Festival Review: Dugstock 2 @ New Cross Inn, London [30/03 – 01/04/2018]

Umlaut Recond second annual showcase weekedender was a blast, with bands like Counterpunch, The Murderburgers and Crazy Arm.

Review by Sarah Williams.

What better way to while away a long Easter weekend than an indoor music festival with all your mates? The second iteration of Umlaut Records’ Dugstock festival is a diverse three-day line-up hosted at London’s New Cross Inn. Umlaut Records is a rapidly growing independent label that are integral to the London punk scene. They’re only in their second year so, if this is the sort of line-up they can pull off now, I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us in future.

I’ve been to plenty of gigs at New Cross, but this is the first time I’ve committed to three whole days, staying in the hostel above the venue. As I’m likely to be doing the same for Level Up and Polite Riot festivals later this year, I’m almost as keen to test out this festival-formula as I am to see the bands.

Shout Louder Crew At Dugstock 2 Cocktails
Some braincells were damaged in the making of this review.

Friday

Opening the weekend are Dirty White, a 3-piece that take influence from 90’s stoner grunge bands, although they bring the songs into a cleaner, more modern relief. The singer pulls off a Chris Cornell style that you don’t often hear. They go on to mix in some faster melodic punk songs – a gentle introduction to the weekend’s festivities.

There is already a reasonably good turnout for the Friday night, with a lot of hugs and catch-up chats exchanged. Things properly kick off with Dark Days, who provide vigorous, fun, melodic poppy punk. Guitarist, John Huffman, gets told off by the sound engineer for standing on the drum kit, so he capitulates and pulls out a high stool from the bar to stand on, before flaunting rock-star poses and writhing on the floor. Their sound contains a melee of references to current North American melodic punk bands, with an added dose of Kathleen Hanna inspired harmonies and a fuzzy, experimental guitar mess. They play a full-throttle cover of Nirvana’s Breed – the first of two Breed covers we’ll hear this weekend.

Kiss Me, Killer swagger on stage with a sexy, balls-to-the-wall riot grrl energy. Singer, Holly, steals the show somewhat as she cavorts wildly around the stage, as the band rages. She’s an excellent rock vocalist, which suits the hard-rock element in their sound It’s ferocious noise peppered with short bursts of rock ‘n’ roll guitar solos and enticingly sleazy bass lines. It’s infinitely dance-able from Rat Race to It’s Going Down (which actually sets off an alarm somewhere in the venue). As my friend eloquently shouts at me during the set, it’s also a pleasure to see, “Plentiful vaginas on stage.” Continue reading “Festival Review: Dugstock 2 @ New Cross Inn, London [30/03 – 01/04/2018]”

Gig Review: Beat The Red Light Resurrected At Manchester Punk Festival

Ska-core heroes return in an majestic performance that leaves Slayer, Metallica and Maiden for dust.

Review by Sarah Williams**. Photos by Mark Richards.

Watching Beat The Red Light reform at Manchester Punk Festival 2018 was greater than witnessing the resurrection of Jesus. Their moving ska-core set was nothing short of poetry in brutality. Move over Slayer, there’s a new band in town.

Tipped to be headlining Download Festival next year, Beat The Red Light were a huge booking for an event like Manchester Punk Festival. Playing immediately after Propagandhi, there were hordes of people outside the venue begging to be let in. They took the stage to the ominous strains of Vital Remains’ Let The Killing Begin; the room felt ready to burst with anticipation.

They roar through a greatest hits set, shredding every note with the flawless skill of Opeth or Dream Theatre. The crowd know every word to Regulators and Rut, clambering over one another to scream the words back at the band. Every horn-line is chanted throughout the heaving venue. As the title suggests, Saviours is the saving grace of a festival that needed a band of this calibre to really hurtle it into the mainstream.

You would be hard-pressed to find seven more ruggedly handsome musicians on this earth. Vocalist, Daniel Pook, floats above the crowd, the stage-lights forming an appropriate halo as he reaches out to his adoring fans. Wadeye’s Gilbo clambers on stage to try and steal drummer, Tim Gardiner’s, sweat-drenched towel, no doubt with a view to making a killing on eBay. He’s gently coaxed off stage by the big-handed security guard, who are struggling to keep the enraptured audience at bay.

