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 Review: Wotsit Called Fest – Saturday (30/09/2017)

Part Two: The main day at Hastings’ premier DIY punk fest, featuring performances from The Restarts, Riggots, Pizzatramp, Millie Manders, The Fuckin’ Glorious, The Barracks, Natterers, The Crash Mats, The Dead Anyways and Cheap Dates.

Photo credit: Massive thanks to Sara-Louise Bowrey from Festival Flyer (Cheap Dates – Barracks) and Mark Richards (The Fuckin’ Glorious – The Restarts) for bringing this to life with their tremendous images.

Check out my review of Part One: Wotsit Called Fest – Friday for the full story!

After scoffing lunch on the beach I’m back at The Palace and ready to start another rollicking day of DIY fun.

Although Saturday’s gig doesn’t start until the respectable time of 3.30pm, bedraggled punks gradually stumble into the bar from 2pm onwards. The drink of choice this morning is the espresso martini: both the beginning and the end of the hangover.

It feels like The Palace has been designed specifically for Wotsit Called Fest. Toxic Wotsit’s logo, colour-scheme and matching cocktail (the Toxic Avenger – held responsible for many of Saturday’s haggard faces) are all a fierce nuclear-waste green, coincidentally the colour of The Palace’s tiny back-room. The sound is reasonably good, but otherwise the room is rough, ready and clearly not designed for bands; the walls are adorned with giant mirrors and oil painting of dignitaries riding horses. It all adds to the DIY punk feel.

Cheap Dates at Wotsite Called Fest 2017

Local skiffle-punks Cheap Dates are a fitting opening act: coaxing us gently back into the land of the living with some varied covers. They’re a quartet with a mandolin, washboard and an acoustic guitar, plus a bass constructed from a bit of rope tied to a plastic crate. They all sing, and occasional cameos from a kazoo and a melodica add to the fun. By far the highlight of their set is a version of All Saints’ Never Ever – now that’s what I call a cover.

The Dead Anyways at Wostsit Called Fest 2017

Up next is The Dead Anyways, who provide smiling, self-deprecating punk in a typically British style. They’re one of my favourite bands of the day; they may not be the liveliest or most hardcore act to take the stage, but they have an instant melodic appeal that aligns perfectly with my taste. Combining earnest songwriting, foot-tapping rhythms and a gritty vocal, they’ll appeal to fans of Southport, Spoilers and Bear Trade. They plod between songs with understated humour and an affable stage-presence, aided by the appearance of the guitarist’s two young daughters. The kids give us a giggle and a photo opportunity, both leaning head-in-hands at the side of the stage, evidently dissatisfied by the lack of Peppa Pig covers. They’re the only two disappointed customers in the room.

The Crash Mats at Wotsit Called fest 2017

Following The Dead Anyways is the band most likely to cover the Peppa Pig theme tune: The Crash Mats. They don’t, but instead they throw in a delightful version of the Chucklevision theme that makes me grin like a lunatic. The grizzly three-piece play cracking sausage rock ‘n’ roll straight out of Oldham, with short, snappy ska segments. Their songs cover a variety of profound topics, including wrestling, meat pies and Neighbours, mainly taken from their new album 69 Peruvian Panpipe Classics. My favourite tune is Soppy Love Song, which works even better live than on the album: beginning with slow parody ballad before all hell breaks loose at the end. Continue reading “Gig Review: Wotsit Called Fest – Saturday (30/09/2017)”

Gig Review: Wotsit Called Fest – Friday (29/09/2017)

Part One: The first day of Hasting’s new DIY punk festival, featuring Nosebleed, Matilda’s Scoundrels, Knocksville and Rotten Foxes.

Photo credit: Massive thanks to Sara-Louise Bowrey (Festival Flyer) for the brilliant photos.

Now in its second year, Wotsit Called Fest is a 2-day DIY punk extravaganza in Hastings. Organised by Toxic Wotsit, there’s a great diversity of bands across the two days: hardcore, skiffle, aggro-folk, ska and plenty of snotty straight-up punk. This is its first year at The Palace and my first year as a punter, so I’m excited to see what all the hype is about.

