Friday, 20 April 2018

Gig Review: Sonic Boom Six at The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes 15/4/18

After not having a gig for almost two months Emma and I found ourselves at our second in three days last weekend when we made the short trip to Milton Keynes, specifically The Craufurd Arms in Wolverton, to see legendary ska punk band Sonic Boom Six along with local reggae/ska band Easydread and Birmingham punk rockers Templeton Pek.

First up were Easydread who we also saw on Friday night supporting the Popes Of Chillitown in Bedford. I'm not going to do another in-depth review again but I will say that they again absolutely smashed their set and I fell in love with the new songs even more. If you want to read my review of Easydread from the Popes gig check it out here.

Next up were Templeton Pek. The three piece have been going for a number of years now and seem to have built themselves a very good reputation but this was my first time seeing them. I was so impressed by the band. They play a harder form of melodic punk rock, perhaps making them an odd choice for this ska heavy line-up, but they definitely blew the crowd away. Out on the road supporting their brand new album, Watching The World Come Undone, I was so impressed by these guys. Cleary they are doing this because they love it as they put everything they have into their set. Under the hot lights of The Craufurd Arms stage, Templeton Pek played half an hour of powerful punk rock bangers. I was particularly impressed with bassist and lead singer Neal Mitchell's vocals. Blending a hard rock style with a punk attitude you believed in every word that he sung. Playing a mixture of old and new songs, they got the crowd very nicely warmed up for the evening's main event.

Now, Sonic Boom Six are a band I don't often to listen to anymore but whenever I see that they're playing a live show near me I make sure I can attend. That's because they are one of the finest live bands around. Playing a mix of ska, punk, hip hop, dub and sometimes even a little electronica, SB6 always but on a lively show. The crowd at the Craufurd Arms was not one of the biggest but they certainly didn't lack any enthusiasm for the evening's headliners. As soon as Laila K sang the first lines of set opener Sounds Of The Revolution we were off for a hour of joyful skanking. My mind is a bit blurry on the exact setlist but it was full of tracks from their entire discography so there was plenty for the old school "boomers" to enjoy as well as newer fans of the band. Something that always impresses with with SB6 is the amount of thought that seems to go into their setlist. Along with making sure there is something for everybody to enjoy, it all flows together seamlessly with the band knowing the perfect time to play each song. Last year they released a new mini album named Cardiac Arrest that I still haven't listened to (shame on me). Luckily they played a couple of songs from that release, the fast paced punk banger Learnt To Live With It and the ska heavy My Philosophy. Both new songs went down a treat with the Wolverton crowd. Other highlights of the set for me were Bigger Than Punk Rock, No Man No Right, Virus, Piggy In The Middle and New Style Rocka. There was also a surprise cover of I Fought The Law which was originally made famous by The Clash. This drew a big sing-a-long with Layla bringing the crowd close to the front to really belt out the chorus. More bands should cover The Clash. Finishing up with Sunny Side Of The Street, Sonic Boom Six did what they do each and every time that they step onto a stage - they blew the crowd away. I really can't think of many live bands that put on a better show than Laila, Barney, Nick, James and Luke do. It's always such a pleasure to see them.

This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Top Tens: The Manchester Punk Festival Collective's Top Ten Special Performances

Here at MPF we don’t like thought of music being competitive as we feel we are all in it together as a community. So we’d like to stress that this isn’t a ‘top ten best performances at MPF’, but just ten performances that have all been a bit special for a particular reason.

We are as happy to see our favourite less-established bands smashing it to a packed room (we hope these are the headliners of future events) as we are seeing headliners that we never dreamed would want to play our event. The list would be endless if we listed all our favourite moments and I’m sure this would change every time we wrote it.

Also, not everyone in our collective has contributed, so you could get some very different lists depending on who wrote this.

But here are 10 performances that we’ll remember fondly.

I’m including Paint It Black for the sheer ridiculousness that they were playing the third MPF. How did we manage that? Kieran

Years ago, when I was still doing TNS Fanzine and I used to get sent stuff to review. I had a CD turn up in the post that I was truly blown away by. It was 'Raising Ruins For The Future' by Mighty Midgets from Denmark. It turned out that they did many of the same things as TNS did in their hometown of Aalborg - a DIY label (5 FeetUnder), promoted gigs and also played very fast music. We became friends and swapped loads of stock and even released a split EP. But then they split up before we got to see them live. Thankfully we got to catch their incredible live set when Revenge played in Denmark and they did a one off set, but it always frustrated me I'd never got them to Manchester. Last year, we managed to remedy that and not only was it one of my favourite MPF moments but also one of my favourite live music moments too. Andy

