Tonight was one of those nights where you really
just do not know what will happen. It may have
ended in personal disaster, but luckily the preceding
events certainly made it a worthwhile journey.
Heading up to Wolverhampton’s Slade Rooms,
Canada’s Priestess took to the stage for
tonight’s support slot. Priestess haven’t
had the easiest ride through time. Their debut
album was released under heavyweights RCA in 2006.
Second album Prior To The Fire didn’t pan
out the way the band had hoped and was chopped.
They missed the early ‘09 release slot and
were cut by RCA. It’s possibly this sort
of corporate bureaucracy which has this stellar
act in a support slot. However under its new TeePee
Records label, the band seem to be gathering momentum
once more and certainly haven’t lost any
of the spark which set them apart from most.
They explode into their set, to a crowd which
is far from capacity. Powerful opening riffs certainly
turned heads and brought in stragglers from the
bar. A traditional 4 piece, helmed by front man/lead
guitarist Mikey Heppner hold an infectious hard
rock / metal appeal. Make no mistake this music
is as far from soft with each song played a mutated
live version, a much heavier and darker performance
than any CD play through. Drummer Vince Nudo absolutely
destroys the kit. During the opening track his
power becomes further evident as his drumstick
splintered and flew off stage. Each song is met
with military like precision and such overwhelming
strength. He looks almost feral, perched over
his kit, yet every beat and roll around is timed
The pace of the evening lets up slightly mid set
before powerfully driving back into fifth gear.
Crowd favourite ‘Lay Down’ has the
audience at it most animated of the evening. The
Guitar Hero hit airs brilliantly- again heavier
than a digital version. Plastic air guitar gets
played by a few guilty parties. Ours included.
“Lets hear it for Big Elf!” declared
Heppner, unfortunately met with a muted response.
It felt the current audience is here to watch
Priestess, and that’s all they want plenty
of. The band did seem a little static; this however
could be because of the rather ‘muddy’
sound in the venue tonight. Almost too wide and
not deep enough, the sound unfortunately blurs
instruments together at times and loses definition
often. “We’d like to play more for
you Wolverhamptonians… is that how you say
it?” declares Heppner, sharing a humorous
moment with the natives, before blasting into
penultimate track FireBird. They close the set
with down tuned guitars and a thunderous roar.
Vocals have been shared throughout the set by
Heppner, Nudo and rhythm guitarist Dan Watchorn;
each bringing their own complement to every track.
Clearly the band had much more to give, but time
is always our greatest enemy. They left the stage
to applause with their heads held high. Priestess
is one to lookout for, and hopefully will grace
the stage again soon with a UK tour of their own.
Once the stage was set for tonight’s headliners
- Big Elf, the instruments were far from conventional.
Several keyboards surround the centre stage position.
The band emerge to a more heavily populated and
receptive audience, front man Damon Fox donning
his trademark top hat. No introduction whatsoever
was made as the house music and lights begin to
fade, Big Elf jam out their first few notes ‘The
Evils Of Rock n Roll’. The music fades out
leaving the sound of eerily spooky keyboards and
low key guitars. Fox continued to dance around
the keyboards flanking him before descending the
sound into an apocalyptic doom. The roar of drums
and guitars swell up, creating a Sabbath styled
diminished fifth sound totally encapsulating everything
and everyone in the room. It really does sound
like the end of everything as the band plunge
further and faster down the scale. They emerged
at the end of the instrumental opening to acknowledge
the crowd, then fire into second song- ‘Neuropsychopathic
Big Elf has such a refreshingly unique musical
style, which makes it even harder to pigeon hole
them. Imagine Placebo vocals mixed with Tool’s
experimental style, and a stoner rock sweetener
thrown in too. Their sound is offbeat and constantly
evolving, keeping you encapsulated and fixated
on the performance. It’s a really beautiful
blend of a traditional quartet interlaced with
the sounds of several electric keyboards, with
holds the ability to descend into some seriously
dark metal when needed. The instrumental sections
were most accomplished. All 4 instruments would
wail and meander through the minutes as the audience
stood in awe of the sounds they were hearing.
Wailing guitar solos with an almost honkey tonk
piano, really made the whole experience feel brand
The magic was kept with audience interaction too.
Fox never missed a moment to share gratitude or
a laugh, at one time asking two girls at the back
of the room, sat on sofas if “this sounded
any good?”. Once the nod of approval was
made, the band shared laughs and continued on.
The second half of the set began with a more blues
vibe, laying the building blocks again for further
epic instrumental jams. The vibe of the band complemented
the average turnout perfectly. It allowed the
band to relax, becoming involved with its audience
and turning the gig into a sort jam session atmosphere
instead of a show. Fox would chime in asking for
requests and how people discovered Big Elf, be
it through You Tube or CD’s. Stories of
the adventures of Big Elf are shared with us,
making an energy further personal and humorous.
Both guitarist and bassist Ace Mark and Duffy
Snowhill remained animated and clearly entertained
throughout the set, jumping around on-stage and
never shy to a little dancing.
The encore comes round and drummer 'Froth' emerges
alone. “Where's my band gone?!” he
enquires before being joined by the rest of the
team. Fox jokes further with bassist Duffy when
during the encore he becomes unaware of which
song is next. “2 strings away from glory!”
Fox jokes, as the band close their evening with
a drum a keys solo and disappear backstage just
as ominously as they emerged.
If you ever hear of the legend of Big Elf, make
sure you keep your ears open. You'll never know
what sort of goodness might just creep in.
Priestess - 4/5
Big Elf - 4/5
Words by Phil Davies
Photos by Michelle Midwinter.