[Interview] Level Up Festival: Ska-punk is Alive and Skanking in South London

We had an in-depth chat with the collective of promoters working on the UK’s best ska-punk festival.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

Now in its second year, London’s Level Up Festival is proof that ska-punk certainly ain’t dead. Last year was a sold out skankstravanganza, but 2018’s line-up is even more exceptional, featuring the likes of Random Hand and Lightyear as headliners. In terms of DIY-level festivals, this by far the biggest and best ska-oriented event, taking place at New Cross Inn on July 20th – 22nd.

The event is an unusual collaboration between three promoters, bringing three distinct tastes to their bookings. Paul and Mike Smith who run Be Sharp are London based, with Paul spending his days as the Events Manager at the up-and-coming New Cross Inn. Chris Fishlock runs Bristol-based Fishlock Promotions, known for booking DIY all-dayers, including the well-known Fishstock event. Finally, Jason Berden brings his influence all the way from Belgium, where he also books the incredible El Topo Goes Loco Festival. We spoke to all of them, to get an in-depth insight into Level Up Festival.

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L-R: Paul Smith, Jason Berden, Chris Fishlock, Mike Smith

Level Up festival is looking incredible this year! Tell us what we can expect.

  • Paul: Some of the best bands in the world and happy faces. Last year was one of the most positive events I’ve been involved with, and that’s mostly down to everyone that travels from all over, purely to have a great time. The floor will be fine too.
  • Jason: Some old legends, such as Lightyear or Random Hand, making their return, as well as some of the best upcoming bands of the UK ska scene. I also added my fellow Belgians in Koala Commission to the Saturday bill, to show our island friends that the mainland scene is as strong as ever before!

Continue reading “[Interview] Level Up Festival: Ska-punk is Alive and Skanking in South London”

Podcast #6: The Bennies, Consumed, SBÄM Fest & El Topo

Episode 4 is packed full of punk rock treats for you! We have an interview with Australian party machines The Bennies, a massive Umlaut Records giveaway to celebrate the new Consumed release and tales of SBÄM Fest and El Topo Goes Loco. We also play new tunes from The Human Project, Youth Avoiders, Tragical History Tour and Consumed!

Our highlight was catching up with Anty and Nick from The Bennies in Beligum, and asking them about their worst experience ever! Hold on till the end of the episode for that.

First up, Mark and Sarah discuss their recent gigs, including an account Austrian punk festival SBÄM Fest, including talk of Propagandhi, Satanic Surfers, No Trigger, Astpai, Wonk Unit, Donots and The Murderburgers. Sarah gets emotional, has Iron Chic mansplained to her, gains a boob bruise and discovers the perils of getting drunk with Darko two weeks in a row.

We also cover Belgian sunny ska/skate romp El Topo Goes Loco, including The Bennies, Beat The Red Light, The Affect Heuristic, Thanx 4 All The Shoes, The Burnt Tapes, Slack Birds, Imperial Leisure and Not Available. Mark also chats about TIE Fighter Pilot, Project Revise and Butt Plug Babies, plus we share a love of a Bangers.

Come join us in Sarah’s living room, talking faster than light to get through all this awesome content.

Continue reading “Podcast #6: The Bennies, Consumed, SBÄM Fest & El Topo”

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.

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

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“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”

Bonus Drunkcast: MPF Highlights with Holly from Kiss Me, Killer

Holly Searle joins us to talk Manchester Punk Fest highlights and Hell Hath No Fury Fest.

“Let’s record a podcast,” I said.

“When’s the next time we’ll both be in the same place?” he said.

“How about at Manchester Punk Festival? Sunday morning might work.”

“Sweet. We need to check out of the hotel at 10:30, we’ll be at yours for 11am.”

In hindsight, that is the moment where it all went wrong. Mark Bell, our podcast co-host and general all-round sensible guy, agreed to this idea, no doubt considering the fact that he doesn’t tend to drink too much and that he’s smart enough to go home before the end of the afterparty.

Unfortunately, we didn’t factor in was my tendency to keep partying as early into the morning as possible. I lasted all the way through the afterparty, then ventured to the after-after party, then did some street drinking, then wound up at my friend’s flat partying with the last of MPF’s survivors. This is where Mark found me at 10:45 on Sunday morning, still drinking, swearing profusely and talking over everyone in a drunken fashion like a right twat. [Edit: I thought I’d powered through, but apparently I’d passed out and needed to be woken up 3 times while Mark was calling me.]