Bumbling into the bar on Friday night, half an hour before the music’s due to start, it’s good to see the venue already looking packed. There are a lot of excited punks here, including many like me who’ve travelled from further afield, treating the weekend as a little seaside holiday.

Rotten Foxes at Wotsit Called Fest 2017

Rotten Foxes kick off the festivities with loud and lairy hardcore, and an immediate demand to get pints flying through the air. Unlikely bastions of body-positivity, they’re wearing the absolute minimum on stage: bare bellies, leopard print boxers, denim cut-offs so short that you don’t quite know where to look. Bassist, Jimi, has a costume change into a Stone Cold Steve Austin vest midway through the set, in celebration of a wrestling themed tune. They close their set with an enjoyable shoutalong about Danny Dyer – the best kick-up-the-arse the crowd could wish for.

Following them, Knocksville properly get the party started with a hip-shaking rockabilly riot. They blend in punk and ska, to create a potent combo that’s impossible to resist dancing to. There isn’t a still body in the house for their cover of Tainted Love. The smoke machine (amusingly located in a spot that suggests the mixing-desk has caught fire) kicks in just in time for the breakdown, getting everyone moving.

Knocksville at Wotsit Called fest 2017

Jason Walder uses his heavily stickered double-bass as a crowd-pleasing prop throughout the show. He whirls it through the air, straddles its side, and lays it on the floor to play an instrumental section during their biggest stomper, Lockdown. The peak is a song played while standing precariously on the side of the bass, where he courteously pauses mid-tune to give the front row a photo-opportunity. It’s a winning performance and a huge hit with the crowd.

Knocksville would be the ideal lead-in for the headline band, Nosebleed, however before them we have the most hotly-anticipated performance of the weekend: the launch of Matilda’s Scoundrels’ new album As The Tide Turns. This is the first hometown show for the infamous folk-punks since releasing the record on September 8th. Dan and Jens also form half of Toxic Wotsit, the promoters responsible for the festival. This is their show, their hometown and their time. Continue reading “Gig Review: Wotsit Called Fest – Friday (29/09/2017)”

Gig Review: Kick The Crutches All Dayer @ The New Cross Inn (23/09/2017)

The most fun I’ve ever had for a fiver, feat. The Kimberly Steaks, Pizzatramp, Natterers, Werecats, Mug, Misgivings and more.

Disclaimer: Brace yourselves, these may be the worst gig photos ever taken! I decided they were slightly better than none at all.

On the punk circuit there is a risk of seeing the same 10 touring bands again and again, so it’s always appealing to discover new acts. It takes cheap all-day gigs like the Kick The Crutches all-dayer to enable us to do that: when it’s only £5 to see 12 bands you know it’s going to be worth it.

Although there are bands I already love on the line-up today (I’m most excited for The Kimberly Steaks, Pizzatramp and Werecats) the real draw for me is the bands I’ve not seen before. On A Hiding To Nothing, Nietzsche Trigger Finger, Fastfade and Strange Planes are all bands I’ve listened to and heard a lot about lately, but who I’ve not had the opportunity to see live. There is also plenty of genre diversity in the line-up to keep people on their toes for the whole day. I can’t wait.

Fastfade open the show, amusingly already running five minutes behind schedule. They’re a young three-piece from Enfield, playing strong back-to-basics fast punk, like NOFX but smarter. It’s really enjoyable. Three songs in, there’s a drunk heckler shouting ‘one more song’, apparently missing the fact that they’ve got quite a few left. It’s proves for an amusing between-song piece, before they crack into a song appropriately named Idiot. Playing at 2.45pm they grumble about it being too early to start boozing, but late enough for the coffee to have worn off, but they still provide a lively, energetic show. On the last song they toss a drumstick out into the crowd, only to ask us to throw it back because the drummer actually needs it: one of those lovely small-gig moments.

