Gig Review :: Frank Turner – Wembley Arena – 13/04/12

© Ben Morse 2012

“Even with the size of the place and all the pomp and circumstance, one thing remained the same. It still felt like a Frank Turner show.”

When I saw Frank play the Manchester Apollo last year I wondered how much bigger he could possibly get. The first time I saw the guy play was in front of 800 people, so to see him play to a crowd the size of the Apollo’s was a little mental. So you can imagine how it was seeing him on stage at Wembley arena. This wasn’t just Wembley Arena either, it was a sold out Wembley Arena. Crazy.

Just walking into that behemoth of an arena was insane. This place would soon have eleven-thousand people in it in a few hours and, honestly, that’s a pretty scary thought. Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before we had our first act on stage – Beans On Toast. For those who don’t know, Beans On Toast is a folk singer from Essex. His voice is really fucked up and all his songs are really simple (but in a good way). The fact he was performing at Wembley had to be some kind of awesome in-joke, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t brilliant. After opening with a brand new song, he brought on Bobby Banjo – his banjo player, would you believe? – and they blasted out a few of Beans’ more well known tunes. Well, when I say “blasted out”, I mean they just about got through them.

As is a custom at a Beans On Toast gig, the songs aren’t always played in full and, on occasion, aren’t even played correctly. This is exactly what we were treated to, with Beans even asking the crowd to stop clapping along with songs because he couldn’t concentrate. In between songs he told stories and chatted about what certain songs meant, whilst checking his watch to make sure he didn’t over run the twenty minutes he’d been allocated. Having closed his set, Beans was met with an amazing response from the ever expanding crowd. This prompted him to crowd surf to the back of the arena. It was a great way to open the show and an even better way for Beans to close his set. Though finding later out he’d been chucked out for crowd surfing was the icing on the cake.

Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius pip continued the show and, whilst they’re good performers, I don’t think they really fit in with the rest of the Wembley experience. Granted, this was my first exposure to the hip-hop duo, but I found it really hard to get into. With that said, I seemed to be in the minority as they went down really well. Perhaps I should have swotted up beforehand?

That headline slot was edging ever closer and now the crowd seemed to have all packed into the arena. Unlike the night before, people weren’t about to walk out on Billy Bragg here. For those who were at the previous night’s gig, the set will have sounded a little familiar. With that said, Bragg was blasting out the hits on both nights with only a few new ones thrown into the set. Again he played ‘Scousers Never Buy The Sun’, which was especially poignant given how close the show was to the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. The rest was dedicated to a few of his more seasoned songs and, again, he closed with ‘A New England’. This time, with eleven-thousand other voices singing the chorus and a chill descending down my spine. Even this wasn’t enough to top what was about to happen.

Though it had been billed by the man himself as a ‘greatest hits’ kind of set, it opened with ‘Eulogy’ – the opening track from, latest album, England Keep My Bones – and the beginning of Frank’s performance at Wembley did feel a little top heavy with EKMB tracks. However, once it got going the hits kept coming and we all kept singing. Audience participation is a big thing at Frank Turner shows, so if you’re not singing you’re not doing it right! Speaking of participation, before launching into ‘Dan’s Song’, Frank brought his mum up on stage in the hope she would play the harmonica on the track. After a little coaxing from her son and the eleven-thousand that came to see him do what he does best, she gave in and maybe even got the biggest cheer of the night. This was swiftly followed by ‘Father’s Day’, which seemed like a nice bit of set arrangement on Turner’s part given the song’s subject matter. Other surprise inclusions included ‘Nashville Tennessee’. First featured on Campfire Punkrock, the song is a fan favourite that seems to have withstood the test of time unlike others from that stage of Frank’s career.

Amongst all of the hits and surprises, a new song was thrown into the mix. ‘Four Simple Words’ – a track from Frank’s forthcoming fifth solo album – went down really well with the Wembley crowd. Though we didn’t know the words, we danced along regardless. The soft sweet acoustic opening feeling like a ruse, as the body of the song is unleashed. There are very few times I’ve thought about ‘pitting’ to Frank’s music. This was one such time. This song already felt like a hit, and it’s no where near ready for release yet.

