Photo: Juliette Boulay

Live Review: Chat Pile at Tufnell Park Dome, London – August 14, 2023

Chat Pile, everyone’s favourite noise rock/sludge band from Oklahoma City, do not jump to anyone else’s beat but their own. For the band’s first ever London show, they acknowledge what the crowd want, but they pretty much choose to ignore it. “Hey, what songs do you guys want to hear tonight?” asks singer Raygun Busch early in the set. As the crowd mostly holler for “WHY”, “Slaughterhouse” and other tracks from last year’s astonishing God’s Country, he raises a deft smile that suggests we may not be getting what we expect. 

A major case in point is the presence of Petbrick on the bill. In 2020, Chat Pile released a cover of Sepultura’s “Roots, Bloody Roots” and Iggor Cavalera drums in Petbrick and previously for Sepultura. So a bog standard band might invite Cavalera onstage to perform the song at some point. But Chat Pile don’t do what you think they will, so this fails to happen. It doesn’t even feel like a missed opportunity, more a statement of intent. Both of these bands make no compromises.  

The duo of Cavalera and Wayne Adams make beautiful, harsh noise as Petbrick. Seeing Cavalera drape a banner over his bass drum that says “Noise Against Fascism” is a sight for the ages, as is opener “Primer” which is even more feral tonight than on 2022’s excellent Liminal album. The twisted beats and melodies across the set morph between industrial metal and techno in the blink of an eye, but there’s precision in amongst the maelstrom of noise. And the pair are clearly having fun. Cavalera takes cues from Adams who reels about behind a bank of electronic controls, as the duo build their set to a propulsive climax. 

“What are the best films about London?” asks a topless, prowling Busch two songs into Chat Pile’s set. This is a theme of connection between band and audience that is returned to on several occasions between songs, but nobody in attendance is brave or astute enough to give the correct response of Paddington – yeah, it’s true. The top three in my opinion are Paddington, Performance and Spice World, if you’re wondering. 

The band tear through an opening salvo of “The Mask” and “Mask” (yep, they’re {that} level of awkward) and there’s a clear sense that the band are having the time of their lives up there. The politest of moshes breaks out at the start of “Wicked Puppet Dance”, while “grimace_smoking_weed.jpeg” is even more intense live than on record. 

There’s a sense of stoicism that runs through Chat Pile’s spine. Cap’n Ron’s drumming is metronomic and efficient, while Busch’s stage presence wanders between affable ringleader between songs and disturbed documenter of the darker sides of reality while delivering the lyrics. It’s the limbs of the band that provide the energy as he’s flanked by Stin on bass who is all grins and warmth, while Luther Manhole on guitar is clearly living out his teenage dreams on stage. Towards the end, he even goes into a full on “falling backwards whilst playing guitar” moment straight out of the Nigel Tufnel from Spinal Tap playbook (we’re in Tufnell Park, after all). 

There are some deep cuts tonight, as the band promise a completely different set for the second of their sold out shows the following night. From the reaction of the crowd when they hear this, it’s clear there’s a general consensus that this might not be ideal. As if Chat Pile care. The film theme is doubled down when the band play a rousing version of “Tenkiller” which comes after a pensive take on “Pamela” with its stream of consciousness vocals feeling like the narration to a mumblecore movie. All four of the tracks from their wonderful 2019 Remove Your Skin Please EP are played, and the closing pair of “Dallas Beltway” and “Garbage Man” are sinister, brooding, and intense. Busch ends up lying on the floor, shoeless and shirtless, while Stin and Luther Manhole mirror the audience by having huge grins on their faces. The band leave, the house lights come on, and the evening’s done. A classic “leave ‘em wanting more” kind of a gig. Intense, brutal, brilliant.