The Ex, WOLVON, Gebr de Nobel, Leiden, 5/3/15

The gig was so good that by the end they were roared back for more. Punks? Encore? Yep. This is Leiden, anything goes.

Sometimes it's best to go and enjoy a night out. Especially if it revolves round live music. You see, one of the great things about live music is its capacity to soothe, to heal, to make you forget; however fleetingly. And these were the overriding emotions conjured up by a brilliant gig by The Ex and WOLVON in the small room in the new Leiden pop templum, Gebr. de Nobel. This was the perfect setting, too. I'm beginning to love that little room. It's been a bit difficult writing about the place, as I'm one of the organisers of the AA nights there. But sod it, it deserves a mention.

Intimate, with a great sound, an increasingly recognizable set of regular gig goers and friendly, easy-going staff, the space has something about it that - if continually nurtured by decent crowds and eclectic sounds - could become pretty epic. The only thing I miss is a place for an oldie like me to sit down. Oh, and can someone oil make pushing the doors to the jakes a little less like an arm wrestle? Apart from that, top marks.

The Ex in Leiden. I've seen them in Bar en Boos, LVC and now here. It seems their new-found respectability and status goes hand-in-hand with swisher surroundings; regardless of Terrie's wariness of the new rash of multi-purpose, "civic" pop venues. A decent enough crowd was out as well, a mix of old class of 77 punks, the new wave of well-groomed converts to the cult of the Ex and a good number of Bollenstreek buccaneers, hoping for a memory-jog back to those crazy 90s/00s nights on the Kopenhinksteeg. First up were WOLVON who started quietly; it seemed the sound was balanced out to make a general, audible demonstration of the workings of the band rather than the all-out sandblasting we've been seeing at their gigs recently. Once we got used to that (and it did take a song or two to sink in) we settled back to enjoy this demonstration of gonzoid mathrock.

Somehow they've managed to get serious and keep their charm without sounding like they're trying. Ike and Ruben seem to have distilled the essence of their Cavalier wildness through their playing; Bram has a stronger, steadier presence and there's less gesturing and - well - pissing about. Their new songs are the key to this; forged on the road and with the memories of putting on shows in challenging joints from the Balkans to Buckinghamshire, these new tracks sound sleek and primed for maximum enjoyment. By contrast the tracks off Folds sound a tiny bit clunky when wheeled out, and weirdly under-powered compared to their new stuff. They just don't share the razor sharp, dynamic flexibility of the newies and tracks off the bother EP. On the night, things got louder and stretched by the end; their sound really is that of a blast furnace, you can almost hear the steel being stamped into shape. Their new rock sensibility is really to the fore at the moment, and this didn't go unnoticed in the room; Leiden audiences, though a bit reserved, have a natural headbanger mentality that's been forged in the sticks. People dug, and got sucked into the wind tunnel created by these Groningen Hairies. Yeah.

A short break (with some cracking tunes; Fat Whites, Crass - about 4 times - Wire, Buzzcocks, loads of hot punk tunes for the cats to tap along to) then The Ex. Now, I've seen The Ex a fair number of times and I'm buggered if I can ever remember them being anything less than righteous and bloody epic. This one was a special gig, up there with any I've seen them do. In fact, given the relaxed, happy atmosphere in the room this was a total party by the end; the band setting the tempo perfectly. Even when the pace dropped it felt right; the trust in the room was complete. New song Shut Up was superb, superb; a frazzled, left-field inquiry that sounded urgent and charming. We got a fair number of tracks off Enormous Door, such as That's Not A Virus, Every Sixth is Cracked and Maybe I Was The Pilot, and Kat guided the groovers through a stirring, celebratory take on Addis Hum. Did they do How Thick You Think too? I think they did. Oh, and Four Billion Tulip Bulbs was superb too; the crowd bouncing along to its weird counter rhythm (a sort of punked out reworking of Radar Love) and digging the subject more than most. You've got to remember the band were playing with the crowd's emotions at this point; it was the worst job most of the room had ever had... The gig was so good that by the end they were roared back for more. Punks? Encore? Yep. This is Leiden, anything goes.