Sunday, 24 December 2017

CPRW's 2017 Gig Diary

Seeing a punk rock band play live is quite simply the best. Seeing a band you love put on a performance containing pure and unadulterated passion and energy, whether it's in a small pub with only a few people in attendance or at one of the big faceless, corporate owned academies, always puts a smile on our faces. We've been to so many fantastic gigs this year so rather than choose top tens we thought that it might be a fun task to put together a kind of a gig diary of the CPRW team's favourite gigs – or sets – of the year.

12/1: Layman’s Terms at The Trap, Bristol (Dan)
The Trap is a cool little cave in Bristol that I travelled to one cold night in January to play guitar for Demon Smiles. All the supporting acts were cool but Layman’s Terms took the cake because they were super high energy and played that old school fierce as fuck hardcore that I do so love to hear, especially in such an intimate venue. Playing hyper fast, up to 11 and still not missing a beat is something a lot of burgeoning hardcore bands could do with paying attention to. These guys not only have the attitude but the aptitude to back it up into something enjoyable to listen to.

9/2: Our Lives In Cinema at The Unicorn, London (Dan)
OLIC are a band that are just hypnotising to watch. Whether it’s their super upbeat pop punk style or Mark Bartlett’s ADHD fidget dancing, they are fun from start to finish. These guys are, I believe, quite new on the scene right now but judging by their relentless work ethic over the year they’ll be a big name soon – so watch out for them and get down to see them if you can. I’ve actually seen them a few times this year but February was when I broke my Cinema cherry so it remains the most special.

21/2: Good Friend at the Underworld, London (Colin)
Good Friend came as a massive surprise to myself and Emma, despite the fact that the Irish three piece had released their latest album, Ride The Storm, in 2016. I became an instant fan of the band based on this fantastic performance. It was jam packed full of an infectious energy that made it impossible to take your eyes away from the stage. It was a half an hour set of brilliant sing-a-long punk rock that really made a big impression on me. I'm sure if I'd have known the words to the songs it would have made a big impression on my throat as well, there were so many great choruses.

24/3: Faintest Idea at TNS Tour, The Portland Arms, Cambridge (Emma)
Faintest Idea are probably my favourite band that knowing Colin has brought into my life. They're definitely one of my absolute favourites to see live. When TNSRecords announced that four of their bands – Wonk Unit, Roughneck Riot, Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man and Faintest Idea – would be embarking on a UK tour together, we just had to go. We'd usually go to the London date but on this occasion we already had another gig planed, so we opted for Cambridge. The whole night was really great but I loved Faintest Idea's infectious performance just that little bit more than the rest.

26/2: The Exhausts at South East Fest, The Montague Arms, London (Emma)
The Exhausts don’t play live very much anymore but when they do there’s no signs of rustiness as they are just brilliant. We saw them twice this year but I remember the first as being particularly great. This is a fun band to watch on stage and the songs are pretty darn good too. Apologies, I Have None, who headlined the night, were obviously good but I got that little bit more excited about The Exhausts than I did them.

28/2: Triple Sundae at The Black Heart Camden, London (Dan)
I remember the first Trips gig. It was rough around the edges and the guys seemed to have more enthusiasm than any real idea what they wanted out the band. Through a couple different iterations they went and on the 28th Feb they emerged fully formed and in the best shape of their life.  Everything hit home for me. The new school pop punk sound. The tightness of a band now familiar with not just the material but each other and a confidence and stage presence that let me know that this wasn’t kids play anymore – this was the real fucking deal. Half way into their first song I knew I was now a fan for life.

16/3: Dave Hause & The Mermaid at The Garage, London (Emma)
In support of his incredible third album, Bury Me In Philly, Dave Hause returned to the UK for the first time in several years – this time with a full band in tow. He really suited and seemed comfortable being a frontman again and the songs, new and old, sounded better than ever.

22/4: Stöj Snak at Underdog, Manchester Punk Festival 2017, Manchester (Emma)
Stöj Snak’s set was my absolute favourite performance of the whole Manchester Punk Festival weekend this year. I was a fan of his album ScreamerSongwriter from last year and keen to see him live anyway but I wasn’t prepared for quite how amazing it would be. I was honestly speechless afterwards – the whole thing was raw, passionate and, lame as it may sound, utterly magical.

