Friday, 17 August 2018

Album Review/Column: MXPX by MXPX (by Dan Peters)


Here is my totally unbiased review of the new self-titled MXPX album in fifty words or less. It’s the single greatest piece of musical art to come into my life in the last 6 years and I loved it without reservation and will do till the end of time.


Phew now that I’ve got that out the way, what I’d like to talk about is the fact that one of the biggest bands of my childhood decided to Kickstart this album for funding and what that says about the music industry. MXPX are far from the first band to have kickstarted an album but, in my narrow view of musical genres, they are certainly the biggest and, bless them, they have been incredibly candid throughout the process when people have asked questions. They therefore make an excellent case study on the trend of crowdfunding music.

MXPX were a band in their twilight circa 2012. Their previous full length album, Plans Within Plans, is noticeably darker in tone than anything that came before it with songs like Screw Loose, Cast Down My Heart and Nothings Gonna Change casting a bit of a shadow over a group whose positive lookout on life had always been such a strong part of their personality. The band has had numerous issues with record labels over the years and have been open about not being well compensated for record sales. After years of hopping from label to label it seemed like Plans Within Plans would be the last official release of the band. MXPX alumni Tom and Yuri stopped touring and MXPX All Stars became a thing instead of a true blue touring MXPX.

Cut to around 2013 and Mike Herrera started an acoustic solo project, and in doing so fully embraced social media to get his music out there. MXPX stayed alive through sheer force of will on Mike's behalf and he can be found in numerous acoustic appearances on any number of social media outlets and YouTube channels. This experimentation with how to distribute their music led to an official MXPX acoustic album and also an official from the ground up re-recording of Life In General on Bandcamp. For me it was a dream, having such easily accessible music from my favourite band and I’m sure a lot of other people felt the same.

Then the Kickstarter happened. The band explained that they were all together again, that they loved what they did again and that they weren’t having anything more to do with labels and the stresses that come with being tied down. They had already recorded the music and set a modest $48,000 dollar target to help market and distribute the album. Having your favourite band explain they’re back in full force and that for a small amount you can help their dream come true was an easy sell for their huge and passionate fanbase. They absolutely smashed the target, coming in well over $200,000 at the close of the campaign. Finally, blessedly we got the MXPX album we’ve been waiting for and it was everything I could’ve hoped for and more.

The lyrics are full of joy and hope and there’s a lot of mention of that “weekend” feeling, symbolic to me because in order to get to the weekend you have to slog through the week to appreciate it and this is a band who went through that slog and is clearly now in an excellent place. The full line-up is in check, the energy, excitement pure unadulterated joy (in songs like All Of It) can be clearly felt. So what changed? Certainly having some time away from something can make you miss it more, but I think it’s the freedom that came with unshackling themselves from the main things tying them down. Let’s Ride, an album standout track, is about the freedom to go and travel wherever you like and when you’re attached to a label you’re beholden to them and don’t have that freedom. Having to only please fans that love you enough already to support you in your career is a far better way to live (although no less daunting due to expectations). There have been a spate of “surprise” albums over the last 18 months, where artists have put out their newest creations without pomp and ceremony and, for me personally, MXPX are the biggest of the bunch. Anything that takes away from the music industry and places the power back with the artists is a great thing in my mind and I hope many more bands are encouraged to follow suit as a result.

So, in conclusion, this was a very differently created album and is a richer happier more fulfilling experience to listen to as a result. There will be no prizes for guessing what will be at the top of my end of year lists and I can’t recommend you listen to it enough.

Like MXPX here: https://www.facebook.com/MxPxPx/

This review/column was written by Dan Peters.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

News: Loads Of Shows At The New Cross Inn This September


So I think I might be moving in to the New Cross Inn this September. Be Sharp Promotions alongside Umlaut Records, Till The Wheels, Make-That-A-Take Records have announced six superb punk and ska shows featuring bands from England, Scotland, America and Canada. Check out the details below.

Sept 7th / UNIFORMS / Break-Ups - Band / Crushed Veneer / 1 more TBC
https://www.facebook.com/events/2078738848825611/

Top Tens: Ten Reasons To Keep Going To Gigs In Your Thirties


Recently I've seen an article about how going to gigs makes you live longer floating around on the social media. I'm sure you've probably seen it as well, as the kids would say "it's pretty viral innit bare tings." Whenever I see this article pop up it always gets me thinking about how I'm now making some good headway into my thirties and I still spend a lot of my spare time and income travelling into London in the middle of a week for a gig, very often multiple times a week. This is some contrast to some of my nearest and dearest friends of the same age who are happily married, have beautiful kids, successful careers and are home owners. I often think that I should slow down all of this gig going and think about becoming a proper grown up.… and then I learn about another upcoming gig than I simply cannot miss. It's an ongoing and endless cycle. Whenever I think about quitting the going to gigs game, I quickly remember what I love about going to gigs. So, I've compiled a list of reasons I still love going to gigs in my thirties.

1. Music Is Best Experienced Live
You may have already realised this if you've been following this blog over the past four years but I am a bit of a music fan. Growing up there was always music on in our family house and that tradition has continued in Emma and mine's little house in Bedford. Whether we're playing a record or streaming music, we're usually listening to something. I'm not up to date with any of the current 'box sets', ask me if I've seen a film and the answer will more than likely be no. That's because I prefer listening to music and I love it even more when I experience it live. There's something so special about seeing a band play your favourite songs right in front of you. I feel like this is really how you were supposed to experience these songs.

2. Meeting Your New Best Pals
Think about the friends you've made since you left education. Are the majority of them from work? A lot of mine are too, and many are definitely lifelong ones, but do you find that whenever you meet up away from work that work still dominates the conversation? I've found it's different with my gig friends. We never talk about work, we talk about the thing we love more than anything in the world – music! (Except when the World Cup is on, when the World Cup is on we talk about the World Cup).

3. It's Better Than Watching The Rubbish That Is On TV Most Evenings
What would you rather do with your evening? Watch the latest episode of your favourite soap or reality TV show or go out and see a great band? It's a no brainer for me – great band every single time! Something I've never quite been able to fathom is why someone would stay in to watch a TV show instead of going out and seeing people doing something fun. Especially in this day and age of catch up TV.

4. Don't You Just Feel A Bit Old And Creepy In A Club?
Admittedly I have been in clubs very few times in my entire life let alone since I reached my thirties but I can only imagine that if I was going to now I'd feel extremely uncomfortable and out of place. I'd feel like I was twice as old as everyone else, I'd worry that the young ladies would be cold in their fashionable going to clubs (I guess) dresses, I'd be worried about accidentally bumping into anyone and I would just hate the overly macho attitude of the gentleman in attendance. Quite ironically I'd complain about how loud the music is and how I can't hear anything my friends are saying. At a punk show it's very very rare for these type of feelings to occur. I love the comfort zone of a punk rock show.

5. It's The Best Way To Support Your Favourite Bands
In this digital age where you can hear music from all your favourite acts for free the best way to support them financially is by going to see them at a show (and maybe buying some merch). That's as good a reason for keeping going to my gigs in my thirties as anything I can think of. If nobody goes to see bands live then they can't afford to keep on being a band and then the gigs stop and I spend every night sitting at home being quite bored and miserable.

