Gig Review: Might As Well Fest III (07/10/2017)

An exciting London charity all-dayer featuring Kamikaze Girls, Almedia, Eat Defeat, The Burnt Tapes, Sombulance and more.

Photo credit: Awesome pics courtesy of Roberto Gasparro @ LivePix.

Now in its third year, Might As Well Fest is socially-responsible all dayer split across two tiny London venues: The Macbeth in Hoxton and the infamous Old Blue Last in Shoreditch. If the cracking line-up isn’t enough to coax people down, the promoters are also using the forces of music for good, raising money for two worthy causes: CALM and SANDS.

When I hurriedly stumble into The Macbeth at 3.20pm, I’m concerned that I’m late but turns out that I needn’t have worried: they’ve had some troubles of their own. Don Blake and Sweet Little Machine have pulled out last minute, and You Know The Drill’s van has broken down outside Birmingham. As a result, they’ve had to shift timings, drum kits, amps and expectations. The change in the set times is actually a positive: the opening bands will now have a bigger crowd and the heel-draggers like me, who couldn’t make it earlier, won’t be missing out. Nonetheless, I’m reminded that we ought to be extremely thankful to anyone with the resilience to put on DIY shows!

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A handful of early-birds assemble to watch Thirteen, a Scottish group who’ve joined the bill at the last minute. They play old school punk with a rock ‘n’ roll flavour, which is good, but slightly out-of-sorts with the rest of the line-up, which is a combination of fast-punk and pop-punk. It’s good pub-punk and not a bad way to kick things off for the day.

As I reviewed their EP recently, I have been very excited to catch Our Lives In Cinema live. This is only their 8th gig and their freshness shows: they look a little awkward on stage at the beginning of the set, settling in after two songs.

They open with Cut and Run – an awesome throwback to a lot of energetic early noughties punk. You can hear a strong Jeff Rosenstock influence in Mark Bartlett’s frantic, emotional singing which is conveyed better live. Bartlett has a unique style of performance: he packs as many words into a bar as possible while shaking around the stage. Currently it looks a little awkward, but with more practice I expect it to become an integral part of their act. Otherwise, they’ve got a good, solid rhythm section, strong drumming and great backing vocals. They close on their most anthemic song, I Got This, leaving the audience happy. Once they’ve got a few more shows under their belt, I look forward to seeing a much more confident and comfortable band.

 

Lay It On The Line are up next at The Macbeth. They’re the most hardcore band of the day. It’s a brutal and disordered performance, with frontman Mike spending much of show writhing, crouched or lying on the stage while screaming bloody murder. He gives the impression of a man on the edge of breakdown extremely well. It’s all held together with some warmer guitar backing, adding a more melodic edge to their otherwise extreme sound.

It’s unusual to see bands with two standalone singers (Casual Nausea’s the only one I can think of), but it really works. Mike and Alice and equally adept at screaming and conveying a lot of anger and emotion. It’s hard to make out the lyrics but their explanations of the songs are both surprising and entertaining – one song’s dedicated to fans of the Marquis de Sade (of which they assume there are none in the room), another is about a head teacher who was killed by a rent boy after he failed to pay up…  It’s fascinating to know what inspires people’s song writing sometimes. They pull out a fantastic cover of Rotting Out’s Positive Views and end the set in a wail of feedback.

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Recap are up next, and they are fantastic. That’s the least you can expect from Dave House and Mark Pavey’s latest project – a reincarnation of Pacer and follow-up to The Steal. They jokingly say it’s only their second show, but they’re anything but new to the game. Continue reading “Gig Review: Might As Well Fest III (07/10/2017)”

Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In August

Festival season is upon us! Time to drink warm cans in a field full of grubby strangers and enjoy a well-deserved break from the real world.

There are so many high-calibre punk shows this month it’s going to be hard to keep up.

For me, August is going to be ruled by a week in Slovenia for Punk Rock Holiday. I’ve wanted to attend for years, but this is the first time I’ve managed to secure tickets. Never before have I had the opportunity to combine bands, beers and beaches – I can barely contain my excitement.

Headliners this year include Propa-fucking-gandhi, Good Riddance and The Offspring, plus heavyweights like Snuff, Face to Face and Teenage Bottlerocket. Of the less-obvious bands on the Beach Stage, I strongly recommend checking out Not On Tour, BONO! and Sombulance. I’m concerned that I may not survive 5 straight days of beer and heatstroke but I’m gonna give it a bloody good try.

PRH Lineup

I also recommend visiting Boomtown Fair for their unparalleled array of partying options. As usual Last Gang in Town’s selections for the Devil Kicks Dancehall stage are sterling: King Prawn, The Filaments, Wonk Unit, Inner Terrestrials, Pizzatramp, The JB Conspiracy to name a handful… Check out the full line-up, there isn’t a bad apple on the whole list.

