Written by Sarah Williams.
A phrase that’s been whispered in the dark corners of venues this year is that we’re onto something big. We look back upon golden ages when underground scenes were thriving, like the late 90’s Household Name days, but there’s been a tangible undercurrent of something unique and special in 2018 that’s convinced me that we might be in the middle of one of those golden eras. I cannot begin to describe the feeling I get at a gig when I’m surrounded by friends and enjoying a band I love; there’s an electricity and a sense of community that cannot be rivalled.
Although we all bang on about our Top 10 Albums at this time of the year, I think live music is much more essential than the recorded variety. It’s live shows where you get to spit and scream and sweat with your fellow punks. You meet likeminded people, enjoy the bands you love and discover new ones. Live shows are the most essential part of our scene and our primary goal at Shout Louder has always been to get more people to go and support their local bands, venues and promoters.
I have seen an lot number of incredible bands this year, but here are the acts that really stood out. Go check them out in 2019.
#10: Mad Caddies
I’ve caught Mad Caddies quite a few times in the past and, although I like them, I can’t say I’m their biggest fan. Perhaps as a result, I was absolutely blown away by them this year.
I first caught them (sort of) at Brakrock in Belgium. I was recording an interview with Mute backstage at the time, and I was pretty frustrated to hear the strains of their cover of She drifting through the warm August air when I couldn’t go watch them. I was even more frustrated when everyone told me their set was the best of the weekend.
I seriously made up for it at Punk Rock Holiday, though! American Socks run acoustic sessions in between bands playing the mainstage, but the times aren’t overly well advertised, so knowing which band is on is an elaborate game of Chinese whispers, guesswork and drunken intuition. I’d heard rumour that Caddies would be playing, but it was only when I saw the road to the campsite absolutely crammed full of punks that I clocked what was going on. There was no hope of seeing the band unless you were right at the front, but standing in the crowd singing along to their gentler version of Greenday’s She was one of those transcendently beautiful, memorable festival moments.
On Tuesday, Mad Caddies smashed out the biggest set of the week. They are one of those bands that you think you know pretty well who, in the space of half an hour, surprise you with all the songs you’d forgotten you knew. My friends and I are dancing like lunatics for Monkeys, Road Rash, Backyard and Preppie Girl. Their covers of She and Sorrow are huge, but it’s Macho Nachos and Drinking for 11 that really got the crowd in a frenzy.
They closed the set on All American Badass, where we were almost too distracted by dancing to notice that the brass section had split the crowd down the middle and joined everyone dancing on the floor. How often do you see a floor-show at a festival the size of Punk Rock Holiday? There’s so much party in this one band that it was hard to fathom how any band could top that.
#9: Eat Dirt
Eat Dirt are a grenade of good times. I enjoyed their EPs but they really don’t do justice to how entertaining their live show is.
As the band are occupied by jobs and kids and all that fun stuff, they don’t often play outside of the M25, so be sure to get off the sofa if they are playing in a town near you. They gigged in Manchester recently and one of my main recollections is Ben, their energetic and slightly mysterious vocalist, standing silently at the front while the band set up, before leaping on stage the second they kicked into action.
Eat Dirt are a unique and vibrant live band, with a hint of cocky swagger that’s hard not to find enticing. The band give off a don’t-give-a-fuck attitude that’s ideal for the punk scene, and antidote to some of the softer melodic material out there.
Rumour has it that there’s big things on the horizon for Eat Dirt in 2019, including an appearance at Manchester Punk Festival. Get their dates in your calendar.
#8: Goodbye Blue Monday
Discovering Goodbye Blue Monday was one of the greatest pleasures of 2018 for me. I’ve also caught them live in a few unusual circumstances…
The first time I saw them play, it was actually only their frontman Graham Lough performing an acoustic set. In my kitchen. On Monday night. To about 10 people, who were all sat cross-legged on the floor to make us a seem a bit less intimidating. Watching acoustic versions of my favourite songs in such an intimate setting was quite the time.
