Phobophobes – Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, Brighton – 10th November 2018

Photo by Liam McMillen

When assembling a musical line-up it’s crucial to create a degree of consistency, or a sound that will entice paying customers to give over their hard-earned money. It’s here where promoter Smashing Blouse have succeeded. In bringing together Something Leather, Haze and Phobophobes, Smashing Blouse have not only created an excellent triple bill of brilliantly scuzzy psych-meets-post-punk bands, but they also conjured up an atmosphere that you just can’t artificially produce. Importantly, too, it was enough to get audiences braving the stormy conditions.

Opening on this excellent night were Something Leather who, to my shame, have fallen under my radar. Not anymore, however, as their opening performance – to a disappointing number of people – was fantastic. Producing, “Organ-driven dark, trippy alternative rock”, the end result is a lot more accessible than you’d imagine. Keeping talk to a minimum, the impressive trio create a twisted and stuttering world that is incredibly captivating through the use of an untamed, screeching organ that generates spooky images. Vocally, however, the likes of ‘Shotgun Persona’ is more akin to the mainstream indie voices of Ellie Rowsell and Alison Mosshart. A truly excellent support performance, and one that will live long in the memory.

Bristol buzz band, Haze, who impressed us supporting Whenyoung last month, were up next and delivered nothing less than a clinic. With an immense amount of passion and energy, the quartet have a post-punk sensibility but, strangely, are also reminiscent of 50s jangly rock and roll. Somehow working, the likes of ‘Scratches’ and ‘Baggy’ are wonderfully obtuse rock songs, but it’s latest single ‘St John’ that is most impressive. Propulsive yet stuttered in its early stages, it soon produces one of the catchiest choruses of the year. Coming from Bristol, the home of post-punk heroes Idles and Lice, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Haze follow in their footsteps in 2019.

It’s safe to say, then, that after a brilliant night of alternative goodness, the crowd were excited for South London post-punk outfit Phobophobes. Having produced an iconic display at The Great Escape’s Beach stage this year, it was interesting to see the six-piece on the cramped stage of Sticky Mike’s. Nevertheless, with early outings for their debut album’s opening song ‘Where is My Owner?’ and its title track ‘Miniature World’, it was an impressive showcase of the technical side of the band and a glowing showcase of the band’s Miniature World.

Unfortunately, when you’re a band with the reputation of Phobophobes and you’re born out of the same scene as ruffians such as Fat White Family and Meatraffle, you feel they’ve got to deliver something wild. As a band who famously, “Stole Paul McCartney’s spit from Abbey Road”, this all felt a little tame and ‘get the job done’. There’s no denying that Phobophobes are a brilliant band, but this live show felt very by the numbers and, with two extremely impressive support slots, it lacked passion in comparison.

Liam McMillen