It was time for third and final day of, hopefully, the first of many Level Up Festivals at the New Cross Inn in South East London. The first two days had already surpassed all expectations but today was the big one - today was Big D day - with a rediculous line up that again started at 2.30(ish) and again featured some great acoustic acts down in the New Cross Inn basement. Feeling energised, Emma and I arrived at the pub early for the band tasked with the job of opening the show…
That first act were a band that CPRW's Dan has been raving about for a little while, Just Say Nay. As is often the problem for ska bands, it was a bit of a struggle to fit all eight members of the band on stage. To solve this problem singer Jak jumped down to the floor to have a dance with the crowd. For probably the first time this weekend, the crowd (myself included) were having an early skank with the band. Just Say Nay play an up-tempo ska punk that is full of irresistible horn lines. The band is clearly full of exceptional musicians but bassist Leo really stood out to me as he played some fantastic bass lines throughout the set. The song Bouncer was a particular highlight as well as the inclusion of a section of Cabin Fever from my favourite Muppets film, Muppet Treasure Island.
I hadn't seen Call Me Malcolm since 2015 when they supported Random Hand at the very same New Cross Inn. The five piece continued the good work that Just Say Nay had started by getting more and more people skanking along. Something I had forgotten from the previous time that I saw Call Me Malcolm was just what good singers all three vocalists in the band are. They provided some absolutely first class harmonies that were just a sonic treat to the ears. Musically Call Me Malcolm were bang on form and the between song banter was very entertaining. Call Me Malcolm are bloody great, I shouldn't have gone two years without seeing them!
Hassan Afaneh is best known for being the vocalist and guitarist of Triple Sundae, a band who have graced the main stage of the New Cross Inn on numerous occasions. In fact, we saw him doing just that just a week before. Stripped back however, the Triple Sundae songs were taken to another level. I always like seeing Triple Sundae, the band, live but I feel like the songs were somehow easier to connect with in acoustic format. Said Triple Sundae songs were enjoyed well enough by the basement crowd but we were also treated to a cameo appearance from Cereal Box Heroes’ Conor for the only ska cover Hassan knew how to play which went down a storm – I must apologise because I don’t know what it was, but it was certainly good fun.
Millie Manders is a name I’ve heard/seen many a time in the UK ska and punk scene but she’s not an artist who I’d actually seen before. And so, all the more reason to check out her solo set at Level Up! Armed with just a ukulele – I believe she usually plays with a full band – Millie Manders was greeted by many eager fans, and probably a few soon-to-be fans like myself. Despite apparently suffering from a cold, I can easily say that this lady had the best set of vocal cords of the whole festival. Her drinking game song went down particularly well with the New Cross Inn crowd but songs about dealing with anxiety and homelessness were also attentively received. And a bonus lesser known Bob Marley cover was also thrown in at the end of her set. Great stuff.
Probably one of the more out of place additions to the Level Up line-up was the final act to appear in the New Cross Inn basement, Giles Bidder of Great Cynics fame. Great Cynics are a band synonymous with south east London but perhaps not so much in the ska scene – although drummer Bob does also happen to play in the mighty JB Conspiracy. Playing a ska show clearly didn’t phase Giles as he flied through Great Cynics songs with confidence and force, trying his best to keep his volume above that of the noisy bar. And if his original songs, or ramblings about how nice the sunshine outside (despite being in a basement), didn’t hook every member of the audience then the fine Great Cynics hit that is Brimful Of Asha (just kidding, it’s a cover) probably did. It was odd to see Giles at a primarily ska festival but we enjoyed his performance nonetheless.
If you need further convincing of how awesome Level Up was, watch this.
This gig review was written by Colin Clark and Emma Prew.