When it came time to close the set, Frank went with a little Queen. More recently, the Winchestrian has closed his sets with a rendition of the classic rock band’s ‘Somebody To Love’ and it’s inclusion here was received with aplomb. After bidding us ‘goodnight’, attentions were turned to the big screens hanging above the stage. There was Frank, sitting in a chair, waving back at us. What was he doing? Well, he was waiting to get tattooed. Rather than that rockstar pre-encore walkoff being shrouded in secrecy, Turner decided to let everyone get a peek as a second date was added to his pre-existing Wembley tattoo (done when he supported Green Day at Wembley stadium). With that finished, Turner returned to the stage with Billy Bragg following shortly after. Just like the night before, the pair played Dylan’s ‘The Time’s They Are A Changing’, this time, with a few additional hiccups. There were singalongs aplenty, though the cynic in me wondered how many watching had only heard this song because it was featured in Watchmen. Regardless, it went down a storm. Now was time for the biggest shock of the evening.

Now alone, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, Frank set about playing ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’. Though he announced this time “might” be the song’s last outing in a live venue. Emotions ran high and there were even some audible groans from the crowd, but Turner delivered the fan favourite expertly and, in the end, it felt kind of fitting to retire that song at such a poignant time. After such a somber second song, the encore was concluded (as always) with ‘Photosynthesis’. Again the audience played their part, sitting down towards the end of the song before leaping up into the air as Nigel kicks the song back into gear and confetti and streamers fly into the air. It was a showy finish, but it feels like something Frank can pull off at this stage.

Even with the size of the place and all the pomp and circumstance, one thing remained the same. It still felt like a Frank Turner show. It still felt intimate, and Frank never appeared to be out of his depth. It’ll always feel better to see him in a smaller venue – I mean, when doesn’t a small venue feel better? -, but this show was one to remember, and one I’ll be talking about for some time to come.

Gig Review :: ‘Twas The Night Before Wembley – Camden Barfly – 12/04/12

© Katie Gedling 2012

“This is the place that was going to hold five awesome acts and two-hundred Xtra Mile loyalists?”

Twas the night before Wembley and…something, something, something. I was going to try and be really clever and come up with alternative words to that classic poem to introduce this review, but I tried and it really wasn’t good. On the contrary, Twas The Night Before Wembley was pretty awesome, and a perfect way to pre-empt what is bound to go down as one of the best gigs of the year.

This was my first Barfly experience, so to say I was surprised to see the size of the place is an understatement. I mean I didn’t expect it to be huge, but this place looked like any other pub. This is the place that was going to hold five awesome acts and two-hundred Xtra Mile loyalists? We were certainly in for an intimate show then! Doors opened and the crowd flooded in, the room a’buzz with talk of who the special guest might be.

Shortly after, Ben Marwood kicked the night off and was met with a rapturous applause. Having toured with Frank Turner last year, the crowd certainly knew who Ben was, and the singalongs began immediately. Fan favourite, ‘Singalong’ seemed to go down the best, with the entire room in fine voice for Marwood’s irony-filled anthem. ‘Tell Avril Lavigne I Never Wanted To Be Her Stupid Boyfriend Anyway’ was also met with a brilliant response, but maybe that’s what you get when you throw the chorus to ‘Sk8r Boi’ into the middle of your song? He said that’d be the last time he did that…somehow I don’t think it will be.

Marwood left the stage and the crowd was suitably warmed up when Jamie Lenman announced that Dave Hause would be up next. The former Reuben frontman was a perfect master of ceremonies, cracking jokes and seemingly having a good time. Though I couldn’t help wonder how many of those crammed into the Barfly even knew who he was besides “that bloke with the tache who’s got a suit on” (yes, that’s a direct quote).

Having flown into London just a few hours before, a jetlagged-looking Dave Hause was up next. The Loved Ones frontman played a blinder, though it felt like many in the room didn’t know who he was. The majority of his set was taken from Resolutions and the crowd seemed into it, with a fair few singing along. He even threw a ‘Pretty Good Year’ – a Loved Ones song – into the mix, but even those who were singing along before didn’t seem to know what it was. So that was a shame, but Dave himself was awesome as always and in good spirits. He took time out to joke with one member of the audience, though I don’t know if they quite got it.

Jim Lockey and The Solemn Sun soon followed. Hot on the heels of their new record, it seemed like the crowd was a little more into it. Hearing songs from Death in a live environment was amazing, and really helped to solidify how far that band has come since their last release. A few songs from Atlases made it into the set, and it was great to hear how well they worked in conjunction with those new tracks. They played hard and may have even won over the few that had not yet been subjected to the Jim Lockey and The Solemn Sun experience.

