The Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes is fast becoming my new favourite local venue. They always have bands playing as well as other music based events such as record fairs. Earlier this year The Ataris played there in support of Independent Venue Week, this week the venue hosted legendary ska act The Toasters whilst they were in town. The long running band, who started way back in 1981, are always fantastic live so it was a gig we were really looking forward to. It also helped solve a clash at Manchester Punk Festival as The Toasters are playing at the same time as Strike Anywhere. Getting the chance to see them in Milton Keynes means I won't have to make the tough decision in a couple of weeks time in Manchester!
There was just the one support act for the evening, a band we had previously seen support New Town Kings earlier this year, also in Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire's Easydread. This made Emma and I quite pleased because we loved them earlier in the year and they have become my favourite local band. Admittedly I've only lived in Bedfordshire for three months so haven't heard too many but Easydread are great! Since the first time seeing them I've been in contact with Steve, the band's lead singer and guitarist, and tonight he dedicated the band's first song, The Calling, to me - as on the recording it sounds like he's singing Colin. The second band to dedicate a song to me after Paper Rifles did a few years ago. Easydread were as good as they were the previous time I'd seen them but there was something about them I found quite interesting. This time I found a different set of tracks to be the highlights of the set compared to the last time. Last time the standouts were definitely Fyah, The Wake Of You and Scrotes, whereas this time I loved Humble and Babylon Box. I think this really shows off the strength of the band's songwriting and performing skills. Easydread are one of the best ska/reggae bands around and I imagine it won't be long until they are well known all over the country.
Up next were the godfathers of ska punk. New York's The Toasters have been around for longer than a good portion of the crowd have been alive and by all accounts are still as vital as ever. Singer and guitarist Robert 'Bucket' Hingley is the only founding member of The Toasters still left with the band. Now he seems to have a rotating cast of band members depending on where abouts the band are playing. This has been the case each time that I've seen The Toasters before, although this hasn't been an issue - the band are always incredibly tight regardless of which members they have. Starting out with Dog Eat Dog I immediately found that my feet started to move with the music and I was gleefully singing along. The Toasters have this wonderful knack of filling a room full of smiles when they play and this was no different at the Craufurd Arms. Sadly the room wasn't packed from front to back. I guess that's to do with it being a Wednesday night and there being a lot of important football matches on but for the people who were there The Toasters were all that mattered. Whenever I have seen The Toasters live before I've always come away with a new favourite Toasters song. They are a band with so many fantastic songs it's quite easy to forget them some of them, especially since it had been a little while since I had seen them. Every song played was a highlight for me but the ones that had me dancing the most were Running Right Through The World, East Side Beat, Pirate Radio and, of course, Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down, a song that is sadly as current today as it was twenty years ago when it was first released. The Toasters were absolutely fantastic and yet again proved why they are known as ska legends. It's incredible to me that a band that have been around for such a long time can still be so bloody great!
This gig review was written by Colin Clark.