6. It's Also The Best Way To Support Your Local Venue
I read a stat recently that stated that something like four pubs in the UK close every day. A lot of this is due to gentrification with councils and land devleopers deciding that we need more yuppy apartments. If all the pubs and music venues close then there will be nowhere for bands to play. Then they can't make money and stop being bands. Then I spend every night sitting at home being quite bored and miserable.

7. It's Much More Fun Than Going To The Gym
Going to the gym seems to be cool these days. Getting fit is important and I commend anyone who tries to keep their bodies fit and healthy. I like to try and keep fit but I like my exercise to feel like I'm having fun and not just endlessly repeating myself lifting things or running without ever getting anywhere. Instead I like to go to a ska gig and spend a couple of hours skanking away and singing along to my favourite songs and, as it's a ska show, more than likely a couple of covers. That's so much more fun than attempting to do a sit up.

8. Reunion Shows
It's always fun to be a bit cool and smug and say that you remember when a band was playing pub shows once they hit big and start playing large venues. It's even more fun when you can say I remember this band before they got back together for this run of reunion shows. That's something you can only really do when you're an older gig goer.

9. It's Great For Your Mental Health
There's so much rubbish in life that is so easy to get bogged down with. Between the stresses of working, chores, paying bills, supporting Crystal Palace and the country seeming like it's falling apart more and more each day, it's important to continue to keep doing the things you love, no matter how old you are. It will keep you happy, it'll continue to give you amazing memories and most importantly it will keep you sane.

10. Your Bands You've Seen Live Spreadsheet Will Have Even Higher Numbers
I assume it's not just me and C-Rage who have written down every single band we've ever seen and totted up exactly how many times we've seen them. Imagine having been regularly going to gigs for ten to twenty years and therefore what an impressive list of bands you are likely to have. Then think about how all your friends are going to love hearing about all your stats.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Album Review: Resurgence by For Heads Down


For Heads Down are a five piece melodic punk rock band from Siegen in Germany. Back in July they released their second album Resurgence with the help of Melodic Punk Style Records. The thirteen track album promises crunching riffs, pounding drums running alongside melodic vocals and catchy choruses.


The opening track Fatty Livers And Deep Pockets is a positive song about feeling better when you get on stage and play a gig. It's about how you can forget all of life's problems and find a way to escape. It's the same feeling we all get when we attend gigs. When I first clicked play on the track I kind of expected more of a harder edge to the poppy sound that greeted us, this sound worked really well with the message within the song however. On the next song, In This Case, we feel the harder edge of the For Heads Down sound. Christian Kalmbach puts in a sterling performance behind the drum kit as his beat really gives the song an incredibly strong back bone. Alongside this we have some wonderfully urgent sounding guitars with Philipp Nowotny's soaring vocals. This is the sound I expected from For Heads Down and I really enjoyed it. How It Feels continues with this sound. The song has a pounding also metal-like intro that had my head banging immediately. For Heads Down do something really interesting on the song with the music and vocals seemingly being played at different tempos to create quite an effect. This adds more urgency behind Nowotny's emotional lyrics.

The fourth song, Stuck In Reverse, starts out with a huge sing-along beginning before we get into some proper shouty vocals that add some aggression into the song. I hadn't really realised that some aggression was missing from the songs before it was added. I think this is where For Heads Down are at their very best. Last Man Standing makes you feel like For Heads Down are going to slow things down for the fifth song with some more jangly guitars and a more plodding style until the vocals hit and come at you faster than ever. It's when we reach the chorus that you feel fully involved in the song as you can shout along "Til I'm the last man standing, believe in the better times." This is a song that takes you through a series of highs and lows before slowly fading out and launching into the fifty second song Calculator. Sound wise this is a definite ode to the 90s EpiFat sound that has influenced so many of the current crop of punk rock bands throughout the world. If you love that EpiFat sound then I'm very confident that you're really going to enjoy this song. The seventh song is titled Side Effects. This track continues the melodic punk rock style, with the longer intro to the song really standing out. It feels kind of retrospective, a song that is supposed to make you think and take a look at yourself.

Goals features an incredible guitar solo which alone is worth listening to the song for. The vocals on the track feel more subdued compared to what we've heard on Resurgence so far and it's a welcome change as it adds a bit of variety to the album. Following this is a slightly poppier number in the form of Much The Same. It features one of those great long intros that make you feel like something big is about to happen. It ticks all of the boxes for melodic punk rock – crunching guitars, powerful drumming and soaring vocals. This is a great advertisement for what For Heads Down are all about. The title of the tenth track is Quiet Irony. Quiet Irony starts off slowly with some rumbling bass and slowly builds up. This build gives the song a hell of a lot of intensity from the outset. We are then greeted by a kind of clunking style with Nowotny's vocals working overtime to carry the melody of the track. I really enjoyed this approach to the song as I thought it really spiced things up a bit.

Smile is a song about looking back on your life in the search for answers. This track again sees For Heads Down in retrospective mode. Like on How It Feels, it feels as if the music and vocals are going at two different tempos which creates a great sound. This is one of those great songs where you can listen to it ten times in a row and keep hearing new little bits that you love. The penultimate track is titled Wasting Time. Wasting Time is probably my favourite song on Resurgence. Musically it's a little harder than anything else but features great sing-along moments throughout. The build towards the big finale is superb and I can imagine a room full of people with fists in the air shouting the words back at the band. This is what I love. Last up is the five and half minute long Feeding The Beast. Being such a length I was expecting this to be an epic ending to Resurgence but if I'm being completely honest it felt as if it could have been placed anywhere on the album. That doesn't stop it being a great song, because it is but I was really expecting something a bit more.

Melodic punk rock seems to be making a big come back throughout Europe. Resurgence is a very aptly named album and should cement For Heads Down among the very best in the genre.

Stream and download Resurgence here: https://forheadsdown.bandcamp.com/

Like For Heads Down here: https://www.facebook.com/forheadsdown

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Album Review: Hi-Sci Fidelity by The Radio Buzzkills and The Hypnic Jerks


It's been ages since I reviewed a split release. I've always enjoyed a good split and I've always felt like they are win win for everyone. With multiple bands on a release the recording and manufacturing costs for the bands are split and for the consumer there's the opportunity to check out more bands for the same price of what you'd pay for one. Everybody wins. Because of my love for a good split I was absolutely stoked to come across a new one from pop punk bands The Radio Buzzkills and The Hypnic Jerks named Hi-Sci Fidelity. Released by Milksop Records, the split features two songs from both bands and was out in in July.


The Radio Buzzkills are the first band featured on Hi-Sci Fidelity. The Radio Buzzkills are a five piece band from St. Louis, Missouri, who formed in February of 2016. Their first track on the split is titled Without A Trace and is about travelling around the galaxy trying to save your dream girl and then vanishing. With an EP title of Hi-Sci Fidelity you had to know this was going to be a sci-fi pop punk fest, right? Musically it's what you would expect – fast music, sugary sweet vocals and brilliant harmonies. If you love Star Wars, you'll love this song. Radio Buzzkills' second track is named Mulder Suicide. This track is about feeling like you're competing for the affections of your partner with Mulder from The X-Files. Obviously it's a bit of a silly song but there is also a sadness in lead singer Zac Buzzkill's vocals that make you feel genuinely sorry for him.

