Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Gig Review: Ducking Punches & Spanish Love Songs at Boston Music Room, London 23/11/18 (by Emma Prew)

The 23rd of November was a date that I was very much looking forward to. I would be seeing one of my absolute favourite bands of the past few years live for the first time. It would not only be my first time however, as the band would be making their UK debut on this date so it would be the first time for many. The band I’m talking about is of course Spanish Love Songs! For their first UK tour, the lovely chaps in Ducking Punches have taken them under their wing(s) for a sort of co-headline tour. Joining them at all the UK dates are a full band We Bless This Mess which completes a pretty darn good line-up if you ask me. Not even having (all four of) my wisdom teeth out the previous Friday was going to stop me from making this show…

We arrived at Boston Music Room with time to spare before We Bless This Mess were due on and were pleasantly surprised to see plenty of other folks had done the same. Before too long the band took to the stage and we moved towards the front for our first experience of full band We Bless This Mess. Usually a trio but for this tour joined by an additional guitarist, We Bless This Mess are originally from Porto, Portugal, but the members are now actually all based in London. Colin and I saw singer and guitarist Nelson of the band play solo in Berlin last year and so I was relatively familiar with some of the songs but since then WBTM have released a new album. Understandably their set featured many of these tracks, such as Live For Today, Love This Life, Ocean and It’s Just A Matter Of Practice, and fully electric they sounded brilliant. The main thing I loved about WBTM was just how much they oozed positivity and general feel-good vibes. Many of their songs are about living life to the fullest which is definitely not bad advice.

As we were already positioned just metres from the stage, it only took a few steps forward to be ‘at the front’ – which with no barrier at Boston Music Room literally means touching the stage. I hadn’t intended to be quite so close, especially as it meant standing right next to one of the speakers, but it would mean I’d have no issues with not being able to see (short person problems). Also… Spanish Love Songs! I was excited and, judging by how the room had packed out around us, I wasn’t the only one. From opening lines of Nuevo and Sequels, Remakes & Adaptions – the first two songs on Spanish Love Songs’ 2018 album (of the year contender), Schmaltz – the band had their audience hooked on every single word and note. We were a little uncertain before the gig just how much of the audience would be there for Spanish Love Songs versus Ducking Punches but, based on the singalongs, I’d say a hell of a lot of people were there for SLS. I think the band were a little overwhelmed as well but it was so, so good to see just how happy they were to be there – at last. Much like WBTM, Spanish Love Songs’ set majorly consisted of songs from their newest album including my favourite, The Boy Considers His Haircut – my mouth really ached after singing along to that one. Having never seen the band before, it was nice to hear Mexico – apparently a song they haven’t played in a long time – and Vermont from their debut album, although Colin and I were both a bit disappointed they didn’t play Concrete. I believe the band has a new/stand-in bassist for this tour so I suppose they are limited with which songs they can play. Regardless, each and every song, right through to their set closer Buffalo Buffalo, was more well received by the audience than the last with plenty of fists thrown in the air and cathartic singing. What more could you want from your first ever show in the UK and what more could we ask for? Spanish Love Songs are the best.

Wow, what tough act to follow! But as one of the the UK DIY punk scene’s much loved bands, Ducking Punches were more than happy to give it a go. We do of course have Dan Allen to thank for putting this tour together and for that I am eternally grateful. Completing the theme of the night, Ducking Punches also have a new album, Alamort, released this year and so I expected that we’d hear quite a lot of songs from that. This proved to be the case, as they opened with the chords of I Was Uncomfortable – which, interestingly, is actually Alamort’s closing track. It’s quite a slow song that builds throughout its duration in intensity and passion. The band had me captivated immediately. Ducking Punches have gone through a few line-up changes over the past couple of years (Nelson of WBTM is actually their guitarist now) and their sound has also progressed from folk punk to a more straight-up punk rock style. I do still miss the violin but, at the same time, it’s great to see the band evolve rather than become samey. Following I Was Uncomfortable, Distant Shadows picked up the pace before another slower and incredibly emotional track, I Ruin Everything, before which Dan spoke of his own struggles with mental health. It was a very moving performance. After a succession of four or five newer tracks, it was time for Ducking Punches to throw in a few of the classics which were wonderfully well received by the Boston Music Room crowd. I don’t know if Spanish Love Songs had simply tired the audience out with their set or what but they took a little while to really warm up to Ducking Punches. The slightly older songs seemed to do the trick with God Damn Coward kicking things off, followed by the always emotional and yet hugely cathartic Six Years. This rendition was quite different to the original recording of the song but being fully electric seemed to make the song even more powerful. It really was a standout moment. Completing their set with It’s Been A Bad Few Weeks, Big Brown Pills From Lynn and Smoking Spot granted the band further singalongs and smiling faces. Sure, Spanish Love Songs could have easily been the closing band of the night but Ducking Punches proved that they are and always will be an important part of the UK punk scene. 

What an excellent night of live music that was! And guess what? I get to do it all over again on the 8th December at the Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes. I’m intrigued to see what the attendance in my hometown will be for the penultimate night of the tour but mostly I’m just super excited to see these awesome bands all over again.

This gig review was written by Emma Prew. Photo also by Emma.

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