Sunday, 26 February 2017

Gig Review: TNS Tour at The Portland Arms, Cambridge 24/2/17

When the mighty TNS Records announced a package tour at the end of last year I was completely stoked. They were rolling out the big guns - Wonk Unit, Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man, Roughneck Riot and Faintest Idea - for what was sure to be one of the gigs of the year. I immediately found the London date and my excitement crashed through the wall and ran away. It clashed with the Me First & The Gimme Gimmes/Masked Intruder gig that we already had tickets for. Then I noticed that the night before the London show the tour was beginning in Cambridge at The Portland Arms. I live quite close to Cambridge now so we could go to that - PHEW!

The running order of the bands on the tour aren't being announced to encourage people to get down to each show early to see all of the bands. Why anyone wouldn't do that anyway is beyond me, but there you go. First up in Cambridge were Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man. I always think of ROTPM to be THE TNS band. Think of ROTPM and think of TNS, think of TNS and think of ROTPM. So it only seemed right that they kicked off the show and the entire tour. The Manchester three piece's fast and aggressive brand of thrash punk is good on record but live it really is something else. I first saw ROTPM last year at the Manchester Punk Festival and I was amazed by the whole spectacle of their set. They really got the crowd going that night, so much so that I remember the chaos that was happening in the pit more so than the band's performance. This time I made sure to pay attention to the band. I have to say, I don't think I've ever really appreciated just what good musicians Chris (drums), Matt (guitar) and Andy (bass) all are. They play faster than any band I've ever seen but with and crazy amount of technique as well. This was the perfect was to start the night. I thought “If it continues like this, we are in for a real treat.”

Next up were London's Wonk Unit. I haven't seen Wonk Unit since they supported Teenage Bottlerocket at the Camden Underworld back in 2015, so seeing then again felt well overdue. It was also my first time seeing them since they released brand new album Mr Splashy, on TNS Records. I was expecting them to play songs mainly from that album in but in true Wonk Unit fashion they threw in a curveball and played mostly older songs that they hadn't played for a while. A bit of a baptism of fire for stand in guitarist Ed who had only joined the band three days earlier. He played like he had been in the band for years, so kudos to him. Wonk Unit are one of those bands I always find completely captivating live, especially Wonk leader Daddy Wonk, Alex. He has a unique stage presence like nobody else in the UK punk scene. Wonk Unit appear to be extremely popular in Cambridge with the Portland Arms being packed from back to front with plenty of people having a right good dance. Finishing with my personal favourite, Go Easy, Wonk Unit continued the greatness that Revenge Of The Psychotronic had started.

Before the gig, I had predicted that Faintest Idea would probably be the headline act as it was almost a hometown gig for the King's Lynn punks. After ROTPM and Wonk Unit I felt like the band had some work to do to keep the energy and momentum of the night going. Not a problem for a band as good as Faintest Idea though. As is tradition the band's brass section started their set in the pit with the crowd for opener ...Back To The Asylum. It never takes long for a crowd to get dancing when Faintest Idea get going. They even had the crowd singing along by the second song, Youth. The dancing and singing continued throughout their forty five minute set. This is really how a punk gig should be - lots of singing, dancing, smiles and good times. Now the night really felt like a party! If there is a better live band in the UK than Faintest Idea I'm yet to discover them. By my maths I've seen them eight times now and every single time they seem to have gotten better - they seem seriously tight as a band now. They mostly played tracks from their last two albums, the Voice Of Treason and Increasing The Minimum Wage (both available from TNS) before finishing the set with an older one in the form of Too Bad. Perhaps as this was close-to-hometown show they decided to finish on one about where they are from. I was left exhausted after Faintest Idea's set and was left wondering how could Roughneck Riot kick the party on even more.

After Roughneck Riot finished their set, Emma said there was a reason why the Warrington based six piece have the word Riot in their name. That's exactly what happens during their live set. The crowd were so riotous in fact that with a couple of songs left the crowd at the Portland Arms had to be calmed down or risk the show ending early. Bodies were flying round the room to Roughneck Riot's spirited Celtic punk rock music. Playing tracks from newest album Out Of Anger as well as a handful from This Is Our Day and a couple of new tracks, which I assume are being released at some point this year. I forget sometimes just how good Roughneck are as a live band, all six members of the band playing their instruments flawlessly which is pretty incredible to me given the madness that was happening in front of them. I'd find it quite distracting myself. More so than any other band playing that night the energy coming from the stage really shone through - which is saying something considering the ridiculous line up of the night. Highlights of the set for me included Parasites, All That We Know, Anomosity and Ignorance Is Easy. There's also a metaphor I could write about Storm Doris arriving at the Portland Arms a day later than the rest of the country in the form of Roughneck Riot.

I once read that the best parties don't wind down, they just stop at the highest point when it's not possible to top itself anymore. That's definitely what happened on the first night of the TNS Tour. This was a fantastic showcase for one of the best DIY record labels in the country featuring some of the very best musical talent around. Long live TNS!

This review was written by Colin.