22/4: ONSIND at Manchester Punk Festival (Colin)
When ONSIND made their very first appearance at Manchester Punk Festival back in April you could sense the anticipation for what would be a great show. MPF attendees packed out the Underdog bar to scream along to the Durham based acoustic duo. They started out with fan favourite Heterosexuality Is A Construct which got a massive reaction, from then on it was one big sing-a-long after another. ONSIND have been going for ten years now and remain an important part of the UK punk scene. They have also recently released a fantastic new album named We Wilt, We Bloom which you should check out.

22/4: The Burnt Tapes at Manchester Punk Festival (Colin)
2017 was the year of The Burnt Tapes for me and Emma. They went on to be the band we saw the most times throughout the year. This performance at Manchester Punk Festival, at the brilliant Zombie Shack, was the first. It had been a year or two since I'd last seen the band and I was really taken aback by just how good the band have become. This set was before they released their excellent EP Alterations so I wasn't familiar with all the songs yet but it showed a band that were really on the rise.

22/4: Clowns at Manchester Punk Festival (Colin)
Australian hardcore punk rockers put on the wildest performance of the year at the Manchester Punk Festival. Bodies were flying everywhere at Zoo. After three long days of festival fun you could have forgiven the MPF crowd for feeling a bit lethargic but Clowns turned up and everyone found that last piece of energy. There was plenty of stage diving, crowd surfing and moshing and that was just from the band. The crowd was simply savage but in the best way imaginable. This was a performance that will live long in the memory.

17/5: Forever Unclean with Fastfade, Cereal Box Heroes, On A Hiding To Nothing, The Run Up at The Unicorn, London (Emma)
I’m putting this one down as being an amazing DIY punk gig as a whole – all of the bands were brilliant, not just Danish headliners Forever Unclean. The whole evening was a fine example of how great the London punk scene is. There’s been other great London DIY punk gigs that we’ve been to this year but this one is up there near the top of the list. Gigs like this knock those at Academies or Arenas completely out of the park.

29/5: Against Me! at Slam Dunk Festival 2017, Hatfield University (Emma)
This was my first Slam Dunk Festival and the main reason I decided to go was because Against Me! were announced as one of the festival headliners. I had a great time earlier in the day at the ‘ska stage’ but I don’t have a big emotional and nostalgic connection to those bands. Against Me! however… One of my favourite bands of all time, not to mention one of my favourites to see live, playing a fairly small stage to a crowd of people who picked them over Enter Shikari or Bowling For Soup. It was hella good.

3/6: The Burnt Tapes at Urban Bar, London (Colin)
This was The Burnt Tapes' release party for their brilliant EP Alterations on Umlaut Records. The show, which was at my favourite venue Urban Bar in the Whitechapel, was being billed as The Burnt Tapes and Friends because the line-up was stacked with long time pals of the band as well as tour buddies all the way from Mexico, Shinjoku Riot. Every band's set was unfortunately littered with sound problems but seeing them all power through regardless really showed a true punk rock spirit. When the chips are down we make the best of it. When Pan, Phil, Jordan and Tone took to the stage they didn't let all of those sounds problems affect them and played what could be my favourite set of the year.

3/6: Eat The Evidence at Bones and Pearl Studio, London (Dan)
I’ve been to Eat The Evidence shows where I was worried the floor would collapse because everyone was going so crazy and their album launch party was that times 10! One of the most entertaining bands in the UK ska scene right now to watch on stage, ETE have charisma oozing from every pore and are first rate musicians to boot. They’ll take any show anywhere but having top billing and an hour to do what they wanted was an experience that’s hard to top.

4/6: Descendents at The Forum, London (Colin)
It's the Descendents.

11/6: Iron Chic at The Montague Arms, London (Colin)
When this show was announced it proved to be so popular that the band ended up selling it out so quickly that a matinee show earlier on the same day was also announced – which also quickly sold out. I did question why Iron Chic still choose to play small pub venues when they could clearly sell out much bigger venues. Aside from their strong DIY ethics, it's simply because small pub venues are the very best way to see Iron Chic. Playing all the classics from Not Like This and The Constant One as well as a cover of Green Day's She and at least one from the, at the time, unreleased You Can't Stay Here, Iron Chic showed yet again why they are one of the most popular punk bands in the world.

12/6: Easydread at Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes (Colin)
Living in Colchester meant I got to see local favourites New Town Kings a lot. Then at the beginning of this year I moved to Bedford and soon discovered another local ska act in Easydread. The seven piece seemingly support every ska or reggae act that turn up in the area. This was my third time seeing them in five months and definitely my favourite because by now I've learnt the words to the songs. Easydread are one of the best new ska bands around and are definitely deserving of your time.

