The early part of the millennium was an excellent time for UK punk and ska music. In the days of the P-Rock channel on Sky TV countless great bands gained big underground followings. Bands like 4ft Fingers, Capdown, Fletcher and Uncle Brian even had CDs for sale in Virgin Megastores and HMV! This September some of the best bands from that era came together to create Extraction Fest. Those bands were [spunge], Whitmore and Phinius Gage along with newer bands Red Light Rebels (featuring Tom from 4ft Fingers) and Fights and Fire.
Sadly due to having to work, not living in London and doors being ridiculously early at The Highbury Garage considering there were five bands on the bill I missed all of Fights and Fire and Red Light Rebels. Both of these bands are excellent though and you should definitely check them out. Phinius Gage, who were playing their first gigs in eight years, were the first band that I got to see. They are a band I've been aware of for a long time but have never given them a proper listen due to their inactivity. When they began their set the first word that came into my head was intense - despite the singer wearing a Mickey Mouse t-shirt! After the initial surprise of their sound I really enjoyed their set and really wished that I had known their song so I could have had a good shout along with the band. I hope that there isn't another eight year gap between Phinius Gage shows as I'd really like to see them again soon.
Salisbury's three piece ska punks Whitmore are a band that I've been wanting to see for about ten years. I had the chance last year, I was even at the gig but had to leave early because my friend was ill and I had to do the whole good friend thing. That made me even more determined to see them so I was quite excited when Extraction Fest was announced. As soon as Whitmore began their set it was clear that as many people were at the Garage to see them as they were [spunge], such is the legacy that they created. Playing songs from albums such as Smoke The Roach and Solstice Rise they expertly combined melodic skate punk with a massive helping of ska and managed to get the crowd skanking along like it was 2002. At one point there was even a human pyramid, something I've never seen at a ska show before. Of course the biggest reaction was for closing song Alison, a song which the band made a video for back in the day. It was great to finally see Whitmore live and be reminded of how good a band they were and still are.
I may have mentioned before just how special the final band of the night [spunge] are to me. They were the band that really got me into underground punk rock music and definitely played a big part in changing my life. Whenever I get to see them it's always a special night for me but this time was extra special as I got to take my girlfriend Emma to see one of my "gateway" bands. Of course Tewkesbury's finest were awesome, they always are! Playing classics such as Jump On Demand, Ego, Kicking Pigeons and Roots, covers such as Oliver's Army, No Woman No Cry and Centrefold and a good selection of the amazing last album Hang Ups it was a fantastic set. [spunge] are in their twenty first year as a band and it was great to see them still having so much fun on stage together, almost as much as the crowd in front of them was having - there wasn't a person standing still in the room. It was great to see an actual skank pit rather than lots of rambunctious moshing. The room was full of happiness, positivity and people having the most fun. I know I certainly was as I skanked the night away (apparently I looked quite funny). I can't imagine a time where I would ever get bored of going to [spunge] gigs, if they keep going for another twenty one years then so will I and I imagine so will the rest of the crowd at the Garage.
Extraction Fest was a great idea and brought back some great memories. Let's hope it becomes an annual event and adds more and more amazing bands from punk rock past!