CPRW Playlist: Here's what Brett, Dan, Emma, Jack, Omar, Richard, Robyn and myself have been listening to this February.
Friday, 22 February 2019
Thursday, 21 February 2019
1. Bob Mould
So this is a weird one. Weird because Bob's influence started before I even heard any of his music.
I got my first guitar aged 11. I didn't take lessons. For the first couple of years the handful of people I knew who also 'played' guitar were into guitarist guitarists – Slash, Steve Vai, whoever was in the Red Hot Chili Peppers that week. I could hear they were all good musicians, but fuck… fret wanking bored me. I liked Green Day. I liked Nirvana. I liked songwriting. A friend of mine had one of those monthly guitar magazines – Total Guitar or something. I didn't care for them. But, this one issue had a piece on Hüsker Dü. I read it because Billie Joe Armstrong once said (something on the lines of), 'Hüsker Dü, the Replacements and weed were the 3 biggest influences on Green Day.' In this article it said Hüsker Dü sounded like a 4 piece even though there were 3 members in the band. It explained it was down to Bob's playing style. Hold a root note and move the other fingers around. Instead of going out and getting a Hüsker Dü album, I just started playing this way – no idea if it was right, or even similar, but it started to sound okay. I stuck with it and still have a hard time explaining songs to other people in the band.
When I finally heard something Bob played on, it still wasn't Hüsker Dü – 'Copper Blue' by Sugar instead. Now one of my all time favourite records. Bob's output during the 2010s has been absolutely fantastic in my opinion too.
2. John K Samson
You know how some bands hit upon something a little bit different, something maybe not unique – we all have to use F, C and G after all – but something exciting, a style unheard of before, Mogwai, Jawbreaker and Leatherface for example. They then spawn a whole host of copycat bands? It's by no means a bad thing.
I've been guilty of trying to write a Jawbreaker style song. A Hot Water Music/Iron Chic type chorus. With JKS the influence isn't trying to write in his vein. I simply couldn't. I couldn't do it justice. I'm not that good. He is THAT unique. JKS's influence is more about aiming to write the best words I can. Telling a story. Making the mundane sound beautiful, the everyday picturesque, the sad relatable (but not woe-is-me and self-pitying).
JKS is poetry. My brain is thinking of a million examples of how to highlight this. I'll leave it with 'Sun in an Empty Room.' My favourite lyric ever. Perfection.
3. Chewing On Tinfoil
The guys in Chewy create some of the best music I've ever heard. Each song is full of so much emotion and energy, with great songwriting and great musicianship. They could be massive but I love how they keep it DIY and stay low key.
One of the first punk bands I ever heard was All, on a game called Street Skater on the Playstation. I instantly fell in love with punk rock and have been a fan of both All and Descendents for 20 years now. Their bassist, Karl Alvarez, was one of the reasons I picked up bass instead of guitar and his playing style helped to shape my own.
I sort of wish that I could have put a really obscure band that I’d seen play at the Attik in Leicester years ago that had a really profound effect on me but honestly if it wasn’t for NOFX I’d probably not have discovered my love for punk and still been a long haired grunge kid. When I was 12, I bought a copy of Kerrang magazine that came with a SD called ‘Search and Destroy: The History of Punk’. Dinosaurs Will Die was the first track and that was it, completely hooked. Nirvana hoody in the bin and off with my paper round money to buy anything on Epitaph that I could find.
6. The Lawrence Arms
I first heard the Lawrence Arms when Jim from Our Souls showed me ‘The Corpses of Our Motivations’ about 15 years ago and they’ve been my favourite band pretty much ever since. Lyrically (especially Chris), I think they’re brilliant. Musically, I love all the subtle bass chords Brendan chucks in every now and again and Neil’s drums are always a perfect fit for the songs. I used to always try and chuck as many fills in as possible when I was playing but listening to how he played it showed me that you had to do what’s best for the songs not just yourself. Amazing band.
7. Screeching Weasel
I picked up Weaselmania years ago, a compilation of tunes from their records up to 'Teen Punks In Heat', and it blew my mind. That was that. Ever since I’ve been a full on Weaselhead. I love Ben Weasel’s ability to mix irreverence with sincerity lyrically whilst backing it all up with killer tunes. Honestly I think he's a genius, warts and all. I could never figure out if Jughead’s lead parts were so simple because he couldn’t play particularly well or because that was just the musical aesthetic they were going for. I don’t suppose it matters much when the results are so sweet. OK, the outputs been patchy since circa '96 but I defy anyone to challenge the assertion that LPs like 'My Brain Hurts' and 'How To Make Enemies and Irritate People' (with Mike Dirnt on bass) are anything other than fully fledged pop-punk masterpieces. I think the biggest thing I try to apply from Weasel to my own playing and writing is the KISS motto – Keep It Simple Stupid.
