nxb3 on tour – Islet at The Chocolate Factory, Derby

I first saw Islet at the Baltic annexe, Baltic39 in High Bridge, Newcastle in January as part of the RIFF festival closing event and was so impressed by their uniquely unorthodox experimental approach to their music I knew I had to see them again. This was easier said than done as their gigs are few and far between and even then they are usually as part of either music festivals or art exhibitions. Holy Smokes came to the rescue in the form of a gig at The Chocolate Factory in Derby. The Chocalate Factory is exactly what it says on the tin, an old industrial unit that was once home to a chocolate factory. Now the machinery has been completely removed and all the walls whitewashed to make a general exhibition, performance and arts space in the middle of an industrial area between the railway station and the town centre. I had met up with a couple of mates in the legendary Derby watering hole The Brunswick Inn for a couple of jars before the gig. We got a bit thirsty en-route to the venue so popped into the Alexandra (about 50 yards away) for a swift one and arrived at the venue around 8:15. Luckily one of the lads I met up with had lived in Derby for a couple of years and knew where the Chocolate Factory was as it was an anonymous industrial unit with no signs at all indicating what artistic treasures lay inside.

Once inside we stopped off at the bar and grabbed some bottled Jennings beer and had a quick tour of the exhibition which was a video and a photographic exhibition of boxing images by a local artist. Then it was round the corner to the performance area to see the Electronic music based support band, Ghost Twins. Not really my type of music although it was Ok when they upped the tempo and became more rock orientated. All the keyboards and drum kit got removed in record time and Islet got their gear sorted out and sound checked ready for the start of their set at 9:30.

At 9:25 they made their way to the back of the hall and with hand bells ringing, all the band members wandered through the crowd towards the stage area with the bells becoming increasingly loud as they approached the stage. The drums were the first to start, very quietly at first then getting progressively louder as Emma started leaping around and yelping the vocals to the magnificent ‘This Fortune’ which is the stunning opening track of the set. ‘Ringerz’ was next with Mark taking over the lead vocals now for the rest of the gig and Emma moving over to be second drummer. As the track started she was drumming on the lighting gantry, one of the monitors then back on the gantry before starting on the drums proper as well as providing backing vocals to Mark. Ringerz continued into a slower more melodic (at times) track and as it faded to the end Mark says that song was called ‘Triangulation Station’, it is about a triangulation station which got a few blank looks from the audience. He went on to say “thanks for having us, who got given a chocolate on the way in?” Someone shouted out no and Mark says “WTF, you should get back there and say what is wrong with him!” They started the slow build up into the magnificent ‘Iris’ which saw Mark throwing and dragging his keyboard around the stage (well the area of the floor that served as a stage) and after another round of thanks to the Format festival and Holy Smokes the heavy drum intro of ‘Tripping through the Blue Room Part I’ preceeded ‘part II’ and the last track of the set was ‘Carlos’.

This was another top notch gig from this uniquely different band, a shorter set than the last time I saw them in Newcastle but I wasn’t complaining as it meant I could see most of another gig in the centre of town straight after they finished. This is yet another band on the must see again list which really is getting quite long now…



nxb3 on tour – Penetration at The Hairy Dog, Derby

It’s been a while since I last saw Penetration at the Durham Punk Festival in September 2012 so when this latest tour was announced I was hoping to see them a few times along the way. As more and more dates were released it became apparent that all the dates within travelling distance (and I do travel a long way to gigs) were when I was scheduled to be working offshore apart from the Georgian Theatre in Stockton. The only other realistic gig was Derby but I was already committed to another gig at The Chocolate Factory in Derby and didn’t want to back out. I got myself a ticket ‘just in case’ and in the days before the gig, I took to twitter to try and get some time separation between the two gigs. Before travelling down I got confirmation the band at the chocolate factory was due to start at 21:30 and Penetration were due to start their set at 22:15 so doing both gigs was tight but do-able.

The gig at the Chocolate Factory finished at 22:10 so then it was a fast walk across town (I’m too old and knackered and the docs to heavy to run) and I got to the Hairy Dog at 22:25. I couldn’t hear the band but went straight upstairs, and found myself a good position to watch the band in front of Pauline about 5 rows back from the stage.

There was a bit of banter between the audience and Pauline going on about a plectrum for some reason and once that had finished they played one of their newer songs which has been a part of their set for the last couple of years, ‘The Feeling’. I thought this was a bit weak when I first heard it but have got to admit it has been steadily growing on me ever since. That was the one and only new song, everything else taken from “Moving Targets” and “Coming Up For Air” the first of which was ‘She Is The Slave’. Pauline says “We will get more new ones but we guess people want to hear the old ones and people would get very pissed off if we did a whole new set” and the band launch straight into Movement. Pauline asks the sound engineer to put a bit of echo on for the start of ‘Free Money’ and follow that up with ‘Silent Community’ and ‘Don’t Dictate’ which got the small mosh pit right at the front quite a bit bigger. A bit more banter while Pauline sat down for a breather and introduced Reunion and Nostalgia then it was straight into ‘Come Into The open’ and the main set closed with the usual ‘Shout Above The Noise’
The band walked off the side of the stage into a darkened room but came back out almost immediately. “Well here we are says Pauline, lets do a few more” and they let rip with ‘Firing Squad’ which had everyone else singing along. ‘Danger Signs’ quickly followed and the excellent ‘Stone Heroes finished the gig off.

I since found out that I only missed 3 tracks, Future Daze, Lovers Of Outrage and Sea Song.

This was one of the better Penetration gigs that I have been to, the band clearly enjoyed themselves playing the gig with Rob especially smiling and laughing. Right from the moment I walked into the room there was a mosh pit going down the front which only got bigger as the gig progressed. Not many talkers around me either with everyone’s attention fixed firmly on the band.

To the casual passer by The Hairy Dog is a bit tatty and run down so won’t get much passing trade, but don’t let that fool you, the list of forthcoming bands was huge with some pretty big names on the list, the upstairs room where they hold the gigs is a decent size at about 150 capacity and the sound where I was standing was excellent. There was a large banner outside advertising the Springhead Brewery but I wasn’t expecting much in the way of their beers to be on. How wrong was I about that, “The Leveller” and “Maid Marian” were both excellent and there was a third available as well as a hand pump not in use at the time.

I’d love to be a regular at The Hairy Dog but unfortunately that won’t happen as the stupidly expensive cost of the train ticket to Derby was three (yes 3) times the price I paid for the hotel room for the night.

I don’t suppose you can relocate The Hairy Dog about 180 miles to the north?

Use it don’t lose it Derby, you have a really good pub and venue here.


The gig was recorded by someone in the audience and can be found here: