Article by Sarah Williams.
This was an unbelievably tough call. I’ve been to more gigs this year than I ever have before, and the vast majority of them have been worth shouting about. It’d probably be easier to do Top 5 Worst Gigs.
Strangely, some of the best gigs I’ve seen haven’t been punk at all. I spent a lot of this year working at The Smokehouse, a DIY music venue in Ipswich, so I’ve attended a lot of shows that I wouldn’t normally give time to. Easily my most memorable gig this year was Rich Quick, a fast lyrical MC from Philadelphia. The night was quite poorly attended, which meant that those of us behind the bar could actually go and enjoy the performance. Rich spent the whole set roaming through the crowd, rapping straight in our faces and handing out prints of his artwork. It was really unique, intimate and one that I’ll be telling people about in years to come.
Two of my other favourite shows (that didn’t make the cut) were Run The Jewels at the Albert Hall in Manchester, and the Youngblood Brass Band at Islington Assembly Hall in London. Although both performances were incredible, energetic and extremely memorable in their own right, it was the venues that really set these two gigs apart. The Albert Hall is a restored Wesleyan chapel with wood panels, stained glass windows and a huge pipe organ that was a quirky contrast to RTJ’s emblematic fist-and-gun stage display. Islington Assembly Hall is a Grade 2 listed hall full of 1930s art deco features, including a sprung wood floor that made it so much fun to dance around to the band.
But, after much deliberation, I managed to select these five shows as my top gigs of the year:
#5: Descendents @ Kentish Town Forum, London
This gig would have been higher up my list if it weren’t for the support acts. Without being disrespectful of The Kenneths and Abrasive Wheels (who are both good in their own right), when you’re paying £35 a ticket you expect to see bands closer to the genre and calibre of Descendents. As such the evening felt a bit disconnected.
That being said, Descendents turned up and put on an unbelievable show. Opening with Everything Sux, they charged through 32 hits back-to-back, including not one but two encores. I’ve never seen a crowd demand two encores before, but it was absolutely warranted in this case. They’re as tight and accomplished as you would expect of a band their size. There wan’t a single moment in the set that I didn’t really enjoy.
Check out our review of the gig here.
#4: Kick The Crutches All-Dayer @ The New Cross Inn
As far as I’m concerned, this gig is what DIY punk is all about. £5 for 12 bands. A brilliant venue in London. Record label distros. A relaxed atmosphere and a line-up that didn’t stop. It was a completely accessible day of music in London.
Better-known acts like The Kimberly Steaks and Pizzatramp (and Vanilla Pod, although they had to pull out last-minute) are worth going to see on their own, so as part of an all-dayer they’re a fantastic excuse to rock up and check out some band you’re less familiar with. My biggest take-away from the day was Bristolian act Neitzsche Trigger Finger, easily one of the strangest and most entrancing I’ve seen all year. I also got to catch Fastfade, Strange Planes and On A Hiding To Nothing for the first time, and completely loved all of them. It was also a treat to catch Mug, Misgivings and Werecats, all of whom are consistently great. In short, the standard was held extremely high for over ten hours of fast-punk frivolity.
At a New Cross Inn gig about a month later, Kick The Crutches head honcho Jack Wiseman said to me that he does all of this simply because he loves watching live music. Like, really loves it. Really, really loves it. That’s my reason for writing Shout Louder, and it was a statement that really resonated with me. You can feel the passion he has for gigs in line-ups like this (organised with help from NXI and friends), and I think it would have translated well to anyone attending the show.
Check out our review of the gig here.
#3: TNS Tour @ The Portland Arms, Cambridge
This tour united four fantastic bands from the TNS Records family on a run of weekend dates around the country. Each night the line-up changed order and, because it wasn’t advertised before the show, it meant the audience had to turn up for the whole event in order to not miss their favourite band. That format worked incredibly well, effectively removing the idea of ‘supports’ and making the event feel more like an inclusive party.
I went to two dates of the TNS tour: the first night at The Portland Arms in Cambridge and the second night at The Underworld in Camden. The Cambridge event was one of my favourite gigs of the whole year. The venue had a tiered back room, so I could either go nuts down the front or I stand and at the back nonchalantly nodding my head with my Dad (my Dad honestly insisted on going to this gig – that’s how good the line-up was). The running order for the night saw Revenge of The Psychotronic Man getting everyone flying around early on, followed by Wonk Unit, Faintest Idea and finally Roughneck Riot. The mix of genres worked perfectly, with the crowd getting wilder and wilder with each new act. What a party.
#2: Punx Inna Jungle @ Antwerp Mansion, Manchester
I’ve been to a few Punx Inna Jungle events at Antwerp Mansion over the years, and their final event in June marked the end of an era. The lineup was completely worth the long trip to Manchester: Matilda’s Scoundrels got everyone dancing around early on, Scottish skate-punks PMX played one of the best sets I have seen all year and Throwing Stuff were fast and hard and fantastic. Skanking around to Faintest Idea is possibly my favourite passtime I was drunk enough when Fair Do’s came on that I didn’t feel remotely self-conscious about air-guitaring along for the whole set. By the time Grand Collapse happened at 1.30am I was at the ideal state of inebriation where I’d lost all regard for my own personal safety, so I got to properly enjoy the carnage that ensued. Wadeye closed the whole affair, my memory of which was mainly dancing like an idiot while they played on past their allotted set time (I think). They may still be playing now.
It was balmy walking-home-in-a-t-shirt, getting-sunburned-in-a-beer-garden-before-the-gig sort of weather, which made the evening a lot more relaxing. I remember sitting on wooden pallets outside the venue trying to cool down and getting sweaty in a pit but not caring. I admit that I’m looking back on the event with somewhat beer-tinted spectacles… I remember it was impossible to use the toilets in Antwerp Mansion without someone to guard the ‘door’ for you – think ratty curtain rather than door. At least there were curtains this time. On some of the stalls. And toilet roll in at least one of them! I got covered in beer, floor-grime (hopefully kneeling in a human pyramid, not from falling over) and something which may or may not have been blood. Classic.
Punx Inna Jungle was an excuse to properly let loose in the middle of the sweltering summer heat and the choice of bands was exceptional. The event will be missed, although Antwerp Mansion might not be.
#1: Punkle Fester @ The Talking Heads, Southampton
I often say that to make an all-dayer a success you need a diverse lineup to keep things fresh throughout the day, but the strength of Punkle Fester was the complete opposite of that. It was a showcase of the best fast, technical punk that the UK has to offer. Skate-punk or melodic hardcore is a bit of a niche sub-genre in England but, as a result, sterling line-ups like this have the power to pull in fans from around the country.
The speed and quality of the bands was unrelenting for the whole day, building to a real climax at the end of the night. For me the combination of Grand Collapse, Almeida, PMX, Fair Dos and Darko on the evening bill is impossible to beat. The day started well with talk of zombie sharks from The SLM, melodic epics from Sombulance and fast-faster-fastest punk ditties from On A Hiding To Nothing (who also take the trophy for my favourite metaphor of the year: “like Greenday hooked up to a car battery”). I was pretty overwhelmed with joy by the time PMX finished; it was an incredible day full of friends and fast fun, and I desperately hope that Captain Trips and crew do it again next year.
Check out our review here.
Check out our other End of Year Top 5s:
- Top 5 EP Releases of 2017
- Top 5 Album Releases of 2017
- Top 5 Punk Festivals of 2017
- Top 5 Predictions for 2018
Article by Sarah Williams.