I grew up in Milton Keynes – the town that everyone loves to hate, mostly due the amount of concrete and roundabouts (there are actually a hell of a lot of green spaces too, but whatever!). However the town also happens to be where the awesome ska punk band Capdown are from. Being a teenager in the mid- to late-2000s in MK meant that I went to a place called The Pitz Club a lot and saw plenty of ska punk bands, most of which I don’t remember now. This was way before I was particularly into punk music, although I was into guitar-based music. Even so, I really enjoyed seeing Capdown play live. I’m pretty sure I attended their ‘last ever show’ at The Pitz almost ten years ago, when I was 15 years old. Of course, since then they have reformed and played again as a band. At some point over the last ten years – it’s a bit hazy as to when exactly – I got properly into punk rock and rekindled a love for ska punk too, but I hadn’t seen Capdown play live since. At least not until last Thursday…
The Craufurd Arms in Wolverton, Milton Keynes, is a great pub and independent music venue. As far as I’m aware, it wasn’t around when I was a teenager but I have been several times in more recent years – both to the main venue at the back and the smaller second stage next to the main bar. When the venue announced that they would be putting on a Capdown show as part of Independent Venue week (25th January – 31st January 2016) I knew I had to be there.
First up and greeted by a reasonably-sized audience were Petrol Girls from south east London. They describe their style of music as ‘raging feminist post-hardcore’ and I had heard good things about them, although not actually listened to their music myself. Despite being the non-ska band of the night, they played with great confidence and singer/guitarist Ren in particular had excellent stage presence. She spoke between songs about themes of depression, anti-fascism, humanitarian rights (particularly the refugees in Calais) and feminism – all very important topics that are generally overlooked in a lot of music. Although perhaps a bit heavier (and shoutier) than the kinds of music I would normally listen to, I really enjoyed Petrol Girls’ live performance. And it’s not often that I feel a sense of female empowerment after watching a band for the first time either!
Second on the bill were a band that are almost definitely my favourite ska punk band around at the moment, Faintest Idea from Kings Lynn. I’d seen them live twice before, first with Random Hand for their farewell show at the Underworld and then again at Skankfest in Bristol just before Christmas last year. They had really impressed me both times and I was very excited to see them again, especially in my own hometown. If you’ve seen Faintest Idea before then you’ll know that the horns section always start off in the audience and march around for the beginning of Back to the Asylum, before joining the rest of the band on stage. However I think most of the Milton Keynes audience hadn’t seen Faintest Idea before because there were some puzzled faces as Luke and Bobble moved around amongst the crowd. But it wasn’t long before everyone was moving too – there were a couple of a skank pits as well. Not bad for a support band.
I was dancing away at the front alongside four people that singer/bassist Dani referred to as a family from Kings Lynn (I missed the exact name). He dedicated Youth to them towards the end of their set, which they were very excited about. Faintest Idea are a band that excel on stage. It’s impossible to stay still and that goes for the band members too – trombone player Bobble’s dancing is a particular highlight of their live show. Unfortunately their set had to come to an end but they did so with my favourite, Bull in a China Shop, which is probably also the song that most people go crazy for. Now I really can’t wait to see Faintest Idea again in April at Manchester Punk Festival.
More people began to cram into the room and I took a step back from the very front, as it was soon time for the headlining band and I didn’t fancy getting completely crushed. Capdown took to the stage and the audience went wild. It was just like being 15 again, except knowing to stay away from the centre of the crowd to avoid getting knocked over in the mosh pit! Singer/saxophone player Jake didn’t waste any time in reflecting on how ‘old’ the band members were now – he joked that he had grey hairs – but their age certainly didn’t affect their performance.
Unless I’m mis-remembering, they played perhaps their most well-known song (and certainly the one I remember best from The Pitz days), Ska Wars, surprisingly early on in their set – but why the hell not? It was a little difficult to move down the front but I did my best as Capdown hardly play music to stand still to. After four or five songs I decided that the heat was too much near the front and I moved further back where I could move a bit more and fully enjoy myself. Though I was, unintentionally, stood near members of Petrol Girls and Faintest idea near the front – it’s always great to see other members of bands enjoying the bands they love too.
I haven’t listened to Capdown too much over the past ten years – they haven’t released anything new since 2007! – but I certainly knew most, if not all, of the songs they played. The whole thing was very nostalgic for me and I imagine that it was for a number of others in the crowd too. Towards the end the end of their set, Jake paused to thank The Craufurd Arms for taking part in Independent Venue Week as, I’m sure we all agree, it is these venues are so important to this music scene. He also thanked Jason, of The Craufurd Arms, and Paul, the man behind The Pitz, back in the day (I assume he is also involved with Craufurd now). Capdown put on an excellent show and I had a great night. Next time I won’t wait ten years to see them again and who knows maybe they’ll even write some new songs… or maybe not!