And so we recorded a podcast. Immediately afterwards, I passed out on a staircase. Continue reading “Bonus Drunkcast: MPF Highlights with Holly from Kiss Me, Killer”

Beat The Red Light: A Force To Be Reckoned With [Interview]

Pook and Eddie discuss their reunion, moonlighting with The Filaments and the struggle of getting eight people together for band practice.

Article by Sarah Williams. Amusingly old photos by Bev/Hold My Pint Photography.

Once famously described as ‘Slayer meets The Slackers’, Beat The Red Light are a genre-defying collision of metal, punk and ska, probably best likened to Voodoo Glow Skulls or Capdown, if Capdown listened to black metal. Their combination of heavy, overdriven guitars, double-kick intensity and coarsely shouted vocals isn’t too hard to fathom, but the killer difference with this band is the way they use their four-piece brass section like an assault weapon. They flip from bouncy ska sections into hardcore beatdowns before your feet have figured out what’s happening, inspiring absolute chaos in a pit. It is a truly unique sound that’s perhaps a bit niche, but immensely enjoyable for those of us who’ve gotten our heads round it.

Sadly, Beat The Red Light officially disbanded in November 2015. Now, almost exactly two years after the split, they’ve announced that they’ll be reforming for Manchester Punk Festival in 2018: the most ideal reunion imaginable. Having released their album Salt The Lands on Manchester DIY label TNS Records in 2011, crowds in the Rainy City have always given them the best reception, even more so than in their hometown of High Wycombe.

At present, MPF is their only official booking, but rumours abound for more on the horizon! Salt The Lands on vinyl for the first time? Support slots with Lightyear? A mainland Europe tour with Faintest Idea? A Mexican mega-tour? I caught up with singer/trombonist Pook and sharply-dressed saxophonist Eddie O’Toole to dispel a few myths, and to find out why they’re coming back now.

Beat The Red Light have gotten back together! What have you got in store for us?

  • Eddie: I wouldn’t say that we’re ‘back together’. We’re just doing a few shows that we thought it would be fun to do. We’re being very choosy about them. We probably split up because it was so hard to do all the shows we wanted to do….
  • Pook: And to get everyone together for band practice.
  • Ed: Everybody lives in different places and they’ve got kids, so it’s not going to be any easier! It’s going to be very selective.
  • Pook: Hopefully the motivation of us wanting to do these shows should be more than enough for us to try and, um…. have some band practices.

So you haven’t managed to get together for a practice yet?

  • Pook: I don’t think we’ll be practicing until maybe the day before Manchester Punk Fest.
  • Eddie: Can I just note that it is exactly two years to the day since we split up?
  • Pook: It’s weird because we didn’t really have any plans. Andy and Bev from TNS messaged me asking us to do it. At different times when we all got together (which were very few and far between) we’d be like, “Aw, I miss the band.” It just seemed like the right gig. If we were going to do a reunion gig then it would have to be for the right reasons, and what better reason is there than going back to your band’s second home? We never properly did a goodbye gig for Manchester.

No, your last Manchester show was Manchester Punk Festival in 2015.

  • Pook: I actually announced it on stage, “This is going to be our last Manchester gig.”
  • Ed: That was kind of the break up announcement as well.
  • Pook: Half the band members didn’t even know! “Yeah, that was our last Manchester gig.” Deal with it! [Some other band members] were fuming! But I was right. That was our last Manchester gig.

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You played the after party in the Joshua Brooks that year, right?

  • Ed: The aftershow was much more fun [than playing in Sound Control]. It’s always nice to play in a bit more of an intimate space.
  • Pook: There were a lot of lunatics at that gig. I remember there was a lot of body diving, and then some guy got on stage. I thought he was going to go for a stage dive but then he rugby tackled me to the floor and started screaming in my face. I was hitting him with the microphone trying to get him off me. He was off his rocker; he was having a fantastic time. That was a nice hot, sweaty gig.

Continue reading “Beat The Red Light: A Force To Be Reckoned With [Interview]”