ONSIND (2017)
Punk rock has always been political for me, and ONSIND are one of the best around at balancing politics with socially aware lyrics. A basement full screaming "never trust a Tory" was inspiring. Kieran

I’m getting emotional in my old age and seeing one of the up and coming bands tearing it up to a packed room so early in the day always brings a tear to my eye. It’s so amazing to see the MPF crowd filling venues all day long and giving new music a listen. Bobby Funk are one of the most exciting underground bands in the UK right now and it made me very happy to see them getting such a great response. Plus seeing Ollie flying around stage with his leg in a cast (don’t dance to Cyndi Lauper - it’s dangerous). Andy

It would be hard to leave them out of this list. They always have the room bouncing around wherever/whenever I have seen them with a great live show that never fails to impress. It’s always great to have them on as they show up with smiles and leave you smiling with nostalgia. Tom

MR BLOBBY (2016)
It’s a shame he could only perform one song, although does he have any more? Not sure. He was very much deserving of the capacity crowd at our 2016 after show. It’s also very special for the other bands to be on the same bill as a living legend. Punk as fuck. Andy

CLOWNS (2017)
Watching Clowns tear apart the venue at the after-party. All our work was done, we could finally relax and party. Performance of the weekend for me. Kieran

MARTHA (2017)
Playing just before Paint It Black to a capacity crowd at Gorilla. It was brilliant to see a room full of smiles and fake Durham accents for one of the best and most promising bands in the country. Kieran

This much loved band headlined the Ducie Bridge on the first night of the first MPF and the atmosphere was incredible. The venue was absolutely packed. I think we all had that ‘we are actually doing this’ moment. Another one that bought a tear to my eye. Andy

They were our first real international 'headliner' and the emotions going through my head during their set were wonderful. A great band, packed crowd and one to really solidify why we do this. Kieran

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Album Review: Don't Try So Hard by Breaklights

Breaklights are a four piece pop punk band from Austin, Texas. The band formed in January of 2016 and released their first EP Instructed to Fail in July of the same year. In January, this year, they released a second EP titled Don't Try So Hard on the always excellent Wiretap Records. Being on such a consistently great label had me very excited to check out Don't Try So Hard.

The EP begins with the track Call It Off. Call It Off is a short opener that does a fantastic job in showcasing what to expect from Breaklights on this EP. It's the poppiest of pop punk sounds and contains some of the most infectious hooks. Lead vocalist, Charlie, sings in such a sugary sweet way and is backed brilliantly by the rest of the band, giving the song it's punk rock bite. The second track, Waterloo, really stood out on my first listen of Don't Try So Hard. Starting out with a simple drum beat that catches your attention immediately, you find yourself tapping your toes to a song about feeling like you are a loser in no time. Waterloo is a pretty downbeat song but is also a song that plenty of people will find extremely relatable. Relatable songs often add a great deal of catharsis for the listener. The EP's title track is up next. When a release has a title track I often think that this will add an extra bit of the pressure for the song to really stand out. Don't Try So Hard wastes no time in getting started as Charlie's vocals kick things off in great fashion. On the song he recounts a previous relationship and why it didn't work out. The song really allows Breaklights to show off what a great band they are musically as there are a couple of great instrumental moments during the middle and end of the song.

Runaways is another break up song, but a break up song with a difference. Instead of the usual theme of heartbreak, Runaways does a great job of putting a positive spin on the subject with the line "They say it’s better to love and lose it all, rather than never feel the fall. But I’m not so sure it’s true. Whatever we wanted, whatever we knew. It’s best to erase that now and break this hold on you." Charlie's voice is great on the track, at times remaining restrained before he stretches it to add more emotion into the song. The penultimate track on the EP is named Blank Stare. The song is about being promised that you can be anything when you grow up but in reality that's not always the case. It's a bleak subject but also one that again many people will find relatable and cathartic. How many of us are stuck in jobs that we hate and wanted so much more when we were younger? It's one of the angrier songs on the EP as Charlie lets all of his frustrations out. Lastly is the song Lonely. It starts out extremely bass heavy, really allowing the listener to focus on the vocals. It's a sad song about break ups, in particular knowing that a relationship is about to end but lying to yourself and pretending that everything is going to be okay. All releases, LPs or EPs, should finish with a bit of a flourish and that's the case here - a big ending with some "sha-na-nah"s adding a last layer to conclude the song.

