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: 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.

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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]”

Gig Review: Corrupt Moral Altar @ The Star & Garter [09/02/2018]

A ferocious night of electrifying hardcore, with Boak, Gets Worse and Leeched supporting.

Review by Sarah Williams. Suitably crusty snaps by Dave Jerome.

It’s a small miracle that I make it to Star & Garter at all. I’ve been plenty of times before but I’m walking from a different part of Manchester, so I consult Google Maps to see if there’s a quicker route. There is! Or, well, it looks like there is, until Google leads me down an alley that has more in common with a motorway siding than a footpath, all mud, brambles and metal railings, to somewhere that is definitely not the Star & Garter.

Fortunately, I do know where the venue is, so I navigate blind through Mancunian highways and make it to the pub just in time to hear the soundcheck. Doomy bass rumblings tumble down the staircase under a howled, guttural mic-check. It’s already sounding beautifully bleak.

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Local three-piece Leeched open with a surreal salvo of window-rattling noise and the guitars proceed to squeal with distortion between every song. They drop into an onslaught of progressive, hardcore darkness that the fairly sizeable crowd is already enjoying. I don’t understand a word the singer growls, which is typically a good sign. The drummer is delightfully terrifying, corpse-pale apart from his facial tattoos, playing cloaked in a black hoodie, slowly shouldering his way through a feral onslaught of blast beats. There is an angry cry of, “Why are you not moshing, people? Please mosh for the next one,” which turns out to be a surprisingly polite request from a punter spitting into the stolen mic. Leeched continue to trudge through a catalogue of crusty dark metal that’s low and heavy, ending on a drawn-out decrescendo of six-string distortion.

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Gets Worse are up next, offering an assault of songs that are short, heavy and fist-in-the-gut ferocious. This heavy 4-piece from Leeds shake the room with supremely fast powerviolence sections, punctuated with low slow-motion mosh breaks that expertly build anticipation for the next attack. Above the patchwork of heavy metal shredding are caustically spat vocals. All members of the band contribute to this, but it’s the drummer somehow making time to tear words from his throat that offers the fiercest noise. They slide catastrophically into harder, heavier songs with a handful of quieter, bass-led pauses. The bleak crunch of distorted guitars primes the room both for soberly dressed, serious head-nodding and frantic elbow-smashing bursts of hardcore. Continue reading “Gig Review: Corrupt Moral Altar @ The Star & Garter [09/02/2018]”

Gig Review: Darko’s Bonsai Mammoth Anniversary Bonanza @ The Boileroom

Featuring: Actionmen, PMX, Drones, Fair Do’s, The Affect Heuristic and many more!

Review by Joëlle Laes. Photos/videos by Mirjam van Reijen, plus some snaps from Joëlle.

After so much anticipation created by the advent calendar announcements via social media, I couldn’t wait for the Bonsai Mammoth anniversary all-dayer, hosted by Darko, an event celebrating a year since the release of their epic debut album. Every announcement seemed like a gift that was personally selected for me. “You like this band? OK cool, we’ll book them.” Thanks guys. Perfect lineup.

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Some of my friends decided to get the ferry over the UK from Belgium, and I was lucky enough to snatch a seat in the car. Getting up at 5am the day before to make the trip over and paying a fortune for a hotel was a bit of a faff, but hanging out with friends and seeing fantastic bands makes up for the lack of sleep and the hole in my wallet. After a good night’s sleep, it was time.

It couldn’t have started better than with a Punk Rock Yoga Session by Jo from Bad Juju Yoga! I, however, got my myself in gear too late and missed it.

Though 2pm seemed like an early start for most attendees, the room filled up nicely for the first set of the day. Darko kicked off their anniversary all-dayer by playing Bonsai Mammoth in its entirety (Sarah recently talked to the band about it – check out the interview here). Watching them, for once completely sober and still half asleep, was an experience to remember. With nothing clouding your judgement, you begin to realise how darn good they actually are. Mesmerised by their guitarwork and vocal harmonies, head bopping commenced amongst the crowd. It definitely set me up for a good mood the rest of the day.

Totally new to me, Wild Tales follow them in getting people hooked by some more indie-ish, danceable tunes and good vibes. This new project from members of Trails and Atiptoe are rather different from the rest of the lineup, in a good way. I was sad to see that they don’t have any music online yet, however I’ve been told this bunch from Guildford will have an EP out soon.

The moment I had personally been waiting for finally arrived. The Affect Heuristic, a band consisting of both Belgian and Scottish members, started setting up for their first gig ever. It’s a strange feeling seeing them live for the first time after witnessing the whole writing process happen in my house. It’s safe to say the crowd was blown away by this shredfest, intertwined with Scottish banter and deep lyrics. The tracks Against The Grain, which addresses toxic masculinity, and Tightrope hit especially hard. For those eager to listen, you can check out two demo tracks here. Continue reading “Gig Review: Darko’s Bonsai Mammoth Anniversary Bonanza @ The Boileroom”

Gig Review: Consumed @ Maguires [13/01/2018]

90’s skate-punk heroes Consumed ignite Liverpool’s coolest pizza bar, with help from Down & Outs and The Hunx.

Review by Sarah Williams. Photos by Richie Yates.

Before this show had even begun, I was brimming with excitement. It’s my first gig of 2018, my first time in Liverpool and (this is a totally irrelevant personal achievement) the first time I’d ever driven to a gig. On top of all that, I got to start my year off right with a trip to see Consumed.

For years I’ve heard my Northern punk pals raving about Maguires and it’s easy to see why. At the front it’s a tiny, colourful bar that boasts an impressive menu of vegan and vegetarian pizza options. Knowing that I can’t miss this opportunity to sample some proper cruelty-free fast food, we plump for a vegan garlic mushroom/pesto combination that turns out to be a masterpiece in greasy joy. I savour it while enjoying the crude animation in Jason & The Argonauts that is being projected onto the bar wall.

Once we are well and truly stuffed we venture past a bookshelf-doorway into the venue itself. Before the entertainment’s kicked off, it is easy to see this is the ideal punk venue. It’s a small black box with a bouncy wooden floor and an array of gig posters plastered to the roof. It looks like the sort of gaff where sweat would drip from the rafters if you got the right act in here.

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Opening the show are local Liverpool punks, ironically named The Hunx. They play straight up fast-punk with clear 90’s skate-punk influences, best illustrated in their extremely popular cover of Bad Religion’s American Jesus. It’s a very well-chosen tune that gets the crowd’s fists in the air as they sing along. Their edge is in their frequent self-deprecating jibes, slagging themselves off to a Johnny Vegas standard, which gets a great reaction from the local crowd who are clearly in on the joke. Although I enjoy a bit of droll humility at the best of times, it feels like the band are doing themselves a disservice; they might have more success if they injected some enthusiasm into their act.

Admirably, they announce at the beginning of their set that they are donating their merch sales for the evening directly to homeless people on the nearby streets. They deliver an enjoyable show, although the vocal sound quality leaves a lot to be desired – the combination of gruff and fuzz made the words a hard to decipher. Overall they’re a solid opener who kick off the evening well. Continue reading “Gig Review: Consumed @ Maguires [13/01/2018]”