Like I said, there was all this talk of a special guest playing the Barfly that night, and it seemed many had decided that this guest would be Frank Turner. Granted, that’s a valid assumption to make. After all, he is Xtra Mile’s biggest act. However, when you look at it logically, Turner playing a set at The Barfly was pretty unlikely given the importance of what he was due to undertake in less than twenty-four hours time. So when it was revealed that Billy Bragg was the special guest, more than a few in attendance headed for the door.

Even with a drop in attendees the room was still packed when ‘Uncle Bill’ started playing. The set was comprised mostly of hits, with ‘Scousers Never Buy The Sun’ being the only new track played the whole set. This is what people want though, and Billy knows that. ‘To Have And To Have Not’ was a definite highlight of the set, but you can’t beat ‘A New England’ when it comes to awesome set closers. The crowd shouted for an encore, and an encore we got. Bragg returned to the stage with a guest of his own. Unsurprisingly Mr Turner was in attendance, so the two of them belted out a cover of Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A Changing’, something that sent those who’d headed elsewhere in disappointment charging into the room.

Four down and one to go. So far the night had been a massive success, now it was time for Crazy Arm. As a massive fan of these guys I know they can tear the roof off a venue like The Barfly with ease. And they did. But like Dave Hause’s set, it seemed the crowd really wasn’t into it. After a night of folk punk and acoustic tunes, many seemed to think Crazy Arm were a little too much. The atmosphere was less intense, but the band were not. They were as tight as ever and absolutely killed it. It was nice to hear ‘Little Boats’ being thrown into the set again after a long absence and some of their older songs sound amazing with the additional instrumentation. The band closed the set with a cover of Springsteen’s ‘Born To Run’. And though it seemed to get the crowd going a bit, the intensity of a Crazy Arm headline show just wasn’t there.

With that I headed back downstairs, unable to speak having completely blown my voice out shouting along with Crazy Arm. All in all it was a great night, and a fantastic way for Xtra Mile to showcase the talent they have on their label. I couldn’t think of a better way to prepare for Wembley either.

Gig Review :: Brand New – Academy 1, Manchester – 09/02/12

© 2012 Tom Bailey

“…the audience calm, and cling to every word, eventually taking over singing the song like a drunken choir, and seemingly putting Lacey off his lyrics. But who cares, the mans a legend.”

As the first chords of ‘Welcome to Bangkok’ ring out, myself, and I would imagine most of the crowd, are suddenly 14 again. Taken back to that place in time we first fell for Brand New, reminded of our teen loves and broken hearts, the band being the sound track to those drunken underage parties and our disenchanted younger years. Very few bands from my teen years still appeal to me, but Brand New explain why my love for them is so strong through the course of the show.

Looking around the room as the anticipation builds I find myself as another mismatch in a room full of variety. From 14 year olds in brand new Brand New shirts, to the Wiccan odd ball in front off me, to people like myself the post-emo veterans holding on to youth with white knuckles and teary eyes.

The atmosphere was electric as the band stepped on stage and began “Welcome to Bangkok”, ploughing through to ‘The Archers Bows have Broken’, ‘Millstone’, and ‘Sowing Season’ until there was a problem with Derick Shermans guitar we the  found Jesse filling the time with talk of his day in Manchester, explaining his great “Luncheon” and the fact that they have spent all day napping, he is a very humble and seemingly shy character (hidden bellow a baggy beanie) and despite the chat only being a filler for an onstage mishap the crowd are transfixed with what he has to say. As Derrick’s guitar comes back to life, Jesse apologises for wearing the same clothes tonight as he has for the last two shows, “I smell good though” he reassures us.

As we get to the fifth song, the crowd are gripped by the throbbing bass line of ‘Vices’ and are whipped up into frenzy. Moving onto ‘Sink’ another bass heavy beast of a song we can see just how great a bassist Garret Tierney really is ripping in to his bass with endless energy.

Rolling on to ‘Sic transit Gloria… Glory Fades’ the band are joined by a riot of vocals from the audience, followed up by ‘Okay I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t’ the whole first verse taken over by the audience, the band seeming stunned by this looking at each other with confussed faces. A nice reminder that the band don’t quite realise just how good they really are.

The bands stage show was perfect, understated lighting and dry ice, nothing fancy just us and them, the way a good rock show should be. Yet another reason to see them live, it’s all about the music.