Around about when I was 19 or so I found myself on some long forgotten website and stumbled upon a band from Leicester, our hometown. I played the track on offer 'Proud To Fail' and couldn’t believe the explosion of snotty skate punk majesty spat out of my speakers. That something local could be so good astounded me and reset my expectations and ambitions as to what I might be able to do. I’d still be happy to be half as good. The song 'Another Five Days' on the Our Souls EP quotes 'Proud to Fail' in humble tribute and wholehearted unity with its sentiment. I still rate them as the single best band from Leicester I’ve heard and seen over the last 15 years or so. They've now long since broken up but their output is still kicking about the internet and is well worth loaning an ear to if you like foot-to-the-floor full throttle melodic punk rock.
I have been hooked on NOFX ever since I first heard them on a Punk-o-Rama CD when I was about 13. Learning to play their songs on guitar and bass helped me understand how a simple chord structure can turn into a completely different song with the use of octave chords and different rhythms. NOFX helped my guitar playing grow and definitely influence me still.
10. Morning Glory
When I first heard 'This Is No Time Ta Sleep' and 'The Suicide Singles' with the programmed drum machine, shitty sounding guitars, bass that sounded muffled, vocals that sounded like they were recorded in a wheelie bin, I thought 'this is great!'. The songs are upbeat and positive sounding but had negative soaring lyrics full of feeling. I came to learn it was just one guy who recorded it on an 8 track reel-to-reel recorder. This inspired me to get recording down my own tracks, with drums, bass, guitars and vocals. This is something I still do to this day and is a great way to flesh out ideas for songs. I can easily spend a whole afternoon getting engrossed in a song. Usually to the point where I can’t stand it anymore!
Wednesday, 20 February 2019
Mere days after reviewing Gentlemen Prefer Blood's final release Weathered (which you can read here), I received an email from a PR company telling me about some of the band members’ new project California Hearse. Featuring Gentlemen Prefer Blood's former rhythm section, the duo put out a new six song self-titled EP in December – they really didn't hang around!
The first track on the EP is named Welcome Home. Straight away you can tell that this would be a much poppier outing compared to the duo's former band. As soon as the vocals come in, there's this great bouncy energy that gets me very engaged in the song. Welcome Home is packed full of hooks and, after a few times listening to the song, I keep finding something else that grabs my attention. The way that the band ramp up the energy on the final verse is outstanding, it really had me smiling whilst trying to sing along. The second song on the EP is titled Used To Be. It's a sad song about missing a departed loved one and remembering the insignificant things like how they'd always sit in the same place. Despite the sad message in the song, it's a catchy song that does a great job in grabbing the listener’s attention. Of course, the line that stands out the most is "where you used to be" which is sung with a great amount of sadness.
Best Worst is my favourite type of pop punk – fast paced guitars, rapid fire vocals and superb harmonies. After the solemn Used To Be, Best Worst gives the EP a real adrenaline boost. The energy in this song is overflowing as the band race through the first couple of verses and choruses leaving you breathless. This makes the moment when the song does slow down feel even more important as it builds towards that big ending with some glorious harmonies. The track is about wasting too much of your time on things you later realise are bad for you. Seriously, the harmonies at the end of the song – wow! After this massive energy boost the next song, Dissection, begins with the lyrics "so I get that you’re dead more inside than me." This is a slower tempo track that has more than a hint of new MXPX about it. The short, sharp way that the lyrics in the verse are delivered is a great contrast to the chorus that cries out to be sung along with. All together now "let's dissect our broken hearts, let's make maps of all our scars!"
The penultimate track is named Half Death. Opening with some buzzsaw guitars that bring the energy back up, the song is about being in the middle portion of your life and still living the same way that you did when you were younger. The saying "age is just a number" comes to mind when I think about this song. The fast paced vocals along with the simple drum beat give the song a fresh sound compared to the rest of the EP which is welcome. I'm really impressed with how California Hearse's lead singer can stick to this melody without the aid of a guitar to back him up. A great track, full of energy – lovely. The final song on the EP is named No Seoul. The track starts in a really slow and downbeat fashion as the band sing about living with depression and feeling beat up emotionally. There's a real dark and moody tone to the opening of the song as the band go through two verses before it builds towards the big ending with a superb chorus. It's a real solemn way to end what is a great debut EP.