The weekend before is Rebellion up in Blackpool: a social experiment to determine whether punks can survive constant exposure to loud noises, solely with the help of lager, chips and fry ups. The annual punk extravaganza always pulls in big names from across the scene, including many of the same bands as Punk Rock Holiday, plus hundreds of others like Bad Religion, Sham 69, Slaves and many of the smaller UK punk regulars.

I should also be making my annual pilgrimage to Devon for Beautiful Days – a chilled-out grassroots festival run by Levellers. It sells out every year based only on word of mouth: there’s no advertising, no sponsorship and no bullshit whatsoever. This year’s line-up includes Stiff Little Fingers, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Hepcat, Matilda’s Scoundrels, Ferocious Dog, Therapy? and Songhoy Blues. If you’re heading down there, make sure you have a cold pint down The Bimble Inn for me!

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Enjoying the Bimble Inn slightly too much in 2015.

For those of you less inclined to spend £100s getting drunk, sunburned and rained-on in a muddy field, there are plenty of tent-free shows worth going to. Read on for my top picks in August. Continue reading “Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In August”

Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In July

My top tips for bands and festivals to catch across the UK in July. Get ready to party.

July is nearly upon us! I’m still in the recovering from the heap of punk madness that was June, but there’s plenty more to look forward to.

Here are my recommendations for getting sweaty, bruised and happy in July:

WONKFEST 5: THE OMEN

  • Where: The Dome, Tuffnell Park
  • When: Saturday 1st July
  • Who: The whole extended Wonkfam
  • Tickets: £22 for 12hrs of mayhem from here

This is the fifth annual celebration of the best in UK punk, hosted by the infamous kings of the London DIY mafia, Wonk Unit. This cracking event is an opportunity to unite the whole extended ‘Wonkfam’ in one big, raucous cuddle of good times.

The day showcases 25 bands racing through 20-minute sets with minimal breaks, and a lot of running up and down the stairs between stages at The Dome. This is the perfect set up, although it does mean that if you stop for a piss, a cigarette or a trip to the BBQ you may find yourself missing a band. It goes without saying that you’ll want to watch Pizzatramp, Great Cynics, The Murderburgers and, er, Wonk Unit, etc. For something slightly less obvious, I’d recommend catching Nova Twins (holy hell they’re good), Calva Louise, and Aerial Salad.  Simon Wells, famed for being a founding member of Snuff and the lead in Mod-punks Southport, has also chosen Wonkfest as the release party for his solo album Crime of the Scene, promising to be a bit lighter and thoroughly entertaining.

Attendees are encouraged to bring food bank contributions (women’s sanitary products requested this year). In exchange you will have access to the incomparable Wonk Buffet. There’s nothing like stuffing a vegan scotch egg in your face while watching Pizzatramp throw a giant inflatable dinosaur around, I’ll tell you that. Honestly, I would go for Wonkfest just for the buffet – fuck the bands, hand me a samosa.

Matilda’s Scoundrels will be opening up at midday, so grab yourself some mid-morning train beers and get yourself down early.

Continue reading “Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In July”

Iron Chic and Bear Trade @ The Montague Arms – 11/06/2017 [Gig Review]

Two of melodic gruff punk’s finest acts deliver ‘sad punk for happy drunks’ at a matinee show in South London.

On a beautifully sunny day in June, I once again find myself piling into a black box filled with the great unwashed. I’ve arrived in South London early for the first of two Iron Chic shows at The Montague Arms in Peckham. To begin with, they booked a normal 7pm-doors gig with The Exhausts and Molar supporting but, when it sold out so quickly, they added a 4pm matinee gig aimed at out-of-towner’s like myself. When they announced the early show, I was immediately spurred into buying tickets by the addition of Bear Trade to the bill.

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If you were to ask me what my biggest musical discovery of 2015 was, it would undoubtedly be Bear Trade. I first saw them supporting Red City Radio at the Brixton Windmill, where I fell head-over-heels in love with them approximately 3 bars in. Overlooking the fact that I find their beardy Northern gruffness overwhelmingly sexy*, I honestly believe Bear Trade are the best melodic punk band in the UK right now, and yet I still often come across people who haven’t heard of them.

Iron Chic fans who’ve not discovered Bear Trade yet are in for a real treat: they sound extremely similar live, in the best way. Bear Trade open with Sea Legs, the first track on their new album Silent Unspeakable (released on Everything Sucks in April). The new album continues in the style of their earlier release Blood & Sand with some poppier overtones, however live you wouldn’t know the difference between the old and new material; the crowd reacts well to both.