The Hypnic Jerks take the second half of the EP. The four piece from Chicago are fresh from releasing their album, Lost In Love, back in October of 2017 and contribute one song from Lost In Love as well as a new one. Planet Zero is up first and was originally featured on Lost In Love. Here we have a Ramonescore pop punk track in a similar vein to bands such as The Queers or Teen Idols. Starting out with quite an instrumental opening before lead singer Pat's vocals come in along with a pounding drum beat that adds to the energy of the track. This then slips into a more melodic style as Pat sings about going off to save the girl from Planet Zero. Inanimate Lifeform is a brand new track recorded for Hi-Sci Fidelity and is probably my favourite of the four songs on the split. It features a softer more poppier style and at times there is even a hint of surf rock included. A genre The Queers themselves often included in their music. I couldn't help but smile my way through the entire song, particularly the "ooooh-ooooh" parts.

The Radio Buzzkills and The Hypnic Jerks are both great new pop punk bands. I'm forever discovering fantastic Ramonescore pop punk bands and this split EP serves as a brilliant introduction to two great bands – I will be going out of my way to delve into their back catalogues.

Stream and download Hi-Sci Fidelity here: https://theradiobuzzkills.bandcamp.com/album/the-radio-buzzkills-the-hypnic-jerks

Like The Radio Buzzkills here: https://www.facebook.com/theradiobuzzkills/

Like The Hypnic Jerks here: https://www.facebook.com/The-Hypnic-Jerks

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Album Review: Have A Can by 6foot7


6foot7 are a five piece ska punk band from Cardiff, Wales. Featuring Tom Shazam on vocals, Marcus Maurice on drums, Nathan Allen on guitar and vocals, Craig Walker on trombone and Mark Lambert on bass, 6foot7 are about to release a brand new five track EP digitally on September the 1st with a physical release coming later in the month. Titled Have A Can, it promises five high energy ska punk offerings that will not only get you skanking but will also make you think.

The EP begins with title track Have A Can. The track starts off in a surprisingly moody fashion considering they describe themselves as high energy ska punk. Soon enough though some upstrokes come in and then some horns make us get our dancing shoes on. Tom's vocals then come in and we are treated to a wonderfully bouncy melody. As fun and as up-tempo as the track is it's actually about a very serious subject – dealing with mental health. Specifically turning to alcohol to try and cope with it all. I really want to see Have A Can performed live, I can only imagine how much fun this song is to dance to and to joyously sing along with the "nah nah nahs" in the chorus. Up next is the song Off My Face. This track is an all round rowdier affair with the highlight being some great back and forth vocals between Tom and Nathan. The song continues with the theme of using alcohol as a crutch to help you cope with your mental health problems. Off My Face features a great moment for some crowd participation during the chorus as they can shout "off my face" back at the band during the chorus.

I Am Incensed is much more of a punk rock song than a ska one. There's an infectious energy about the song that had me hooked immediately. Musically it's pretty simple and doesn't do much to reinvent the genre but when the song is so catchy this is never a problem. The song really comes alive when we reach the chorus. The penultimate track is titled Theresa and it's about the UK's prime minister Theresa May being a prostitute. Returning to their ska style, 6foot7 play a funky melody during the verse whilst vocalist Tom basically raps the lyrics. The chorus is another big sing-along moment and there's also a fantastic musical interlude that will get everyone having a great big skank. Finally we have the song Sobriety. This is my favourite track on the EP. It feels as if there is much more emotion in the song compared to the others, as 6foot7 sing a song about struggling to remain sober. As somebody who is tee-total and has never been drunk it's difficult for me personally to relate to the song but I'm certain the message will hit home hard for many people and will hopefully help them.

Have A Can is a superb EP that deals with the topic of using alcohol to deal with the difficulties of everyday life brilliantly. Like I previously said, it's not something I can relate to myself but I'm sure there are plenty of people who do. There seems to be more and more bands coming forward to discuss their issues and this is such a good thing. The more we talk about things the more we can help people. As well as having a important message, Have A Can has five superb songs that you can sing and dance along to and have a smashing time.

Like 6foot7 here: https://www.facebook.com/6foot7band

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Gig Review: Voodoo Glow Skulls and Authority Zero at the Camden Underworld 7/8/18


August in the UK and Europe always means the festival season is in full flow and we are treated with stacked line ups in between festival dates. Over the years the Underworld in Camden has played host to many of these incredible line ups in an event they call Camden Carnage. Unfortunately I could only get down to one of these Camden Carnage shows this year but it was perhaps the best line up of them all. The legendary Voodoo Glow Skulls with Authority Zero and Faintest Idea, this was going to be something!

First up were King's Lynn's Faintest Idea. There aren't many bands I've seen more times than East Anglia's finest ska punk band and they've always been nothing short of brilliant. Traditionally Faintest Idea's horn section always start the set in the crowd, rounding everyone up whilst playing Back To The Asylum. For perhaps the first time since I first saw them six years ago they didn't do this, I assume because they had a stand in trumpet player as sax man Lil Dan wasn't in attendance tonight. Equally skilled with his instrument but perhaps lacking Dan's dance moves. However, the band stormed through their set playing favourites such as Youth, Corporation, House Of Cards, Mutual Aid, Circling The Drain and Bull In A China Shop. The highlights for me came in the new songs they've been working on. Stomp 'Em Down, Screaming Into The Void and War And Palaces (I think those were the titles) all sound soooo good and I really can't wait for this new release whenever it comes out.

Up next were perhaps the band I was most looking forward to seeing. Phoenix, Arizona's Authority Zero are a band I've been a fan of for many, many years but have only managed to see once before. Now the four piece are back in the UK after the release of 2017's album of the year contender Broadcasting To The Nations. I was looking forward to seeing songs from that album played live as well as tracks from the band's extensive back catalogue. Authority Zero frontman, Jason DeVore, has long had one of my favourite voices in punk rock. I remember the last time I saw the band being in awe of how good it was live. That feeling came back as soon as the band launched into the opening song of their set, First One In The Pit. It didn't take long for the crowd to grow and began to get rowdier and rowdier with plenty of skanking, moshing and a lot of singing along. The first half of their set seemed to focus on newer(ish) song with Broadcasting To The Nations in particular really standing out. I loved hearing the new songs but it was when they got to the older tracks in the second half of their set that I really got excited. Classics such as Revolution, A Passage In Time, Over Seasons and, my all time favourite AZ track, Find Your Way all got great receptions. This was a great set and I can't wait for them to find their way back to our shores soon.