12/6: [Spunge] at Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes (Colin)
[Spunge] are one of my all time favourite bands, they were one of the first underground ska punk bands I listened to and also one of the first that I ever saw live. When they announced a gig at The Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes I jumped at the chance to see them yet again. It turns out [Spunge] have a loyal following in the area as the Craufurd Arms had plenty people ready for a good old fashioned skank to the scene legends. Despite the Craufurd Arms feeling like a sauna, we skanked away for the entire set. [Spunge] played a good mix of classics, new songs, rarely played songs and, of course, covers. We came away from the night soaked with sweat but with the biggset grins on our faces.

29/6: Flogging Molly at The Forum, London (Emma)
I love anything folk punk so obviously I like Flogging Molly! Colin had never seen them live before and I’d only seen them supporting Frank Turner, so why ever would we not go see them live this year? I knew I’d enjoy this gig but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so good as it was. I’m not really a big fan of the Academy-sized venues, nor the gigs at them, although I suppose The Forum is a bit smaller. Anyway, despite the venue this show was brilliant. Such a talented bunch of musicians and frontman Dave King was a particularly standout performer.

7/7: The Bennies at Stereo, Glasgow (Colin)
When it was announced that The Smith Street Band would be back in the UK for a tour with The Bennies Emma and I were quite excited and ended up going to three of the shows. The highlight for me was The Bennies set at Stereo in Glasgow. Whereas The Bennies were immediately loved by the crowds at their two London shows on the tour, it felt like they had to work a bit harder to get the Glaswegian crowd on side. And you can bet your entire record collection, including that priceless original splatter vinyl, that they did! The Bennies always put on a fantastic live show with their genre defying sounds. In Glasgow things started slowly but by the time The Bennies reached the end of final song, Knights Forever, the room was full of new fans of these lovable Australians.

16/7: Resuscitators at New Cross Inn, London (Colin)
After seeing three gigs from the same package tour at the beginning of July, we were quite looking forward to going to a gig which featured some other bands. That next gig was a pop punk all-dayer at The New Cross Inn in South London. Headlined by The Overjoyed and supported by The Burnt Tapes, Triple Sundae, On A Hiding To Nothing, Cereal Box Heroes, The Splash, Resuscitators, Joe Sullivan & The Happiness Werewolves, Fastfade and Sweater Songs, it was a fantastic gig all round. The band that left the biggest impression with me were Kingston's Resuscitators. I first saw them back in 2013 and this was my first time seeing them since. They just amazed me with their fast paced skate punk which features some seriously impressive harmonies. A band not to be slept on, hopefully they'll have some new material out in 2018.

22/7: Chrandesyx at Level Up Festival 2017, The New Cross Inn, London (Emma)
I was all over the fact that the Saturday and Sunday of Level Up Festival would have an acoustic stage downstairs in The New Cross Inn, even though I didn’t know who half of the acoustic acts were – I still wanted to see them all. The act that impressed me the most were a band rather than a solo artist from Belgium called Chrandesyx. They were one of the bands I’d never heard of before but that didn’t stop them from completely captivating me – from their accapella introduction and throughout their folk-fuelled set. This was a ska festival and my favourite act was the most folk punk of the lot, I’m not surprised really.

23/7: Level Up Day 3 at New Cross Inn, London (Colin)
Level Up was a brand new ska punk festival co-promoted by Be Sharp, Fishlock and El Topo at the New Cross Inn. All three days of the festival were a huge success but it was the third day that was a particular highlight. When I list the line up you'll know why and then I won't really have to say much else. Playing in a small pub in South London were Big D & The Kids Table, The JB Conspiracy, P.O.Box, Jungleproof, Tree House Fire, Call Me Malcolm, The Pisdicables, Just Say Nay, Giles Bidder, Mille Manders and Triple Sundae (acoustic). Enough said really.

1/8: Bad Religion at The Forum, London (Emma)
This year I got to see two of my bucket-list bands live for the first time and both of these, unsurprisingly, appear on this list. The first is the legendary Bad Religion who have more than 30 years of punk rocking under their belts. When a band like this plays live, and a punk band in particular (because the songs are shorter!), you realise just how many amazing songs they have in their back catalogue. Bad Religion were no exception. Also, the fact that the band members aren’t particularly young anymore didn’t matter one bit. One of the world’s greatest punk bands for sure.