It’s not often that a band blow you out of the water like Nietzsche Trigger Finger. I’ve heard of the duo from Bristol, but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to see them. They’re a complete revelation; I pity the poor punters who haven’t made it to the venue in time for their early set. They play stripped-back thrash with off-the-wall lyrics and funny referential song titles like ‘Gone Girl’ Cat vs. Twitter Eggs, 9/11 Two and Reinventing Kanye West. They drift beautifully from diabolically heavy, to fast hardcore, to clever, percussive acapella sections. I can’t wait to catch them again, and I strongly recommend that you go listen to everything they’ve ever recorded. It’s intricate, interesting and totally unique.

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Next up is Strange Planes, who play bass-driven melodic rock with hints of punk. At this point, I’m drinking a coffee from a shop round the corner that tastes like diesel and pure hatred combined, which is mildly distracting. Conversely, the musical change of pace is accessible and instantly enjoyable. They achieve a great mix of different tones in their vocal harmonies, and the excellent, complex bass really stands out. I love every slow, moody second of their set. The coffee tastes better once it’s stripped away my tastebuds.

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It’s time for super-fun upbeat punk from Werecats. Their poppy melodic tunes never fail to get the crowd moving and singing along, and this is no exception. The title track of their latest EP My Boyfriend’s a Werewolf sounds great, with Pip and Cici switching lead vocals between songs and nailing the harmonies. They’ve got an energetic Fat Wreck feel, in the camp of Teenage Bottlerocket or Bad Cop/Bad Cop, while toeing the classic Ramones line. Werecats are more fun than a ball pool full of puppies wearing party hats, and tight to boot. It’s lovely to see them again, and I can’t resist having a dance-about. Continue reading “Gig Review: Kick The Crutches All Dayer @ The New Cross Inn (23/09/2017)”

Gig Guide: October’s Unmissable Shows

We’ve done the hard work for you, and found all of October’s best gigs. Remember: sleep is overrated.

September’s been an eventful month. We received the sad news that Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü, funk and soul legend Charles Bradley and Matt Bellinger of Planes Mistaken for Stars have all passed away. Pennywise got through all of IT without playing Bro-Hymn. Iron Chic keep teasing us with new tunes. And Propagandhi just released their new album Victory Lap.

I bought 30-odd new CDs that I somehow need to make time to listen to, and now I’m faced with the dilemma of having to delete something off my iPod to make room for new tunes. On top of that, I’ve gained about 8 new band t-shirts and have run out of wardrobe space. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right?

There is a lot to be excited about in October. Here are my top picks:

Gig of the Month: Punkle Fester

  • When: Saturday 14th October
  • Where: Talking Heads, Southampton
  • Who: Darko, Fair Dos, PMX, Almeida, Grand Collapse, Captain Trips, Müg, Misgivings, On A Hiding to Nothing, Screech Bats, Sombulance, The Bitter-town Hounds, The SLM
  • Event page HERE / Tickets £10 advance, £12 OTD

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Love skate-punk? Of course you love skate-punk. Not only does this all-dayer have the most inventive name of all time, it has the best UK skate-punk lineup you could possibly imagine, with plenty of variety throughout the day to keep you on your toes.

It’s worth arriving early for some zombie/dinosaur/shark-infested fast-punk from The SLM and I’m eager to catch Sombulance again after a lively performance at Punk Rock Holiday, especially now I’ve had enough time to learn all the words on their new EP Lifer. Portsmouth 4-piece Misgivings are unmissable if you’re into gruff. I’m still reeling from Müg‘s awesome set in London last weekend: they’re a high-quality and highly underrated bunch.

Southcoast skatepunks Captain Trips are hosting the festival – I’ve never seen them before and I’m silly excited about it, having had their new single on repeat for a month or so. Following them are Grand Collapse playing overwhelmingly frantic hardcore thrash (more on them below).