There are tears flowing in the front row; moist knickers flying through the air as they are hurled on stage. Bar staff drop their glasses and they stare on in awe. At the back of the venue, I spot TNS’s Tim Bevington being carried out after fainting with joy, overwhelmed by the calibre of this once-in-a-lifetime performance.

With this incendiary performance, Beat The Red Light have cemented their position as the saviours of British metal. They have single-handedly wiped Propagandhi and Iron Chic off the map. Band of the festival? Band of the Universe, more like.

Review by Sarah Williams**. Photos by Mark Richards.

**Sarah may or may not have been bribed to write this review.

Gig Review: Random Hand’s Comeback Show @ The Key Club, Leeds [17/04/2018]

Ska-core legends Random Hand return to the stage, with support from Mr Shiraz and Sounds of Swami.

Article by Sarah Williams. Photos by Tom Marshall.

I’ve just walked out of a Random Hand gig drenched in sweat and spilled beer, having shouted my lungs hoarse and skanked non-stop for 45 minutes. It’s like 2013 all over again.

I can’t recall dancing quite so enthusiastically for a ska band since Random Hand went on hiatus in 2015; there are very few bands who give 110% live the way that they do at every single show. Tonight’s gig at the Key Club in their local city of Leeds is a special return to form ahead of a handful of festival shows this summer.

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Sounds of Swami (photo by Sarah)

Sounds Of Swami open the show, beginning with a slow, quiet section with just a bit of guitar and a gentle vocal. It’s the calm before the storm that they tear into late into the song. From Random Hand’s hometown of Keighley, they lend the show the vibe of a party with all your friends. They served as late replacements for Jesus & His Judgemental Father, but I’m much more excited to catch them, having gotten deeply into their album Furniture for Modern Living last year.

This humble four-piece are at the forefront of current post-hardcore, channelling bands like Sonic Youth and Fugazi in their own expert DIY fashion. They create a really gripping soundscape sweeps you up, lulls, then hurls you around the room. It’s lush, complex composition that’s interesting on record but utterly captivating live. There is an overwhelming amount of skill in this band that’s enabled them to be inventive and experimental with their sound. It also allows them to look totally at home with themselves on stage, producing a depth of sound that you wouldn’t think possible with just four instruments. They look like they’re having a great time doing it. Continue reading “Gig Review: Random Hand’s Comeback Show @ The Key Club, Leeds [17/04/2018]”

Top 10 Moments of Manchester Punk Festival 2018

MPF 2018 was a special weekend for reasons beyond just the music. Sarah’s rounded up her personal highlights from the festival.

Article by Sarah Williams. Photos from Mark Richards, Jimbob Taylor, Josh Sumner and Marc Gaertner.

Now widely known as Manchester Pals Fest, MPF 2018 has been even more of a blinder than previous years. I guess we knew that it would be from the moment the line-up was first announced, with Propagandhi topping it. In a landslide of Facebook posts, messages and hugs once the weekend was over, the word out there is that it’s the best festival in the UK. The three-day weekender in the Rainy City is drawing like-minded punk rock fans from all around the world.

The festival is special both as a personal and a collective experience. If you attended, you would have been amazed by the number of familiar faces in crowd. I barely had time to chat to someone properly before running into the next person. With that many dedicated, creative and intelligent people surrounding you, it’s easy to see that the UK scene is thriving at the moment. Although it felt like we were all sharing this one great, special experience, as the weekend is split between five venues around town, it’s possible that you could have had a completely different experience to a friend who also attended.

With that in mind, these are my personal Top 10 experiences of the weekend. What were yours?

Ducking Punches closing Thursday’s show with Smoking Spot

Ducking Punches cred Mark Gaertner.jpg

“This is about how punk has taught us all our ethics; this is for all of you,” Dan Allen says between songs, instantly capturing the spirit of the festival. While most of my friends were queueing to get into Random Hand and getting turned away, I opted to catch Ducking Punches at Rebellion on Thursday night and I really don’t regret it.

