Gig Review: Don Blake & Uniforms @ Old Town House [02/09/2018]

Review by Sarah Williams. Photos by Cold Front Photography.

It’s always a pleasure to spend a Saturday night in one of my favourite venues: Warrington’s Old Town House. Tonight’s pop-punk show, curated by Some Kind of Events, features a lively line-up of Don Blake, Uniforms, Skiv, Crocodile God and Bogans, however we rock up early to enjoy the atmosphere. Plus, you know, a raft of vegan pizza, nachos, fries, onion rings and mid-afternoon lager. This is what weekends are here for.

Bogans Live Old Town House cred Josh Sumner (2).jpg

Bogans, from the wilds of North Wales, open the show with some rowdy, riffy hardcore. It’s just the pep talk we needed to get started on the booze and there’s already quite a few familiar faces assembled in the pub.

Adam’s evidently been working on his growly rock vocals; getting some more live shows under their belts has brought the a step ahead in the few months since I last caught Bogans. He’s still got a mad look in his eye as he roams the area in front of the stage, weighing up the crowd, making some somewhat unnecessary hand signals to illustrate ‘jacking and jilling’ lyrics. He spends most of the set complaining about being hungover, which fits in well with a song about ‘intentionally censoring your own memories so you can’t regret the things you’ve done’.

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Despite the hangover, there’s still great energy and camaraderie from the group. They play straight-up punk rock, but with some poppier guitar lines slotted in, well suited to tonight’s lineup.

Typically bands use covers is to include some recognisable material in their set, to get the audience going, but Bogans break the mould by including their own version of a song by an unfortunately-named Finnish band called Anal Thunder. I’d love to know the motivation behind that obscure choice, however it turns out to be one of the best songs in their set.

Crocodile God Live Old Town House cred Josh Sumner (3).jpg

Crocodile God are one of those bands who could lull you into a false sense of security before a set, if you hadn’t seen them before. They’re a relatively unassuming bunch, old enough to know that it’s okay to be be extremely good at what you do – you don’t have to shout about it. They produce pop-punk with a Fat Wreck edge; clearly a band with great taste and a lot of solid old-school talent.

This Scouse 3-piece buzz with energy for half an hour, bouncing through upbeat lyrics with heaps of drive behind the backline. They produce proper fast, fun punk, from the same roots as Descendents, Snuff or NOFX; pop-punk done right. Given that the original incarnation of Crocodile God formed in 1992, it’s no surprise they’ve got a nostalgic 90’s flavour, but they remain lively, relevant and excellent fun live.

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As a cherry on top, Crocodile God have got confident, droll between-song banter down to a fine art too; reference to ear bogies gets a big laugh from the crowd. They joke about people thinking they aren’t going to play fast enough, but Mark Murphy’s Propagandhi t-shirt suggests otherwise. They also give a lot of love back to The Old Town House, which is always a winner in my book.

Finally, Crocodile God round things off by suggesting all the punters nodding and nursing pints ‘mosh like it’s Megadeth’. The set absolutely flies by, leaving me wanting more.

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It’s safe to say that Skiv were the band that convinced me to leave my house tonight; they’ve only released one single (Wasteman – give it a listen, you can thank me later), but I was completely sold on the band on the strength of it. Frontman Jordan Harris is known for this unusually distinct, captivating vocals, and for his past in Drop This, however the energy of this four-piece in combination is absolutely killer.

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Skiv carry the same irreverent, quintessentially-British energy that Snuff dine out on; like a young, stoned Dragon Ball Z-loving take on Consumed. They have an insanely natural grasp of punk rock melodies, harmonies and attitude, presented with a silliness that’s extremely fun to watch. They have an entire song written about Avril Lavigne being replaced by a clone called Melissa in 2003… and it’s actually good. This is not a drill: Skiv write great music, play it with great energy and they’re a great laugh. Go watch them.

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I’m well aware right now that when I’m putting together my OCD fangirl ‘live bands of the year’ list in December, Uniforms are going to be on it. They smashed it at Manchester Punk Festival in April, and they smashed it again tonight. They bring so much energy, enthusiasm and talent to the table that it’s impossible not to get swept up in their live sets.

This four-piece from Dundee are playing a short-run of dates in England to celebrate the release of their Reasons to Breathe EP – their first new output since 2015 following a hiatus, so this feels like a rare treat. I’d give top marks to the record, however no one’s ever going to capture this magic on vinyl – they’re a band you have to see live to truly appreciate. Even a casual observer could tell that this project’s a favourite musical love for everyone involved, their passion resonates in every note.

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Derrick Johnston’s gravelly Scottish vocals lend a completely unique tone to the band – for this type of pop-punk you almost expect a higher pitch and a bigger dose of positivity, but there’s grit, realism and acceptance in a Uniforms performance that you can’t shy away from. Ade adds a lot of higher harmonies that bring to mind early Red City Radio, especially on the tracks from their latest release. Lyrically, Uniforms are a silver lining band: accurately capturing the glimmering, hopeful edge of every bad situation.

My highlights are older songs Pink Couch, which I’ve described as a favourite in Derrick’s solo sets before, and The Fear, however their new tunes fit seamlessly in with their back catalogue. There’s such an exciting dive into the beginning of Searchlights, you can’t help but feel it deserves a circle pit and a much bigger venue. It’s got a harder ending live  than it has on record which works well, leaving them to finish the set on the latest single Get Me Out Of Here – the last thing I want right now.

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Finally, closing the evening off are Bolton’s Don Blake. After catching them with Consumed recently, I’m excited to see them again, and this is the ideal lineup for them. They excel in polished pop-punk, without the saccharine commercial edge you expect from the modern incarnation of the genre.

Shortly before they play (and twice during their set), my friend excitedly points out that they sound just Australian skate-punks The Decline and, you know what? He’s right. I can’t get the idea out of my head once it’s been pointed out. If you’re familiar with The Decline, you’ll know that’s a massive compliment. The Rational Nihilist is a stand out track for me – I’ve only heard it once before and it’s properly lodged in my head.

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Another band with an excess of energy, they bounce through a set loaded with harmonies and simple, instantly memorable melodies. Don Blake seem to have set them a challenge to cram as much decent pop punk song-writing into the shortest space of time, playing tracks at a near skate-punk pace. In short, it’s bloody good, and a great end to the evening.

Review by Sarah Williams. Photos by Cold Front Photography.


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