Yak – The Haunt, Brighton – 2nd November 2018

Photo by Iain Lauder

As live bands go, you don’t get much more bang for your buck than Yak. Our first experience of the London band was at 234 Fest 2015, when lead singer Oliver Henry Burslem climbed up to the ceiling of the Green Door Store and dangled from the steel beam above the stage whilst screeching his rock’n’roll tones – memorable to say the least. Having released the fantastic debut Alas Salvation LP in 2016 and having featured on our Brightonsfinest Volume 2 compilation in 2017, the trio came to The Haunt for what should only be a show of epic proportions; especially with the almighty Sons Of Raphael in support.

As one of the newest exports to arrive from London’s booming hype machine, Sons of Raphael instantly come with an incredible mystery and expectation. I was introduced to the north-west London brothers, Loral and Ronnel, through an intriguing and totally surreal interview in Loud & Quiet which prompted me to go see them at their next headline gig – they, of course, dropped out on the day of the gig which only added to the curiosity of the pair. The nature of The Haunt means that gigs start early and, unfortunately for support acts, it usually means a half empty room. This didn’t seem to bother them in the slightest, as they beckoned the crowed closer and announced, “We’re going to make Vietnam look like a holiday”. Standing on stage as two guitarists and a vintage reel-to-reel tape player in the background, the smartly dressed duo held the guile and swagger of Roy Orbison and Alex Turner, giving a feral high-energy performance that had singer Ronnel jumping into the crowd to stare into the room’s eyes. It was more bravado and performance than a lasting memory of music. However, though they lacked a drummer – which felt increasingly necessary throughout – the thought they put into the show was certainly endearing and will make them a name to remember.

After the peculiar yet strangely impressive support slot from Sons Of Raphael, Yak more than have what it takes to take the evening to new heights. The gig begins with Oliver Henry Burslem clambering down from The Haunt’s high balcony to the stage, initiating instant raucousness which never let up. Though the venue wasn’t full (by no means empty), those inside The Haunt were a loyal bunch who gave as much energy as the band were putting in. Early on in the set Ronnel from Sons Of Raphael jumped on stage for an unhinged version of the children’s gospel classic ‘He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands’, which saw the microphone be passed into the moshing audience for what wasn’t the last time of the night. The atmosphere was dark, and it felt like morals and inhibitions where left outside in the cold. People were sweating, people were getting off, the music was lewd; Yak’s heavy fuzzed up guitar riffs creating floor rumbling raw rock’n’roll. It was a dominating performance – the drums being excellent, the bass being magnificent, the guitar being phenomenal – and the audience lapped it up, jumping on stage and crowd surfing having been buoyed on by the ever-increasing energy. Yak have definitely perfected their set, knowing the right moments for the slower numbers to act as the ultimate cathartic solace from their hectic rock’n’roll rampage. Then, before you knew it, after shredding on top of the ten-foot speaker stack, Oliver Henry Burslem pulled himself back up onto The Haunt’s balcony and the gig was over.

It was a frantic yet enthralling encounter with Yak – you never quite know what kind of madness you are going to get from them. Though time and time again, you can 100% rely on being made to jump around wildly to their brilliantly loud racket. Outstanding. Is there a better live rock act out there?

Iain Lauder

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