Live Review/Travelogue: Silk Road at The Globe, Newcastle (09/03/23)

Before The Show

A few years ago marks the origin of this tale, when I first met them in a Wetherspoons by the River Tyne. The founders made good humoured first impressions over food. Grins were shared, pints drank, and confessions given, reporting they make post punk music, and call their songs bizarre things like ‘Mr Worldwide’ and ‘Travis Bingle’. They met studying science degrees, and the idea of science, music, and their dynamic influences were enough to raise my eyebrows, spark my imagination, and later, empty my pockets on yet another bus journey across the country.

To strangers of the trade, the national express can be like the Homeric galley. Last Friday was a big one, marking a homecoming gig for Sam Fender; many of his fans climbed aboard. The rest of us just tried our best to avoid Scylla and Charybdis – two ghastly creatures with sharpied on eyebrows and painted faces. They, emptying their lungs in Sam Fender songs, broken up by the clinking of copperberg bottles, spent 4 hours inquiring any man in a tracksuit for cocaine dealer numbers, and in the breaths between, boasting (in graphic detail) ’bout their profits prostituting themselves like. It was deadly. A woman near the front paid one of the creatures a ten pound note to move to the back, and the driver almost stalled in anger. The band i’m seeing tonight take this as a generality and offer their condolences when I finally arrive at The Globe, a grey faced venue that the band now have a residency at. By this time, the 5 members have already made Fender’s arrival an ongoing joke on their instagram stories while promoting tonights gig. Luke Enguita, Silk Road’s enigmatic frontman, marks the occasion by ending tonights set stating Silk Road are officially engaged in a ‘jihad’ with Sam Fender.

Today is Silk Road’s first headline gig, and debut single release, so we’re off to get food to celebrate the monument. Silk Road introduce me to the art of blue collared street food, and in unison tell me ‘we’re going to see ‘mr ‘creespy’. Keeping up with them, I learn mr creespy is a man who runs a pizza van. Crispy (or creespy) is his every second word, and he is a 24/7 hyperactive. In the 20 minutes waiting before soundcheck we dusted off 2 years of history, and I met the bands new members. The band now have home printed merch T Shirts, and bring a burner ‘silk phone’ to collect gig funds, hoping to make a profit back from those their drummer, Mikey Mancini made to support tonight’s gig working a side job. Mancini is on a airtight schedule…meeting us out of work, and telling me he’s on the dawn of a flight to Dublin to see Mount Eerie. Mr Creespy’s sudden cadences occasionally broke up our train of thought, and when he burned his hand on the stove and yelped, a family of frightened pigeons took refuge in the trees.

On the walk back to soundcheck I took a history lesson. The globe is a quirky venue and drinking space, consisting of two floors, i’m told they often put wildcard acts on upstairs…, latin dance classes and stuff, a good bit of entertainment if your support band sucks. Upon entering, the friendly Geordie lady on the bar kindly offers me coffee and puts out a bucket for band tips.

The Music

With confidence unbridled the 5 piece make their stage arrival just after 9pm. Seconds in, Enguita urges a timid crowd to move forward, bribing them like children with his hands, compassion in his tone, before the sounds of feedback wash away his voice. Peculiar pedal noise and prominent basslines weave knots between each other and after that we were in. Syncopated drums and organs ferried in and out of the loud mix, while Enguita’s urgent vocals took centre stage. The paranoid ramblings about what is happening to society phased in and out, ‘I don’t quite understand it, but I can feel it!’ he shrieks, before comparing the actions of the race in front of him to The Olympics. Some of it reminded me of First Issue era PIL, with it’s DIY noisy tendancies, but then the band flipped that on it’s head. Moving into a time signature breakdown in the latter third of the track, the band delivered some great skill in timing, each member getting his fair share of fame. Chemistry indeed.

As the track ends the small crowd roar into an joyful applause. Enguita, quick on his feet, introduces his band as if he’s on broadway, while Mancini plays a march beat. In a voice sticky with a slight Texan accent he intones: ‘Lemeee introduce ya to ma bannd’, before naming off each members astrological signs or comparing them to Greek dynasties, still in cowboy jargon, his voice pops the monitor speakers. SEJ-ITAARRIIUUSSS. PUH-PERSEUUS.

The number that follows is more plaintive sounding , and gives the audience some time to cool off from the fast paced punk of it’s predecessor. The dominating lead riffs set the mood, played by the multi instrumentalist, Ewan Goddard, who is now on trumpet, as opposed to organ synths. The moody jazzy touches were a great addition throughout the night, and in many cases, especially next to Enguita’s character led lyrics it can feel like an accusatory statement from the horn. When lyrics concern someone like Sid Mahogany, a troubled man who hides his religious designs and causes chaos, things get a bit mafia like. And it is probably intentional, given Paterson sounds like the coolest bassist on the planet at times like this, despite the blisters he later shows me on his hands, while trying to roll a cigarette painfully.

As the set continues, covers weave between originals, and they are non stop fun. A favourite comes when Enguita dedicates the Pina Collada song to his uncle, and perfects a delicious guitar solo midway through. The band also do the best Talking Heads impression going , when they play Psycho Killer. Things get really good however when they do an improvised number, full of chaotic pedal noise. Ramadan and Enguita give all the welly in them, and no one in the room would have known it was improvised if you’d asked. I only know because Mancini told me later with a grin. Here, Enguita had the audience by the throat, with lightning in his voice, he shouts I’M LIVING IN AN-AMERICAN TOWN while the band slide in and out of cacophonous noise rock passages that bring to mind much of what is coming out of Brixton currently. The stencilling of something very very good in my eyes, as is their constant time signature changes…for instance, one track is entirely in 5/4 and has it’s title proudly named after the signature.

The band, suffocating in sweat by this point, moved onto the grand attraction, their debut single ‘Travis Bingle’, a number about a dream of Enguita’s, where he found a dead body on the beach. Fittingly, dangerous red stage lighting washed over us and it’s guitar sound (to my ears quite governed by black midi) follows. Managing to keep time with blistered feet Enguita keeps the metronome, Paterson tries, and succeeds to catch up with him on his fretboard, while Ramadan creates moody textures, Goddard adds additional organ tension and Mancini, who I should note had already played for the support band and now this one for 45 minutes, has only just now taken of his wolly hat! By Jove. Keep your eyes and ears out for Silk Road, this is only the beginning for them but potential is overflowing in their DIY attitude.