Finishing the night up were the Voodoo Glow Skulls from California. The legendary ska-core act are now in their thirtieth year as a band but recently there has been a big change. Last year lead singer Frank Casillas retired from the band after twenty-nine years and has been replaced by Efrem Schulz of another legendary Californian band Death By Stereo. Now, before I continue with the review, I have to admit I'm not overly knowledgeable of the Voodoo Glow Skulls as I perhaps should be. I know a few of the classics but other than that I'm pretty clueless and I've never seen them live before so wasn't really sure what to expect. My original plan was to stick around for a few songs before making an early exit to catch one of the fast trains home to Bedford. Then the Voodoo Glow Skulls took to the stage and I was completely amazed. For some reason I expected them to be more serious than they actually were but in fact there was quite a jovial feel to the set with everyone from the band on stage, the people in the floor and the folks stood around the edges all having a lot of fun. Efrem proved to be an incredible frontman, brilliantly keeping the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout the set. He had a powerful magnetism about him that made it hard to watch anything else. It has to go down as one of my favourite performances by a frontman of the entire year. I enjoyed this set so much that it flew by and my plan to leave a bit early for the fast train was completely forgotten as I just stood in amazement by how good the Voodoo Glow Skulls were. I wasn't even dancing – just standing, open mouthed at how good they were and wondering why I had never paid them more attention before. What a fantastic set this was.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Top Tens: Ten (Thirteen) Reasons To Go To The Whole Of An All-Dayer


Today I want to talk about something that's been bugging me for a little while. It's one of those things where I do understand why people can't always do it but also there are plenty of people who could but just don't. The thing that is bugging me is when people buy a ticket for an all day gig but don't go for the whole day and on some occasions only turn up for the headline act. It really bugs me.

Let's start with the reasons that people can't always attend all of an all-dayer. People have families and responsibilities which means that they can't always commit to watching bands for an entire day. I'm sure organising childcare for an entire day is a very difficult thing to do. People also work so it's not always easy to get time off work or you can't afford to. These are very legit reasons and there are probably many many others. In this column, however, I'm going to try and convince people who just don't fancy doing the all day thing or aren't interested in checking out bands they might not know.

  • First of all I just think why on earth wouldn't you? I'm sure if you like going to standard evening gigs, surely going to an all-dayer is better because it's like a normal gig - but longer!

  • You've bought a ticket for the whole day. May as well make the most of it! You wouldn't buy a ticket for the cinema or a football match, or something else people buy tickets for, and turn up halfway through.

  • An all-dayer isn't just about the bands – it's about spending the day with other like minded people, making new friends and having a great time.

  • For me the headline act at an all-dayer is just the cherry on top. I feel like you pay to watch great bands all day and then the headliner is a prize for getting through the whole day.

  • To support the scene and discover your new favourite bands. See those first shows of a brand new band and be that smug hipster person in a few years and say "I remember when Logan and The Coasters were the first band on at an all-dayer in Falmouth".

  • Supporting your favourite venues. All-dayers are great for small venues to earn a little extra money from drinks. The more people that get down to an all-dayer early and buy drinks, the more money a venue can make and then remain open and put on more great gigs. Circle of life and that.

  • What else are you going to do on a Sunday?

  • First pick of the merchandise. You don't want to go to the merch table at the end of the night and discover the T-shirt you love is sold out in your size or the record with the special colour variant has just been sold to the person before you in the queue.

  • As well as hanging out with your mates, more often than not you get to meet and hang out with members of the bands playing. You don't even have to pay extra for this, it's just an added bonus of an all-dayer.

  • Ska all-dayers are incredible for your fitness. Just the other week I managed to do the equivalent of 23.49km just from skanking. Incredible cardio.

  • All-dayers tend to be much more of a special occasion that your standard gig. There's a brilliant sense of community involved in the day.

  • It's amusing to watch the promoters and sound staff stressing out about making sure the day runs on time.

  • If the headliner does end up sucking, at least you saw some decent bands earlier in the day.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Album Review: This Will Haunt Me by Dollar Signs


I've been aware of Charlotte, North Carolina's Dollar Signs since 2015 after the release of their album Yikes. Then their EP Ruff found a way into my top ten EPs of 2017. Now they've released a brand new album titled This Will Haunt Me through the always outstanding A-F Records. As soon as This Will Haunt Me was released I was very excited to hear it and give it a review. Here's what I thought.


The song Cry Hard kicks off This Will Haunt Me. What really attracted me to Dollar Signs when I first heard them was the rowdy, rough round the edges, rambunctious style of their music. This style comes to the forefront immediately on Cry Hard. Interestingly the song starts off with some accapella gang vocals of "I used to bury my feelings deep down inside of me", which is actually the title of another track on the album, before the song begins properly. Lyrically it's quite sad, as the band sing a song about all the things that make them cry. The way that the song is played is quite energetic and light-hearted however so I imagine that it's quite a cathartic experience to see Dollar Signs play Cry Hard live. Up next is Till Death. Till Death is about having to attend weddings and not really enjoying them and just wanting to leave, drink and smoke. I really enjoyed the lyric "always the drunk, never the groom." This is a fun and fast paced track that's overflowing with an infectious energy. Shallow Pop Songs was a stand out on my first listen of This Will Haunt Me. The opening line "I'm the Usain Bolt of running from my problems" is perhaps one of my favourite lyrics of the year and immediately had me wanting to see where the song goes from here. Shallow Pop Songs is about wanting to escape to an easier time in your life when you were less cynical and had fewer problems. This is a great slab of sing-along pop punk.

The album's title track This Will Haunt Me is up next. Starting out with some lovely piano accompanied by great gang vocals before some really distorted guitars come in and give the song a bigger feeling. I feel like this is almost Dollar Signs' version of a ballad and it encapsulates their no rules approach to songwriting that they seem to have. The fifth song is named Ugghhh. It's a fifty second song about a lonely man whose family left him and who watches porn whilst at his desk in the office. The message of the song is don't turn into this man. It's a bit of a silly song but its brilliance is in its silliness. The lyrics are fantastic. This song leads directly into another song about life in the office. Titled Sadderday, it's about having to work all the time and still having no money. I'm sure this is a song that most people listening to will relate to and will again act as a form of catharsis when you're gleefully singing along with the song. I love how Dollar Signs seem to add more and more an element of mayhem to the song as it goes on, perhaps symbolising the growing frustrations of always having to work on Saturdays. As someone who has been contracted to Saturday work for fifteen years, I can see this song becoming my Saturday morning anthem. The opening lines of The Devil Wears Flannel are heartbreaking. "I just realised I'll never do anything great, Everything I want to say has been said in better ways" are some of the saddest opening lines I've ever heard. The song is actually a dig on shallow pop songs and how musicians sell out and write repetitive rubbish rather than anything profound. On The Devil Wears Flannel, Dollar Signs are in full on storytelling mode, complete with somebody playing the role of the devil in the tale. This is a great song.

