The best ska punk festival in the world – Level Up Festival – returns next week! The three day event, which takes place at the New Cross Inn in South London, is co-promoted by Be Sharp Promotions, Fishlock Promotion and El Topo Bookings. The original plan for this piece was to do a rundown of the entire festival but Makky Hall of Broken Arrow Magazine has already written a superb preview of Level Up so I feel like the Internet doesn't need another – you can check that out here. Leo of Just Say Nay also wrote a hilarious alternative preview which you should check out here.
So rather than me writing another lengthy preview, I decided to do a top ten picks for the festival. Obviously headline acts such as Random Hand, Lightyear, The Toasters and Dave Hillyard & The Rocksteady Seven will be highlights, as will Faintest Idea, so it seems kind of silly to include them on the list. I've picked ten acts that you might not be so familiar with but you should definitely check out!
Call Me Malcolm
You may have heard this already but Call Me Malcolm released the album of the year when I Was Broken When You Got Here dropped in the Spring. I haven't been able to see any of the songs from the new album live yet as I missed the album launch due to illness, I'm still gutted. Seeing them back at the New Cross Inn, which is essentially their home ground, will certainly more than make up for that. Call Me Malcolm will no doubt be a highlight of the entire weekend.
Codename Colin are having a big year. This summer they've already performed at Slam Dunk Festival and supported the Popes Of Chilitown at their album launch party. Now they're back at New Cross Inn to entertain the crowd with their high tempo and energetic ska punk. In true ska punk tradition, Codename Colin aren't shy about putting in some unique covers into set along with some superb originals.
I don't think I've seen any band more times in the past couple of years than I have Bedfordshire's Easydread. According to my super cool spreadsheet I have to track all the bands I've seen over the years I've seen Easydread five times in the past eighteen months and each time they've blown me away more than the last. This will be my first time seeing them in London and I'm looking forward to seeing them wow the New Cross Inn like they have me so many times already.
Filthy Militia are one of my favourite discoveries of 2018. Their debut EP, Innocent Until Proven Filthy, is one of the best released this year. Unfortunately I missed their launch party earlier this year, due to being double booked, so I'm really looking forward to finally catching them live. Mixing the best elements of ska punk, two tone and reggae, the five piece are certain to gain plenty of new fans at Level Up. Make sure you're there early to catch them!
Belgium's Koala Commission were the only band on the Level Up line up I'd not heard of before. Naturally I jumped onto Bandcamp to check them out and discovered a band that blend ska, folk, polka, punk and plenty of other styles to create something fantastic. This nine piece are likely to be one of the most impressive acts of the entire weekend. They're going to be loved!
Just Say Nay
Just Say Nay were one of our favourite bands from last year's Level Up Festival so I was very pleased that they were chosen as one of only three bands returning to the line-up this year. The eleven piece were so much fun to watch live with their bouncing horn lines and big sing-along choruses. The band are regulars on Be Sharp Promotions ska shows so I expect to see a very enthusiastic crowd for Just Say Nay. I'm also hoping that they play their cover of Cabin Fever from Muppets Treasure Island again. Please!
Emma and I have a playlist on Spotify which we call Upcoming Gigs. Can you guess the theme of the playlist? A band that's popped up a lot that we've always thought "oh, I really like this" is Last Edition. Last Edition have actually been going for ten years and I'm yet to see them live so I'm really excited to see some happy, summertime ska pop from this band from Leicester. I can already imagine the sun shining through the New Cross Inn's massive windows as the Level Up crowd joyously have a dance to this great band.
Last year's Level Up Festival was The Pisdicables' first show back following the tragic death of their organ player Mike Crampton. This year's Level Up will be The Pisdicables final show before they take an extended break from playing shows. The New Cross Inn is certain to give them a massive send off as they are a much loved band at the venue. The Pisdicables are a band that show that all ska doesn't sound the same with some fast paced reggae vibes and plenty of South East London charm.
Pokémon Liberation Army
We all love Pokémon, right? And we all hope that they are looked after properly, I assume? Well that's what Bristol's Pokemon Liberation Army aim to ensure. This band are one I've wanted to see live since I first heard about them a few years ago and now I finally have the chance! I'm particularly looking forward to hearing their re-work of the classic Toasters song Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down – Don't Let The Bastards Catch 'Em All. This is going to be a fun one!
Toodles (Toodles & The Hectic Pity Acoustic)
This was a surprising announcement but also a very exciting one. Toodles & The Hectic Pity released one of my favourite EPs last year and I've been itching to see them live. I didn't expect my first time to be an acoustic show at a ska festival. I'll take it though. Toodles plays more of an folk punk style rather than ska, with songs that feature great hooks and big sing-along choruses. Toodles & The Hectic Pity are one of the most exciting new bands in the UK so make sure you take the chance to see them in these more unique of circumstances.
That's ten of my picks for Level Up Festival but in truth the line-up is so stacked I could have written at length about every act of the line-up. The other day we were at the New Cross Inn looking at the poster trying to decide on the best day of the festival. We never came up with a decision as it's packed with amazing acts who deserve all of your attention. Be Sharp, Fishlock and El Topo have done an incredible job putting this line up together. This is going to be one of the best weekends of the year, one that I'm likely to bore my friends by talking about it for a long time. See you there!
You can still buy tickets for Level Up Festival here. You really should!
This column was written by Colin Clark.