@ Newcastle Trillians, July 6 2012

Unsane’s noise rock is caked in the grit and grime of New York’s streets, drawing on the angst and primal power of hardcore but never resorting to brainless bludgeon.

LA-based Big Business, on the other hand, are heavy in a different way, their 70s influenced stoner/sludge wig-outs fusing groovy bottom-end with infectious melody.

Both bands are rarely spotted in cities like Newcastle, so to see them sharing a bill was a dream come true for many North Easterners. 

And the mix of young and old, metalheads, shaven heads and alt-rockers who battled torrential rain to make this gig weren’t sent home disappointed.

Big Business, following a set by Tyneside’s Tide Of Iron, treated a packed Trillians to a show worth the entrance fee alone. The trio served up a psychedelic, groove-laden feast, their massive riffs propelled by Coady Willis’s peerless drumming.

Like The Melvins – with whom Willis and bandmate Jared Warren have recorded three albums – they manage to be heavy without being ‘metal’, strangely accessible yet never mainstream.

Easter Romantic and Just As The Day Was Dawning were highlights but Big Business were absorbing from start to finish. They simply rocked.

Tough to follow? Yes. But Unsane, now more than two decades in the game, don’t shirk a challenge – not even when their drummer, Vincent Signorelli, is absent, recovering from injury.

Willis has been his replacement on this tour and proved a more than capable stand-in last night. The Big Businessman barely had time to catch his breath before he was delivering a second drumming lesson to his many admirers, driving forward Unsane’s granite hard, abrasive assault with unrelenting aggression. Fuse this with the tar-thick, pummelling basslines of Dave Curran, and you have a rhythm engine worthy of any power trio.

Since Unsane regrouped in 2003 following a three-year hiatus, the New Yorkers’ recorded output has been consistently strong, with 05’s Blood Run, 07’s Visqueen and this year’s Wreck all garnering substantial critical acclaim. And there was plenty of this newer material to hear on Tyneside: Wreck’s Rat and Decay, in particular, full of pent-up emotion and bottled-up rage – tense, abrasive music from The Big Apple’s rotten core.

Guitarist/vocalist Chris Spencer’s neck muscles bulged as he spat out each line and wrenched every riff, kicking and screaming from his battered Telecaster. You know he truly feels these songs – they seem to coarse through his blood.

A cover of Flipper’s Ha Ha Ha provided humour of a sort, but, devoid of stage banter, this was a straight-for-the-jugular set designed for maximum impact. It certainly worked:  the trio exited to rapturous applause from a crowd knowing it had witnessed something special.

Shows like these don’t come around very often and it’s hard to envisage when these bands might return to Tyneside, especially together. But thankfully the duo lived up to all expectations.

Richard Holmes