This one is a freebie in more ways than one. As with all other performers at 95bFM’s bStreet Festival, Bridge Burner’s set was free entry. This review is also “free.” I didn’t arrange it with 13th Floor beforehand, I was at the gig in no role except a metal fan who liked Bridge Burner’s debut EP, and I’ll be sending it to my editor out of the blue just cause I want to write it.
First a bit of a segue: I visited friends in Wellington recently, and went to a tiny jazz school gig in the middle of that epic storm. I enthused to them that I loved the experience of simply having a group of passionate musicians in a small room, playing to the best of their talent because that’s what they did, that’s what they were. I mentioned that I was looking forward to discovering where those rooms happen in Auckland. Despite being a sharply different genre and venue, I felt that Bridge Burner’s set at Audio Foundation was one of those rooms. Playing to a dozen people or so, the trio played with an intensity that seemed self-contained, like if we all left they’d keep blasting fury into the empty room.
Dig into the past of Bridge Burner’s members and you find old familiar names: Witchrist, Diocletian, Ulcerate, Nullifier, 8 Foot Sativa. That experience was on show- the drums and guitar are tight. Performing without a bassist they stick closer than usual in the listener’s ear- rattling blast beats and snare hits talking to snarling riffs. The pace doesn’t let up much, but when it does they have time to cool off the assault and show off some smart tempo shifts, catchier rhythms and even the briefest moments of melody. Mostly though, we’re down in the gutter where it’s all distortion and violence.
It would be impressive if you could discern them live, or even much in the studio, but dig into vocalist Ben Read’s lyrics and you find nihilism and loathing mixed with punk’s hatred for injustice and rage for the vulnerable. Rape culture, inequality, self loathing and suicide, it’s a personal and societal mix that Bridge Burner seem very fucking pissed off about. Performed live, you might not hear the words but you’d have to be dead for Read’s performance not to make an impact. Throwing his body around over his growls and screams, beating his head with the microphone, clawing at his throat, it was visceral to witness. At times he even threw the mic down to throw his arms out and scream, face contorted, at the ceiling. Even against the talent of his bandmates, that ferocity was the highlight of the set for me. It lent the already pummeling music meaning, even if that meaning was a spiteful howl into the abyss. Sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
So that was Bridge Burner. If you like heavy music, see them. In fairness to bStreet, I should acknowledge there were in fact other acts performing. In our less than professionally minded wanderings we also enjoyed the funky electronic art grooves of Yoko Zuna, and the swirly shoegaze of Roy Irwin.