Greg Robson’s growly vocal is the musical equivalent of supping single-malt by a roaring fire in a log cabin: it’s warm and comforting, with the occasional group, “Oof!” thrown in. The songs are interspersed with, bassist, Lloyd’s charmingly nonchalant banter. He towers over us at the centre of the unusually high stage, making a dry jokes and pulling a couple of faces that are all Sid Haig in House of a 1,000 Corpses (that’s a compliment, by the way).

Old favourites Bleedin’ Heart Trouble and Anathema get the best reaction from the crowd, but newer tracks Sexy Beast, Inglorious and As Long As We Have Tea are probably my favourites of the set. The new songs are as passionate and emotive as ever; every song is satisfyingly gruff with intricately melodic guitar harmonies, underpinned by outstanding drumming. Continue reading “Iron Chic and Bear Trade @ The Montague Arms – 11/06/2017 [Gig Review]”

Gig Review: Descendents @ Kentish Town Forum (04/06/2017)

Thank you for playing the way you play: Descendents charge through 30+ songs and 2 encores in London.

The opportunity to see Descendents live in the UK is not one that you miss.

This is the second date of their Hypercaffium Spazzinate Euro Tour, and their only UK show. Descendents are forefathers of pop-punk and melodic hardcore. They formed in California in 1977, they’ve had 9 different members, 7 albums, 5 record labels and 4 long-term hiatuses. Their Milo caricature is ubiquitous on t-shirts and a popular tattoo, and yet it is still recognised as an emblem of good taste.

As a band who once said that they ‘couldn’t sell out a telephone booth’, they’ve single-handedly packed 2,300 people into Kentish Town Forum this Sunday night. I’m expecting punks from far and wide: die-hards who first heard them in 1982, Fat Wreck-era fans obsessed with Everything Sucks, newbies who’ve heard they’re legendary, and plenty of lucky boyfriends and girlfriends who have been dragged along. Continue reading “Gig Review: Descendents @ Kentish Town Forum (04/06/2017)”

Gig Guide: Bands You Need to See in June

June is blessed with staggeringly good line-ups – these are the best of the best.

June has the potential to either be a shining success or a hopeless disaster. Based on recent voting catastrophes, I’m fully prepared for an awful result on June 8th, and I do sometimes wish that shining beacons like Corbyn wouldn’t come along a give us leftie liberal types hope.

So, while you prepare to lose every shred of faith you have in humanity all over again, distract yourself with this splendid array of socially-conscious noise-mongers. There is no doubt that June holds some of the most exciting punk gigs on 2017 so far, and acts will be even angrier, feistier and more politically-charged than usual!

This is how I’ll be ignoring our inevitable doom:

Punx Inna Jungle – The Final Sozzle!

  • Where: Antwerp Mansion, Manchester
  • When: Saturday 17th June
  • Who: INSANELY GOOD LINEUP ALERT
  • Tickets: £7-10 from here

Known for being an absolute mauler of a night out, I’m seriously chuffed to be heading up to Manchester for the last ever Punx Inna Jungle. I can already taste the hangover.

MPF co-captains Anarchistic Undertones have pulled out all the stops with their last line-up, giving something for everyone. Drumroll please!

  • Politically-charged ska-punk from faves Faintest Idea
  • Riotous drunken folk punk from Matilda’s Scoundrels
  • Enjoy a punch in the face from Grand Collapse’s unrelenting melodic thrash
  • Throwing Stuff giving it hardcore thrash
  • Scottish veterans PMX playing melodic punk
  • Chaotic anarcho-ska from Wadeye
  • Tech-metal-meets-skate-punk brilliance delivered by Fair Do’s
  • Energetic punk fun from London DIY kings Wonk Unit

All this chaos will be taking place in the inappropriately named Antwerp Mansion. Apparently it’s never been a squat, but it definitely has that crusty, lived-in air, adequately setting the scene for debauchery that will last into the small hours. I look forward to seeing you all there, although there’s a good chance I may not remember it!

Continue reading “Gig Guide: Bands You Need to See in June”

Gig Review: Gnarwolves @ The Borderline (20/05/2017)

You can taste the anticipation in the Borderline before Gnarwolves take the stage. I’m primed, in position, and I’ve made a tactical effort to finish my drink so I don’t end up wearing it.

Here are 5 things I learned tonight:

  • The revamped Borderline is perfectly designed for stage-diving pandemonium
  • Kamikaze Girls are fucking awesome (okay, I kinda knew that already)
  • Shut Up is destined to be the best song on the new Gnarwolves album
  • Bottle to Bottle has become so close to my heart that hearing it live makes me tear up
  • I have just seen the best show of the year so far

Continue reading “Gig Review: Gnarwolves @ The Borderline (20/05/2017)”