The tempo is picked up on the eighth song, Waste My Life Away. For me this is where Dollar Signs are at their best, throwing everything they have into their song and not holding back in the slightest. Dollar Signs have quite a self-depreciating nature and it's more apparent here than ever before. The song is someone about acting like an idiot and making it hard for people to like them and ultimately wondering why anyone would love them. Tears / Beers / Fears is another hugely relatable track. It's about growing up in the punk rock scene and wondering what you're doing with your life. One example which really struck a chord with me is how all your friends are getting married and having kids and you're spending all your time at small punk shows. I've often thought to myself "What on earth am I doing with my life?". It's a sobering thought really but you just have to live the life that's best for you. The penultimate song is the aforementioned I Used To Bury Me Feelings Deep Down Inside Of Me. The minute and a half song spends the first half of its duration saying those title words before spending the rest of track shouting "now I ask for help, help, help" repeating "help" over and over again. It's a simple and oh so positive song that put a huge smile on my face. This leads seamlessly into the final song The Real Folk Blues. They've definitely saved the best song until last. It's about life in Dollar Signs, starting out learning blink-182 tabs and screaming Mischief Brew songs alone in a bedroom before moving on to playing shows with your friends and having the greatest time. The song's, and perhaps the whole album's, highlight comes in The Real Folk Blues' big ending with an incredible display of rowdy gang vocal harmonies. There's a real feeling of joy in this ending that's so endearing and makes you love Dollar Signs even more!

This Will Haunt Me is an absolute triumph. You don't hear many pop punk albums as good as this anymore. It's high energy and rambunctious nature really draws you in but it's the lyrics that really stand out. I'm not sure if it was one member of the band or a collective effort but I don't think I've related to so many lyrics on one album for a long time. They in equal part break my heart whilst also making me feel better.

Stream and download This Will Haunt Me here: https://dollarsigns.bandcamp.com/album/this-will-haunt-me

Like Dollar Signs here: https://www.facebook.com/dollarsignstheband/

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Album Review: Capital by Liver


Excellent Canadian punk rock band alert! We have yet another one! Liver are a five piece band from Toronto who formed in February of 2014. Consisting of Sam Sholdice (guitar/vocals), Michael Fong (lead guitar), Alex Dametto (bass/vocals), Kerri Silva (drums/vocals) and Emmett O'Reilly (guitar/vocals), the band released their debut album Capital through Be Nice Records on the 3rd of May. I'm lucky to have many friends on Facebook with wonderful taste in music so when I saw one share Capital I gave it a quick listen and really enjoyed what I heard. It instantly found its way onto my review list.


Capital's opener is named New Apartment. It begins with some playful but slow guitar playing before really launching into the song properly. I really liked how the song began in such a gentle manner before coming to life. The first thing that really struck me about Liver's sound is Sam Sholdice's gravelly vocal. It really has an inviting quality that makes me want more and more. Musically Liver describe themselves as a mix of garage punk and grunge but for me, on this track at least, I'm thinking more of a mature gruff punk sound. But it's all just labels really. Whatever it is, it sounds superb. On the second track, Grey Wolf, I definitely see the grunge side of Liver's sound come in. There are some crunchy and distorted guitars accompanying Sholdice's gravelly vocals. I think that the track is about dealing with some mental health issues, in particular feeling like you are being chased or hunted all the time. The song builds nicely towards its big finale with some simple but really effective guitar work and drumming as well as Sholdice's vocal being completely captivating. The third song, Little Giants, is about those films you watched when you were young that shaped the way you see the world today. This track really caught me on the chorus, it's one that you can't help but want to sing along with. I also quite enjoyed the breakdown that builds up brilliantly to one final big chorus complete with some superb harmonies.

Capital's fourth song Live And Work Hard was a big stand out when I first listened to it. This is Liver's working class barroom sing-along song and I love it for that. It's about working hard all your life and feeling like you've missed out on some experiences. The entire song is a big anthem from start to finish. There's an interesting section midway through the song that had me thinking that the song had finished, the music drops out and a higher pitched vocal comes in. This vocal gradually flows back into the gravelly style we know and love however. This was a really nice touch that broke up the song and set us up nicely for the big ending. If Women Don't Find You Handsome is the title of the fifth song. This is a slower song with an insanely catchy chorus of "we're all in this together." You will be singing along with Liver on this song before the song has even finished its first play. This feels like another barroom sing-along, the type where you throw your arms around your best friend or the complete stranger next to you and shout as loudly as you can back at the band – one of those magical moments. Northwest Passage is one of Capital's slower and chilled out tracks. Sholdice's vocals are still at their gravelly best and he leads a rousing sing-along but the song never quite explodes into life like you might be expecting. Musically the song is so atmospheric, I just found myself completely mesmerised by it.

The seventh track on the album is titled Drivin' On Goddamn No Sleep and is about late night drives where your passenger falls asleep and leaves you to stay awake by yourself. This is another slower song with Liver in a retrospective mode. There are some sections towards the end of the track where more passion seems to enter Sholdice's vocal, this adds some brilliant urgency into the song. I really enjoyed the siren like opening of the next song, Sister. It's one of the longer intros on the album. It doesn't really build towards anything but just opens the song up before the vocals come in. Sister is a bit of a plodding grunge song. The guitars in particular are a highlight on the track with the lead and rhythm guitars working together wonderfully. The penultimate track on Capital is called Provincial Drivers. This is more of a slow paced rock song with a simple chorus that drags you in. It never really hits any mega highs, it just trundles along and a gentle pace. On Capital Liver have proved they have the ability to let loose and rock hard and fast or just display a more relaxed and chilled out style, either way they are great. Last up is the song Pissin' Cold. I'm quite happy to see Liver have reverted back to their more punk rock sound on this final track, making sure Capital is finished with a bang. It features all of my favourite things about Liver – superb guitars, Soldice's harsh and gravelly vocal and some big, sing-along moments. What a fantastic way to finish off their debut album.

For me Liver came very much out of nowhere and shocked me with this superb album. Capital is an album that's very difficult to box in any particular genre as Liver display a few different influences and styles throughout the record. No matter what style they're playing, they do it so well. Capital is a fantastic album that needs your attention.

Stream and download Capital here: https://livertheband.bandcamp.com/album/capital

Like Liver here: https://www.facebook.com/livertheband/

This review was written Colin Clark.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Album Review: Insanity Plea by The Hung Ups


The Hung Ups are a three piece snotty pop punk band from Salt Lake City, Utah. Since forming in 2009 they have put out quite a few releases, including their newest effort - a five track EP titled Insanity Plea. This is my first time hearing The Hung Ups but I am very intrigued by their own description of snotty pop punk and seeing their influences listed as Dear Landlord, Screeching Weasel, Banner Pilot and The Queers makes me thing that The Hung Ups are a band that I'm going to love.


The first song on the EP is named This Summer. As you might expect from a band that describe themselves as snotty pop punk, the track starts out very quickly and is very much a no thrills affair. Exactly how I enjoy my pop punk. The Hung Ups spend no time at all in reaching the chorus which is when the song really hits its highs. This Summer is about wanting to spend your time with someone who is with somebody else and how much that sucks. This is followed up with the song Slipping Away. The thing about this track that quickly pricked my ear was how the vocals seemingly are sung with a different melody compared to the chorus. However as I keep listening the two seem to come together. I really liked this. The track is very catchy it and it will not be long until you're singing the lines "I feel it all just slipping away."