As ‘Jude Law and a Semester Abroad’ got started the room erupted once more in to a fury, not a body in the place wasn’t dancing. Following up with ‘Seventy Times 7’ only added to the atmosphere. Again taking people back to 2002 with the emo anthem.

Pausing at this point to ask the crowd ‘Play Crack the Sky’ or ‘Soco Amaretto Lime?’ Jesse asks for a clap vote, ‘Soco Amaretto Lime’ being the unanimous winner, the audience calm, and cling to every word, eventually taking over singing the song like a drunken choir, and seemingly putting Lacey off his lyrics. But who cares, the mans a legend.

Working through ‘Limousine’ to ‘Jesus’ we again find the crowd taking over the show to the bands delight. “Jesus Christ that’s a pretty face” bellowing from the moving mass of bodies.
As the show draws to a close we get ‘Degausser’ and finally ‘You Won’t Know’. With a towel over his head Lacey is an ominous presence on stage, considering the haunting Echo and the Bunny Men style to the tune, the tone drops and once again we are all hypnotised by Lacey’s presence. As the bass and drums pick up we are once more consumed with the need to dance, and we do, en masse! The whole room once again and for the last time turbulent and exhaustedly dancing like it is the last night on earth. As the song trails off the rest band quietly leave stage leaving Jesse behind to drop to his knees for the final solo then knock the mic stand over and throw his guitar through the drum kit.

A quick nervous “We will see you next year” and mention of a new album coming up excites the crowd and, with that, Jesse leaves the stage. The house lights suddenly blind us all and we quickly realise there will be no encore, a little disappointing given how good a show it has been. A large knot in my chest had me hoping in vane that they might come back with an acoustic and bring us to climax with ‘I Will play my Game Beneath the Spin Light’ or ‘Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot’. Missing ‘Guernica’ also left a few people disappointed but what will be will be, despite the lack of encore and a missing favourite the crowd leave sweaty and entirely satisfied, already buzzing with talk of next years gig.

Glory Fades… but not for Brand New, I am exited and refreshed, looking forward to what lies ahead for the talented gents from Long Island.

– Nick Matthew

Gig Review :: Pressure Kids – The Vic Inn

“…Charlotte untangled her microphone lead, as if unleashing an excitable puppy, and jumped into the crowd…”

Far from kicking back, Pressure Kids have continued to work hard since winning Tamworth Battle of the Bands in 2011; rehearsing, writing and performing numerous gigs across the Midlands.

Following on from the success of their self-titled E.P., featuring four of their studio-recorded tracks, they have committed to energetic and exciting live performances at venues including The Flapper and the O2 Academy 3 in Birmingham. Their most recent gig was held at the Victoria Inn in Derby. Pressure Kids were billed as ‘support’ for a touring band called “The Hype Theory”. Sadly, the headliners flailed into the shadows of the effervescent and vivacious Pressure Kids, who, once again, demonstrated true showmanship, impressive musicality and showcased two great new songs.

The room boasted the biggest crowd of the evening as Pressure Kids took to the stage and the band fed of the atmosphere created by the anticipating crowd. Charlotte Lombardi is every inch the dynamic lead singer, a powerhouse who charms her way around the stage. She knows her craft and therefore never fails to captivate the audience with her charismatic and energetic performances. Heard commenting “Who needs the gym? I’m knackered!”, she never fails to commit 100% to every performance.

Her bandmates offer the perfect support for her unique style, physically bouncing off one another on stage, their chemistry is blatant. Each talented in their own field, the guitarists give the tracks depth whilst the strong bass-riffs pulse through every song. The drumming is always energetic and powerful, allowing the crowd to tap their feet and clap their hands; audience participation is a must!

The stage at ‘The Vic’ was somewhat restricting in terms of size, yet never ones to succumb to any kind of restraint; Pressure Kids overcame their boundaries by simply ignoring them. The bassist climbed onto the edge of the stage, playing and balancing in tandem whilst Charlotte untangled her microphone lead, as if unleashing an excitable puppy, and jumped into the crowd, dancing with ‘fans’ who were singing along to their popular songs.

As well as the ever-increasingly recognised tracks such as ‘Monster’ and ‘Rocking Chair’, the band played a new track called ‘Lioness’ and another new song called ‘CBA’. The former is a guaranteed hit. In fact, I’d put money on it. The chorus is unforgettable, catchy and musically fantastic whilst the lyrics have everyone in the room hooked on Charlotte’s every word. Their older, better-known songs didn’t disappoint, successfully delivering the guitar-driven pop they claim to offer. Pressure Kids essentially produce feel-good music with a gritty edge, pop to sink your teeth into.