The best way for me to describe this EP is by saying it's a modern take on Lookout records pop punk. I'm seriously impressed by the quality of the songwriting on the EP. It's pop punk but manages to feel varied and no two songs sound alike. To be able to release two excellent EP's in the same year shows some serious talent. I'm glad these guys are continuing to make music together following the end of their former band.
Stream and download California Hearse here: https://californiahearse.bandcamp.com/album/california-hearse
Like California Hearse here: https://www.facebook.com/californiahearse/
This review was written by Colin Clark.
Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Dead Words describe themselves as a dirty pop band. On New Year’s Day, the four piece from Texas released a new five track EP titled The Geek Shall Inherit. It first caught my eye thanks to the Star Wars inspired artwork and I looked forward to checking it out.
The EP's title track, The Geek Shall Inherit, kicks things off. The song is about what life would be like if geeks were to take over – it sounds like a good time, I love singing Basket Case at the top of my lungs. The song is pretty catchy despite not really having a chorus. I think this is due to the shortness of each line giving the sound a punchy quality but also not being especially hard hitting. This is just a lovely time that puts a smile on my face. Kingsley is up next and is about the band’s frustrations about not being able to be a full time touring band because of life's other responsibilities. There's a whiny angst in the song that really puts across the band’s frustration. Of course, it's very catchy and will cement itself in your head in no time at all. In what is basically pop punk tradition, it’s quite a sad song but musically remains upbeat.
Wallflower is a short one minute long track about being in the background and not being noticed. Dead Words do a great job in packing a lot in during the song but it never feels rushed. The subtle harmonies give the song a bigger feel and having two catchy verses make up for the track having no chorus. The penultimate song is the hard rocking geek anthem I Just Wanna Read. There's a hint of Weezer in the song with an easy-going rock 'n' roll style. It's about escapism and losing yourself in your books, your comics or even your record collection. Basically doing anything but talking to people. We've all been there. The final song on the EP is named City Streets and has a great 60s rock vibe. It's about walking through the streets with the one you love, wanting to take a chance and telling them how you feel. It's a nice positive way to finish the The Geek Shall Inherit. I particularly enjoyed the outro. Dead Words have clearly put thought into how to end the song, as well as the whole EP, as it finishes with some flourish.
The Geek Shall Inherit is a surprising EP. It wasn't what I was expecting at all and isn't a style of pop punk I'd usually seek out either but it's full of charm and you can't help but enjoy yourself whilst listening to it. It's short, sweet and leaves you smiling. What more could you want?
Stream and download The Geek Shall Inherit here: https://deadwordstx.bandcamp.com/album/the-geek-shall-inherit-2
Like Dead Words here: http://www.facebook.com/deadwordstx
This review was written by Colin Clark.
Monday, 18 February 2019
These Canadian pop punks are a band we've fallen completely in love with other the past few years – from first hearing Mid 20s Skateboarder on a Bandcamp compilation, listening to their self-titled debut endlessly and naming it my album of the year in 2016, travelling to Fest in Gainesville and seeing them live for the first time and being lucky enough to see them play their first ever UK show at my favourite place, the New Cross Inn. Pkew Pkew Pkew's sing-along pop punk just brings utter joy into my life. Emma and I are super excited to see them live twice in May supporting Spanish Love Songs. On March 1st Pkew Pkew Pkew will be releasing their second full length. Titled Optimal Lifestyles, it's being released on Big Scary Monster (UK) and Dine Alone Records (USA/Canada). My first feelings when I heard the news were ones of much excitement but then I got a bit worried, what if it's not as good as an album I put on such a high pedestal, could it lower my love of this band? I guess there was only one way to find out.
The first song on the fifteen track Optimal Lifestyles is names Still Hangin' Out After All These Years. Starting out with a bit of guitar wail and a pounding drum beat before those gang vocals – a big reason I fell in love with Pkew in the first place – get the song going properly. The song is definitely not as in your face as anything on the self-titled debut was but still packs a punch. I think we're seeing a more mature Pkew here. Topically it's pretty retrospective as lead singer Mike Warne sings of continuing to love spending time with your childhood friends and still doing the same silly things despite getting older. Up next is I Don't Matter At All. This is a garage/power pop song that actually has me thinking of The Strokes. Not something I have ever thought about a Pkew song before. Quite amazingly Pkew manage to retain their hooked filled sing-along vibes on the track despite the obvious change in style. The way in which Warne delivers the lines "’cause I can’t sit back and be lax anymore, I can’t just hope all my problems will go and solve themselves, or wait for somebody else, I’ve made my choice and I’ll see it through, you’re not a burden on me, but am I a burden on you?, there’s more I can do" is a highlight. It's a cool melody. The third track is named Point Break. The thing that caught my attention was the saxophone solo that happened midway through the song – not something that I'd ever have expected to hear in a Pkew song but it worked! Other than the saxophone this is the sound that I was really expecting from Optimal Lifestyles. Fast and explosive pop punk that you can't help but want to sing your heart out to. Point Break is actually a love song based on the 1991 film of the same name. Warne sings about the love that Keanu Reeves’ character, who's working as an undercover agent, has for his new girlfriend. The references might be lost on younger fans of the band (I only knew this because I read this article) but it's still a fun song regardless.
