The grotty basement-come-dive bar of Manchester’s Soup Kitchen on the face of it looks like the ideal place for Ho99o9 to stop off at on their UK tour. It fits their ethos of rawness and DIY perfectly, and definitely seems like the ideal playground for them to exercise the much-touted unpredictability.
Before that though, are a couple of unfortunately limp support acts, kicked off by London rapper Blue Daisy . There’s a clear passion and livewire sensibility to him in the way he convulses and flails around the front of the stage, but torrents of murky electronic drones coupled with clattering live drums and a dire sound system mean that he remains virtually inaudible for the vast majority.
Philadelphia drummer NAH  doesn’t fare too well either as, while there’s no faulting his drumming prowess (it would be foolish to even try and pick faults with him as a musician), the whole set transpires as essentially a twenty minute-long drum solo over looped electronics and vocal samples, and that initial jolt of excitement is lost very, very fast.
Still, every cloud – it all makes Ho99o9  seem even better. While on record their confrontational blend of punk, thrash and hip-hop would be enough to send a wave of discomfort through 95% of people with ears, who would probably describe it as “just noise” (an awful description at the best of times but one that’s at least in some part justified), in the live environment it makes a lot more sense. In spite of that (or perhaps because of that), it isn’t really worth singling out individual songs. That’s because what Ho99o9 play is less of a setlist and more of a score to the anarchy taking place both on and off the stage. theOGM rips off his blue face mask and shirt while pretty much maiming the soundbox given the noises that come out of it, while Eaddy is like a child at the peak of a sugar rush, climbing, back-flipping and stage-diving without even catching his breath. Then there’s the crowd, particularly the front half, a perpetual mess of flying limbs and shoved bodies that hardly ever ceases even for a moment.
In truth, that rating is what it is because of the near perfect ratio between each component. If one individual element was considerably higher or lower than the other, that would have huge repercussions. Instead, Ho99o9 make sure that the two bounce off each other, and it’s all a wonderfully chaotic scale model of a full-blown riot. Ho99o9’s brilliance doesn’t come from songwriting – it comes from the ability to twist those songs they have written into something that makes for a truly exciting and invigorating live experience, and that’s exactly what they deliver tonight.
Though don’t expect them to get much bigger. Usually there’s the hyperbolic journalistic trope with exciting new bands that there are ‘big things to come’, but don’t expect that with Ho99o9. This tiny, 200-capacity basement will probably be one of the biggest rooms they play, but that’s exactly the point. The Ho99o9 live experience thrives in rooms like this, rooms in which it doesn’t feel like there’s any sort of divide between band and crowd. That all makes you realise how clever Ho99o9 really are, tailoring their choices of venue to bleed out the optimum amount of in-your-face-ness to each show. And that’s why Ho99o9 – breathing as much life into the underground as anyone ever has – are one of the most exciting bands around right now.
Words by Luke Nuttall