Following rapturous applause, the band headed off-stage to ‘mingle’ with the crowd who received them with open arms and congratulations. Not only have they concocted an impressive repertoire of incredible tracks, they have the likeability factor. They are proud of their music, rightfully so, and never fail to impress with their performances.

Following one signed band and preceding another signed band, neither of which packed the kind of punch Pressure Kids do, I fail to see how the amazingly talented likes of Charlotte, Simon, James, Dan and ‘Danimal’ remain unsigned. I beg of you, spread the word and share some Pressure Kids love!

Pressure Kids can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/PressureKids and their E.P. is available on i-tunes.

Photograph, used with permission, by ‘Reality Control’ photography: https://www.facebook.com/realitycontrol

[J]

Review :: The BRITS 2012 (Sponsored by MasterCard)

Time for a change, and it seems not a moment too soon.


The Brit Awards continue to provide seemingly unlimited infatuation amongst the music industry. As this sceptred isle’s sole musical awards ceremony that still garnishes a world wide media audience, it seems not a year goes by where the idea seemed great before it happened only for the organizers, musicians and public to wonder, why do we still bother to do this the morning after.


That less than cryptic and skin crawlingly obvious introduction is, of course, a reference to this past week’s Brit Awards (Sponsored by MasterCard). The apparent “Crowning of Queen Adele” as the be all and end all of music dominated the 32nd edition of the British record industry’s annual awards ceremony.

Her domination of the headlines leading up to the ceremony was nothing short of unexpected. Pictures of her holding a plethora of Grammy’s were paraded around the British press like the second coming as well as stoking rumours of her looming engagement. A diamond the size of Jupiter’s core on her finger paid testimony to the industry’s investigative skills.

Never to be bested by our trans-Atlantic cousins, Adele picked up the hideously ugly new Brit gongs for Best female solo artist and British album of the year (sponsored by MasterCard) for the deliberately maudlin, over dramatized 21. Credit must, however, be shown to the 23 year old, yes 23, for being able to fill a whole 14 month touring schedule singing just the one song and padding the rest out with benign chat even the most loquacious taxi driver would cringe at. The highlight of the show coming when her “speech”, political rallies have been shorter, was prematurely cut off to which the singer flipped the bird. Classy.

The rest of the winners seemed to mix into a huge cauldron of mediocrity that by the end of the three hours, nobody really knew why they turned up. Prince of the Gingers Ed Sheeran matched Adele’s double triumph with Best Male and Breakthrough awards (sponsored by MasterCard), a testimony perhaps to how heartless Adele’s publicity machine is or how terrible his is that this “achievement” went relatively unnoticed. Sheeran thanked his management for making him the musician he is today as without them he would have been “poor, fat and ginger.” Quite.

Coldplay had, of course, their pedestal rammed further up their backsides by receiving Best British Group. Of course not content with merely being rewarded for their obsequious oral odysseys, they dribbled onstage with a live performance best described as mediocre. Fans later agreed it was one of their best shows ever.

There are quite literally more British bands more deserving of such an honour (also sponsored by MasterCard) that there is not enough room in the universe (sponsored by MasterCard) to list them. To still be handing awards to these deliberately grey, bland and ever so charmingly befuddled middle aged men is almost beyond comprehension.

However, some good could possible come out of this award and the others. The dubiousness of this year’s Brits has only served to further highlight the increasing inadequacy and defunct nature of the ceremony. In what has been another sub par offering of both live performances and the nature of winners and even nominations, The Brits have been steadily declining in quality and, as a result, credibility for the almost two decades. Where this year Adele, Sheeran, Coldplay and a plethora of other flashes in the pan dominated, 1995 saw the likes of Paul Weller, Oasis, Blur, Eddi Reader, Prince and KD Lang achieve success.

Always branded as a less than important after thought to the Grammys of course, the Brit Awards were always a much more raucous, jovial affair that smacked of British eccentricity. Where they lacked industry recognition and clout, they made up in quirkiness and character. All this based firmly on recognition of quality artists and material.

