The Random Hand farewell tour continues to roll on, this time hitting The Fleece in Bristol. This wasn't just any old gig at The Fleece though; this was a ska punk all-dayer featuring fourteen of the best bands currently in the scene. Obviously, I live in sunny Colchester so to get to Bristol I had to catch a train (bus replacement service at 6am in the morning! Far too early for my liking.)
Unfortunately I missed the opening two bands of the day, Muff Said and Geistfight, as I fell asleep after checking in to my hotel but I did make it to The Fleece (after having to go back to the hotel because I left my ticket in my bag) in time to catch former Lightyear front man Chas Palmer-Williams play his own unique brand of acoustic folk punk. He was fantastic and really helped to shake away my cobwebs. His set was a little bit of a shambles, with him only managing to finish a couple of his songs during the set but he was very entertaining. The highlight for me was when Chas got into the crowd to play an acoustic version of the Lightyear classic Pack Of Dogs, complete with an air band featuring various members of the audience.
King Tuts Revenge were the first of a couple of bands I've never really heard play before. Hailing from the South West of England they play a mix of reggae, ska and punk music. The seven piece managed to get the crowd moving, quite an achievement considering it was only 2:30 in the afternoon. I like when you go in to see a band with absolutely no expectations and then come away a fan and this was definitely the case with King Tut's Revenge.
Another band I had never listened to before were Jake andthe Jellyfish. They’re a band that I've seen on bills a lot but have never been to see live. I definitely stereotyped them as a reggae punk band but I was completely wrong. Jake and the Jellyfish are a four piece folk punk band, similar in style to Crazy Arm. They started the set with an electric guitar, an acoustic, a bass and drums before switching the electric guitar for a violin halfway through the set. This added an excellent new dimension to their sound and the Fleece really responded and started to move for the band. I will definitely be checking out Jake and the Jellyfish again.
Tree House Fire are another band that fuse reggae, ska and punk together to help promote good times and unity. This was my second time seeing them (the first being with The JB Conspiracy at the Camden Barfly late last year) and I was instantly reminded why I had loved them so much the first time. The upbeat five piece played a set that seemed over as quickly as it had begun, so much fun was had that time flew by. At times Joe from the JB Conspiracy joined them on stage to play saxophone. Members of different bands popping up on stage to play with different bands was a theme throughout the day, I love the unity that is within the ska scene. The Skints are a band who have blown up playing a modern brand of reggae music and I'd love to see Tree House Fire do the same.
Swindon three piece Slagerij are a band that I've been wanting to see for some time. This hard-hitting ska punk band area bit of a throwback to the Golf Records days of the early 2000's I'm constantly gushing about. They were certainly the rowdiest of the bands that I'd seen by that point in the day, swapping smooth reggae jams for fast and furious three chords and upstrokes. They had an amazing amount of energy and always seemed to be on the move. The highlight of their set for me was the final song Can't Stop A Nation. It’s been a favourite song of mine for a long time now and it was an absolute pleasure to see it live.
London's Ghouls were really a turning point in the day for me, changing what had already been a great day into an excellent onewith their high energy performance. More of a pop punk band with horns than a full blown ska act, I was interested to see how some of the old school punks in attendance would react to Ghouls. After what seemed like a little hesitancy at the start of the set I'm pleased to report that Ghouls won the whole crowd over with an incredibly fun and exciting set that even saw some of the first stage dives of the day. Ghouls are an immensely talented bunch of young men destined to go very far.
Norfolk's Faintest Idea are a favourite of mine, combining angry political street punk with the most entertaining horn section in the country. I don't know another band quite like Faintest Idea. Said horn section started the set in the crowd, which I always think is such a fun away to grab the audience's attention. Kind of like punk rock pied pipers rounding up an audience before the set truly begins. They roared through songs from all three of their albums plus a brand new one from their upcoming new album on Manchester's TNS Records, due out early next year. There was an extra special treat for us as Pook from Beat The Red Light and Luke from Geistfight joined Faintest Idea to form a brass army for the final three songs (Youth, Bull In A China Shop and Bully Boy) much to the delight of everyone in The Fleece.
Speaking of Beat The Red Light, they were up next. Like Random Hand, this was their final Bristol show as they are also splitting up soon. I don't think there will ever be another band quite like Beat The Red Light. They combine metal, thrash and punk rock with a brilliant horn section and the crowd spent as much time going completely mental in crazy mosh pits as they did in a good times skank session. Always a really entertaining band. Will be missed.
The Talks from Yorkshire are a band that I hadn't really listened to before and to be honest I was quite surprised that they were so high on the days bill. That was until the five piece took to the stage and launched into some good-time, upbeat ska-pop-with-a-punk twist songs. It felt like a cross between The Specials and Rancid (Wolves era) and was hugely enjoyable. I had no idea how any of the songs went but that didn't stop me wanting to skank along. I finally know why there is such hype around The Talks and I'm kicking myself that I wasn't aware sooner. Great band!
I can't think of a band that puts more energy and effort into their live show than London's Imperial Leisure. If you don't come away from an Imperial Leisure set covered in sweat than something has gone seriously wrong! Coming onto stage armed with a couple of bottles of champagne, front man Denis soaked the crowd before the band ploughed through a seriously rowdy set, complete with inflatable beach balls and saxophones that were thrown around the crowd. Denis seemed to be having some problems with his voice but that didn't seem to slow him down in the slightest, if anything it made him more energetic, I don't know how he does it! It was great to hear some songs from the newest album Lifestyle Brand mixed with old favourites such as Man On The Street and Landlords Daughter. Denis did mention that Lifestyle Brand could possibly be Imperial Leisure’s last album. I hope that's not true but if it is I really hope that means that they won't stop playing shows as they always put such a smile on my face.
The JB Conspiracy are long time touring partners and friends of Random Hand so it felt right that they would be the final support band of the day. I've said for a long time that there isn't a more gifted horn section around than JB's. Tonight they proved that again (despite not practising together for months) as they led The Fleece into a full on ska dance party. The crowd really did react superbly for them, which put massive smiles on the bands faces. It's great to see after all these years that they still get so overwhelmed by the fantastic reactions they always get. Say Goodbye got the biggest reaction of any so far in the day, with the crowd screaming "So We Wait, For This Moment To Arrive!" at the top of their lungs. Excellent stuff from the JB Conspiracy.
The time finally came for UK ska legends Random Hand and I have to admit by this point of the day I was now really struggling. I was sleepy, my body ached and I was really hungry but as soon as Random Hand started Tales Of Intervention all of that was forgotten and I was again ready to skank. Random Hand said themselves that they had a big job ahead of themselves to try and top the thirteen bands that had played before them but my word they delivered! Robin, Joe, Sean and Dan left everything they possibly could on the stage and at times in the crowd. At one point the crowd carriedlead singer and trombone player Robin to the very back of the room during the song Anger Management. This led to the problem of him not being back on stage by the time the next song, Bones, started. It turned out ok though as somebody at the front of the crowd grabbed the microphone and started to sing the chorus much to the rest of the bands amusement. Moments like this are why I love going to punk shows; no other scene is like it. Every single song Random Hand play gets a great reaction and proves why they are so legendary and why they will be such a big loss to the scene. Luckily twelve other bands proved just how strong our ska scene still is. SKA'S NOT DEAD!