer Transformer

Swans – The Fall – Royal Trux – Loop

Victoria Warehouse


28th May 2017

Fighting Boredom’s photographer Martin Ward is partial to a bit of Loop, so he has spent most of the last bank holiday weekend trekking around the country watching them in Bristol and London. For the Manchester date he was joined by Adrian Bloxham and Loop were joined by Swans, the Fall and Royal Trux, we were not going to miss this one.

Fighting Boredom’s intrepid snapper has done two days following Loop already. This has involved, in his words, scorchio weather with beer in Bristol and all day drinking in Tufnell Park with Arsenal fans, as well as Loop, in London. So by the time Sunday morning came around he could hardly hear or function in any way. Somehow he made it from The Smoke to pick me up and his first words as he stumbled through the door were You’re driving..’ So I did, we found some not very dodgy resident’s parking and  checked into our teeny tiny Ibis Budget hotel rooms. The photographer slept, I didn’t. 

I’ve heard and thought a great deal about the terrorist act last week but coming to Manchester a few days later to what hopefully would be one of the gigs of the year seemed a fitting way to respond. 

Victoria Warehouse is huge, we get body searched twice on the way in and the snapper’s bag is searched as well, thoroughly. We then sit in the sun and drink beer, people watching and chatting to strangers. The people are worth watching too, from old gentlemen in suits to wiry old punks, bunches of middle aged men with cool band shirts to teenagers bouncing around with unbridled energy. The crowd is a tad diverse and wonderful to see.

The first band we see are Loop, the last time the snapper saw Loop would have been about twenty four hours ago, for me, about twenty years. The lights go down, the band take the stage, pick up guitars and as strobes shatter eyes a huge wall of guitar and bass erupts from the speakers and takes you away. The sound is relentless and massive. The bass and drums meld into one solid entity and the guitars form a wall around them. Robert plays over the top and that seems to make you focus even more on the repetitive noise and the sound circling back on itself.
They slide into a low down dirty groove that again goes around and around as Robert’s tuneful and high vocal just adds to the song.

It feels like all those movements in music never happened, like Shoegaze never materialised and the Britpop wars meant nothing, this has the same cleansing sweep as My Bloody Valentine and Godflesh without being in any way derivative of either. It washes everything away in a wave of the purest noise.

They switch from funereal paced drums with a guitar whine and lost vocalLoop_Tour_May_2017-667 to an eerie Sci-Fi feeling ambiance, where monsters are stalking and everything is turning red. The music is barely held back and restrained, it feels like the whole thing is going to explode into a mass of noise again. Then it does with a pulverising drum beat and bass line, the guitars smothering you with the power of the music. It’s like electricity sparking and flowing, stuttering forward with no way back. Later on people will tell me it wasn’t loud enough. I disagree, it’s the loudest thing I’ve seen so far this year. You don’t think it can get any better and then they play Arc-Lite and it’s as good as you think it’s going to be, what a groove.

First band and to be honest it’s going to take a hell of a performance to beat that. Can’t believe it took me twenty years to see them again.

Royal Trux are next, the boy with the tallest hair in the world is standing in front of me and Neil Hagerty on guitar looks like Charlie Manson but wirier. Jennifer Herrema looks like she always did, big Loop_Tour_May_2017-704hair, baseball cap and attitude. They start off with a pure garage shambolic groove and they sound and look like they really don’t care too much. We are standing here so they will play but you know what, who cares? They’re on a knife edge of just falling apart and making a mess but they don’t, again who cares? It’s  great big, sloppy strung out Stones Rock’n’fucking Roll man, and they mean it too. 

It’s junkie blues, it’s effortlessly cool for about half the set and then it degenerates into a delinquent brawl. Which is kind of the point really, it’s crayola drawing on a torn paper bag, a crazed unwinnable bar fight against in-breds in a seedy bar. It’s all just a bit off, a bit lost and mangled. It’s sprawled out like a drunk on the pavement. It ends, and I go and get a beer.
We have a beer or two and hang out with the Snapper’s old mates that we have met up with enjoying the company and the sunshine.
Loop_Tour_May_2017-724Then we have The Fall. I have seen the Fall a number of times, usually on bills like this and they leave me cold. To balance this I know at least two people who have told me that they were brilliant tonight. I didn’t. They seem to me to be an unholy racket with a drunken uncle shouting over the top. They do exactly what they do and they have been doing it for ever. I know why they are loved and where they come from but I don’t get it. Although they belong on the bill tonight, there is no band more Manchester than Mark E Smith and the Fall. I watch them and the one that sounded like Lust for Life with shouting was okay and the baffling take on Rockabilly with shouting is my favourite. The Fall, if you like them you’d have loved them tonight. 
Swans are headlining and there is a tangible level of anticipation for them, Michael Gira has stated that this is the last show for the band in this incarnation and the hall is full. There are a lot of people on stage and the speaker stacks have at least doubled in size. They begin with a constant steady hum which goes in and out like some monstrous beast breathing, the band take their time layering their sound to bring the music to life, slowly and carefully. Gira has his back to us as the music rises and carries into huge crashing crescendos of noise that is filling my head to the point of bursting.
It continues with no pause, relentless cold hard noise,Loop_Tour_May_2017-753 It’s like being kicked half way to hell and then being run over by the ambulance. It is pure brutal noise, tribal and primitive. This is the first concert I’ve ever been to where I have felt the need to put earplugs in. I can feel this flowing through my whole body, they have found where they want to be and are just carrying on the sound. It falls away and Gira sings, it’s quieter but no less menacing, then the band pile on the layers and the music breaks your face once again.This truly awe inspiring music, Michael Gira is calling up spirits for us, waving his hands in the air like a preacher and conducting the band. I am stood at the back of the hall and it’s destroying me. There really is nothing else like this, no one plays like this or creates this kind of thing. It’s crashing into me, wave after wave falling into the emptiness of space and grinding down granite to fine dusty sand. They are beautiful and terrible, majestic and pure.
We walk away and know that we saw the last concert by this incarnation of Swans and I ask myself why I never saw them before. Brilliant.
Transformer Festival for me was Loop and Swans, both mesmerizing and wonderful.

Royal Trux

The Fall


Swans have a bandcamp page and are on Facebook

The Fall’s website is and they are on Facebook

Royal Trux have a bandcamp page

Loop’s website is and they are also on Facebook

All pictures by Martin Ward, all words by Adrian Bloxham.


Adrian Bloxham

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *