Disclaimer: Brace yourselves, these may be the worst gig photos ever taken! I decided they were slightly better than none at all.
On the punk circuit there is a risk of seeing the same 10 touring bands again and again, so it’s always appealing to discover new acts. It takes cheap all-day gigs like the Kick The Crutches all-dayer to enable us to do that: when it’s only £5 to see 12 bands you know it’s going to be worth it.
Although there are bands I already love on the line-up today (I’m most excited for The Kimberly Steaks, Pizzatramp and Werecats) the real draw for me is the bands I’ve not seen before. On A Hiding To Nothing, Nietzsche Trigger Finger, Fastfade and Strange Planes are all bands I’ve listened to and heard a lot about lately, but who I’ve not had the opportunity to see live. There is also plenty of genre diversity in the line-up to keep people on their toes for the whole day. I can’t wait.
Fastfade open the show, amusingly already running five minutes behind schedule. They’re a young three-piece from Enfield, playing strong back-to-basics fast punk, like NOFX but smarter. It’s really enjoyable. Three songs in, there’s a drunk heckler shouting ‘one more song’, apparently missing the fact that they’ve got quite a few left. It’s proves for an amusing between-song piece, before they crack into a song appropriately named Idiot. Playing at 2.45pm they grumble about it being too early to start boozing, but late enough for the coffee to have worn off, but they still provide a lively, energetic show. On the last song they toss a drumstick out into the crowd, only to ask us to throw it back because the drummer actually needs it: one of those lovely small-gig moments.
It’s not often that a band blow you out of the water like Nietzsche Trigger Finger. I’ve heard of the duo from Bristol, but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to see them. They’re a complete revelation; I pity the poor punters who haven’t made it to the venue in time for their early set. They play stripped-back thrash with off-the-wall lyrics and funny referential song titles like ‘Gone Girl’ Cat vs. Twitter Eggs, 9/11 Two and Reinventing Kanye West. They drift beautifully from diabolically heavy, to fast hardcore, to clever, percussive acapella sections. I can’t wait to catch them again, and I strongly recommend that you go listen to everything they’ve ever recorded. It’s intricate, interesting and totally unique.
Next up is Strange Planes, who play bass-driven melodic rock with hints of punk. At this point, I’m drinking a coffee from a shop round the corner that tastes like diesel and pure hatred combined, which is mildly distracting. Conversely, the musical change of pace is accessible and instantly enjoyable. They achieve a great mix of different tones in their vocal harmonies, and the excellent, complex bass really stands out. I love every slow, moody second of their set. The coffee tastes better once it’s stripped away my tastebuds.
It’s time for super-fun upbeat punk from Werecats. Their poppy melodic tunes never fail to get the crowd moving and singing along, and this is no exception. The title track of their latest EP My Boyfriend’s a Werewolf sounds great, with Pip and Cici switching lead vocals between songs and nailing the harmonies. They’ve got an energetic Fat Wreck feel, in the camp of Teenage Bottlerocket or Bad Cop/Bad Cop, while toeing the classic Ramones line. Werecats are more fun than a ball pool full of puppies wearing party hats, and tight to boot. It’s lovely to see them again, and I can’t resist having a dance-about.
Brocker are up next, playing punk with a more classic rock ‘n’ roll feel. Having never caught them before, I’m immediately reminded of The Living End – they’re missing the double-bass, otherwise they’ve got it nailed. They flit smoothly between classic riffs, danceable ska and boozy streetpunk singalongs, tying it all together with a tons of attitude and some poorly-chosen orange sunglasses.
There’s a veritable smorgasboard of merchandise available, spread across one huge table on the left of the venue, including distros from Umlaut Records and Charlie’s Big Ray Gun Records. It’s all too easy to spend £20 on new CDs from Umlaut, and I have to resist Pizzatramp t-shirts and EPs from every band playing. As the New Cross Inn’s a pub with windows facing out onto the street, there’s usually someone stopping and peering curiously at the bands playing inside. Some look with wonder, others look with disgust – it’s a source of amusement for the whole day.
I get my gruff fix from Misgivings, possibly my favourite band of the day. Hailing from Portsmouth, they’re an abrasive, melodic quartet, blessed with the same hooks-and-honesty appeal of bands like Jawbreaker and Iron Chic. The band divide vocal duties between Will Pearce and Ollie Richardson – it’s the combination of both raw, passionate voices that make this band so special. Will breaks a string during the first song which bring the set up a halt, but the day is quickly saved by Mug’s Mark Bell. The new guitar carries them through a great, if slightly functional set.
Jack Wiseman, the ball of sunshine behind Kick The Crutches, makes an appearance with his own band On A Hiding To Nothing next. They’re incredibly fast (or at least on a par with NOFX) without losing any clarity from the lyrics or melody. The set is entertainingly energetic, even though guitarist Hassan Afaneh’s has come straight off a long-arse night shift and a show with his other band, Triple Sundae. In contrast, it’s thoroughly amusing watching Jack bounce around on stage like he’s been huffing lemon sherbet all day.
Up next are Natterers who, in my opinion, are going to be the next must-see name in the UK punk scene. They are a rampage of hardcore punk from Yorkshire, standing out through Emma’s satisfyingly shouty-as-fuck vocal approach. She spends the set marching across the dancefloor to the drumbeat, making the most of a long mic-lead. Numb is an staggeringly fast thrash tune, just what you need to shake up the crowd in time to cross from the day into the heavier nighttime entertainment.
I just about have time to wolf down a tasty falafel wrap (so good it’s noteworthy) before Mug’s set. Outside I encounter a man expressing a relaxed but genuine concern about permanently losing his girlfriend to Pizzatramp’s Jimmy No Whammy, who she’s deep in conversation with. As one of the most exiciting bands on the circuit right now it seems like a genuine risk.
I’ve been really looking forward to seeing Mug, and their set exceeds my already high expectations. Their experience shows through a tight performance: they have a form and clarity absent in some of the other bands today, stylistically landing them somewhere between Millencolin and Propagandhi. They have a classic punk rock sound with a lot of overt 90s skatepunk influences, but they make it their own with an unusual vocal that’s closer to classic rock. They’ve got energy and swagger and, in short, it works. Towards the end of the set they throw in version of Lagwagon’s Mr Coffee that gets the whole crowd singing along and punching the air for the first time today.
Pizzatramp arrive onstage with their customary thrash assault, charging through Blowing Chunks, Photo Wanker and Two Dogs Six Legs. The first pit of the day swiftly opens. The man I met earlier, who was concerned about losing his girlfriend to Pizzatramp, does come quite close to losing her during the gloriously over-enthusastic dancing to Ciggy Butt Brain. It quickly quiets down when one particularly excitable fan starts throwing elbows – a few pints and one guitar amp head are casualties of his enthusiasm.
Even if you weren’t into punk that’s this hardcore, you couldn’t fail to love Pizzatramp. Their banter is second-to-none. They pull off a fake-ending skit during The Shredder that’s solid gold comedy. Today’s permutation of I Hope You Fucking Die goes out to everyone outside the gig, followed by I’m Glad You Didn’t Die for everyone at the gig, I Know Your Name Is Al for a man not called Steve, and I Fucking Love You Pwos for Wonk Unit’s infamous 4-stringer.
I’m enormously excited for The Kimberly Steaks, who bring us happy poppy fun all the way from Glasgow. It’s good, clean, perfectly crafted pop-punk, precisely the way the genre should be played. On My Mind and Domestic Life are never-failing bangers, but their whole set is strewn with singalong choruses and three-chord masterpieces. Wrong Exit is early Greenday remodelled with an added dose of Scottish grit, vigour and integrity. They manage to express the naive 16-year-old excitement I used to feel, before I realised how shite adult life was going to turn out. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of seeing them.
Vanilla Pod were originally booked to headline but had to pull out (for a good reason – namely that singer, Rob, chose not to pull out 9 months ago), so Essex hardcore act PINTS finish off the show with a drunken riot. They’ve got roots in old-school streetpunk and oi, and a heap of swagger to go with it. It’s ideal for this time of night, when the audience is drunk, restless and ready to party. The whole night finishes with a stage invasion and a sing-a-long.
The whole day has felt relaxed and organised: the set times are the perfect length, the changeover times ideal for a quick chat or a dash to buy lunch, and everything seemed to run seamlessly.
The bigger acts were enough of a draw to bring down a crowd, giving fans a good reason to come and check out all the other bands and, hopefully, to discover something new. It is cheap, interesting and diverse shows like this that keep the cogs of our little scene turning. Make sure you go to the next one.