Friday, 23 December 2016

Colin's Top Twenty Live Sets 2016

This year has been full of amazing gigs and festivals. I couldn't possibly pick a top ten gigs so I've decided to pick a top twenty sets from the year.

20. Crazy Arm at The Junction, Plymouth 28/8/16
Emma and I had already made plans to go on holiday to Cornwall for a week before this show was announced. It was sceduled for the day before we were due to travel so we decided to leave for our holiday a day early and make a pit stop in Plymouth. This was a Crazy Arm hometown show, I believe their first for a little while so it was bound to be a special set. Of course it was. It was basically a best of set with at least one new song thrown in for good measure. This was the best I've ever seen Crazy Arm, and they've always been good. There was something special about seeing them play in a tiny pub in their hometown.

19. Iron Chic at DIY Space For London, London 4/5/16
DIY Space is the type of venue that is perfect for Iron Chic. It's a community space that was created to bring people together. Iron Chic are a band that brings people together. With DIY Space completely sold out Iron Chic were completely in their element. The low sitting stage really made it feel as if everyone was a part of the band as a room full of people sang along to some of the best songs written in the past decade. Iron Chic have an incredible ability to write a song that can really draw a live crowd in. If there was a throat that wasn't sore come the end of the night, you're doing Iron Chic wrong.

18. Jesse James at The Forum, London 17/7/16
Earlier this year Big Cheese Magazine published its final issue. To celebrate the people behind the magazine put on an all-dayer at The Forum in London. The line-up was stacked with some of the best bands from around the world but the real highlight for me was a Jesse James reunion. Jesse James were one of my favourite bands when I first began to listen to punk rock music so it's always an absolute pleasure to see them on the rare occasions they play shows these days. Sometimes it's great to feel a sense of nostalgia watching a band and Jesse James supply that feeling by the bucket load. Singing and dancing along to those songs always puts a big smile on my face. I imagine every year Jesse James get together for a reunion show they will end up on my end of year top gigs list.

17. Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man at Manchester Punk Festival 23/4/16
This definitely was one of the craziest sets I saw all year. After a long day at Manchester Punk Festival we headed to the after-party where Manchester punk legends Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man opened the show. After coming on to stage with Mr Blobby there was half an hour of complete joyous carnage. After hearing so much about ROTPM's live show finally seeing live was an eye opening experience. The band have a cult following and after a performance like the one I witnessed at MPF it's easy to see why. The band play hard and fast, barely relenting during their entire set. It was brilliant.

16. Elway at The Fest 15, Gainesville 28/10/16
Elway were so much fun at Fest. Knowing they were up against some big hitters in the form of Propaghandi and Red City Radio Elway were quite thankful to get quite a sizeable crowd for their set and decided to do a request set, asking the crowd what they should play. This was an incredibly fun set full of off the cuff moments. Elway songs are always full of a lot of heart an emotion and live they take on a whole new life. Front man Tim Browne remains one of my favourite frontmen in punk rock. He has a great voice and is a natural in front of a crowd. This was one of those special sets you just had to witness.

15. Faintest Idea at The Owl Sanctuary, Norwich 1/4/16
An album launch show is Faintest Ideas home county Norfolk was always going to be crazy. And crazy it was. The best ska punk band in the United Kingdom are always fantastic live but this special album to celebrate the release of their new album Increasing The Minimum Rage saw the band at the peak of their abilities. The new Owl Sanctuary (mine and Emma's first visit) felt like the perfect room for Faintest Idea as well, it's a reasonable sized room but when it's full it feels much smaller. When you get that room full of people skanking along to the band the room shrinks in size and adds to the whole feeling of craziness that happens throughout the set.

14. Sonic Boom Six at The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes 25/3/16
Sonic Boom Six warmed up for their appearance at The London International Ska Festival by playing a Good Friday gig at The Craufurd Arms. It was my first time seeing them in well over a year and was completely blown away by the band. I'd forgotten just what a top top top live band The Boom are. Even with a line up change with a new drummer being brought in to the gang Barney, Laila and co were as slick as ever. Getting the crowd dancing and singing along almost instantly it's hard not to get swept away with the bands energy and enthusiasm for what they do. Sonic Boom Six are one of the undergrounds best bands and have been for a long time now. Their set at the Big Cheese All-Dayer was also a great time.