2/8: No Trigger at Borderline, London (Colin)
August was an incredible month for punk gigs in London. My second of the month (and note the date) was No Trigger at the recently refurbished Borderline in Soho with my pal Jack from Ships Down. This was No Trigger's first London show in five years and their first anywhere in the world in two years, so it was a pretty monumental occassion. Despite suffering from some jet lag, the band put on a big performance full of big energy, bigger sing-a-longs and plenty of fists held high in the air. This was one of those that reminded me why I love basement shows. It was a room full of people being brought together by music and having the greatest time.

4/8: Face To Face at Shepherd's Bush, London (Colin)
If you're a fan of American skate punk then this really was a line up not to be missed. Pennywise were headlining Shepherd's Bush Empire with Face To Face, Good Riddance and Teenage Bottlerocket. Face To Face really stole the show for me during their time on the stage. Face To Face are one of those bands that feel really underrated when people talk about the best bands from the 90s skate punk scene. It seems like everyone loves Face To Face but nobody really gives them their dues. Not many bands could steal a show that also featured Teenage Bottlerocket and Pennywise but Face To Face managed it.

8/8: The Planet Smashers at Underworld, London (Colin)
As someone who grew up as a ska kid before really finding my love for punk rock, I was a big Planet Smashers fan but was never able to see them. It had been so long I had kind of expected that I never would see them. But then on the 8th of August I did get to see them! And boy golly jeez it was worth the wait! I'm not sure that I've ever skanked for so long with such a big smile on my face. The whole set just made me so incredibly happy and it seemed to for everyone else around me. I don't think Emma or myself have ever been happier dancing to a song at a gig than when they played The Hippopotamus. That song is basically the theme song for our house.

8/8: The Planet Smashers at The Underworld, London (Emma)
This was one of Colin’s bucket-list bands and so he is obviously the best person to talk about this gig… But I just want to say that I’ve never been more excited about a band playing a song than I was when The Planet Smashers played The Hippopotamus. If you don’t know the song, it is a not-too-serious tune that has a dance routine to boot. It was so much fun live.

12/8: The Dreadnoughts at The Underworld, London (Emma)
August was such a good month for punk shows in London! I guess we have the festivals (Rebellion, Boomtown and Outcider to name but a few) to thank for that. In the same week that The Planet Smashers were at The Camden Underworld, fellow Canadians – and one of my absolute favourite folk punk bands – The Dreadnoughts were also at the same venue. They also happened to be one of my bucket-list bands so for those reasons alone this was a brilliant gig. It was lively and rowdy with rousing singalongs and a great sense of not know what would happen next.

12/8: The Drunken Ramblings at The Fiddlers Elbow, London (Dan)
Despite their guitarist Vic apparently being on a four day coke binge comedown, The Drunken Ramblings once again show why more bands should make the investment into radio jacks for guitars. They’re never in the same spot for more than two seconds and bassist Colin in particular was off into the crowd and away more than he was on stage. That was great for me because it gave me space to stage invade and steal his mic for some gang vocal choruses.

25/8: Ships Down at The Fighting Cocks, Kingston (Dan)
I’m determined to get the term “Theatrical Hardcore” into circulation when referring to Ships Down. This is another band I’ve seen on several occasions this year but there’s something about the mix of the Fighting Cocks’ intimate nature, the mountains of pizza available at Pizza Party 5 and the screaming crowd that made this the defining performance for me. Ships Down have a heady mixture of incredible technical guitar licks, West End Musical level vocals and insane speed. And it ticks every box in my musical loving heart. Of course seeing a sweating and shirtless Joseph Guthrie standing before me bellowing like his voice could knock down a building makes any night top notch.

7/9: The Isotopes at MK11, Milton Keynes (Colin)
After seeing three local acts, and not being particularly enamoured by any of them, The Isotopes Punk Rock Baseball club took to the stage in support of CJ Ramone and put on one hell of a show! At the time I thought of them like an incredible cross between Teenage Bottlerocket and Masked Intruder with their buzzsaw fast gimmicky pop punk. It didn't take itself seriously but it was serious fun. Many of the songs' baseball references went over most of our heads but it did nothing to hamper our enthusiasm for a fantastic new band.

7/9: CJ Ramone at MK11, Milton Keynes (Colin)
Seeing CJ Ramone live was either going to be incredible or the best thing ever. It was the latter. I knew I'd enjoy hearing The Ramones hits played by an actual Ramone live an unbeleivable amount. Incase you weren't aware The Ramones are one of my all favourite bands. I think it's pretty safe to say that everybody at MK11 was there for The Ramones songs but I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed his solo material too. The fact that CJ is still playing under The Ramones banner, doing those classic songs a huge amount of justice and adding to The Ramones legacy with some fantastic solo material, proves that The Ramones are forever.

