Live Music + Gig Reviews

Taproot + Pulse Ultra @ Mean Fiddler, London

25 January 2002



The visit of Taproot, one of America’s hottest up-and-coming rock bands, to a venue as cosy as the Mean Fiddler, has left many an unfortunate fan waiting outside at the mercy of the far from magnanimous ticket touts.

Inside, The Mean Fiddler is as hot and crammed as I have seen it in years, even before support act and record label-mate, Pulse Ultra takes to the stage. Promoting their debut album, Headspace, it quickly becomes apparent that this quartet from Montreal is an unusual heavy metal band. Sure they have the angst, the suitably crunching guitar riffs and the expletive-ridden inter-song banter. However, these guys are seriously good musicians, to the point that one of their songs is played in a time signature that has the moshers not banging their heads, but rather scratching them as they try to figure out how to move their bodies to it. Impressive stuff.

After a short break, made wonderfully bearable by the playing of Anthrax over the PA system, Taproot bound onto stage. Guitarist Mike DeWolf, bassist Philip Lipscomb and drummer Jarrod Montague launch into the first song and at precisely the same moment, singer Stephen Richards stage-dives into the crowd. Now that surely has to beat the record for fastest band member exit from the stage, if such things exist. In fact, during the course of the gig Richards displays a penchant for mingling with the masses and does one whole song walking through the crowd and then surfing his way back.

Not that Taproot need to resort to gimmicks in order to win their fans’ favour – the songs are more than adequate. Whereas 2000’s debut album, Gift, was full of promising but straightforwardly aggressive tracks such as Smile, last year’s US top 20 album, Welcome, was a giant stride forward, adding more melody and Alice In Chains-style, downbeat harmonies to the heaviness.

Tonight, Taproot’s bludgeoning live approach means that some of Welcome’s songs lose their subtlety, with the result that the songs from Gift sometimes come off better. But this is a small complaint: the likes of Myself and Mine are wonderfully delivered, while the set-closer, Poem, is a driving rock song with the type of memorable chorus that many bands spend albums trying to write.

Alas, it is all over too soon, even if it is refreshing to see a band dispense with the pretensions of an encore. A definite case of time having flown while we had fun. Only next time, can we have that fun somewhere slightly bigger, please?

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More on Taproot
Taproot – Blue-Sky Research
Taproot + Pulse Ultra @ Mean Fiddler, London