I Gotta Know is one of the darker feeling songs on Insanity Plea. It's about wanting to know where you stand in your relationship and whether or not it's about to end. At the beginning of the song the guitars sound like they're being played with a lower tone and the drums feel like they're being hit with an extra bit of power. I was super impressed with the guitar solo that leads into the final chorus and the track's big harmony-filled ending. The penultimate song is named Episodes. Episodes is a track that looks at mental health and the frustrations in dealing with it every day. Despite the downbeat nature of the song, musically it's actually pretty playful and fun. I think this is great as will make the song more accessible for the many people going through the same thing and hopefully put a smile on their face. The final track on Insanity Plea is named Boiling Point. On this track the vocals change to a much angrier snotty style. I'm not actually sure if this is still the original singer or somebody else has taken the lead vocal. Either way, the song is filled with a new intensity and ensures that Insanity Plea finishes in some style. The extra intensity really adds to the song's theme of being angry and reaching the end of your tether. This is really smart songwriting and adds plenty of extra emotion to the song. What a great way to finish the EP.

I'm a bit sad that I didn't stumble upon The Hung Ups sooner because they play the kind of snotty fast pop punk that I grew up on. Insanity Plea is a great introduction to the band and has encouraged me to delve deeper into the band's back catalogue.

Stream and download Insanity Plea here: https://thehungups.bandcamp.com/

Like The Hung Ups here: https://www.facebook.com/thehungups/

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Album Review: Farewells & Goodbyes by Don't Kill The Postman


I don't know why but the description of "five old guys trying hard to play mediocre punk rock" really struck a chord with me. Probably because I'm a sucker for self-deprecating humour like this. This is something that made me want to review the new EP from Switzerland's Don't Kill The Postman. Their band name is another reason why I wanted to check them out. On the 1st of July Don't Kill The Postman released their debut EP Farewells & Goodbyes – which seems like quite an ironic title for a debut release – and features four songs of melodic and not mediocre punk rock.


The first track on Farewells & Goodbyes is named Make This Right. Make This Right is about finally stepping out of the shadows and trying to make a positive change. I'm not sure if they mean politically or in their own lives but I enjoyed the positive message of the track. This is a mid-tempo punk track that really comes alive when we hit the chorus with some superb gang vocals – you all, hopefully, know by now how much I love gang vocals. The second track is named Nothingness and continues the style of mid-tempo gruff punk with lovely gang vocal choruses. It's about feeling like you're in a freefall following the dissolution of a relationship. It's at this point of the EP that I realise who the lead vocalist reminds me of – Mike McColgan of the Street Dogs, one of my all time favourite singers.

The third song on Farewells & Goodbyes is titled Indecision. This song is about friendship and the feeling that you've let your pal down despite them always looking after you. With its short line lyrical structure, Indecision is really easy to get to grips with and sing along to. For me, this is really important for this type of music and Don't Kill The Postman do it really well. Like all the best gruff punk tracks, it finishes with plenty of whoa-ohs that will get a live crowd shouting along with the band. Lastly is the song No Place To Hide. This is probably my favourite song on the EP. It starts out with a building intro that leads into a brilliant moment where the whole band shout the opening word of the song. This is a really striking way to start the song off properly and I loved it. It got me invested into the song quickly and really had me wanting to hear more. This song is sing-along punk rock at it's finest. Being the final song, there is that big epic feel to the song with Don't Kill The Postman finishing the EP in some style.

I really wouldn't describe Don't Kill The Postman as mediocre. This is a really, really good debut EP that I will be recommending to all of my friends. You should too.

Stream and download Farewells & Goodbyes here: https://dontkillthepostman.bandcamp.com/releases

Like Don't Kill The Postman here: https://www.facebook.com/wearepostmen/

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Gig Review: Level Up Festival 2018 Day Three at the New Cross Inn 22/7/18


It was now time for the third and final day of Level Up Festival and we were feeling quite broken but also so excited for another fun filled day of ska punk shenanigans at the New Cross Inn. Today was a very special day as today the one and only Lightyear were headlining, my goodness I was excited for this. Before reading on please check out day one of the festival here and day two here. (Emma's sections are written in italics.)


Emma and I were staying in an Airbnb along New Cross Road during the festival which was very handy for making sure we didn't have too late nights and were kept relatively fresh for each day. The only real downside was on the morning of the third and final day of Level Up we had to check out of our room by 10am and the first band of the day didn't start until 1.30pm. Maths fans will tell you that that left us with three and a half hours to kill. The first job was to find something to eat. Luckily there was a Wetherspoons just a fifteen minute walk away serving delicious and perhaps more importantly very filling breakfasts. After feeling like we'd probably overstayed our welcome at the 'Spoons we decided to go hang out at the park behind the New Cross Inn until doors. Here I made friends with a very friendly ladybird I named Lance. Soon it became quite hot in the park and I remembered that the New Cross Inn had just had a second air conditioning unit fitted so that seemed like the best place in the world to be. There was still an hour or so to wait before the first band Filthy Militia took to the stage but Paul and Mike of Be Sharp and Fishlock of Fishlock Promotions were already about so we hung out with those lovely chaps for a while. To our surprise there were also members of Lightyear at the New Cross Inn getting ready to do a sound check. This meant we got bonus Lightyear purely because our Airbnb made us leave early. This had made my day and it hadn't really even started yet.

First up was one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing all weekend, new kids on the block Filthy Militia. Before delving into how much fun Filthy Miltia's set was I want to give some quick love to lead singer and guitarist Frosty and his buddy Sleeman (who I thought looked like the lead singer of Canadian folk/punk/polka band The Dreadnoughts). These two gentleman got the dancing started during Easydread on the Friday night and continued to dance throughout the entire festival. These two are a fine example on how to have a great time at a ska punk festival.

Filthy Militia put out one of my favourite ska releases of the year when Innocent Until Proven Filthy came out at the beginning of 2018 and I was so keen to see those songs performed live. Filthy Militia had a special guest with them this afternoon as their normal bass player was on paternity leave so Just Say Nay's Leo Harvey had stepped up to fill in for them. With just one practice he did a superb job. As was now the norm for Level Up it wasn't long before the crowd, myself and Emma included, were dancing along with Filthy Militia's brilliant take on the ska punk and two tone genre. Their two pronged horn attack was really impressive as was Frosty's vocals. He had me singing along as best I could whilst I skanked away. Highlights of their set included Little Sister, Be Real and a really fun cover of The Bloodhound Gang classic the Bad Touch. A song in which Sleeman spent the majority of the track thrusting backwards and forwards in front of the stage which really made me smile.


Next were perhaps the most niche band of the weekend – Bristol's Pokémon Liberation Army. Featuring Fishlock on bass guitar, the band write political ska punk songs about Pokémon. It was very much going to be a set of either absolutely loving it or just wondering what on earth was going on?! I very much fell into the group of absolutely loving it, particularly their version of The Toasters classic Don't Let The Bastard's Grind You Down rewritten as Don't Let The Bastard's Catch 'Em All. I did wonder what Bucket's reaction to the song would have been if they had played together on Friday. Something quite amazing happened midway through their set as I actually forgot briefly that these songs were about Pokémon and found myself taking in the songs as serious political tracks. I guess this is kind of the point and a genius move to spread their message. Pokémon Liberation Army are a band I'd been wanting to check out for a little while and they did not disappoint.


