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GREAT EXPECTATIONS

End of Fashion
End of Fashion

END OF FASHION
BADLANDS BAR
29 August 2020
Photos by Beau Watson Photography

As you pass through this life, you come across a bunch of truisms, you know, stuff like, never meet your heroes (Elvis Costello proved that one for me!), and never have expectations; the point of this one being, if you do, the experience will never live up to whatever you imagine it might be.

I’d naively come along wondering who they might get up to play the horns on ‘Fussy’, probably one of the band’s best-known tracks from 2008’s Book Of Lies.  I needn’t have worried my pretty little head.

Trouble is, with a band like End Of Fashion, it’s difficult not to go in expecting … something and, to make things worse, expecting that that something will be on the right side of good.  They’ve got too much history to be able to come at them tabula rasa.

So, I will acknowledge a couple of things before going any further with this review.  I’d never seen End Of Fashion before last Saturday and I went in with high hopes.  Always a big mistake!

Walking into a COVID-full Badlands Bar, it was clear from the buzz in the room that I wasn’t the only one with expectations.  Dancers from Sugar Blue Burlesque were doing what go-go dancers used to do back in the day, dancing on stage with more than enough skill and guile to make punters like myself acutely aware of our lack of coordination, and kicking the night off with the sort of good natured allure that, thankfully, in these enlightened times, can be seen for exactly what it is — a celebration of life and living.

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So far so good.

Then the lights went down and Moana took the stage.

Coming off a six-month COVID-enforced hiatus, front woman, Moana Mayatrix, was the first to acknowledge the band were a bit rusty and, it’s true, her vocals sounded somewhat strangled by nerves for the first few moments of their set opener.  But, once they found top gear it was clear Moana were back better, bigger and more widescreen than ever.

This is a band that sounds and looks like it was made for big stages.  They’re psychedelic punks who play a brand of art rock that is primal, eviscerating, mesmerising.  It’s fury as art / art as fury and it’s fucking fabulous!

Moana Mayatrix has a voice with a timbre and quality that reminds me of Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker.  It’s fragile and overwhelmingly powerful, and her delivery is a pummelling stream of lyricism, on-the-edge screaming, guttural sklonks and raw emotion.  In full flight, she is a sight to behold and, tonight, dressed from head to toe in rocket-ship red, Mayatrix held the growing Badlands crowd in the palm of her hand as she put her band through their paces, finding them up to the task at every turn.

Did I leave the gas on?

Aided and abeted by one of the best guitarists going around, Willow Fearns, a woman who can drag from her guitar sounds that should not be technically or humanly possible, and the more than capable rhythm section of Austin Rogers (bass) and Lochlan Hoffman (drums), Mayatrix and her band are a visual and aural sensation.

What happens if I do this?

This night they they more than earned their ‘special guest’ status, leaving the stage almost on fire, and your correspondent wondering just how End Of Fashion would top that.

Picking an opening act is a tricky business.  They have to be good enough to build the expectation of better things to come, but they can’t be so good that the headline act cringes at the thought of going on after them.  Maybe tonight was going to be the night that Moana played Van Halen to End Of Fashion’s Black Sabbath?  It was a juicy contemplation.  The mighty always get their comeuppance sooner or later, so why not be there to witness it?

End Of Fashion preluded their set with a showing of the video for ‘Breakthru’, the single they were here to launch. 

‘Breakthru’ is a welcome return from Justin Burford and his band.  When I spoke to Burford a year ago, he was upbeat about returning to End Of Fashion and writing new songs, saying, “I feel really good about them.

“To be honest, I thought that was done … until late last year.  I was consolidating all of the music that I’d been working on over the last five years and realised that I’d accumulated a good number of what I’d call classic Fash sounding songs.  And that was the catalyst.  I was like, ‘I think I’ve got some tunes here!’”

It’s all well and good the author spruiking their own work, but what do the punters think?  Well, this punter thinks ‘Breakthru’ is a classic End Of Fashion track that gives ample space for Burford’s vocals — he’s still one of the best vocalists you’re ever likely to hear — and is a masterclass in classic, hooky songwriting that builds and builds until, eventually it lets you down gently so you’re ready to do it all over again.  Oh, yeah, it’s classic Fash!

So, you can forgive me, having listened to the track a bit before last Saturday and then hearing it again as the tape rolled on the VHS machine and the video rolled on the big screen at the back of the Badlands stage, for having expectations.  Can’t you?

From the opening notes of ‘Too Careful’, the title track from End Of Fashion’s second EP, it was evident that I was about to spend the next 80 minutes having my expectations forcibly dismantled and then reconstructed in a completely different image.  End Of Fashion hit the stage like it was absolutely going to be their last time and proceeded to put on a show for the ages. 

The original charismatic stuntman

I’d naively come along wondering who they might get up to play the horns on ‘Fussy’, probably one of the band’s best-known tracks from 2008’s Book Of Lies.  I needn’t have worried my pretty little head.  End Of Fashion smashed through that song like it was some sort of wild psychobilly stomp.  They’d just jolted through ‘Breakthru’ and the tracks between the opener and the new single had me in mind of a heavy-metal Beatles, all song writing muscle and in your face delivery.  The songs in the bracket that followed ‘Breakthru’ and ‘Fussy’ were more of same, better even.

I’m out of breath again writing about it now, and I feel like a gushy teenager, but this was the business! 

End Of Fashion reinvented themselves as a live band last Saturday (How do I know?  Thank you YouTube, now please fuck off with your ‘information’.).  They took a blowtorch to their best-known songs, threw in a good handful of new tracks which, on the night, sounded as good as, if not better than their best output to date, and completely smashed it.  This was a lesson in reinvention that other bands making any sort of comeback would be wise to study.  It doesn’t matter how good the new songs are, if it’s just more of same that’s only ever going to gain you passing attention.

Here’s a church, here is a steeple

What Justin Burford and End Of Fashion are obviously intent on is far more than eking out the last drops of magic from the potion bottle, they’ve recreated themselves and beefed up the recipe.  Not so much that people will get confused, but enough to maintain relevance, excite audiences and gain new fans.

From the punters’ response last Saturday, the hundreds of beaming faces and bouncing bodies of all ages, they got it bang on.

In my estimation, End Of Fashion have just announced themselves as contenders again.  This was premier league stuff, right off the top of the top shelf where few bands are capable of reaching.

End Of Fashion shattered every single one of my expectations and I’m still smiling about it.

Speaking to Burford post show, he said he felt, “Physically broken, spiritually high.”  Having witnessed his performance — part charismatic stuntman, part dime store Jesus, with vocals that touched the stratosphere — that’s a perfect summation.

Burford continued so say, “Mostly I feel love. Love for the crowd and love for my band. I’m extremely excited about the music we have coming too. We’re getting straight into the studio this week. No rest for the wicked.”

Bravo!  Because that’s what the world needs right now, One More Song from End Of Fashion and then another, and another …

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