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.

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