Writer Mark Roberts / Photographer Connor Pope
The Crossing is a weird venue, a perfectly constructed live music room inside of South & City College Birmingham. The sound and the lighting are amazing with a stage built for a small festival. You wouldn’t know it was part of a college if you didn’t have to find the merch tables in the cafeteria.
Osees are a legendary act who’ve been slowly but surely building their fanbase consistently for twenty years, defying the usual pump-and-dump nature of the music industry. Check out their social media and you’ll realise they don’t really try to increase it through any PR trickery, their last Facebook post was in 2013.
Their reputation precedes them. I’m anticipating greatness.
We wait a bit for Psychic Graveyard who honestly, I’ve never heard of. I’m not too au fait with noise rock but I watched my fair share of it at Supersonic Festival last year and enjoyed most of it. I’ve now come to understand that Psychic Graveyard contains members of multiple noise rock acts with Eric Paul the lead singer having been on the same label as Death Grips and Clipping with one of his acts.
Not a bad pedigree then apparently.
As they enter the stage the energy is definitely there. They all possess an ungodly amount of movement which is anything but regular for your average human being. From the bearded gent on the right jumping up and down grinning, with his hands in jubilation like a toddler on ecstasy, to the lead singer walking as though he’s taken too much speed and screaming into the microphone.
This is quite the sensory experience.
Noise erupts from the band and there are impactful drums. It truly is disgusting. I can’t help but say it… this is terrible. The noise of the guitars/synths for me doesn’t create something huge with emotional impact. The instruments clash and bang, jarring inside me. They all occupy the same exact frequency space in the mix. It’s boxy and horrible.
I can’t seem to work out where the instruments are meant to fit into the drums. Maybe this is the sort of thing that isn’t to time but freely floats over the music. Even so, it’s just in no way enjoyable to me.
The singer also has no sense of mic technique, moving the mic everywhere around his head as he jolts back and forth. The vocals sound like they’re passing you by in a moving vehicle.
I hear one line the entire gig: “drown in piss”.
To be honest, I’d rather do that than watch this. I feel for the soundman, how the hell do you work out what this is meant to sound like?
Some people are clearly enjoying it and cheer as the band finishes, but there’s also a bunch of bemused faces around wondering (and rightly so) what just happened.
Osees come on very shortly after and we’re not disappointed. John Dwyer and co waltz on and get on with it. As they burst into ‘I Come From he Mountain’ my predictions over how good this show would be materialise. It’s exactly what you want from this sort of band. The crowd (including myself) opens up and a pit develops instantly – it’s going to be a big one tonight.
Osees rip through their set quickly going from track to track. Occasionally they pause for Dwyer to tune beyond tuning and play a new set of songs back to back. It’s slick as hell, punk as anything, and it’s downright incredible to watch. The guitars ping and shimmer, with Dwyer’s signature echo and doomy to razor-thin tones.
Tunes range from two minute stormers to 10 minute jams. Sections build and explode into the stratosphere, never breaking a second and giving us an almost relentless pace. As sweaty bodies push against each other and rocket around the room the pummeling onslaught continues.
We boogie through ‘Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster’ and then we drop out to ‘The Daily Heavy’ in all its psychedelic silliness, squeaky toy and all. It’s far more raucous than the album. That’s the case with all of their tunes live, it’s just that much more hard.
Dwyer, on the left, rolls forward and back in a lunge from the ball of one foot to the other. He watches as the two drummers interlock and interweave. Their keyboardist’s hair flies wildly behind the two percussionists who frame the center of the stage and on the right, the bassist bass-necks like the best of them.
Full punk energy unleashes when ‘A Foul Form’ comes in. The moshpit starts to take a darker edge. There are a couple of guys who are pushing the line of what’s camaraderie and what is going too far, but it remains civil. Although there is a verbal altercation between a muscly topless short man and a seven foot tall bloke.
There are a few technical issues throughout the set, mainly problems with the monitors, and lighting going directly into the band’s eyes from the rig. Dwyer finds it especially hard to get the spotlight out of his eyes after repeated requests to the lighting man, but it’s no issue. The mood never dies down, the tempo never lulls, and the show continues on.
No gimmicks, no performance theatrics; just the band and the audience.
Dwyer bids Birmingham a good night and says this will be their last song. The band ends on ‘C’, a boogieing jam that crescendos into perfectly danceable lines and memorable riffs with building sections that bring you back into the jam. In famous Osees style, there is no encore.
They’re a tour du force, a band to be reckoned with, and one that has inspired many. Osees are a revelatory experience live and even with a support that I didn’t like, I went away with no regrets.
To summarise, Osees are one of the best acts touring in the world right now and if you haven’t seen them you should cut off a leg to see them… See them… SEE THEM NOW. That’s is all.
Osees @ The Crossing 26.05.23 / Photographer Connor Pope