The industry has, of course changed; there is no denying that. Technology and its mass consumerism availability have meant that those who stood little or no chance of becoming music stars can now show their wares from the comfort of their own bedroom. But that excuse can only account for so much. The overall presentation and nature of awards dished out at this year’s Brits was of a terrible quality that was, quite frankly, an embarrassment to the British music industry.

From Olly Murs’ off key cat screeching to the parading of James Corden’s obvious lack of live show presenting ability, the whole show was a feast of car crash television. Award ceremonies like this are never meant to be actual recognition of an artist’s work and any act worth their weight in talent would be more concerned about record, ticket and singles sales. However, a duty is still there to be served to the world from these mass media events.

This country has produced some of the biggest, best and genre-defining musicians the world has ever known. We deserve to be represented fairly and with dignity on the world stage. It is only fair, after all, to showcase the very best we have to offer and not the latest in a long, long line of fleeting prima donnas and talentless transients.

Jonathan Whitelaw


A full list of winners and convenient download links can be found at the official page of the awards : http://www.brits.co.uk

Gig Review :: The Vaccines – O2 Academy, Brixton – 07/12/11

The Vaccines, one of the most hyped bands of the moment and who could argue against that when in only one year they have sky rocketed from a small, west London four piece to being the support act for the Arctic Monkeys on their latest tour? On top of that, their album What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? has provoked press predictions of a band that could potentially ‘bring back’ guitar music. The concert was the second of two sold out gigs at Brixton’s O2 Academy and a hum of excitement was exuded as a battalion of fans flooded in from the rain ready to see a band that has taken the scene by storm this year.

There were two support acts, the first an indie pop duo Summer Camp.  Debbie Harry-esque vocals from Elizabeth Sankey, beautifully filled the Academy, decorated by swells of synth piano and guitar effects by multi instrumentalist, Jeremy Warmsley. The second were California formed band Surfer Blood who’s laid back surf rock sounds were the perfect appetizer for the headline.

The Vaccines opened their set with full audacity, a glowing stage and Do You Remember Rock And Roll Radio? by the Ramones welcomed Justin Young and the rest of the band with punk rock flare. They opened with an anthemic Lack of Understanding, all songs followed suit with the crowd almost equalling the volume of Young’s vocals on every track of the album proving just how much the public have taken to them. Songs that were particularly climatic came in the form of Wetsuit, debut track If You Wanna and Nørgaad, all of which provide simplistic, driving guitar and drum rhythms which seems to be what people want and need right now, music to have a good time to.

This is what makes The Vaccines so great; there is no need for fancy synth looping or intricate, cryptic lyrics. Their matter of fact, quick fire rock and roll is something the public can relate to and something that needs to be brought back, true post-punk-revival spirit. So what DO I expect from the Vaccines? A bright future at least.

Gig Review :: Mariachi El Bronx – Sound Control, Manchester – 23/11/11

“…exactly what I wanted out of an El Bronx show.”

Watching a mariachi band isn’t something I’ve often done. Alright, before this I’d never seen a mariachi band. Where does one even go to watch a mariachi band? Manchester…apparently. Alright this wasn’t any old mariachi band, this was Mariachi El Bronx – side project of Los Angeles hardcore band The Bronx – and they were as off the wall and awesome as I expected.

There was a real vaudevillian atmosphere about the whole show. I don’t know what it was, but everything seemed so theatrical, something that’s probably down to all the ‘banter’ between songs. I like to see artists interacting with the crowd, but this was too much. Lead singer, Matt Caughthran stopped to explain each song and talk about how much he loved being in Manchester. That’s all well and good, but it broke up the flow of the show a bit too much, and I left feeling a lot of that time might have been best served playing more songs. Granted, a lot of this could be down to the complex nature of the band and them having to set up, but it just seemed a little too much.

Aside from this, the show was fantastic. The band kicked the night off perfectly with ’48 Roses’ and continued to impress with every song that followed. The setlist had everything an El Bronx fan could want, playing an abundance of songs from both records, recognizing the fact that they hadn’t really toured in this form before. By the end of the set, Matt has gotten the crowd into a frenzy and everyone was singing and dancing along.

The band left the stage and, surprisingly, didn’t return for an encore. It was unusual, but I left contented. I’d gotten exactly what I wanted out of an El Bronx show, and it seemed like everyone else had too. Matt could’ve definitely cut down on that banter though. We might have had a few more chances to sing and dance with one of the most interesting bands of the past few years.