Up next is Drinkin' Days. It's about having the best time in your younger days drinking with your best friends and hoping things don't change as you get older. It's a more mature sounding Pkew drinking song than perhaps we are used to but it's still got all of those wonderful hooks. There's a retrospective feeling to the lyrics with the lines "if this is one long phase, we could go out in flames, but the nicotine stains on our hands will remind us of the times we had when we were drinking." 65 Nickels was the second single from Optimal Lifestyles. This is Pkew doing what Pkew do better than pretty much everyone. You'll be singing along to this chorus after one listen and by the end of the song it'll feel like a song that you have known for years. David Laino's simple drum beat starts the track and is quickly joined by an instantly recognisable guitar riff that will immediately let you know what you're listening to. In true Pkew fashion we are greeted with some big gang vocals on the chorus and things are finished up with some lovely harmonies. The song is about testing the boundaries of friendship and deciding that you need some space. This is followed up by The Polynesian, a big stand out on my first listen of Optimal Lifestyles. Taking inspiration of the band’s life on tour, it tells the tale of a night spent in a town in midwest America. I loved the storytelling style that Warne has written the song in, doing an incredible job of painting a picture in your mind with his lyrics. It's a slower track, which probably helps you with taking in all the detail in the lyrics. The repetitive use of the line "we got two room at The Polynesian" is a real ear worm and hooks you in so quickly. That's what really caught my attention on my first listen of the track.
Warne and Ryan McKinley share vocal duties on the seventh song, Skate 2. The multiple vocalists on tracks is something that I really loved on the band’s debut so I was pleased to hear it come back here. This song is basically the sequel to the ever so popular Mid 20s Skateboarder from the debut album. That song is a fast paced song about Pkew's love of skateboarding, despite getting older. Skate 2 slows things down as Warne and McKinley sing about having second thoughts about continuing to skateboard as you get into your 30s and the injuries mount up. I relate to this massively, but through playing football instead of skateboarding. I know how much it hurts after I play but I love it so much that I can't stop. The song starts in a kind of a downbeat manner but grows and grows until its finale. The big hook is the phrase "shred until you're dead, or until you break your wrist again" but the section of the song that really got me was the gang vocal cries of "I swear it’s over, why can’t this be over?, I swear it’s over, this is the last time." I really hope during live gigs they play Mid 20s Skateboarder, Bloodclot and then Skate 2 in a row. This is their pop punk skateboarder concept section. Passed Out was the lead single from the album and it's clear to see why. Starting out with just Warne's vocals and some guitar, you’re instantly invited to have a sing-along before the song really clicks into gear. When that gear clicks in, and the rest of the band come in, it's a great big shout-along that a Pkew crowd will adore. The song is about wanting to escape the boring to 9-5 lifestyle and feeling like you’re torturing yourself in some "pointless job that I hate"." The ninth track on the album is titled Not Getting Through To You. This isn't the shouty, bombastic pop punk style that we've come to expect from Pkew but instead more of a power pop song about the frustration of wanting to tell someone you're not alright but not being able to get people to notice. This is without a doubt one of the sadder songs I've heard Pkew play but the catchiness remains. The hook of "I'm not getting through to you" is perhaps a bit cathartic.
Mt. Alb is a classic Pkew partying and drinking anthem. It's fast, upbeat and features plenty of punchy vocals and some great trade offs between Warne and McKinley. It's about drinking underage and the lengths you'd go to for some booze, whether it's doing the old switcheroo in your parents alcohol cabinet, trying to use fake IDs or asking someone older than you to buy you some and then eventually getting it and getting hammered round a friend’s at a party. I find it a little hard to relate, having never drunk, but the story does sound incredibly like the activities old school friends would get up to. Despite struggling to relate it didn't stop me completely falling in love with this track. The real highlight was the song’s ending with the gang vocal shouts of "fucked up 'til I fuck off." It's kind of aggressive but it's a lot of fun to shout along to. The following song is title The Pit. The song continues the album’s overarching theme of getting older and realising that you can't do all the stupid things you did in your youth. The Pit tells a story of being invited out for a wild night but just wanting a quiet and early night. Lyrically the song put a huge smile on my face, particularly the line "I’m glad I didn’t go to The Pit with Jimmy and his friend who kind of looked like Vince." On Optimal Lifestyles, Pkew do an astounding jobs of writing songs that feel like a story. It makes each song that extra bit more personable. Everything's The Same was a huge surprise. Bassist Emmett O'Reilly puts down his guitar and leads the band on this piano lead track as well as providing a clean and boyish vocal that contrasts Warne's gruffer style perfectly. O'Reilly sings about growing older and wondering if it's too late to change your ways. The subtle and understated feel of the song really helps the song’s topic hit home and does a great job in making you ask yourself questions.
