Gig Review: Random Hand @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds [25/01/2019]

Ska-core legends Random Hand play a raucous hometown show with Wonk Unit, Pizzatramp and Fierce Ideas.

Written by Sarah Williams. Photos by Cold Front Photography.

Random Hand are a formidable name in the UK punk scene, known for relentlessly storming stages with their aggressive blend of ska, hardcore and nu metal. They brought new life to dwindling ska-core tradition that had previously been the wheelhouse of bands like Capdown, Leftover Crack and Voodoo Glow Skulls, before going on hiatus in 2013.

Random Hand made a (scum) triumphant return after some cajoling from Manchester Punk Festival in 2018, followed by a short run of other cherry-picked dates. As such, it’s a rare treat to catch Random Hand on a Friday night, let alone at a sold out hometown show with headline-worthy TNSrecords label mates Wonk Unit and Pizzatramp.

Brudenell Social Club in Leeds is a name I know well, but it’s my first visit. On the outside it looks like the sort of carpeted function room where you’d find kids quaffing cider in the car park, but inside there’s a reasonably high stage and ample space for chaos. I’m excited.

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Migrating through from the labyrinthine bar to the main room just as the first band Fierce Ideas hit the stage; I do wonder if I’ve walked into the wrong venue. I didn’t realise I’d come to watch a Journey cover band, but apparently I’m in the right place.

In all fairness, Fierce Ideas aren’t bad at what they do: pub rock riffs with a classic metal swagger. There’s a lot of shiny shoes, a pair of leather trousers and an extremely bold choice of hat. They’re wearing sunglasses. Indoors. In January.

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I’m impressed by their on stage presence, though. They’ve got a lot of energy, they’re slick and they’re very entertaining to watch. I’m a little misled by dodgy faux-American banter between songs, but overall it’s fun and interesting.

For this audience though, it’s laughably overblown. I wonder if I’ve missed the joke. I wouldn’t have stayed in the room if I weren’t planning to review the show, however there do seem to be a dedicated mustachioed contingent down the front who are lapping it up.

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You know it’s Pizzatramp when you can hear the laughter over the PA system. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Pizzatramp playing so low on a bill, which says a lot about how far they’ve come in the last few years. They’re a household name in the UK punk scene now.

That said, the earlier stage time probably does them some favours in the inebriation stakes. Tonight’s set is seriously tight, although they do tell us an intense story of smoking something called The Fear after the previous night’s gig.

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Pizzatramp continue to build on their winning formula: machine gun-fast bursts of thrash interspersed with side-splittingly funny, offhand banter. They play classics like I Hope You Fucking Die and My Back’s Fucking Fucked, with the welcome addition of new tracks like Millions of Dead Goths. The new tunes are killer, the crowd love it, and there’s loud guffaws of laughter at the jokes between songs.

The funniest thing about Pizzatramp is their willingness to tread the line of decent humour, while remaining unpretentious and generally lovely guys. They definitely cross the line on stage this evening: frontman Jimbob pulls out some amusingly xenophobic anti-Yorkshire banter, playing on their own Welsh heritage.

It’d be easy to get distracted by Pizzatramp’s comedic value, but ultimately they’re an excellent thrash band. It’s a cracking, enjoyable punk rock set.

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Next on tonight’s bill of TNS favourites, Wonk Unit take the stage (now part of their own label, Plasterer Records). The reason Wonk Unit have seen such great success is simple: they have great songs. The simple, good humour in Alex’s songwriting translates well to any audience, and it shows in the response of the crowd tonight.

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They play old favourites that get the audience dancing, like Horses and Johnny Rambo, but it’s heaving down the front for every song. Wonk Unit’s newer songs stand up well against the oldies, however it’s clear the audience is more invested in the classics. Notably with Wonk Unit, there have been a number of line-up changes over the recent years. The (not so recent) addition of Simon on keys does add a depth to the sound that’s welcome on the poppier tracks, and Vez’s backing vocal also adds a richness to the sound. There’s a slight disconnect in the songs that didn’t originally have extra vocals or key parts, although it does give Vez a chance to put some of the show on Instagram.

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Over the years, I’ve seen Random Hand a silly amount of times, but the electric rush of excitement I feel when they’re about to go on stage never changes. They remain one of the biggest names in British ska-core despite a short hiatus, having built a reputation for never giving less than 110% on stage.

Tonight’s hometown show erupts, a signal of their triumphant return. The Brudenell is a legendary Leeds venue and I can now see why: there’s ample room to sweatily jostle down the front, and the raised area by the bar affords a perfect view for those less rowdy. The energy bursting from the band is matched by the audience with every jump and sharp jab of the trombone; its infectious.

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Hearing some of the less-aired tunes from their last album Hit Reset live is a treat; clearly folks have listened to this a lot at home as everyone seems to know the words.  As expected, it’s classics like Scum Triumphant, Anger Management and Bones that cause the room to ignite. The front row are apoplectic with excitement when the siren announces the opening to Anthropology.

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The bands on-stage energy and enthusiasm shows two things: the effortless professionalism that comes from years playing live together, and the youthful vitriol that’s remains alive and well in Random Hand. As beer’s spilled in my hair and elbows are thrown, the band grin on with excitement: taking their anger and using it to fuel this punk rock fire.

Review by Sarah Williams. Photos by Cold Front Photography.

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