Gig Review :: The Damned (w/ Viv Albertine) – Manchester Academy 1 -19/11/11

“The band played so tight it felt, at times, as if they were simply dancing to a copy of the album.”

What better way to celebrate 35 years of being one of the most influential punk bands ever than to go on a huge world tour (U.S, U.K and Australia) and playing the two, debatably, most iconic albums from your back catalogue? I suppose a big birthday cake filled with L.S.D and cocaine would be better but, given the current financial situation in the world, the white stuff has been hard to afford (I’m talking about flour, obviously). The Damned went with the former, and I was lucky enough to catch the horror-tinged punks at Manchester’s Academy 1.

It should have been a great night all around and it nearly was. The only downfall was, opening act, Viv Albertine. Once guitarist for, the now defunct, punk band The Slits, Viv broke the night in with a set of stripped down punk songs, so stripped down in fact that it was just her and an electric guitar which sounded like it was barely plugged in. A bad sounding guitar wasn’t the only downfall of the set. I imagine even with a full band setting they wouldn’t hold much water. Her vocals were completely off, and the lyrics were often reminiscent of a child who’s learnt a handful of, semi-crass, limericks. Her final song was definitely the best, ‘Confessions of a MILF’ did clarify one thing about Viv, she might be a little older now but she was still pretty easy on the eyes. Her short skirt gave a little reason to not head back to the bar. Nevertheless, nice pins weren’t enough to make up for what felt like a forced set of songs about a sexually liberated, self-confessed mother. Mid set a drunk guy turned to me and said, “it’s fucking punk rock, innit?” If so, maybe we should give up on the whole damn scene.

After nearly vomiting from the visual display that pre-empted their set, The Damned took to the stage. They tore into the entirety of, 1977 classic, Damned Damned Damned, playing everything aside from ‘Stab Your Back’. Why such a great song was missed from the set is insane, but this did little to diminish the intensity too much. The band played so tight it felt, at times, as if they were simply dancing to a copy of the album. Their energy levels don’t seem to have dropped one iota since the days of its release (fair enough I wasn’t alive, but that’s what YouTube is for, right?), and if anything the years of touring has made them a much stronger live band than ever before. Though I was curious as to why, keyboardist, Monty Oxy Moron was on stage during an album that features no keyboards. My heart goes out to Monty though, he jumped around like a maniac, playing no keyboard, offering the occasional backing vocal, and looking like he was as excited to be part of the show as the audience were to be watching it.

The band left for a brief intermission before returning for the second instalment. “Alright, it’s now 1980 and we’re in a studio in Wales” announced the Captain, changing from his Yeti-like garb to a much cooler looking Dennis the Menace styled ensemble. I hadn’t drank enough to believe him but I knew what was coming and the band blasted their way through the, more progressive, Black Album. Even though I can’t fault it, listening to this after something as intense as Damned Damned Damned felt like a bit of an anti-climax. Monty was finally given a real musical role and played fantastically. Singer Dave Vanian’s vocals began to give towards the end of the album but he pulled through, giving the haunting punk inspired melodies the mellifluous vocal talent that is missing from so many of the more vocally aggressive punk bands from the same era.

They returned for an encore of a few choice hits, ending with the greatly received, albeit cliché, ‘Smash It Up’, leaving the audience blown away and leaving me upset that the night was over. I’d had two of the greatest punk albums ever played before my eyes by one of the greatest punk bands ever, but it had left me salivating in hunger for more. Maybe next time they’ll play all their albums in one night?

Gig Review :: Against Me! (w/ Crazy Arm) – The Cockpit, Leeds – 18/11/11

Tom Gabel of Against Me! - © 2011 Emma Stone Photography

“In short, it was a punk rock show…”

It’s been a while since I’d been to The Cockpit for a gig. The last time was for The Lawrence Arms and the sound sucked. It probably didn’t help that the sound guy kept walking away from the desk, and that the desk itself rolled away every so often. Let’s just say I wasn’t hoping for the best gig-going experience I’d ever have, but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad as to ruin seeing two of my favourite bands on one night.

After the disappointment of Against Me! pulling out of their 2010 UK tour, it was great to see that messieurs Gabel and co were down to make things up. Not only did they bring the Crazy Arm boys out on tour with them but, in a rare moment of on-stage banter, Tom Gabel took time out to apologise to fans who were excited to see them last year. They didn’t half make it up to us either but, before all of that, it was time for Crazy Arm to set the bar for Florida’s finest.