Earlier in the day, Danny from Fair Do’s had said, “Look around you. This is what a beautiful, intelligent and ethical punk community looks like.” Both are examples of how appreciative the bands are of the event they’re attending. Far from being a big fest where you turn up, play and fuck off, Ducking Punches were around for the whole weekend, partying and enjoying the music like the rest of us. I had a transcendent moment during somewhere between Sobriety and Big Brown Pills from Lynn where I remembered that all my friends in the world are in this city with me, enjoying an incredible time. There is an overwhelming sense of community that I’ve not felt elsewhere – partly from the punk scene and partly from Manchester, a city with a strong sense of identity.

Closing on Smoking Spot was the perfect move from Ducking Punches, who’ve really grown with their new album Alamort. “This is a song about having the best time with your best friends,” Dan says. Perfect.

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Here’s a photo of Random Hand for good measure. Photo: Jimbob Taylor.

Watching my friends’ bands playing to sold out rooms

For many bands it’s their first time at the festival (and their first time in Manchester), but every act played to a huge crowd. Through general gigging and through this website I’ve become friends with some of my favourite bands, so I’m absolutely bubbling with pride when I see them getting an enthusiastic reaction from a big audience.

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Darko. Photo: Jimbob Taylor.

On Thursday, No Matter opened the festival to an almost full room at Rebellion. Following them were Captain Trips, a skate-punk group from the South Coast that I have a massive soft-spot for. I’ve been trying to get as many people to hear about them as possible, so to see Rebellion full for their set was incredible. Not only was the venue rammed – the crowd were dancing, moshing and generally enthusiastic about seeing them. It made my heart melt a little bit. Continue reading “Top 10 Moments of Manchester Punk Festival 2018”

Gig Review: Ill Guerra & The Domestics @ Fuel Cafe [10/03/2018]

A great night of hardcore held in a Twin Peaks-esque sauna in Withington. Support from Habits, Pat Butcher, Satanic Malfunctions and Social Experiment.

Article by Sarah Williams. Atrocious photos taken from my phone.

The main reason I relocated to Manchester was the luxury of having fantastic punk rock shows right on your doorstep, every single weekend. This particular gig, held at Fuel Cafe in Withington is a stone’s throw from my house, and is therefore the shortest distance I’ve had to travel to see bands since I lived on Camden High Street a decade ago. I’m living the dream.

MBBP have a reputation for putting on raucous live shows, always trying to pack six or more acts onto a short bill. It’s incredibly exciting to see a variety of hardcore punk bands from around the country playing tonight, including Welsh acts Habits and Social Experiment plus Yorkshire’s Pat Butcher and Satanic Malfunctions. The highlights of the line-up are reliably ferocious East Anglian act The Domestics and esoteric Spanish foursome Ill Guerra.

The room upstairs at Fuel is an unusual venue space: it’s a small room divided by an archway, with a stage painted with black and white zigzags. The night begins oddly, with Habits closing the windows and drawing the sumptuous red velvet curtains behind them to kick things off, like the band haev suddenly been transplanted onto the red room set of Twin Peaks.

Habits Live Fuel Cafe
Habits

Habits are a band that I would happily watch headline. They play dark, furious post-hardcore, buoyed by a lot of lush guitar tones and stormy chord changes. It’s like More Than Life, Have Heart and Defeater had a Welsh DIY baby. Nosebleed begins with a solid moody section but mutates suddenly into a much harder-rocking tune, before descending into a frantic, drawn out breakdown. Work is an indignant polemic, although the sound is ultimately positive. Other songs drift through themes of jealousy, sex and drinking yourself to death. The singer introduces each song by name and a brief explanation of the subject manner, which is super-handy for note-taking twats like me. Continue reading “Gig Review: Ill Guerra & The Domestics @ Fuel Cafe [10/03/2018]”

Gig Review: Only Strangers’ Album Launch @ The Pilgrim’s Pit [03/03/2018]

We visit Stoke-On-Trent to celebrate Only Strangers new album, with support from Rising Strike and The Kirkz.

Article by Sarah Williams.

I admit, I was sceptical about travelling to Stoke-On-Trent for a gig on a Saturday night. It’s not exacty known as a hive of musical activity. Fortunately, I was proved completely wrong – I wound up enjoying one of those fleeting gig experiences that you can never recreate.

