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]”

Gig Review: The JB Conspiracy @ The Waterfront [09/11/2017]

The JB Conspiracy play This Machine in full to celebrate 10 years since its release, at The Waterfront in Norwich.

Reven by Sarah Williams.

When The JB Conspiracy announced that would be touring to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of This Machine I nearly fell off my chair.

Have I seriously been listening to This Machine for 10 whole years? God knows how many times I’ve played it. It was on constant repeat through most of 2008-10 for me and I regularly revisit it. I can honestly say that it is one of my favourite albums of all time, and certainly one of the only releases from 10 years ago that I still feel is every bit as relevant now as it was then.

The record has a timeless quality that has enabled it to surpass many of the other albums of it’s time. Although they’re a ska punk band, it’s an awful lot more than that. The instrumentation is second to none; there’s a huge amount of intelligence and love that’s gone into all of the parts, especially the sterling horn section. They keep a dancing pace throughout the record that’s impossible to resist. This eight-piece from London have been going for an awfully long time and they’re still just as lively as ever.

Before the show I run into Bobble (of Faintest Idea fame) and ask him how the tour is going so far, as he’s playing trombone with The JB. “I get to play This Machine every single night!” he says, “Every night! This is the best thing ever!”

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I amble into The Waterfront in Norwich just as Jim Higgs is starting his set. He’s got a roster of heartfelt pop songs, which he accompanies with some springy acoustic guitar. He’s got a delightfully smooth voice to go with it, and throws a Dido cover into a set filled with appealing original tunes.

Local three-piece Other Half are up next. When I picked up their album earlier this year it quickly jumped up the list of my favourite recent releases, so I’ve been quite excited to see them live again. It’s angsty, atmospheric indie-punk with a brilliant blend of male and female vocals, very much on par with bands like Hard Girls.

Disaster strikes at the end of the first song when Cal’s guitar string breaks, starting off a quite hilarious series of quips and tales of awkwardness. “Mr Soundman,” Cal asks, “Can I turn up the distortion on my guitar to hide all the mistakes?” He asks bassist, Sophie, to fill in on the talking while he tunes up. She he looks discomforted by this prospect, but she goes on to tell us a story of how bad her day has gone, which has the entire audience in stitches. Their stage presence is delightfully awkward and works perfectly with their moody, introspective sound. The highlight of their set is Misery Movement, the title track from their album, which I recommend you all check out. Continue reading “Gig Review: The JB Conspiracy @ The Waterfront [09/11/2017]”

Gig Review: The Sinking Teeth @ The Old Blue Last [26/10/2017]

The Sinking Teeth bring raw post-punk straight from Melbourne, with support from Darko, The Burnt Tapes and Miami Nice.

Review by Sarah. Photos… also by Sarah. Prepare yourself for some truly terrible photos.

After a long week, sometimes small rooms full of big noises are exactly what you need. I’m just about coming to terms with the dark October nights and I’ve said a fond farewell to beer garden season. Shoreditch still looks colourful on a Thursday night, and the glowing lights of The Old Blue Last are like beacon of hope on this chilly evening.

I hadn’t heard of Miami Nice before this show, and I’m thoroughly impressed the second they hit stage. It’s certainly far better than I had expected from a band opening a free show organised at short notice; they’re fantastic. Once I discover that these locals have previously been in bands like Young Conservatives and Grand Central it’s less of a surprise, and everyone I speak to sounds equally impressed. The singer has a raw, stony quality and he belts out words with a huge weight of force and emotion behind them, sounding like his voice could crack at any moment. The band has some fantastic bluesier melodies in the backing, particularly on some of their later songs.

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I’m not going to lie: I’m a tad obsessed with The Burnt Tapes at the moment. Alterations has had so much play on my iPod recently that I think it’s permanently etched on my eardrums. Their signature gritty lead-vocal swaps between Pan and Phil give them a unique edge, showcased early in the set on Ghosts. It might be one of the weaker moments on their EP, but has some strong shout-along potential live. Similarly, Oh Marie has an enormous regret-fuelled chorus that grabs your heart and squeezes hard.

Throughout the night, all the bands are drowned in the classic blue lights of The Old Blue last, and at no point is it more fitting than for The Burnt Tapes. They’re the masters of sad punk, transforming some deeply depressing themes into songs you want to dance to. Phil introduces a song by saying, “This is a sad one…” Normally that might be a bad thing, but I’m immediately filled with excitement knowing they’re about to play Things Get Weird. The chorus is so visceral that you can nearly feel the broken teeth in your mouth as you sing along. Continue reading “Gig Review: The Sinking Teeth @ The Old Blue Last [26/10/2017]”

Gig Review: Punkle Fester [14/10/2017]

Southampton’s skate-punk extravaganza slayed. Featuring Darko, Fair Dos, PMX, Almeida, Grand Collapse and excessive caffeine consumption.