30/9: Codename Colin at The Flag, Watford (Dan)
I remember standing next to Mike from Triple Sundae whilst Codename Colin were wowing me and saying to him “Be Sharp should snap these guys up they’re amazing” and of course it turned they are a Be Sharp band. Very Reel Big Gold Than Jakey in style, it’s the ska punk that I know and love and these guys don’t miss a single beat.

12/10: Gaz Brookfield at The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes (Emma)
Gaz Brookfield always puts on a great live show, just him and his acoustic guitar, but when he played Milton Keynes for the first time this year he was exceptionally good. It might have a little something to do with how great The Craufurd Arms is as a local independent music venue or how the crowd was a lot more respectful than when I’d previously seen Gaz in Bedford. Either way, this was a really great show, with I’ve Paid My Money being played to a silent room of music fans a particular highlight – look up the song if you don’t know it.

15/10: The Burnt Tapes at The New Cross Inn, London (Emma)
The Burnt Tapes are the band that I’ve seen live the most times this year and there’s a good reason for that – they are bloody good! This was the last time of 2017 and they were on a line-up of 9 excellent, predominantly pop punk, bands including headliners from across the pond, The Bombpops. The Burnt Tapes were on somewhere in the middle of the day and I, and those around me, just had the best time singing along. We were also treated to some new tracks that were just as good as those we know and love.

17/10: Anti Flag at The Forum, London (Colin)
It's not many bands that can upstage both Reel Big Fish and The Mad Caddies but political punk rockers Anti Flag managed it. It had been five long years since seeing the Pittsburgh four piece live so this performance was way overdue! Co-frontmen Justin Sane and Chris #2 were just superb and work so fantastically well together, which does make sense given how long they've been together. Anti Flag are a really empowering live band who manage to make you care about what they're singing about, whilst you have a wonderful time dancing and screaming along.

21/10: Lightyear at The Garage, London (Colin)
This set was my favourite set of the year hands down. How often do one of your favourite bands announce they are getting back together properly and not just for a brief reunion? This year Lightyear did and celebrated with a run of shows around the UK. My excitement for the London show built up for months as I impatiently waited for the gig. By the time it did roll around my excitement was at fever pitch and my expectations of the night were really, really high. Lightyear surpassed every single expectation I had and then some. One of the most beloved bands of the era I grew up on are still the best live band around. Playing a host of fan favourites songs to a wild and crazy crowd who skanked, sang, moshed and crowd surfed throughout a perfect set. Having Lightyear back is the best thing that happened in punk rock in 2017.

17/11: The JB Conspiracy at Boston Music Room, London (Colin)
2017 marked the tenth anniversary of the release of The JB Conspiracy's debut album This Machine. To celebrate they announced a tour where they'd be playing the album from start to finish. This Machine is a classic in the UK ska punk scene so I'm sure you can imagine that this news was greeted with much excitement. The tour concluded with a night at The Boston Music Room in London and it was the most perfect ska punk party you could imagine. Spirits were high within the crowd as well as on the stage with everyone wanting to make sure that This Machine was celebrated properly. The JB Conspiracy also threw in a cover of the Slow Gherkin classic Shed Some Skin which was the best surprise.

5/12: Jaya The Cat at Underworld, London (Colin)
It had been two long years since I'd last seen Jaya The Cat and that frankly was two years far too long! When they announced a show at The Underworld in support of their long awaited new album, A Good Day For The Damned (which is incredible), I knew that I had to go. And I did! Of course it was fantastic to hear so many favourites from their back catalogue but the real highlight for me was hearing the new songs live for the first time and seeing how well they work with the older songs. It was also really nice to see that everyone at a packed out Underworld really loved the new songs as much as me. Jaya The Cat are one of the most underrated bands in the world. I won't be going so long without seeing them again.

8/12: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnake at Brixton Academy, London (Colin)
I wasn't a fan of Gallows or Pure Love and I hadn't even listened to Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes when one of my good friends, who I hadn't seen much since moving away from home, asked if Emma and I wanted to go see them at Brixton Academy. I pretty much agreed to go just to see my friend and can't admit to being that fussed about the music. However I had heard that Frank Carter is an incredible frontman and I can report that this is definitely true. Whilst Brixton is far too big a venue for my liking, give me a small pub venue any day of the week, I have to admit I was seriously impressed by the show that was put on. Musically I didn't love it but I also couldn't take my eyes off of all that was going on in front of me. It was a memorable show.

This end of year list was written by Colin Clark, Dan Peters and Emma Prew.

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