A couple of weeks ago I called The Menzingers gig at the Electric Ballroom one of the most anticipated gigs of the year. Well if that was true then last night’s gig at the Islington Academy definitely had the same, if not more level of anticipation attached to it. For the first time in four years the kings of Chicago punk rock, Brendan Kelly, Neil Hennessy and Chris McCaughan, collectively known as The Lawrence Arms were in town.
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that support for the gig and the entire tour would be provided by two of the brightest lights in the UK punk rock scene, Bangers and Sam Russo. I really thought this was a great move by the Lawrence Arms, they could have easily brought two American bands over the Atlantic with them but chose to bring to UK acts shows a great amount of support for our scene.
Up first were Cornwalls Bangers. This trio play fast pop punk with guitarist and singer Roo Pescod’s voice being one of the most unique in the scene. I was very curious to see how they would perform on a bigger stage having only seen them at small venues like the Old Blue Last or The Black Heart before. I am happy to report that they absolutely smashed it. A band with Bangers sound belongs on a big stage. Roo’s gruff, gravelling growl fills up the room and when it is accompanied by bassist Andrew Horne harmonies it makes the songs sound huge. Other than not playing my two favourite Bangers songs (Straight Gin Makes You Batshit Crazy and Banging) it was a flawless set from Bangers.
Fresh from a tour with the pop punk criminals Masked Intruder Sam Russo was back on the road again. Like Bangers I’d only ever seen him perform in smaller venues and was again intrigued to see how he would perform on the bigger stage. Mr Russo played it brilliantly, his story like songs really capture your heart. I really believe that Sam Russo is the best “singer-songwriter” this country has to offer and on a night when a certain Ed Sheeran was playing at the O2 Arena (where all his fans packed my train and made it late and generally got on my nerves) he showed to a couple of hundred punk rockers in Islington where the true talent lies. It’s only a matter of time before Sam Russo is the biggest thing in music in this country.
I have to admit I was quite slow to the table when it comes to The Lawrence Arms. I think due to the eight year gap between Oh! Calcutta! and newest album Metropole I never really gave them a proper listen. I’ve always enjoyed everything I have heard by them but never really loved them like most other fans of punk rock I know. That is until last night, I now absolutely love The Lawrence Arms. I don’t think you can ever get a true appreciation of how good a band is until you see them perform live and Brendan, Neil and Chris really showed Islington why they are so highly thought of. Brendan’s harsh and urgent vocal styling combined with Chris’s more melodic and relaxed sound complimented each other brilliantly as they played hit after hit from their catalogue of songs. The crowd really ate this up and went wild for The Lawrence Arms, mosh pits, crowd surfs and massive sing alongs happened in abundance. Highlights of the set included the songs Like A Record Player, 100 Resolutions and The Ramblin’ Boys Of Pleasure where Sam Russo joined in with backing vocals. As talented as the whole band is Brendan Kelly really stood out as a performer, stalking around the stage between his vocals you could see how much fun he was having, even laughing mid song when he saw a male crowd surfer clinging on to a tote bag.
This had been an absolutely amazing gig and everyone left in great spirits having just witnessed one of the greatest punk rock bands of our generation as well as two of the best acts England has to offer. On my train journey back to Colchester I was thinking some more about The Lawrence Arms and about why they are so good. Great musicianship and song writing –for sure! But also because there isn’t another band that is quite like them in terms of their sound, something very rare in the punk rock world. Why is that you think? I think it’s because there isn’t another band on earth who can play with the “Lawrence Arms sound” and be anywhere near as good.
Check out The Lawrence Arms here: https://www.facebook.com/thelawrencearms
Check out Sam Russo here: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/storm-lp
Check out Bangers here: https://bangersbangers.bandcamp.com/
Now listening to Careers by ASTPAI