Friday, 23 June 2017

Column: Level Up Festival 2017 Preview


Earlier this year an event was announced that made me go "WOW!" That event was Level Up Festival and it would be taking place over the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of July at The New Cross Inn in London. Promoters Be Sharp Promotions, El Topo Bookings and Fishlock Promotions were working together to put on one of the most amazing ska-punk festivals that the UK has ever seen. Some of the best up and coming ska punk bands would be joining up with some veterans and legends from the UK scene, plus to top off what's sure to be a fantastic weekend Boston's Big D and the Kids Table would be headlining the festival's final day. We're very excited for Level Up Festival, here's a day by day break down of what we're looking forward to.


The festival starts on Friday the 21st of July. To ease everyone in its only a half day unlike the Saturday and Sunday which are all day affairs. Headlined by UK Skacore heroes The Filaments, I'm stoked just to see them so everything else is definitely a bonus. The other band that really stands out on the Friday night is The Foamers. The Foamers, like The Filaments, come from the punk and ska heyday of the late 90s early 2000s. I've never seen them live so it will be another of the bands from my favourite era of punk and ska that I can cross off of my list. I was hoping to see Jakal earlier in the year at Manchester Punk Festival, sadly that didn't happen so I'm thankful to get another chance at Level Up. Playing a mix of punk, ska, reggae and dub, Jakal are sure to get the crowd dancing. Luvdump and Atterkop complete the Friday line up. Both bands play a hardcore/punk/ska style with some politically charged lyrics. The Friday night is only a five band affair, but what a way to get the whole weekend started!

The legendary King Prawn headline the second day of the festival. Since reforming a few years ago the London based band have been popping up all other the place with small tours and festival appearances - and they never disappoint. Word on the street is that they have been working away on a new album, hopefully some new tunes will emerge alongside the old favourites. The Popes Of Chillitown are among the very best of the current crop of UK ska bands. Having seen the band a number of times over the past few years I know just how good they are, never failing to get me dancing along with their high energy ska punk assault. On a (presumably) sunny July evening, it's a sure bet that everyone watching the Popes set will be drenched in sweat by the time they finish. Captain Accident & The Disasters offer up some perfect summertime reggae tunes. If you need a band to help a crowd chill out amongst the frantic skank madness then Captain Accident & The Disasters are the band for you. Belgian skacore act The Dancing Morons are a band that are new to me but after checking them out on Spotify I'm instantly impressed. There is a fantastic intensity to their sound accompanied expertly with some of the best horns around. China Shop Bull have one of the most unique sounds of all the bands playing at New Cross. Combining electronic and hip hop with a ska punk style, it's always refreshing to hear a band take a style and try to shake things up somewhat. Bandits, Ill Gotten Gains and Lead Shot Hazard all take a different approaches to the ska genre. Bandits are a fast paced band that combing ska punk with hip hop, Ill Gotten Gains are more of a straight forward punk rock band with ska tendancies and Lead Shot Hazard are a horn driven band. All three bands are great so make sure you get down to the New Cross Inn nice and early with your dancing shoes on.

Who better to close out a DIY ska fest than the amazing Big D and the Kids Table. The band's mantra of built up from nothing really shows that the band have never forgotten their old DIY roots and are a big success story of the ska punk scene all over the world. Last playing in London at the Camden Underworld, getting Big D down to New Cross is a big achievement for Level Up Fest and Big D will close the festival in some style. The JB Conspiracy are one of the most beloved ska punk bands in the UK scene. It feels like they've been around forever now but are still consistently amazing. Never afraid to try new things whilst staying true to their trademark sound, JB have built up a reputation for not only having the best songs but being one of the best live bands around. There aren't many better horn sections anywhere in the ska punk world. The band I got most excited for when the full line up was Level Up was announced was French band P.O. Box. P.O. Box are a band I've followed for years but for some reason I've never been able to catch live. This political punk with horns is simply sensational, if you don't know these guys you will soon be big fans. Another European band coming over for Level Up are Jungleproof. I really enjoy the mixture of melodic skate punk and ska rhythms that Jungleproof have created. Another band I've never heard before but am really looking forward to checking out. Tree House Fire are the band that will bring the reggae vibe to New Cross on the Sunday. Something I love about the Level Up line up is the amount of variation on the ska punk genre that is on display. There is something for everyone here. Just Say Nay, Call Me Malcolm and The Pisdicables are staples of the Be Sharp ska scene. Any time Be Sharp put on a show I'm sure at least one of these bands are playing it! Three of the fastest rising bands from the newest crop of ska acts rising up in the scene, getting this chance to play with an act as well known worldwide as Big D is a massive opportunity for the bands to find some new fans. I've been lucky enough to catch Call Me Malcolm live before and I'm really looking forward to getting down to New Cross Early to see Just Say Nay and The Pisdicables as well. You should too!

Level Up Festival is really shaping up to be an incredibly, if not a little exhausting, weekend. People have been saying that ska is dead for years, it's clearly not. In fact it might be stronger than ever. If you have any doubts about how popular ska still is in the UK scene get yourself along to the New Cross Inn in July and come skank your night away with us.