Thursday, 10 August 2017

Gig Review: The Planet Smashers at the Camden Underworld 8/8/17

2017 has been a year of seeing bands that I've wanted to see for the longest time but never had. Back in April I finally saw Strike Anywhere at Manchester Punk Festival, in June I got to see the Descendents and Flogging Molly at The Forum in Kentish Town (not together) and in July I got to see French ska punks P.O. Box at the New Cross Inn in South London. A few days ago I finally got to see a band that I never ever expected to see, especially without jumping on a plane to Canada. Who is the band I'm talking about? Ska superstars The Planet Smashers from Montreal in Canada. The band formed in 1994 and I first heard them after Golf Records released their 2003 album Mighty. I just adored the ska pop with attitude style of the band. From then on I was a massive fan, checking out their entire discography and excitedly getting new releases when they came out. But I never managed to catch them live. That's until a couple of days ago when they returned to the UK for the first time in nine years to tour with Faintest Idea for a week leading up to their performance at Boomtown Festival. The London show of the tour was at The Underworld in Camden and also featured the Popes Of Chillitown. You already know that this was going to be a stellar night.

Kind of surprisingly, Faintest Idea were first up despite being the main tour support. I guess this was because London is a hometown gig for the Popes Of Chillitown. There was a small crowd gathered early to see Faintest Idea and anticipation was high. As is tradition with a Faintest Idea set, the band's superb horn section of Bobble, Sara and Dan ventured into the crowd to start the set with Back To The Asylum. The horns even made their way round to the Underworld's bar area to round up any stragglers to let them know that the show was starting. Kind of like a punk rock pied piper. Going from that straight into Circling The Drain and Youth got the crowd well and truly warmed up early. I've seen Faintest Idea many times over the past few years and they are always great at throwing a surprise into their set. Tonight they did too. Firstly a new song named Stomp Them Down (I think), which sounded great and has gotten me looking forward to a new record from the band. Secondly was the special guest appearance from Eve from Lead Shot Hazard supplying some additional saxophone on the last three tracks - Corporation, Bull In A China Shop and Too Bad.

Next up were the Popes Of Chillitown who joked about the long journey they'd made from South London. Fourteen stops on the Northern Line! Last month at Level Up Festival, the six piece showed why they are so highly thought of in the UK ska punk scene with a performance to match any ska band in the world. Emma and I were talking after their gig and we agreed that this performance topped that showing at Level Up. The difference between the two performance for me was this time the band seemed a lot more relaxed on stage and were having a lot of fun during and between songs. The forty minute set was packed with songs from second album, To The Moon, with the highlights being Wisdom Teeth and Vamos a la Luna. Wisdom Teeth in particular is just incredible live and always gets a crowd moving. The Popes have also been working on some new songs despite almost always playing shows all over the place. I believe that they played three at The Underworld, to appear on some great ska releases over the next year.

Now it was time for The Planet Smashers and boy was I excited! Taking to the stage in matching work shirts - which I want one of! - the band, lead by singer and guitarist Matt Collyer, were full of smiles as they opened with Fabricated. It took no time at all for the Underworld to start skanking and this didn't stop for the entire time the band were on stage. The crowd, who had been waiting years for The Smashers to make their return to these shores, were clearly in the mood to have a party with these legends. Playing a set that spanned their long and brilliant career, there were songs from their first album (Planet Smashers) that was released in 1995 through to their newest release Mixed Messages that came out in 2014. Highlights included Life Of The Party, Surfing In Tofino, J'Aime Ta Femme (I Like Your Girl), Pee In The Elevator, Raise Your Glass, Tear It Down, a cover of The Specials song Night Club and the encore of Super Orgy Porno Party and Skate or Die. There were some fun moments where they teased playing King Of Tuesday Night and then launched into another song and during Pee In The Elevator when during the outro they included the "whoa-oh's" from Mustard Plug's Beer (Song). This was a great little nod to another legendary band from the third wave era that needs to find their way back to England sooner rather than later. The top gig moment for Emma and I was when The Hippopotamus was played. For those who don't know The Hippopotamus is a song about a dance made up by The Smashers called The Hippopotamus. For the week leading up to the gig Emma and I have been trying to learn this dance and were excited to show off our moves at the show. When it started I don't think that I've ever seen Emma more excited to hear any song ever at gig - she had the biggest grin on her face. And so did I. The Planet Smashers were incredible. I'm not sure any other band this year will have me smiling and dancing as much as these six Canadians did. Being worth the wait is an understatement. Please don't leave it another nine years before coming back again.

On a side note, here's a tip for anyone who uses a Fitbit. If you are ever short of steps for your daily target go to a ska show and skank away. When I left the house for the gig I was on less than 2,000. By the end of the gig I was on almost 17,000.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.