Don't Try So Hard is a thoroughly refreshing pop punk release. It's one of those great releases in the genre that will please fans of the poppier side of pop punk just as much as fans who prefer their punk to have a bit of an edge.

Stream and download Don't Try So Hard here:

Like Breaklights here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Gig Review: Popes Of Chillitown at Esquires, Bedford 13/4/18

It's crazy to think that Emma and I haven't been to a gig since February. This is very much unlike us! Thankfully April has hit and we've got plenty of gigs lined up - the first being a local Bedford one at Esquires. London ska punks the Popes Of Chillitown were in town being supported by fellow Londoners Eat The Evidence and local act Easydread.

First up were Eat The Evidence who we first saw supporting Lightyear at their comeback London show last October. I really enjoyed their energetic set last year and looked forward to more of the same at Esquires. Eat The Evidence are one of the most more unique bands in the UK ska punk scene, combining ska, punk, reggae and two tone to create their own sound. They are, to my mind, the only ska band I've ever seen incorporate an accordion and slide whistle into their musical arsenal. As I've already said, the band put on a energetic set with lead singer Tom Lattimer bouncing around the stage throughout. He must have been knackered when they finished! Whether it's songs about the government, the British empire, falling in love or couscous, Eat The Evidence are very easy to fall in love with. I can't wait to see them again at Level Up Festival in South London in July.

Up next were Easydread. Whenever a ska show is announced in the Bedfordshire and surrounding areas you can bet that Easydread will be named as a support act. I have absolutely no problem with this as this reggae/ska band are one of my favourites of the past year and every time I've seen them they just get better and better. At Esquires this trend of being better each and every time continued as Easydread absolutely smashed it. Having forty-five minutes allowed the seven piece more time than usual so we were treated to a few new songs - that sound absolutely superb and I can't wait to hear recorded versions - as well as the older favourites such as Rebel, Cross Hatch Line, The Wake Of You and Scrotes. The room was pretty full for Easydread and they got such a good reaction with everyone dancing, skanking, singing along and having a wonderful time. The band are all about positive vibes and having a good time and this attitude was definitely adopted by the crowd who got more and more involved as their set progressed. The ska scene in the UK is currently enjoying another renaissance and Easydread have got to be one of the many bands in that scene that you will soon be taking a lot of notice of. They're so good!

Up next it was time for one of the most exciting bands in UK ska punk, the Popes of Chillitown. It's awesome to get a band as good as the Popes to come play a show in Bedford and it was clear immediately that everyone in Esquires was pumped up to see them. Being introduced on stage by a local punk who came dressed as the pope, the band quickly had the crowd whipped into a frenzy in a way that only they can. With the new album, Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard, due I kind of expected that the show would offer a taster of what was to come from that release but in fact they only played two songs from it. Instead we got plenty of bangers from their previous two albums with the highlights being Wisdom Teeth, Impatient, Dalking Man and Otherside. Popes frontman Matt is one of the most watchable people in ska punk, he has this unbelievable charisma and endless energy. He is a big part in what makes the Popes Of Chillitown an unmissable live act. I think this was probably the longest set I've seen them play and by its finale I was absolutely exhausted. I'd not had such a good skank for such a long time and it felt good!

The crowd had an amazing time and it looked as if the band did as well. Then sadly things took a bit of a downturn. The Popes returned to the stage for their encore and, for reason unbeknownst to me, two idiots down the front shook their beers up and managed to get it all over Matt's equipment. Unsurprisingly Matt was not impressed but decided to carry on and not let these two dicks spoil the night for everyone. Then these two morons continued to behave like morons during the first song so the Popes understandably decided to call it a night. Why these two people decided to act this way is beyond me. Like I said, it's not often that we get such cool bands in Bedford, if people are gonna act like idiots chances are said cool bands won't come back! Thankfully the Popes did come back on stage to finish their encore (after the idiots had cleared off) with a great rendition of Badman, saying that they didn't want to finish a fantastic night that way. You've got to give the Popes Of Chillitown a huge amount of love and respect for coming back, realising that two buffoons shouldn't put a dampener on what has been one of the best gigs of the year.

This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

News: Bar Stool Preachers Album Launch At The New Cross Inn

Brighton based ska punks The Bar Stool Preachers are releasing a brand new album titled Grazie Governo! To celebrate they are having a launch party at the home of ska punk in London - The New Cross Inn on Wednesday the 2nd of May. To add to the party fun they are supported by Call Me Malcolm and Lead Shot Hazard.