13. Chas Palmer-Williams at The Monarch, London 3/3/16
When Chas Palmer-Williams was announced as support for Ducking Punches album release show I was beyond excited but I didn't expect him to upstage Ducking Punches. That's not saying that Ducking Punches weren't fantastic, they were extremely close to making this list but Chas took it to another level. His former band Lightyear were known for their fantastic live performances so we know that Chas has pedigree as a performer. Playing songs from his solo album American Smile British Teeth with his live band he wowed and entertained The Monarch crowd, many of which weren't not familiar with him or his previous work. Everyone soon was though with a hugely enjoyable, happy, joyous and funny set. Chas Palmer-Williams, what a guy!

12. ONSIND at DIY Space For London 23/9/16
When Angela of 176 Records & Shows announced that she would be stopping putting on shows the punks of London were sad. She had one last banger of a show in store for us though, putting on ONSIND one last time. The acoustic punk duo from Pity Me, Durham always put on a very special set. There is a sense of togetherness between the band and the crowd that can't be duplicated. ONSIND's socially and politically aware songs earn massive sing-a-longs from the crowd, with the crowd at times over powering the sound coming from the stage. ONSIND don't tour so much anymore due to Nathan and Daniel's success with Martha so when they do find the time for ONSIND it's always a must see show. Hearing Heterosexuality Is A Construct live is one of those magical live music moments you have to experience before you die.

11. Apologies, I Have None at Manchester Punk Festival 22/4/16
Playing a small space with a mass of bodies singing along to every word is where London's Apologies, I Have None are that their very best. Headlining the second night of The Manchester Punk Festival (after headlining the first MPF the year before) AIHN took to the stage to be greeted by an already warmed up crowd (more on that later) and continued the big punk rock party that had already started. Beginning to debut some of their new material along with their classic London songs this was my favourite time seeing the band (and I've seen them thirteen times now). I can't wait to see the band grow and grow and become the best punk band in the whole world.

10. Against Me! at The Electric Ballroom, London 8/12/16
Gosh I love Against Me! They are a band that are fantastic on record but really bring their songs to life when they are played live. Laura, James, Atom and Inge put on a fantastic show. Heavily supporting their new album Shape Shift With Me, an album I wasn't really a fan of until I heard some of the songs live. Rebecca in particular is ridiculously good live. Of course it was the old material that I loved the most. Run outs of Pints Of Guiness, TSR, Walking Is Still Honest and Cliche Guevara ruined my throat I sang so loud. Against Me! are one of the best live bands around.

9. Chixdiggit at The Fest, Gainesville 29/10/16
I don't remember ever smiling so much during a set as I did during Chixdiggit's set at The Fest. I never expected I'd see Chixdiggit so I was pretty excited before they even began their set but never expected it to be quite such an amazing moment. Playing a career spanning set, I was so thoroughly entertained the whole time. Not only were the songs brilliant but the onstage banter from front man KJ Jansen was hilarious. Chixdiggit are now veterans and legends of the pop punk world and from this evidence are still the best in the game. Emma and I were singing Miso Ramen and Spanish Fever for weeks after Fest.

8. Roughneck Riot at Manchester Punk Festival 22/4/16
I mentioned earlier about Apologies, I Have None's brilliant set at MPF this year. Well before them came Roughneck Riot. The Warrington based folk punks are adored in Manchester. This was Emma's first time seeing Roughneck live so she wanted to get close to the front for a good view. This meant I would spend half an hour or so being a protective wall from the chaos that was happening beside us. This would normally suck but I absolutely loved it! Watching the six piece really made me feel like I was at a proper old school style punk show. Bodies everywhere, fists in the air, songs sang very loudly.

7. Jeff Rosenstock at The Victoria, London 2/4/16
I can't remember how long I'd been waiting to see Jeff Rosenstock play live, whether it be with Bomb The Music Industry or as Jeff Rosenstock. When the moment finally presented itself I was stoked at the night did not disappoint. Jeff has a reputation for energetic, crazy and raw performances with all of how past bands and this was certainly the case here. Playing each song perfectly didn't matter. What did matter was putting everything the body possibly can into the performance. In years to come I honestly thing that future generations of punk fans will look at Jeff Rosenstock the same way as we look at The Ramones, The Clash or the Descendents. As a pioneer.

6. The Bennies at The Barfly, London 14/5/16
Since I first heard Rainbows In Space by The Bennies I've been dying to see them. A couple of years later they'd released a new EP and a new album that were both amazing. Then they announced a UK tour and I lost my stuff. Playing at The Barfly in Camden (one of my favourite venues RIP) I immediately booked the time off work. They only played a thirty minute set but what a thirty minutes it was! Filled with non-stop singing and dancing, The Bennies are the ultimate party band. You can't help but enjoy yourself whilst listening to them normally but live they are on another planet. Anything that might be troubling you is forgotten as you are transported away to one of the best parties you'll ever go to. The Bennies sing a lot about getting high. The Bennies give me that drug free high that can't really be explained.