The Pilgrim’s Pit is an unusual space: esoteric artwork and a ‘city of culture’ sign adorn the exposed brick; UV lighting makes your teeth glow like rave-yard tombstones; bunting and model aeroplanes hang from the ceiling. The room has just enough space for thirty audience members, with barely room for the drumkit against the back wall. The bands stand on the concrete floor like the rest of us – no stages or barriers here.

Even without the intimacy of the venue, this would be a special evening. It’s the launch of Only Strangers’ self titled debut album, a truly high-quality record that they’ve invested two years in making (read our review here). They’re ready to share it with the world for the first time, so they’ve invited a handful of friends and family along to the show. I’m sure they could pack out a bigger venue given the chance, but they’ve chosen to celebrate in their hometown with select few. Playing with them are some of their close friends, who happen to be two classic TNS bands: indestructible Macc’ lads The Kirkz and a ska-core assault from Rising Strike.

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The Kirkz are on first, filling the room with their nu-metal infused, hooky hardcore. It’s classic TNS fare that sounds just as hard as ever. They open with Zombie Nation and it’s impossible not to get into the catchy chorus on Tanks and Machinery. The room stays stubbornly sub-zero despite all the bodies congregating into confined space. Max, unmistakable Captain of The Kirkz, roams energetically around in the small gap in front of the mic stands, pausing between songs to instruct people to mime the T-sign at him if they need to get past to use the toilet. A slight downside to the lack of elbowroom is that there’s little definition between the guitars and vocals (which miraculously improves in time for Only Strangers, like it was some sort of plot), but it’s a fresh and raucous set that buzzes with energy. The Kirkz remain a stone cold classic act; it’s a great start to the evening. Continue reading “Gig Review: Only Strangers’ Album Launch @ The Pilgrim’s Pit [03/03/2018]”

Gig Review: Ray Rocket & Sam Russo @ The Peer Hat [14/02/2018]

Teenage Bottlerocket’s Ray Carlisle and acoustic genius Sam Russo treat us to an intimate evening with help from Arms & Hearts and Fraser Murderburger.

Review by Sarah Williams. Shoddy phone-photos also clearly my fault.

Tonight isn’t merely a quiet, cold Wednesday night in Manchester. It’s also Valentine’s Day. As a result, tonight’s acoustic gig feels warmly romantic; I feel lucky to spend my evening in the company of Teenage Bottlerocket’s Ray Carlisle, soulful charmers Sam Russo and Arms & Hearts, and everyone’s favourite feisty Scot Fraser from The Murderburgers. The small room hosts a handful of couples and singletons, all excited for Moving North’s exceptional selection of acoustic acts.

Manchester Moving North Poster Sam Russo Ray Rocket Gig

Fraser kicks things off, commenting that he’s pleased to be correclty referred to on the poster as MacDaddy Mudderbang. This sets the tone for an evening of in-jokes, as all the acts really engage with the intimate audience. He opens with Born For This which, like many of his songs, is catchy, energetic and self-deprecating. His vocal has a gritty, edgy tone which works well as part of an acoustic show, although we’re more familiar with him belting it out live with The Murderburgers. It also sounds great on his poppy cover of Descendents’ Hope.

Halfway through the set he seems to shed some nerves. He actually declares that he ‘thinks he’s enjoying himself,’ before going on to play Another Way Out Of Here – a tune about ‘trying to find a way out without tying a noose and kicking a chair’. He also plays Wank, Florida, Wank, the gloriously named new single from his other band Fuck (It’s Pronounced Shit). He shouts out audience members (well, mainly just Mikey Wong) and chats to Ray, who’s sitting at the back of the room. It makes for a very intimate and friendly show. Everything about his set makes me happy and I’m grinning with laughter by the end of it.

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Up next is Arms & Hearts, which is the moniker of solo singer-songwriter Steve Millar. He opens with a tune called Sore Sight For Sorry Eyes, a good example of the clever, emotive turns of phrase that he often uses in his lyrics. He seems to write with traditional tattoos in mind; if Arms & Hearts gains more popularity, soon everyone will be walking around with his words inked in banners around roses and skulls. Every word comes across crystal clear because Steve has a good, practised microphone technique, allowing you to fully appreciate the rich range in his voice. Continue reading “Gig Review: Ray Rocket & Sam Russo @ The Peer Hat [14/02/2018]”