Following a great performance from Middle Finger Salute, Crazy Arm took to the stage with one intention; to tear the roof off The Cockpit. Opening up with ‘Blind Summit’, the band was met by a rapturous response from the crowd, something that continued throughout their short stint on stage. Setlist mainstays like ‘Still To Keep’ and ‘Broken By The Wheel’ were as well received as ever, an army of fans singing every word. Powerful political anthem, ‘Song Of Choice’ proved to be my highlight of the set, the unity displayed during ‘Tribes’ coming a close second. As the band closed out their set it became apparent that there was a bunch more Crazy Arm devotees in that crowd than before they started, and rightly so!

After a short break in proceedings, Against Me! took to the stage and were relentless from beginning to end. I’ve never seen a band play as hard as they did that night. Stopping once for the aforementioned apology, they remained tight up until the end. The crowd didn’t relent either. From the start of the first track, it was utter chaos. There were limbs flying everywhere, people crowd surfing (which didn’t seem to take with the ‘cool’ section of the crowd) and people jumping from the amps. In short, it was a punk rock show and anyone disputing the punk credentials of Against Me! needs their head testing. I screamed my way through ‘Walking Is Still Honest’, and was glad to hear a good amount of older material mixed in with newer tracks like ‘Russian Spies’ and ‘High Pressure Low’.

I walked away from this gig covered in sweat – both my own and that of other people – with bruises on my legs and back, cuts on my hands and a throat that felt like someone had taken a sander to it. It was just what I expected, and it was brilliant. I live for gigs like that, and it was one of the best I’ve seen all year. And you know what? The sound was fantastic!

Against Me! are now out on tour in support of Frank Turner. How’s he going to follow them? I have no idea.

Gig Review:: Miles Kane @ The Cambridge Junction

After a 2 year leg with his band, The Rascals and on and off spouts of appertaining to the super duo Last Shadow Puppets alongside Arctic Monkey’s front man Alex Turner, 25 year old Miles Kane has recently had his well deserved, ‘big solo break through’ . His debut album Colour Of The Trap was released in May of this year featuring appearances from the likes of Noel Gallagher and French actress Clémence Poésy . This year he has confirmed a stadium tour alongside indie-rock legends Kasabian, supported Beady Eye and The Courteeners and is currently touring as headline artist with EMI signed band, Folks.

The night began with support act Folks. The Mod-rock band originating from Manchester played a roughly 50 minute long set, the lead singer Scott Anderson brandishing a tambourine throughout the act but only playing it on occasion. The six piece band went down well with their driving guitar music and Gallagher-esque vocals.

After a quick set change it was time for the arrival of Kane, who swaggered on stage, fists raised and strobe lights pulsing, to a more than warm welcome from the already exuberant audience. His opening track, Better Than Invisible stirred the crowd into their unending frenzy with distorted guitars reminiscent of Elvis Costello’s Lipstick Vogue. Needless to say the rest of the evening followed suit with the sea of Paul Weller hairstyles never endingly bobbing up and down; the evening was ‘pretty alright for a Sunday’ as Kane put it half way through his set. Highlights of the set came in the form of King Crawler a shamelessly catchy tune sounding not so different from The Age Of The Understatement (a hit by The Last Shadow Puppet’s in 2008). Quicksand was also a climatic song of the evening with it’s Banana Split’s style hook line. Kane finished his set with the iconic Come Closer, built to fill stadium proportioned venues, it’s a track that rocked this year’s Reading festival to the ground. The encore came in the shape of Inhaler released in November of last year it’s high energy synth and punchy vocals were the perfect end to the evening.

After the gig I decided to wait around to see if I could have a chat with Kane, he duly obliged. Although it was brief I managed to ask him about his nomination for ‘best break through artist’ at the Q awards, to which he replied that he was very grateful of the nomination but like all things it was all public dependant and being up against contenders such as Ed Sheeran it was a given that the competition was steep. I also tried to ask whether another stint with Last Shadow Puppets was on the cards however due to other distractions he was unable to reply so we’ll have to wait and see as to whether he and Turner re-hit the studio. For now though Kane can only  be expected to carry on releasing more mod/ indie rock anthems and adding more tour dates to his ever busy schedule. Personally, if the chance to see Miles arises I would fully recommend taking it as his shows promise great, dance-filled evenings and he comes across as a genuinely nice guy.

By Choo Cooper