Last Edition were up next on the New Cross Inn main stage. This four-piece from Leicester were one of the bands that I was most looking forward to seeing for the first time at Level Up, since every time one of their tracks would come on on Colin’s Level Up 2018 playlist I’d say ‘Ooh, who’s this? I like this.’ without fail. Last Edition play a fun, catchy yet carefree brand of poppy ska punk and with their first song they got the audience bobbing along. Unfortunately the fun didn’t continue immediately after the first song, as something caused half of the electrics on the stage to break – the microphones were still working but that sadly wasn’t the case for the amplifiers. After some attempts at making jokes on stage and awkwardly apologising for ‘breaking the New Cross Inn’, someone in the crowd came to the rescue and managed to resolve the problem. It turns out Last Edition were well worth the wait however and I’m pretty sure those around me would agree as we danced away to this excellent band. The band got our legs working even more in a classic ‘crouch down to the ground and then jump up and continue jumping scenario’ – who needs the gym when you can just go to a ska show, it’s much more fun. The songs Last Orders and If Ska Ruled The World particularly stood out but the whole set was brilliant – those super saxophone melodies got lodged in my head for days.



Knowing that the next band to take to the stage was Just Say Nay, who at times have been known to have members in the double figures, we were a little concerned that the day might now start to run late after the electrics fiasco. However, to their credit, the 9-piece Just Say Nay were very prompt and professional in their sound checking and I’m not sure we lost any time in the end. Probably not what you’d expect from a DIY punk festival, eh? Just Say Nay were one of the few acts of the 2018 line-up that played the first Level Up Fest last year and it just so happens that they were one of my favourite discoveries of last year’s festival too. Playing a selection of songs from their two EPs, Logistical Nightmares and Shit Out Of Luck, as well as brand new song, Don’t Let The Coffee Grind You Down, which is a heartfelt tribute to the gone but not forgotten Mike Crampton, Just Say Nay smashed it again. I was particularly impressed by lead singer Jak’s vocals as he has a brilliant voice live as well as on recording but the whole band was amazing. There was plenty of bouncing and skanking throughout the set and, for the second time of the weekend, a singalong to a cover of Hit Me Baby One More Time. What is it with punks and Britney Spears?


Of all the acoustic acts booked for Level Up Festival I was most excited for the man in charge of opening Stocks Bar on the final day of Level Up, Callum MacAllister – aka Toodles of Toodles & The Hectic Pity. Their EP Call In Sick was one of mine and Emma's favourites of 2017 and talking to Mike Smith earlier in the weekend he echoed our sentiments. From Toodles’ opening chords I found myself really wanting to sing along as loudly as I could with these wonderful songs. I however stopped myself as it was quite quiet in the room and I didn't want to ruin the experience for anyone else with my horrific singing and most probably jumbling up of the words. To quote Mike after the set, seeing and hearing Callum perform these songs live was like "reading a book." It truly was a captivating set and gave me even more of an appreciation of just how good the songs are. Toodles is a very special songwriter and is surely going to go on to some huge things in the next few years. Get on the bandwagon now!


Heading back upstairs, we found that the room was already busy for the next band. If you’ve not heard of Eat The Evidence before then let me tell you a little about the band. They are a London-based five-piece that play ska and reggae punk tunes with not so typical ska instruments – accordion, ukulele and a slide whistle alongside bass, guitar and drums. Sounds a bit weird, huh? Well, Eat The Evidence are downright weird but they are also ridiculously good. The Level Up crowd was starting to get a little rowdy by this point in the afternoon (or was it evening?) as the band tore through songs from their debut album, Sex, Drugs and Wishy Washy Politics. My favourite song of theirs has to be Fruit Of The Loot, which is an amusing history lesson about the British Empire, and it got me – and plenty of others – dancing like crazy. I’ve seen Eat The Evidence three times now and each time I’ve forgotten just how much fun they are live until I find myself grinning and skanking along to each and every one of their songs. They certainly know how take the party levels up a notch.



Tree House Fire are a 5-piece reggae band from South Wales who played an excellent set at Level Up last year. This year they were back – or some of them were – to play a slightly different set in the New Cross Inn basement. I, like many others, had no idea what to expect from an ‘acoustic’ Tree House Fire set but that simply made me all the more keen to check them out. Technically, they were only semi-acoustic with an acoustic guitar, acoustic bass and melodica alongside an electric guitar – plus a foot-operated drum machine – but who cares because, acoustic or not, they were damn good. Despite their stripped back sound, Tree House Fire brought their sunshiney reggae tunes to the packed out and sweaty basement and had everyone singing and dancing along. Older track Suburban Gangster seemed to be particularly well received as well as a cover of Human by Rag ’n’ Bone Man (Fun fact: I’m familiar with this song but I normally hear it played at about 10 times the usual speed in my aerobics class). Colin and I both agreed that this might have been our favourite time seeing Tree House Fire, which is no mean feat!


London's King Punch were a band that I wasn't really that familiar with before the start of the festival but Be Sharp's Paul had told me a few days earlier that I was going to love them. The man knows me well because I did in fact love them. I loved them a lot! This was big energy ska punk at its very best. I found myself skanking away from the very start like an complete maniac without knowing a single song. The seven piece's music and the wonderful infectiousness about it that made it impossible to stand still too whilst listening. Clearly King Punch are a band made for a live setting as they were unbelievably tight with their three part horn section really standing out. Like most bands in the UK scene, King Punch mentioned how they were inspired Lightyear. However it wasn't just the music that inspired King Punch, it was also the fun time shenanigans! At one point during their set they got the New Cross Inn crowd to sit down, just like Last Edition did earlier, but rather than just getting the crowd to jump up and dance they had us doing squats. This killed me. Then there was one of the most talked about moments of the entire weekend when King Punch began to play a cover of The Merrymen's classic Feeling Hot Hot Hot and encouraged the crowd to form a conga line. This was a Level Up Festival crowd so of course we did. Not only did this conga line go all round the New Cross Inn dance floor, it also made its way outside much to the delight of the folks getting some air. Then to top the whole set off King Punch finished with a ska punk version of System Of A Down's classic nu metal track Chop Suey. King Punch were completely brilliant and one of my favourite sets of the entire weekend. Awesome band.


Popes Of Chillitown are perhaps one of the UK’s most loved current ska punk bands, especially in London. So it was no great surprise after King Punch’s brilliant set to find that there were plenty of eager folk downstairs anticipating a solo Popes set from the band’s frontman, Matt. Despite being just him and his acoustic guitar, the crowd was just as enthusiastic as if this was a full band Popes show – singing along to every word and skanking away. They also helpfully filled in where the horns parts were missing which was a perfect impromptu accompaniment to these stripped back Popes classics. As great as Matt’s solo set was, we did leave a little early as dinner time was well overdue. You can’t commit to all-day skanking without filling your rumbly tum.