The second and third times I got to see Goodbye Blue Monday, it was whilst driving them on tour. I’d been extremely excited to finally catch them live, but it was even more enthralling to see the rest of the crowd’s reactions – especially from the people who hadn’t heard of them before. They were winning people over instantly – GBM’s live shows are so catchy and upbeat that they’re hard to resist, even before you add the endearing charm of the band themselves.
The final time I caught them this year was at Book Yer Ane Fest in Dundee, which is roughly a hometown show for GBM. It was unbelievable. In my opinion, it was the best set of the festival. As they sound checked a row of fans had already formed down the front and, as they charged through new and old songs, it became completely riotous down the front. The band hold their good humour as well as their harmonies on stage, giving heart-warming performances that’ll leave their tunes lodged in your head for days.
#7: Authority Zero
Authority Zero are another band who, like Mad Caddies, I’ve enjoyed in the past, who I thought came to life in 2018. I enjoyed their set at Brakrock Ecofest, however their Punk Rock Holiday performance was one of the best shows I’ve seen all year.
Authority Zero were nothing short of incredible at Punk Rock Holiday. It was authentic, fist-in-the-air punk rock with riffs, hooks and breaks that tore through the crowd. Watching their guitarist rip sick one-handed solos while scissor kicking like a maniac was thoroughly impressive. Hearing them belt out massive singalong tunes like 12:34 and Find Your Way, as they soaked up the instensity of the audience’s love was stunning, and their new material sounds even hotter.
By the end of their set, there were balloons everywhere. They successfully talked the entire 4,000 strong festival to crouch on their knees, to jump back up in a spectacular frenzy. In my opinon, Authority Zero’s PRH set was the best festival performance of the year: I left with the biggest grin plastered on my face.
Authority Zero have a new record, Persona Non Grata, that’s worth a listen. They’re coming back over to Europe for SBAM Fest in May plus other dates TBA.
#6: A Wilhelm Scream
I was fortunate enough to be able to follow A Wilhelm Scream around for a few tour dates earlier this year. As a result, I can safely say that they’re one of the best live bands in the world – there wasn’t a single moment on or off stage that they weren’t loving it and giving it their all.
Over six consecutive shows, I was constently wowed by the band’s unrelenting energy and talent, and the pure fire that they inject into every single riff. The band themselves were brimming with positivity throughout. It was a genuine pleasure watching them perform, feeding off the energy of the crowd.
It’s easy to see why A Wilhelm Scream have seen the success they have: their songwriting and their live presence are second to none, but it’s their affable, relaxed and professional attitude makes them greater.
As I said in my earlier article, “You can see it in their faces on stage every night: they love every moment of this just as much as we do.”
Read my personal write-up of the Wilhelm/Darko tour, or check out the podcast I recorded with Nuno and Trevor.
#5: Youth Avoiders
Youth Avoiders. For a French hardcore band that are relatively unknown in the UK, there has been an overwhelming surge of appreciation for them this year.
Credit to Col for booking them for the his birthday shindig early in 2018, as that was many people’s first opportunity to catch them. Hosted at Gullivers in Manchester, I remember looking along a row of punks as their jaws dropped, totally overwhelmed by this live show.
Fast and frenetic with angular, garage-punk guitars, their album Relentless is about as aptly titled as possible. I’m so glad I got to discover them this year as I now feel my life would be empty without them. It’s been gratifying to see a wave of appreciation spreading across the scene to accompany it.
They’re coming across for Manchester Punk Festvial this year, plus a handful of other shows. I highly recommend that you go check them out, regardless of your usual taste. Youth Avoiders are flawless.
Read our review of Relentless here.
#4: Dream Nails
I’ve heard of Dream Nails a lot this year, but I’d subconsicously written them off – I think as someone who’s never had their nails done, I’d casually assumed it was going to be a bit cutesy bubble-gum poppy punk for my tastes, based solely on their name. I wish I hadn’t because OH MY GOD DREAM NAILS ARE AMAZING.
