Factory Floor; Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds, 4/12/13
A few weeks before this concert one of my housemates walked into my room and said the music I was listening to, Factory Floor, sounded like something out of a 90’s video game. Whilst this may mainly show off my housemate’s lack of knowledge about video games is comparable to her lack of knowledge about music (I presume she meant 80’s video games), it does inadvertently raise a good point. Factory Floor’s eponymous debut LP does contain the “bleeps and bloops” that would not go amiss in an old NES video game, yet they are an entirely different proposition live.
They appeared on stage without the crowd even really noticing and someone had to point out to me that they had started whilst I was still chatting. For those first few minutes everything they did was veiled behind the cover of smoke as their slow intro built and built until Nik Colk struck her guitar with a drum stick like a gong signifying the show had truly begun. The most fantastic thing about the band live, and one of the greatest weaknesses of the album, is their ability to hold onto their momentum with the music never really stopping between songs. Helped through their method of improvisation and lack of interludes (which plague the album), the music was incredibly fluid and surprisingly danceable, at least to the more fearless punter.
Technical difficulties seemed a recurring problem throughout the gig for the band, although I don’t know whether this affected anyone in the crowd’s enjoyment of the show. It may have been what led to the strangest moment of the show, drummer Gabriel Gurnsey exiting the stage in what seemed like quite the sulk. I instantly feared how this might affect the rest of the performance, as up to the point of it being non-existent the drumming had been excellent. My fears proved unfounded though, as the show was already steeped in improvisation and the remaining two members handled the situation adeptly. Gurnsey returned to the stage about ten minutes later to cheers from the crowd and jokingly from his band, which made him come across as a little embarrassed about the inexplicable situation.
The other technical difficulties the band experienced, related to the sound levels possibly not helped by the venue’s slightly awkward layout. Band members frequently making what looked like turn it up hand signals to the soundboard, despite the already intense noise levels. The show had the highest number of earplugs I have seen since a My Bloody Valentine show earlier this year, although at that gig they handed them out for free. The noise levels were not to the show’s detriment though; in fact it was the exact opposite. The loudness of the show was necessary to get across that slow building feeling they created and I think the lack of a forced deafening noise level is another problem with the album as it makes it easier to lose concentration on.
I had heard from friends Factory Floor were a better live band then on recording but there was no way I could have imagined the step up to be this great. Their show turned a good but fatally flawed album into the most engaging live performance I’ve seen all year.