I’ve never seen a band with the ability to leave an audience gaping in awe quite like Almeida do; their style of progressive-thrash is a technical marvel. I’m sure PMX will make a fair attempt at out-doing them, though. The Scottish act have the melodies to get a crowd on side and the technical ability to floor them. The penultimate band are Manchester’s premier heavy skatepunk act, Fair Do’s: bound to be melodic, aggressive and full of those widdly-widdly guitar bits that make you pull faces and wiggle your fingers around (don’t judge me, we all do it).

Finally, Lockjaw heavyweights Darko are closing the show. Hardcore skatepunk doesn’t begin to cover it – their songs are fast, intricate and unimaginably catchy. No doubt they’ll play plenty of tunes from their latest masterpiece Bonsai Mammoth, and they’ll probably have us weeping with joy. Or spilling pints on ourselves in a wall of death. Either’s fine by me.

Continue reading “Gig Guide: October’s Unmissable Shows”

EP Review: Our Lives in Cinema – S/T

The recent self-titled release from London’s Our Lives In Cinema is a tense blast of angsty pop-punk. FFO: Alkaline Trio, Polar Bear Club, Rival Schools.

South London post-hardcore/pop-punk crew Our Lives in Cinema have recently released a self-titled EP. Taking influence from early noughties emo, there are underlying flavours of Alkaline Trio and My Chemical Romance, infused with a more modern pop-punk twist. The EP is short and sweet with only three songs, but there’s a lot packed into it.

First track Cut and Run* is energetic and tense, with angsty multi-tracked vocal delivery. The tight guitar lines standout in the mix and overall it leaves me thinking of Rival Schools. The song descends into an interesting melodic multi-vocal section that reminds me a bit of Brand New’s execution on Deja Entendu.

You can definitely hear the influence of Jeff Rosenstock in the vocal on second track I’m Drunk! And None of This is Real. The song has the all-too-familiar feel of booze-fuelled memory loss, bad sleep and haunted dreams. Continue reading “EP Review: Our Lives in Cinema – S/T”

Feature: The Lost Art of The Mix CD

In the world of Spotify and MP3s, the humble mix CD has taken a backstep. Take my advice and don’t forget them: they can be a gift, an education or a window into your own past.

There are few ways to reach my heart or mind like a mix CD. They can be the ultimate romantic gesture, a thoughtful gift for a friend, or way to share new bands you’ve discovered. A mix CD can also be a time-capsule, reminding you of your former-self; what better way to wrap up your memories?

Like many people in their late 20s/early 30s, I grew up with a very romanticised view of mixtapes and mix CDs. I am too young for mixtapes, really. My parents had a stereo with a tape deck in the kitchen, and I remember my Dad showing me how to record songs off the radio but CDs were already in vogue. The concept of the A and B sides and the meticulous effort that went into their recording wasn’t lost on me, though.

For me, what cemented the idea of the mixtape as the ultimate thoughtful gesture was High Fidelity. The opening scene of the film features protagonist Rob Gordon – flawed romantic and record-store owner – explaining the rules for compiling songs:

This stuck with me, and I abided by those arbitrary rules when making mixes throughout my teenage years.

Growing up, I made mix CDs for my friends. I wanted them to love music as much as I did, and to share all the exciting new bands I kept stumbling upon. I was over the moon when a friend would return the favour. My friend Jessie has the most beautiful handwriting, her words used to melt delicately across the CD covers. I still cherish a CD that a school pal, Jennie, made for me: without even looking, I remember the autumn leaves on the cover. Sleater Kinney was the first track. I listened to that on repeat for weeks because I was so chuffed that someone had gone to that amount of effort for me.

Nowadays I still exchange mix CDs with friends, but it’s a more practical affair. My friend Mark loves music but enjoys different genres to me, so we exchanged our favourite songs as an introduction. I’m listening to it right now; it’s different but I love it.

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I’ve made mix CDs for most of my past romantic conquests.  Just after we got together, an ex made me a mix that featured I’m The One by Descendents – a move which won my affections for years to come. I used to listen to that mix over and over again; it was like being wrapped in a giant warm blanket. Continue reading “Feature: The Lost Art of The Mix CD”