Way back in October of 2017 Emma and I were attending Lightyear's comeback show at the Garage in London. After Lightyear showing that they are still one of the greatest live bands ever we were on our way out of the venue and bumped into Paul from Be Sharp Promotions, part of the team that puts on Level Up Festival at the New Cross Inn. During our brief chat he mentioned and gave us the world exclusive that Lightyear and Random Hand (who hadn't actually announced their comeback at the time) would be playing 2018's Level Up Festival. Can you imagine how exciting that was to hear but also not be able to tell anyone?!
As the months went by the festival was announced properly, again co-promoted by Paul and Mike Smith of Be Sharp Promotions, Chris Fishlock of Fishlock Promotions and Jason Berden of El Topo Bookings and my excitement just grew and grew with every band announcement. For a genre that is supposedly dead, there sure is a huge amount of brilliant ska punk bands in the UK. Soon enough the complete line up was revealed and I was completely staggered by just how good it was. Every time I ventured to the New Cross Inn, the home of Level Up Festival, I'd look at the poster trying to work out which day was best and never be able to make up my mind. That's very impressive booking, that is. Level Up Festival consisted of twenty-eight different bands over three days. It began on Friday the 19th of July, easing us in with just four acts. I was on my own for this show as Emma was off seeing The Gaslight Anthem play The ’59 Sound in full at the Hammersmith Apollo across the other side of London. Not to worry though as this was the New Cross Inn where everyone is friends with everyone so I wouldn't really be by myself.
The first night of Level Up felt like it was being co-headlined by some legends from the genre of ska and reggae. First up were New York godfathers of ska punk The Toasters. I think I can quite comfortably say that without The Toasters Level Up Festival probably wouldn't be a thing as the whole movement of third wave ska began with The Toasters. Obviously after all these years it's a much changed line up to the original and it's basically now Robert "Bucket" Hingly touring with session musicians. This however did not make a single difference to the magic of the set. I've seen The Toasters a few time now and every single time I've been blown away by just how good they are - whatever the line up! A big part of this is due to the quality of the songs with the band playing so many classics from throughout their history. It wasn't long before I found myself skanking away like I was five years younger and had the energy of a fit and healthy person. Not a thirty two year old with a coca-cola gut and a metal rod in his leg. By the time they'd finished playing, I found myself covered in sweat but with the biggest smile on my face after dancing and singing along to classics such as Thrill Me Up, East Side Beat, Weekend In LA, Pirate Radio, Two Tone Army and, of course, Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down. Every time I see The Toasters live I'm always reminded just what a great band they are and just how many classics they have. This was a wonderful time and well worthy of being a headline set. And we still had more to come! But first and most importantly I had to go outside and cool down!
This gig review was written by Colin Clark.