I caught Dream Nails at Book Yer Ane Fest and was utterly, completely blown away. They played late on the Sunday so I was knackered, and I started their set sat on a sofa at the back of the venue catching up on my Facebook feed. The crowd was bouncing and singing, so when they called women and non-binary folk to the front, I decided to take a punt on it, sidling up a bit closer to the stage to have a look. It took them about half a song and some hilarious, acerbicly perfect feminist banter before I was completely won over.
Dream Nails play bouncy, angular riot grrrl-style punk with massive melodies and huge singalong choruses. Lyrically they’re witty and effortlessly entertaining, addressing some close-to-home topics with comic panache. I’m a particular fan of a tune which I think was called Two Blue Ticks, describing how you can go from a a completely rational human being into a total psycho when your crush leaves you on ‘read’.
I’m utterly in love with this band. Go see them. Please.
#3: Spanish Love Songs
Spanish Love Songs are another band that have built a serious buzz in 2018. Tom May from The Menzingers even recommended them on the podcast we recorded with him. however I didn’t have a chance to check them out until fairly late in the year.
On a whim, I went to go catch them with at the Soup Kitchen in Manchester, as part of their recent tour with Ducking Punches. I went in with zero expectations (apart from knowing the album was pretty good) and holy hell they were unbelievable. I was captivated from the first chord and my love grew a little more with every song.
Another band with a ton of live energy that ooze on-stage charisma, I came away from the gig instantly knowing I needed to text all of my friends about them. Spanish Love Songs were a rare gem in an ocean of melodic punk bands – they’re on to something special.
#2: The Human Project
The Human Project put out a brilliant, technically flawless album in the form of Clarion Call this year, and they’re received a lot of high praise as a result. As good as the album is, I believe The Human Project’s live shows deserve a lot more recognition.
Although I enjoy THP on record, on stage I consider them to be one of the best tech-punk bands in the world. They play songs loaded with melody and chock-full of harmonies, but still soaked in the skate-punk adrenaline I crave. When they play you can see all four of them gelling with one another, enjoying every second of it, feeding off the energy of the crowd. I’ve never seen The Human Project give less than 110% on stage, and it’s that dedication, that force and that love they pour into their live shows that makes them such a pleasure to watch.
I’ve caught them across a range of venues this year: twice at black box of The Key Club in Leeds, on the tiny stage at Warrington’s Old Town House, playing to an enormous audience at KNRD Festival and opening for Flogging Molly and The Bronx at The O2 Ritz in Manchester. Although I love this band, I always forget just how much I love them until I watch them live – every time I catch them I get to fall in love all over again.
I’ve said this consistently for a few years now: Nosebleed are the best live band in the UK. It sounds like hyperbole, but I’m fully convinced of it.
It’s a struggle to tell people what’s so special about Nosebleed – you have to see it to believe it. On record they’re a great, fun garage-punk band with a rock ‘n’ roll vibe. They’re relatively unassuming when they take the stage, apart from their supremely dapper black and white suits. For the first four songs or so, they steadily get more and more exciting, getting the audience on side and building tension.
Without wanting to spoil a surprise for anyone who’s not seen Nosebleed, after that the band usually transform the room into one massive party. Known for getting down into the crowd for a floorshow, they make every member of the audience feel included and part of the party. They’ve taken all the good-hearted shenigans of a DIY punk show, the professionalism of The Hives and the confident, rock ‘n’ roll axe-in-the-air approach of AC/DC or Motorhead to produce the most enthralling live presence you’ll find in a venue the size of a postage stamp.
I’ve seen Nosebleed many times but they still amaze me every time I watch them.
Who were your favourite live bands this year?
While you’re here, check out our other 2018 Round Up Articles:
Written by Sarah Williams.