Review by Sarah Williams. Photos by Alia Thomas, video by Rob Piper.

When I first saw the line-up announcement for Punkle Fester, it was an immediate no-brain decision to go. Featuring the likes of Darko, Fair Dos, PMX and Almeida at the top of a bill of thirteen acts, it is conceivably the best UK skate-punk shred-fest I have ever encountered. The bar for this gig is set extremely high; clearly worth the four hour trip to The Talking Heads in Southampton.

We have Lee Warren and local Southampton skate-punks Captain Trips to thank for this monstrously good line-up, and they’re in good spirits when I rock up at Saturday lunchtime. Portsmouth trio The SLM kick things off, turning out silly fast punk reminiscent of The Ergs. They throw some nice metallic guitar licks into the mix, coming across a bit like a drunken NOFX practicing for a Slayer covers set. Or Slayer practicing for NOFX covers set, I can’t decide.

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Their songs cover a range of important topics, with titles like Bitten By A Zombie, Turtle Shark and Here Come The Raptors. Vocalist/guitarist Rob clearly enjoys introducing the songs with rockstar-style flair, although the rest of the band keep ribbing him to keep within their allotted set time. Their new song Paradox Maradox adds a bit of depth to their set with some more earnest singing. They finish off with a cracking song about zombie sharks and a shout along of ‘sword, sword, sword!’ from the small but enthusiastic audience.

Between bands, Rich Mayor (frontman of Captain Trips) plays a quick acoustic set in the lavishly decorated front bar, adding some lovely atmosphere to the smoking terrace. He plays Give Me A Shout from his solo album Decade, which gives his voice a chance to shine without the force of a full band behind him. He’s got a unique sound that’s warm but rough around the edges, and a talent for a catchy songwriting.

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The Bitter-Town Hounds bring a lot of hair and energy to the mix, introducing a welcome metal edge to the day. They make good use of on-stage space, playing off each other’s energy. Their drummer can’t run around but he looks like he wants to, hurling a lot of passion and energy into his kit. The vocalist has the perfect confident rock delivery and the bass really stands out, partly because of the great sound in The Talking Heads. The highlight of their set is an unexpected but deeply enjoyable cover of Suicidal Tendencies’ Cyco Vision. More of that, please. Continue reading “Gig Review: Punkle Fester [14/10/2017]”

Gig Review: Lightyear’s 20 Year Anniversary Tour [21/10/2017]

Ska-punk legends Lightyear make their triumphant return to London stages in a whirlwind of friends, fun and nostalgia.

Review by Sarah. Photos by Piano Slug/Luke.

Tonight is an incredibly special night for many ska-punk fans across the South East. We’ve been talking about this gig for months. Ever since “mildly successful 90’s ska-punk band” Lightyear announced that they would be returning for good, the anticipation has been building for London’s 20 year anniversary reunion show.

As tradition dictates, I begin the evening in the Wetherspoons round the corner from The Garage. Within a minute I start bumping into far-flung mates who’ve all united for the excitement of a Lightyear revival. Everyone’s discussing which ‘last ever Lightyear gig’ they attended; most of us having seen two or three ‘final’ tours from the band. Some of us made it to 2015’s Slam Dunk sets, but almost all of us were at the 2012 gig at Islington Academy. Having formed in 1997, Lightyear released two albums before breaking up, playing their first ‘last ever show’ on 26th September 2003. Since then they’ve done at least four ‘last ever’ gigs/tours in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2015. It’s my firm belief that Lightyear will never really get sick of giving all of us a good time, and it’s heartening to see that they’re reforming ‘permanently’. My only concern is whether the gig will live up to our lofty expectations.

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Local boys, Eat The Evidence are a good wake-up band for the early doors crowd. They take all the worst elements of ska-punk and and somehow make them fun. In my mate’s words, just as they’re setting up on stage, “He’s about to rap, isn’t he? Oh god.” The sighting of an accordion in a ska band is also an immediate red flag, but it turns out to be jumpy, bouncy fun, with things looking up later in the set when the accordion gets switched out for a guitar and a ukelele.

Eat The Evidence apparently approached Lightyear after one of their ‘last ever gigs’ and made them promise to book them as support if they ever reformed. When the new tour was announced they made sure to call that favour in. Never before have I seen a band so excited to be playing a show – their singer is literally buzzing, decked out in an old Call of the Weasel Clan-era t-shirt and blabbering about how they’d even all bought tickets for the gig before they were booked. It’s endearing. Continue reading “Gig Review: Lightyear’s 20 Year Anniversary Tour [21/10/2017]”