Friday, 18 May 2018

Gig Review: Popes Of Chillitown Album Launch Show at New Cross Inn 11/5/18

2018 could go down in history as the year ska punk made its big comeback. Legends such as Random Hand and Lightyear are back at it, Sonic Boom Six are still wowing crowds all around the UK, Call Me Malcolm have just put out what's potentially the best ska punk album of the past ten years, The Bar Stool Preachers have a new album imminent that I'm hearing great things about and I have a feeling we also might see something new from Faintest Idea before the year ends. London based band the Popes Of Chillitown are the band that I think are leading this new wave of ska punk bands into this exciting new era. The Popes have just released a brand new album titled Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard which has been getting rave reviews – check out what Dan Peters had to say about it here. To celebrate this release the Popes, with the help of Be Sharp Promotions, threw an album launch show at the New Cross Inn. The Popes are renowned for being an incredible live band so Emma and I were very excited for the gig.

The first band of the night were just about to get started when we arrived at the New Cross. Codename Colin are a band I've been trying to see for a while now, since I came across their excellent cover of Feeder's classic Just A Day on the YouTube. They play some fantastic ska pop punk that is full of energy and will get even the saddest of people smiling. Codename Colin also had some exciting news for the people who got down to New Cross early – they've won a competition to play Slam Dunk South at the end of the month. This is a great opportunity, well done gentlemen. We only actually had two thirds of Codename Colin in attendance for the gig as two of the horn players unfortunately couldn't make it. That however did not stop Codename Colin putting on a fun show. Mostly playing songs from their debut EP Outgunned, they soon got the crowd warmed up nicely with the tracks Declan and Losing Touch standing out. On Declan in particular I was reminded a bit of Operation Ivy's Jesse Michaels when Codename Colin's lead singer, Charlie Gabriel, sang. In a live setting these songs definitely pack a bit more of a punch than the recorded versions. It's not a ska punk support band without a cover or two and Codename Colin dutifully obliged with fun covers of Britney Spears' Hit Me Baby One More Time and Five's Keep On Moving, both of which went down really well with the crowd. If you're off to Slam Dunk South this year be sure to check out Codename Colin. They're also back at New Cross in July for Level Up Festival.

Up next were a band I knew very, very little about however Be Sharp Promotions Paul Smith was very excited to see them. He spent a good portion of time telling my why 3dbs Down were the best band ever and even stating that Be Sharp wouldn't even exist without them. He also told me that 3dbs Down play melodic punk rock with hints of ska. He didn't tell me that the band featured three lead singers who deliver some of the best harmonies I've seen in years. Musically, of course 3dbs Down were fantastic but what I really fell in love with was the vocals. I adore bands that have multiple singers. Very often it's a case of one of the singers sings the entirety of a song and the other singers do the same on other songs. That's not the case for 3dbs Down. They take turns in doing verses, lines and choruses on their tracks and it works so well. The vocals complement each other brilliantly and give so much life to their songs. The four piece from Gravesend only play a couple of shows each year so catching them live is a real treat. It also makes me feel less bad that I've never seen them before, as I can't remember the last time I saw a band without ever listening to them before and being so impressed. 3dbs Down absolutely ruled and I fully understand just why Paul was so excited.

The main support act of the evening were The Foamers. This long running band would now be playing to a huge New Cross crowd who seemed just as excited to see them as they were the Popes Of Chillitown. The Foamers formed in 1996 and split in 2004 gaining a tonne of passionate fans along the way. They've since reformed and play shows here and there, including a slot at Level Up Festival last year. That was my first time seeing them and I thought they were great. This time they were even better! The crowd loved them and skanked, moshed and sang throughout their whole set. Combining street punk and ska to brilliant effect, the four piece played a set that could easily have been thought of as a headline set. All bands should put as much into their set as The Foamers did no matter what their position on the line up is. So many people have such fond memories of the Household Name/Golf Records era of punk and ska in the UK and it's such a treat to still have the opportunity to see those bands every now and then. I've no doubt that The Foamers played a big part in influencing many of today's skacore bands and I just think it's great the band still come out and play shows.

If the gig had finished with The Foamers I'm sure the now packed New Cross Inn would have gone home happy but we still had the evening's headliners still to play. The Popes Of Chillitown are big favourites in South London so it was only right that their album launch party was at the New Cross Inn. The big crowd gathered around the front of the stage in anticipation for something special happening. And for the next hour that's what they got. You'll have to forgive my lack of knowledge on the new album as I wanted to hear it live before I listened to it properly. Plus my memory of the song order is a little fuzzy, as I just stood in awe of this awesome band. I believe that they started the set with a handful of songs from Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard that immediately had the floor of the New Cross vibrating because of the high intensity skanking that was taking place. It had me slightly worrying how much more this floor could take! The Popes are one of the most watchable bands in the UK scene. They are effortlessly slick along with having seemingly an endless amount of energy. This only amps the crowd up even more and, as the set progresses, things only get rowdier and rowdier. It was great seeing the new tracks getting the same amount of love as the old favourites. Whilst the band were playing To The Moon we were treated to a new extended version where they blow the power and do a little improv crowd chanting before the power gets fixed and they play the song all other again. I'm sure this was all supposed to happen. If you've not seen the Popes yet then you are really missing out. There aren't many better live bands in the UK and there isn't a single band like them sonically. They take ska, punk, reggae, dub and some hip hop, put it in the blender with some relentless energy and have mixed together a whirlwind of a sound that cannot be ignored. On the basis of this album launch show, I can see Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard being a big catalyst in pushing the Popes Of Chillitown to big things.

This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.

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