Gig Review: Vanilla Pod @ The Smokehouse (24/06/2017)

Vanilla Pod keep it fast and fresh with support from The Kirkz and Aerial Salad.

Another Saturday, another trip down The Smokehouse. It’s starting to feel like a second home.

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Edit: Aerial Salad have so much potential it hurts. The three-piece from Manchester are four days into their first proper tour. Before the set, frontman Jamie Munro tumbles out of the venue, bubbling with anecdotes of tour debauchery and 8am facedrugs. [EDIT: Jamie would like to point out that he was not a fan of the guy snorting pills for breakfast. Poor life choices right there.]. He’s concerned that he’s not going to last until Wonkfest next weekend. They’re a young bunch but they’re growing into the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle damn quickly.

Growing is something they’re doing a lot of: I’ve seen them a few times in the last year and every single time they get better. They’ve been playing together since they were 14, and when their set kicks off you can immediately feel their untainted youthful energy and passion. Recently, they’ve been playing increasingly bigger line-ups, including a show with Bouncing Souls and a slot at The Fest in Florida. This tour celebrates the release of their first album, Roach, which is now out on Alex Wonk’s label, Plasterer Records.

They perform an entertaining set of stomping pop punk, of the Teenage Bottlerocket / early-Alkaline Trio variety. They sound a hell of a lot like Greenday, but in a good way rather than an overly-derivative-3-chord way, or an American-Idiot-eyeliner-overload way. They give me a massive urge to get high, play Tony Hawks and eat too much pizza.

Continue reading “Gig Review: Vanilla Pod @ The Smokehouse (24/06/2017)”

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”

BONO! : You’ve Got To Hear This [Band Profile]

Pit-inducing, aggressive East Anglian hardcore for fans of Bones Brigade, Darko and Spermbirds.

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BONO! are a 5-piece hardcore band from sunny Norwich, who are intriguingly named after the world’s most famous turd.  Founded on anger, frustration and an apparent distrust for songs lasting longer than 90 seconds, they deliver frantically aggressive pit-smashing live shows.

I caught them supporting Matilda’s Scoundrels about a week after moving to Ipswich, and spent at least 15-minutes drunkenly babbling at them, telling them how much fun they were in a teeny tiny room above an Irish pub. They have also inspired one of the glorious YouTube comments I’ve ever read, on their video for new track No Escape:

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Their first release was an awesome a 5-minute self-titled EP in March 2016, which followed it this year with new EP No Escape!  It’s a dark and energetic selection of songs, bound to tear a hole in any live audience. Continue reading “BONO! : You’ve Got To Hear This [Band Profile]”

Grand Collapse: You’ve Got To Hear This [Band Profile]

Intense, technical hardcore for fans of Trash Talk, Propaghandi and face-melting thrash punk.

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When I first saw Grand Collapse they completely blew me away.  Their unrelentingly fast thrash is fuelled by aggression and frustration, and underpinned by impressive musicianship. Listening to Grand Collapse is the musical equivalent of jumping over the edge of a giant waterfall and tumbling into the unknown: a frantic mix of adrenaline, shock and awe.

Live they are savagely intense, likely to inspire either mosh pit chaos or the end of the world. The last performance I saw was in the basement of Sound Control at this year’s Manchester Punk Festival, where at least one of my friends spent the whole set standing slack-jawed in awe of what they were witnessing.

After the astounding assault of their live shows their records do not disappoint.  Their first album Far From The Callous Crowd is a firm favourite of mine, and recent follow up Along The Dew is 29 minutes and 49 seconds of raw energy. Both are tightly produced, allowing you to appreciate the intricate intrumental layering, outstanding guitar work and heavy double-kick annihilation. Calvin Sewell’s hoarse vocal adds a percussive punch, threatening to fall apart at any moment. Live or on record they are to be enjoyed extremely loud and overwhelmingly fast; every bar is a joyous assault on the senses.

I have the distinct pleasure of seeing Grand Collapse at Punx Inna Jungle later today (if I survive until 1am), but you can check them out at Common Ground Festival and around the country later in the year.

Along The Dew was released on TNS Records earlier this year. If you’re a fan of face-meltingly fast, technically excellent hardcore you’d be a fool not to buy it.

You can stream, download or buy a copy here:
TNS RECORDS (UK) http://bit.ly/2qQFsA0
RUIN NATION (EU) http://bit.ly/2qy0thw
BANDCAMP http://bit.ly/2pgtfjC
YOUTUBE http://bit.ly/2qUqysn

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: The Grabowskis @ The Smokehouse (03/06/2017)

Plus barn-stormers The Minor Discomfort Band and geekgrind from Chestburster.

On a swelteringly sunny day in June, there’s nothing quite like cramming into a windowless shoebox of a venue to watch three frantically good punk bands.

The Smokehouse starts to pack out around 8.30pm, just in time for Chestburster to take the stage. The band do a fantastic job of revving up the crowd. Each of their songs is themed around a different horror movie and, if that’s not great enough, they serve it up in 40 second blasts of heavy grind.

They try and fool us by introducing themselves as a shit thrash metal band, but I’m totally overjoyed watching them. They sound like waking up to 17 cups of coffees being thrown in your face; every moment is hilarious, enlivening and face-meltingly fast.

Continue reading “Gig Review: The Grabowskis @ The Smokehouse (03/06/2017)”

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)”