Tickets are on sale here:

Check out the Facebook event to keep up to date here:

Album Review: Life Living Impersonator by The Berkeley Hunts (by Emma Prew)

The Berkeley Hunts are a folk punk band from Melbourne, Australia. Back in January they released their debut album titled Life Living Impersonator and, being a fan of all things folk punk, I took a listen.

Kicking the album off is a song called Poison Place. This is a short, raw and predominantly acoustic folk song about trying to overcome negative feelings about a certain place and about yourself. ‘I’m trying to find the good inside myself, And sometimes I worry if it even exists, ’cause holding my breath just isn’t working, I don’t want to hate the air that, I don’t wanna hate the air that I breathe.’ The Berkeley Hunts brand of folk punk also features a horns section and the trumpet makes an appearance towards the end of the song, teasing of what else is to come perhaps. Predicktor is the name of the second song on Life Living Impersonator and this is a fast and furious track from the outset. Predicktor is another short song – most of the eleven songs on this album are pretty short, as the whole thing is only 24 minutes long – but a lot of lyrics are packed into its short length. The song is about a pessimistic person who is always fearing, almost wishing for, the worst and how it can be difficult to feel anything but negative yourself because of this. ‘So you predict, You see the future and it’s bitter, And it’s bitter, You make it so damn hard to be happy.’

Giving Up takes those pessimistic vibes from the previous track and runs with it. The pace is slowed and we get to hear some more typically folk instruments for this song with some banjo and mandolin. You can probably guess from the title that the song is about not believing in yourself and feeling like you should give up. However Giving Up is not written from an entirely defeatist point of view as the song actually ends in fairly hopeful and encouraging manor, with the lines ‘I’m giving up on, Every single little thing that causes my frustration, ’Cause I’m aching, I can’t take it and it’s tearing me apart, The world that we’re living in will try to fuck us over, I won’t let it, I won’t let it, I won’t let it. You won’t let it, You won’t let it, You won’t let it. Please don’t let it, please don’t let it, please don’t let it.’ The fourth song is the interestingly titled Yr Wires Are Showing And I Can Hear Your Worry, which uses robot-like descriptions as a metaphor for the idea that any faults you have are of your own making. This is a fast paced and impassioned song. I think the obvious musical comparison to make for this sort of raw and unpolished folk punk would be Mischief Brew but The Berkeley Hunts actually remind me of someone quite different on this song. It was early Ducking Punches that came to mind here – if you’re reading in Australia and you don’t know who Ducking Punches are, they are an excellent DIY punk band here in the UK that started out as a solo folk punk endeavour. Next up is a sad song called Leaky Lungs about losing someone to a terrible illness. Leaky Lungs has an appropriately slower pace and features a sorrowful trumpet melody which brings a lot of atmosphere to the song. There is a great sense of building towards the end of the song and it is the last minute [of its 2 minutes 50 seconds] that really steals the show. There’s a chorus that is just begging to be sung along to and, actually, that is what happens as one particular line is repeated again and again by multiple voices. ‘All the atoms in your body, they are empty, you’re empty, And you weren’t born with them, you won’t die with them, So maintain your connections, and speak to me, and speak to me, And I’ll mend your melting mind, just let me in, let me into, All the atoms in your body…’ 

How Does It Feel? begins fairly slowly with some gentle acoustic guitar that is soon accompanied by a plodding bassline from the double bass. So there I was thinking this was going to be another slow song but, no, the pace picks up as soon as those ragged vocals come in. I think Life Living Impersonator is an album that just gets better and better as it goes on, the first songs weren’t bad but this middle section is turning out to be really great. How Does It Feel? has another excellent chorus – ‘Why won’t you speak to them clearly, And get out of your head? I know it’s not that easy! But you’ve got sensory functions, And you know what’s real, At least I hope that you do.’ This song also has plenty going on instrument-wise with generous helping of banjo. How Does It Feel? slickly fades into the next song which is called Operate My.  This seventh song wastes no time in getting going with rumbling drums and, later on in the song, we are treated to some accordion as well – a combination that is bound to get your head nodding. Operate My uses the theme of the human body, that has appeared in previous songs on the album, and in particular is about deconstructing it – or operating on it – albeit metaphorically. ‘So won’t you break my bones, To operate my body.’ It’s interesting that until I actually started to write this review, having listened to the album more than a few times already, I didn’t realise there was a human body, illness, putting together/taking apart type theme to this set of songs. For Orlando, Forever Ago is a song that is a whopping 14 seconds long and in that time The Berkeley Hunts manage to get out a whole load of pent-up anger. Surprisingly, only about half of the song is super fast paced as it starts out slowly and in an almost care-free manor with the line ‘You’re a waste of fucking space…’ It continues in that vein… but faster.

