I leapt into SBÄM Fest with a tangible sense of punk adventure. I drove overnight from Manchester to Stansted, got two hours kip in the back of my car, then parked up and met a pal at the airport in time for a 7am flight. One Wetherspoons breakfast and not-enough black coffee later and we’re hopping buses and trains in Austria to get to Wels. SBÄM takes place at Alter Schlachtof, an old slaughterhouse converted into a graffiti-adorned grassroots gig venue, holding 750 keen music fans this weekend. The impressive line-up (featuring Propagandhi, Donots, Satanic Surfers, Iron Chic and No Trigger to name a few) has been enough to draw people in from around the world.
We get reach the venue just in time to catch the opening act, Missstand. They perform seriously energetic, punchy political songs, just the way punk should be played. They’ve got a lot of Anti Flag-style singalong sections, but they’re loaded with more Rancid-ish grit. I’d been enjoying listening to Hinterland on record and it carries across with a lot more force live. As they’re speaking in German, we’re amused that the only words we can pick up between songs are ‘super-cool’. They’ve nailed it: SBÄM feels super cool!
Following Misstand are two favourite British acts: The Murderburgers and Wonk Unit, who are mid-way through a joint mainland tour. The Murderburgers are fiery, funny and frantic just as you come to expect them. My friend and I giggle along to Fraser’s on-point banter, although we’re not sure how well his Scottish drawl translates to the international audience. Wonk Unit proceed to play one of the best sets I’ve ever seen them perform – they seem comfortable, played-in and every element of the show feels like the top of their game. It’s good to see some of the Wonk Fam rocking out down the front, and it’s a treat to see new tunes like Christmas In A Crackhouse and Day Job Wanker on stage. They still pull out old favourites Guts and Horses, which give us an excuse for a proper dance.
It turns out that two beers on top of two hours sleep in two days is enough to make your head swim, so I decide to have a tactical sit down while I wait for the sky to stop spiralling, before adopting the tried-and-tested sunglasses-indoors coping mechanism. We also have to take a quick jaunt to check in to a hotel. Unfortunately, this means we miss Joe McMahon, however we’re back and raring to go around in time for Astpai. Continue reading “Gig Review: SBÄM Fest, Austria [4-5 May 2018]”
Travelling from Belgium to Montreal was an adventure in itself; a journey for the love of punk. You can read my Road To Pouzza article to hear more, as it gives the perfect intro to this.
If you’ve never heard of Pouzza Fest, then where have you been? It uses the same formula as The Fest and Manchester Punk Festival. Multiple venues participate and there’s pretty much five bands playing at the same time throughout the day; you have to run around town to catch your favourites. Sensible shoes are a must. This makes choosing difficult, though they do try to not have bands in the same sub-genre clash.
It is impossible to describe the whole weekend (especially in the midst of the inevitable post-festival mood crash), so here are my Top 10 moments of the festival, recorded in chronological order. I have selected these based on how the music made me feel, because sometimes that’s more important than an impressive performance.
Hate It Too
Getting back from our Toronto trip later than expected, we rushed to shower to get rid of bus smell and get down to registration, for our wristbands and get to Foufounes in time for Quebec’s Hate It Too. Filled with anxiety we rushed into the venue. With the first notes that warm feeling of happiness came flooding back. By now I’ve only seen this skate-punk band live twice, and twice I’ve been mesmerized by the bass. It’s not just me. Those warm bass tones might have something to do with it, and their phenomenal songwriting skills too, I suppose.
I have been in love with their album Purple Mountains since it came out in 2015. Having recently released a new song Cyanide Teeth, they had me stoked to hear it live. They definitely did not disappoint; I have nothing but love for this band.
It’s my second time seeing this pop-punk ensemble from Chicago in two days! I said I’d give them a second chance, didn’t I? While they got somewhat lost in the lineup at the gig in Toronto, playing at Foufounes with a super-stoked crowd made them shine. For me they were a nice chilled break from all the fast bands and had me nodding along in no time. Despite being referred to as a ‘skate-punk aficionado’, I do quite enjoy some slower punk-rock as well. Continue reading “Gig Review: Pouzza Fest 8, Montreal [18-20 May 2018]”
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.
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]”
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.
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 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]”
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.
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]”
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.
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.
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]”