Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Gig Review: South East Fest at The Montague Arms 26/2/17 (by Emma Prew)

The weekend of the 25th/26th of February was a busy one for the punk scene in London. As well as shows from the TNS Records Tour and Me First And The Gimme Gimmes / Masked Intruder, this weekend saw the first ever (of, hopefully, many more) South East Fest – in south east London. With Friday night and Saturday afternoon / night taking place at the wonderful DIY Space For London and Sunday taking place at Waterintobeer and The Montague Arms, South East Fest had almost thirty great acts playing across the weekend. With everything else that was going on (plus we went to a record fare at the Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes on Sunday afternoon), we only managed to fit in the last part of the fest at The Montague Arms.

I’d never been to The Montague Arms, although Colin had been a handful of times, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Coming from Bedford, an hour north of London, it’s always tricky getting to and from gigs in south London. Trains run back to Bedford pretty much all through the night but they are really, really slow and if you have work the next day, you don’t really want to be getting home after 2am – especially when the gig finished three or more hours previously. However, given all the happenings over the weekend, I was smart and booked Monday morning off work! Setting foot in The Montague Arms for the first time, a small quirky pub with a fully functioning gig space on the side, I knew this was my sort of place – especially after being at Shepherd’s Bush the night before!

There were five bands playing on the Sunday night and first up were Liverpudlian three-piece Pardon Us. I’d only vaguely heard of Pardon Us before (I think Colin has reviewed something of theirs on this blog) but was instantly a fan when they stormed into their fast-paced pop punk set. Being the sort of event that this was – and the sorts of people that go to it don’t only turn up for the headlining act! – the room was already decently filled and there were plenty of heads nodding along to the band. I particularly enjoyed the songs where bassist, Alex, and drummer, Gabby, joined singer and guitarist, Morgan, for some great gang vocals. Who doesn’t like gang vocals? The Pardon Us set was so energetic that Morgan broke a string on his guitar during the final song – better then than at the beginning, at least.

Next up were a band that I knew absolutely nothing about, Birmingham’s Mixtape Saints. They were late additions to the bill when Hot Mass unfortunately had to drop out. Although we both like Hot Mass, I was happy to hear a new band and I was certainly not disappointed by what I heard. From the tone of their guitars to the soulful lyrics, I was instantly reminded of The Gaslight Anthem – who, by the way, are one of my favourite bands of all time. Needless to say, I was a fan of this element alone but Mixtape Saints proved themselves to be a great band in their own right too. Their set closer Hold Fast / Hold Tight, a song about dealing with mental health and not giving in to it, was a particularly standout moment. Great stuff.

With two excellent yet previously unheard bands to start the night, I was now really looking forward to the third band – one that I did know but hadn’t seen live before – The Exhausts. The Exhausts are a garage punk trio from London town who for one reason or another hadn’t played together in over a year before Sunday night – or as Tommy said ‘This morning was the first time in a year that we’ve been in the same room together.’ It certainly didn’t seem to phase them as they played a storming set and I could tell by the atmosphere in the crowd that I wasn’t the only one that thought so. Hearing Rory, Tommy and Jake talking between songs on stage to each other and the crowd I got a real sense of them being an important and much loved part of the UK, and London in particular, punk scene. I hope they don’t leave it another a year before playing together again.

I thought I recognised the drummer of The Exhausts, despite never having seen them live before, and of course that’s because Jake also plays in Doe – who were the penultimate band of the evening. Each time I see Doe play it seems like their fanbase has grown, they’ve got slicker as a band and the general buzz around them doesn’t seem to be quietening down any time soon. They are one of those bands that I enjoy much more live than on recording as their performance is so fierce and passionate. Nicola’s voice, whether she’s singing or screaming, is really something you need to hear live and raw. Their set featured a fair amount from their debut album, Some Things Last Longer Than You, but it was also great to hear Let Me In from an earlier release – one of my favourites.

The final band of the night, and indeed South East Fest 2017 altogether, were Apologies, I Have None. This is a band that Colin and I combined have seen about twenty times! BUT if you’ve seen them live even just once then you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that they are a brilliant band to watch live. Opening with two songs from their debut album London, The 26 and Sat In Vicky Park, seemed a slightly odd choice given that their second album is still fairly fresh but it certainly did the trick in getting The Montague Arms crowd singing and shouting along. Of course, songs from Pharmacie and the EP Black Everything did make an appearance too. While some of the earlier bands had time to pause between songs for a bit of on stage banter – which is not necessarily a negative thing – Apologies’ set was a whirlwind of singalongs, headbanging and distortion pedals, with no time to pause for breath. It was a little bit exhausting but in a good way.

It was a great night of music showcasing and embracing just how awesome the UK punk scene is – and no doubt the rest of the weekend did that tenfold too. Bravo to Danny, Oliver and Tommy for organising South East Fest and here’s to it becoming an annual event!

This review was written by Emma Prew.

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