5. Less Than Jake at The Fest, Gainesville 30/10/16
Seeing Less Than Jake playing a headline set at the best festival in the world in what also happens to be their hometown. Sounds perfect right? It was. Less Than Jake have been one of the greatest live bands in the world for over twenty years now and still put on unforgettable shows. Playing what was a best of set spanning their entire career everyone at Fest is left happy with the show. Unlike a lot of punk bands Less Than Jake like to incorporate props into their set including beach balls, toilet paper and confetti canons, this all adds to what always feels like a massive celebration whenever Less Than Jake play live. I can say I've see Less Than Jake play Gainesville Rock City in Gainesville. For me that means I've completed music.

4. Pkew Pkew Pkew at The Fest, Gainesville 29/10/16
This was one of the craziest sets at Fest. Taking place in Market Street Pub, the venue filled up quickly for the Canadian quartet known as Pkew Pkew Pkew. The Fest crowd were clearly extremely excited to see the band who in my opinion also put out the best album of 2016. Every song form that album was played and sung incredibly loudly by a mass of bodies that where flying all over the room and ended the set completely drenched in PBR. Despite being so far away from Canada this felt like a hometown show for Pkew Pkew Pkew. It's the natural environment for the band, a bunch of drunks who want to party and have a fantastic time.

3. Faintest Idea at Manchester Punk Festival 23/10/16
Manchester Punk Festival 2016 was full of great sets but none were better than Faintest Idea. Due to their history with TNSRecords this felt like another hometown show for Faintest Idea. As they traditionally do the Faintest Idea brass section started the set in the crowd for Back To The Asylum, from there the madness began. From what started as some fun skanking soon developed into a dance fuelled battle for survival. By the time the set finished I was completely exhausted. Faintest Idea are very very good at getting a crowd going. The energy and passion coming from the stage as well as the brass sections excellent synchronised dance moves make it impossible to take your eyes away from the stage and there's nothing but a smile and a look of exhaustion on your face by the time Faintest Idea have completed their set.

2. Not Half Bad at The Fest, Gainesville 29/10/16
Not Half Bad really stole the show at Fest for me. It was the set that really felt like a proper old school Fest set. There was only a small crowd gathered in Durty Nelly's bar but it was a dedicated group of Not Half Bad fans. The small low stage was perfect for fans to get right in the face of the band and sing every word of Not Half Bad's folk tinged punk rock back at the band. After all of the years I've spent watching YouTube videos of Fest this was the set that really made me feel like I was at Fest. The chaos, the feeling of community, the fun times - Not Half Bad had it all in this set. I'm longing to see them again as soon as possible. A UK tour has to be in the pipeline!

1. The Bouncing Souls at Camden Underworld 6/8/16
No set has had me coming away smiling bigger than The Bouncing Souls set at The Camden Underworld in August. I've always found that The Souls can be a little hit or miss live but this show was definitely a hit. Not just a hit. This was a knockout blow. Playing a twenty-four song set with all my favourite Bouncing Souls tracks played along with a whole host of new tracks from 2016's awesome Simplicity record I didn't stop singing throughout their entire set. This set not only made me fall in love with The Bouncing Souls all over again but there was also a massive feel of nostalgia the entire night. Every track that the band played it felt like I said "I love this song!" The Bouncing Souls have so many fantastic songs that it is hard to remember them all. Like I said earlier sometime the Souls aren't always at their best live but I have to say seeing them at a basement style venue like The Underworld really help the band excel. No barriers meant they could really be at one with the crowd who eagerly sang every word to every song. Hearing songs like True Believers and Manthem live really reaffirmed why I love punk rock music. It brings people together like nothing else. A collection of strangers who for that moment become best friends purely for a love of one thing - punk rock music. All of the rubbish in the world, and as we know in 2016 there was a lot of rubbish is forgotten for that moment where you forget everything and sing your heart out for something that you love. The verse in Manthem really sums up what how I feel about going to punk shows - "Another Night And We Got Somewhere To Go, Going Out And Meeting Up At The Punk Rock Show, Where The Air Is Hot And The Music Is Loud, My Kind Of Place This Is My Kind Of Crowd."

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