Biffy Clyro, Hell is for Heroes, Ghostride

Tim Miller 26/02/2005

The lights go out and the voices go up, as dark shadowed figures emerge stage right, practically tripping over each other on the cramped stage. 8:15 - Ghostride say the posters, and it's spot on quarter past.

The arena, if you could call it that, is the size of your typical primary school disco venue - which is absolutely intense for watching bands. The speakers seem to tower higher than usual and the sound, as Ghostride start up, literally hurts your ears. Ghostride, from southern California, are a peculiar breed of person. The bassist looks as though he should be in a Status Quo tribute band, while the guitarist and lead singer both look deceptively younger than they probably are.

Not particularly anything special, Ghostride trawl through half an hour of drop-D drudgery, with the occasional power riff and softly whispered lyric. Most songs go into half-time, as is wont with bands doing this sort of emo type music, and a couple even go into half-time of half-time, every single beat a sledge hammer chord and crashed cymbal. It doesn't make for particularly interesting listening, and it's a shame the vocals, which sound more than competent, are smothered by a wave of often incomprehensible distortion.

Support number 2, Hell is for Heroes, were really onto something a couple of years back, but are currently without a record label. It's difficult to see why. Even though they look like they've only just finished their homework and have taken the bus here tonight, their set is tight and they look like a band having fun, who are just glad to be playing live. Their half an hour support is much more enjoyable, and the crowd are on the verge of something wild. Screaming through a handful of songs, and belting out in good voice the rest, vocalist Justin led HIFH through a thoroughly triumphant set. What they do is not especially original, but Hell is For Heroes do the post-hardcore thing a hell of a lot better than some out there at the moment, and are surely on the way back. Brilliantly, Justin dives into the crowd and crowd-surfs from the front to the right hand side about half way back, across the middle of the crowd to the left hand side, and back towards the front again, before closing the set. He was passed around like Chlamydia among chavs.

Well received though the Heroes were, tonight is all about Biffy Clyro, who seem to be the 'most underrated band ever' according to several people. While the arena resembles the school disco hall, the audience partially matches this: the crowd is full of small girls in their early teens. Small, young, violent girls. Though most of the crowd is largely shaggy haired males, these tiny powerpuff girls seem to be everywhere. But when the lights go out for Biffy to arrive, there are yelps of ecstasy from virtually every member of the audience.

As Biffy Clyro kick into the opening bar, the entire room seems to breathe in and surge forward before exploding into a mass of elbows, knees, hair and teeth. The place goes wild. In 10 seconds the front is pushing back gasping for air while the middle is pushing forward for more, while those at the back seem bewildered as to how they got there. The rest of the night follows much the same pattern.

Biffy Clyro came onstage at 10pm, and played a full length set going onto just past half 11. Every single song is received and reciprocated like an anthem, 'Blackened Sky' and 'Questions and Answers' standing out. Despite Biffy Clyro's continuing inability to breakthrough properly to the mainstream market, these loyal fans clearly love their Biffy (“ 'MON THE BIFFY” the war cry) and hold Simon Neil as some sort of messiah. Looking like a 1970s John Lennon, Neil orchestrates the mass frenzy, aided by the nuclear energy the three-piece band produce, even if they do look as though this is the last night of a hectic tour and they only played Astoria yesterday.

But Biffy Clyro are more than just a band about wild loudness. There's real effort in the songs, an attention to detail which probably sounds even better on CD. Biffy swing through time signatures, scream and glide simultaneously through lyrics, and crunch and spit taut guitar riffs out as though dispensing razorblades. Word for word the vocals are matched by the rapturous crowd, and when there's no vocals, there's just crazy loose-necked windmill-armed dancing.

There's brief respite, followed by a four song encore, starting with the only acoustic number of the night. Lighters aloft, the crowd emulates the video to Staind's weepy number Outside as a solo Simon Neil croons peacefully. After that, the madness reigns once again. Closing with, I think, '57', the crowd remove themselves from the room and each other, with faces all a mixture of emotional drainage and emotional bliss.

“We love to tour” said Simon Neil at one point, and these fans would probably see them every day of the year if it was physically possible to reproduce the sort of intensity Biffy Clyro brought to this tiny venue day after day. The love in the air verged on obsession, so perhaps it's just as well. The still-animated crowd piles out into the fresh air, many into waiting cars (bless) or off down the road in wobbly amazement. All I can think about is bed, and tomorrow I'll get my foot X-rayed, wash off the sweat which is at least two-parts other people's, and see if I can remove the tooth embedded in the back of my head.