As we draw towards the end of the album, The Berkeley Hunts show that they can write slightly longer songs with this next one, Hundred Minute Hours, lasting more than three minutes. I think this might be a love song or at least an ode to an especially close friend. Either way Hundred Minute Hours is a heartfelt and honest song that brought a smile to my face. The instrumentation is fairly simple, a combination of drums, banjo and acoustic guitar for the most part, which really allows the vocals – and the lyrics – to shine. The lyrics are really great throughout but there’s one line that stood out to me – ‘Because I see worst in everyone, and you see the best in me.’ The song is played out with some pounding drums and a splattering of the horns section, bringing us nicely to the penultimate song and the actually longest track on the album. Tonsillitis is a four minute epic and a fairly fast-paced track that fully embraces the classic folk punk sound. I think this is the first song I’ve ever heard that personifies tonsillitis, or any other illness, quite like this so bravo to The Berkeley Hunts for doing something new. (Unless it is all one big metaphor and I’m reading it all wrong.) I’m fortunate enough to have never had tonsillitis but it sounds pretty darn awful in this song and that shows some great songwriting. ‘You crawl down my throat, Make my brain explode, And dry all the liquids from my body, When I am sleeping, You’ll be busy working, To make my morning into misery, The lights are too loud, I can’t put my head down, But it won’t hurt if you don’t make it, If I maintain my distance, Find some kind of balance, Well maybe I can maintain my existence.’ Blue is Life Living Impersonator’s closing track and it takes a fairly stripped back approach, keeping the instruments to a minimum – guitar, bass and drums. The slow pace and somewhat melancholic atmosphere feels like an appropriate ending however. There are again some references to the human body in this song and the mention of the word ‘atoms’ again had me thinking that this song, and the album, was going to end with another singalong of ‘All the atoms in your body…’  Alas, it does not. The closing lines are ‘So I’ll live lonely, and you won’t have to, I’ll split atoms, without explosions, ’Cause I am empty and I am blue.’

I have to admit that when I first listened to The Berkeley Hunts, I wasn’t fully into them. The vocals, more than the instruments, are definitely raw and a little rough around the edges, in that sort of Andrew Jackson Jihad style, and are what might be considered an acquired taste. But when I properly sat down to review the album and listened more intently to each song, whilst reading the lyrics, I found a greater appreciation for Life Living Impersonator. I’m not saying that everyone should listen to the album as closely as I have but I highly encourage giving it a listen – especially if you are a fan of proper DIY folk punk which is what this is.

You can buy and stream Life Living Impersonator on Bandcamp and find The Berkeley Hunts on Facebook too.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Album Review: Brightest by Waterweed (by Dan Peters)

I don’t know a lot about Waterweed, from Osaka, Japan, but the fact that they are releasing their album in the UK with Lockjaw Records put them up in my estimation. I’ve seen them on bills alongside UK bands I deeply enjoy, like Dead Neck and Darko, so naturally I’m intrigued. Let’s dive straight in.

Waterweed wear their Melodic Hardcore on their sleeves, especially with opener ‘Red Eyes’ which is all double time and slick riffage with dirty vocals thrown in for extra good measure. If like me you’re brand new to the band, it’s a perfect declaration of what they are and wish to be as a band and invites in anyone, like myself, who’s a big fan of the genre. Not everything is blistering speeds and frenetic riffage though, Waterweed lean more on the melodic side of things and give off a gruffer No Use vibe with some serious Tony Sly influences throughout. ‘July 31’ in particular is a love letter to the Tony and his band and is a real stand out quality track on the album.

Quality is something Waterweed are not in short supply of with ‘Brightest’. It’s normally a bad stereotype to say that Japanese people have a habit of perfecting something to incredible levels but, to be honest, it fits incredibly well when describing this album. There is a love and care to every guitar stroke, every hit of the drums, every emotionally charged lyric that it puts some English-as-a-first-language bands to shame. Waterweed don’t shy away from their influences, instead creating something beautiful that anyone who is a fan of great music, and especially a genre freak, will appreciate.

As well as releasing the album over here, the band are coming over for a slew of shows surrounding the ever excellent Manchester Punk Festival this year. So keep an eye out - this is a rare treat not to be missed.

Stream and download Brightest here:

Like Waterweed here:

This review was written by Dan Peters.