As Emma said we popped out for some food partway through the Matt Popes set and didn't make it back until The Hostiles were most of the way through their set. Sadly it seemed as if a quite a few people had had the same idea as Emma and I as when we returned to the New Cross Inn, after scoffing down some super tasty falafel and halloumi wraps (thanks for the recommendation, Fishlock), it didn't feel quite as full as it was previously. That however didn't stop the American fronted Scottish five piece putting in a fun and energetic performance. Listening to the band I was really reminded of UK ska punk legends Fandangle which is always a good thing. I'm not overly familiar with The Hostiles’ songs but I did notice that they played a little bit of Holy Diver by Dio which was also covered by Killswitch Engage. The Hostiles put on an enjoyable set, it was just a shame that more people didn't get to see them.


The penultimate band of the evening was arguably my favourite ska punk band of the last couple of years – also the one who I have seen live the most times – Norfolk’s Faintest Idea. Known for their energetic live show and songs that are equal parts shout-along-able and skank-along-able, I was obviously really looking forward to seeing Faintest Idea play – and in my favourite London venue no less. Unfortunately, for reasons that weren’t fully explained to the crowd (and I haven’t wanted to ask to be honest), Faintest Idea were late. As the second to last band to play the festival that had, even with technical difficulties, run so smoothly up until this point it was a shame. Although I have to admit it was nice to have a little bit longer to cool down outside! The band did thankfully turn up eventually and, to be fair to them, got set up and sound checked in what was probably record time for them so they only ended up being about 15 or 20 minutes late – for which bassist and vocalist Dani did apologise for. Starting off in routine fashion with Bobble, trombone, and Lil Dan, saxophone, in the crowd for Back To The Asylum, the floor of the New Cross Inn exploded into one huge skanking frenzy. All was forgiven as the 5-piece (trumpet player Sara was absent) sped through a killer set. They should have had a slightly longer set than the earlier bands that day but due to their later start this was understandably not the case. However the band still managed to pack in plenty of fan favourites such as Circling The Drain, Youth, House Of Cards and Corporation which kept adrenaline levels in the room high. Songs were played at perhaps a slightly faster rate and with less chat in between but that didn’t mean that it felt rushed, simply passionate. We were also treated to new track, Stop Them Down, which just sounds better each and every time we hear it played live. Finishing up with Bull In A China Shop, Faintest Idea proved that their performance was better late than never! I also want to give a particular mention to El Topo’s Jason as he just seemed to be having the best time while Faintest Idea were on stage and it was lovely to see.


It was now not just time for the final band of the night but the final band of Level Up Festival 2018. If there was any band in the world you want to finish a UK DIY ska punk festival such as Level Up, then I can't think of a better choice than Lightyear. The entire New Cross Inn was finding their last ounces of energy (particularly those of us who had been skanking hard all weekend) to really ensure the best ska punk festival in the UK finished in the most memorable way possible. As soon as Lightyear kicked off with Data's Double Chin we all went mental! We were only a few seconds into the song and indeed the set when frontman Chas Palmer-Williams threw himself into the crowd signalling for us to get even rowdier than we already were. From then on things just escalated and escalated but in the most fun way possible. Sure it was rowdy and there were bodies all over the place but my gosh we were all having the time of our lives. I've been fortunate enough to catch Lightyear twice already since they returned (at the Garage in London last October and at MPF in April) but this was the first time seeing them in a smaller venue without a barrier. This, for me, is when Lightyear are at their very best, really being able to connect with the crowd. Like with many other sets over the weekend I have no idea on the exact set list. I mostly remember dancing and singing with all the energy and enthusiasm I had left, which for Lightyear was a lot. All the classics were played in some order or another though. Fan favourites such as Three Basics, Twat Out Of Hell, A Pack Of Dogs, Blindside, Nuff Cuts, Life Jacket Water Wings and, what seems to becoming the new traditional set closer, Positive Outlook all got great receptions. I really love new song Pedro as well and I'm so excited for their new release when they get around to recording it and getting it out. Of course we got some of the Lightyear shenanigans we've all come to expect from the band over the years. Shenanigans such as Chas putting an onion in saxophone player Ben Ashton's sax which he didn't notice for a few songs. There was also human tombola where the band's technician bravely jumped into the crowd and had raffle tickets ripped off of him. And now here's a story I didn't ever expect to have to write about but… Lightyear. Midway through the set Chas announced that trumpet play Neil and himself both, for reasons because basically Lightyear, had put grapes in their bottoms and would check on their progress throughout the night. As the set went on they asked if anyone wanted to eat them. For reasons unknown to me a chap happily ate both. Maybe the most disgusting thing I've ever seen at a gig… oh Lightyear. This whole set was amazing, at one point I had to turn around to Paul and just gave him a look of disbelief at what was happening. Soon after this one of my favourite moments of the whole weekend happened when Paul was snatched up by some folk and thrown up to crowd surf on top of us all. I loved this piece of appreciation for all the hard work Paul puts in to booking great gigs at the New Cross Inn. Without thinking I dove into the pit after him to help keep him in the air and soon found myself in the first skank pit I had been in for years and loved every second of it. Finishing their main portion of their set with Positive Outlook was absolutely perfect. It's a song about long lasting friendships. As I looked around the room there were friends everywhere embracing and it was just one of those wonderful live music moments that can't be replicated. I could probably bang on about the awesomeness that was Lightyear for a few more pages but should really stop rambling.


I loved Level Up Festival 2017 but Level Up Festival 2018 completely blew it out of the water. Every single act really stepped up to the plate, there were quite a few sets that throughout the entire three days of the festival that could have easily been a headline set. For a genre that is supposedly dead, the amount of quality bands representing the genre is astounding. Almost every band had Emma and I dancing with huge smiles on our faces. And that wasn't just us, that was almost everyone! As much as we loved the bands, it was the whole atmosphere of the entire festival that was the big highlight. Emma and I go to the New Cross Inn a lot and it always has a really friendly vibe. It's always possible you're about to meet your new best mate at a New Cross show. At Level Up this feeling was even higher, everyone there was just there to have the most wonderful watching a genre we're all so passionate about – dancing with old friends, new friends and most probably future friends. It was great to find out that people had travelled from far and wide to attend the festival. Obviously there was a Belgian contingent thanks to El Topo Bookings but there were also people from Hastings, Devon, Chester (our new pals Sarah and Patrick who I'm fairly convinced run on Duracell batteries), Inverness and I suspect many other places around the country. There was this really special feeling of community throughout the entire weekend that was a beautiful thing to be a part of.

So much love, respect and thanks goes to Paul, Mike, Jason and Fishlock for all their work putting on this incredible weekend. Without people like this putting so much work into helping this scene it probably wouldn't exist and we'd all have pretty boring weekends. Also a big amount of love has to go to all the staff working at the New Cross Inn all weekend. From the bar staff, the security, the people working on the door and the soundman, massive thanks for helping make the weekend so enjoyable.

The unsung hero of the whole festival was the super talented Ell Bobin. This man not only ran around all weekend getting the best shots of the band for the brilliant after movie he also took to the decks as his alter ego Jah Jah Binks Soundsystem for two of the after parties. Ell is incredibly hard working and amazing at what he does. Make sure you check out his website www.elliotbobin.co.uk and like his Facebook page here.

Level Up Festival 2018 was the best, roll on Level Up 2019!

This gig review was written by Colin Clark and Emma Prew.