Moving North have sourced an exceptional punk rock line-up for a cold Wednesday in the Rainy City. Tonight’s bill of Spanish Love Songs, Pkew Pkew Pkew and Goodbye Blue Monday showcases the future of melodic punk rock: each of these bands is set to explode in the near future. This is a tour that will go down in the history books.
Selling out weeks in advance, tonight’s also due to be a shoulder-to-shoulder riot in Manchester’s tasteful Soup Kitchen basement. Exposed brick, classy beers and healthy grub here make it one of the best venues the city has to offer. It’s gigs like this that put Manchester at the forefront of the UK’s live music scene.
Scottish misery-punks Goodbye Blue Monday open the show early to a sparse but friendly crowd. They open with newer tune Red Skies that eases people in gently with a slow crescendo intro, before they plaster grins on our faces for one of their biggest old tunes: The Sickness, The Shame.
Without overdoing it, the band introduce singer Graham Lough’s bipolar disorder, which is – to an extent – the key theme of the band: the morose lyrics twinned with positive, poppy punk rock mirrors the highs and lows of the illness. “Here’s a new song about killing yourself,” he says, making a giggle out of a topic he’s put a positive spin on with his art.
The only people who aren’t fans of Goodbye Blue Monday are people who haven’t seen them yet. As the room slowly fills in anticipation of tonight’s double-headline, Goodbye Blue Monday get more and more love from the assembly. From the instant appeal of Fungus, the simple riffs of Omega Point and the riotous instant-hits of Misery-Punk Ruined My Life and Take Your Pills, the band are making new fans left-right-and-centre.
Where some bands have built a wall of sound, Pkew Pkew Pkew have built a wall of positivity that you want to dive into like the biggest bouncy castle on this earth. They don’t mess about, they throw out short, snappy upbeat tunes that make you feel like life ain’t so bad sometimes.
Punk rock has always been characterised by the art of simplicity, which this band have mastered. Simple isn’t an insult in this case: their straight-forward songs are underlied by a wealth of talent and an understanding of how to compose the catchiest of hooks. It’s chuggy and a little predictable, but it delivers hard on fun. The band have studied what a crowd wants and now they’re executing it beautifully.
There’s a strong tradition of Canadian punk rock and a strong tradition of drinking beers at gigs: Pkew Pkew Pkew combine to two. [Check out our beer-by-beer interview about their latest album.] Their lyrical assertion of ‘getting drunk before we go out drinking’ gives me a giggle, as we’d started the evening with a shot of tequila to erase the work-days stresses.
Pkew also sing about small town egos on Glory Days: “If those were your glory days, you must be real shitty now.” Pkew Pkew Pkew’s glory days are only just beginning: they’re gilded dreams enacted in sweaty basement venues, growing rapidly into major stages.
The room’s full and brimming with enthusiasm; it’s a struggle to move from the stage to the bar to the toilets in the changeover between bands.
The forest of hands in the air from first song to last is a testament to the strength of Spanish Love Songs last album Schmaltz. People have fallen in love with tonight’s headliner and the turnout alone shows that they’re destined for greatness. They’re regularly compared to The Menzingers, but I believe they’ve already surpassed them.
An entire verse on The Boy Considers His Haircut is sung by the crowd alone: “I want to wake up and maybe feel better.” They builds to a crescendo along with the band. If there’s one thing Manchester does right, it’s filling rooms at punk shows. This is why I moved here: a Wednesday night can be packed with people, many of whom know one another, a cut above London’s awkward tourist crowds.
Spanish Love Songs have the experience and knowledge now to capitalise on their strengths: big choruses, relatable verses, and rich, layered guitar harmonies. They’ve brought a modern edge to a sound that anchors itself on a memory of early noughties emo and alternative rock. If Kerrang and MTV weren’t rehashing old Sum 41 videos, this would be top of the charts.
I fear this may be the best tour Spanish Love Songs will play. They’re set to explode, and that’s going to strip them of these sweaty, raucous basement shows, with 200 hundred people shouting lyrics straight back to their faces. We’ve captured something wonderful in the Soup Kitchen tonight: in years you’ll be wishing you’d been here.