The thirteenth song on Optimal Lifestyles tackles the subject of wanting to run free and escape life's responsibilities. Titled I Wanna See A Wolf, this is an explosive sing-along pop punk song that, like everything Pkew do, will get quickly lodged in your head. Warne has this amazing skill in writing these super catchy songs that also sound like stories. This might be in part due to the help and friendship of The Hold Steady's Craig Finn who helped the band workshop the songs on this album. The imagery on the song is superb and you can really imagine what the music video of the song would be like. The penultimate track on the album is named Adult Party. What a fantastic song this is! The song talks about feeling out of place at a party. Particularly a party of people who are your age but have very different interests. The track plays like an internal monologue of Warne's thoughts whilst at the party – "I'll be nice and not say what I think." The song’s high point comes around the midway point as we get a huge moment where the whole band join forces and shout “rich kids, go fuck yourselves, if there’s some in the audience, go somewhere else, rich kids, go fuck yourselves." I cannot wait to hear this live, the crowd participation will be amazing. Finally we have Thirsty And Humble. Starting out sounding slightly like Billy Bragg's To Have And To Have Not, the song’s familiar sound pulls you in before the sound changes to a mid-tempo pop punk track where Pkew talk about their humble beginnings of drinking outside the venue because it's cheaper than paying for drinks inside. I love the openness and honesty in the song, with Pkew admitting this keeping them grounded and remaining at the same level as their devoted fan base. The gang vocals section towards the end of the track with perfect lyrics are perhaps my highlight of the whole album – “’cause all we want’s another, I got a stash in the alley, let’s go there, you got beers and I got wine, let’s drink them quick and get back inside, we got debts that we have to pay, we’ll take the money that we made, we’ll drink it all tonight, we lead thirsty, humble lives, could’ve stayed home and played video games, my life in Red Dead’s pretty great, I’ve got a bounty on my head, I guess it’s pretty much the same.” Thirsty And Humble is surely going to become Pkew's set closer for years to come.
When I first listened to Optimal Lifestyles I was a bit unsure whether or not I was going to enjoy it. But as it progressed, I loved it more and more. The album is a grower – but not after a few listens, after a few songs. And then when you listen to the opening songs again they grow on you as well. Pkew have really progressed and matured with their songwriting. Where the self titled album was about having fun, Optimal Lifestlyes is more about looking at your life and questioning your choices. The catchy, big sing-alongs remain but this is pop punk for grown-ups who aren't yet grown up. An early contender for album of the year for sure.
Pre-order Optimal Lifestyles here: https://pkewx3.bandcamp.com/album/optimal-lifestyles
Like Pkew Pkew Pkew here: https://www.facebook.com/PkewX3/
This review was written by Colin Clark.
Friday, 15 February 2019
Emma and I have been going to Be Sharp Promotions shows at the New Cross Inn since the summer of 2017. During that time we have fallen in love with the community that Be Sharp have played a big part in and consider it our home scene despite it being two hours away. During that time, like most regulars of the Be Sharp shows, we have become good friends with brothers Paul and Mike Smith. With the tenth anniversary celebrations of Be Sharp Promotions in full swing, I decided to have a chat with Paul and Mike to discuss the history of Be Sharp as well as trying to see what they've got in store for the future. Read on to see what a bunch of ultra professionals we are!
Colin: I'm ready whenever you chaps are.
Mike Smith: Got a pint, I'm good to go.
Colin: Handy, first question is for you from Fishlock – how did you get so cute and what's your favourite biscuit?
Mike: Oh Fishy, I will never reveal my secrets. I'm not big on biscuits, unless I can count a KitKat. Or a Club.
Paul Smith: I'm here by the way.
Colin: Ace, sorry Fishlock has no questions for you.
Colin: Question number one is how did you guys get into punk rock? … Mind blowingly original questions from the start!
Paul: Hearing Green Day on the radio in 1995. Then Offspring, Nofx, Rancid and deeper underground from there on.
Mike: Probably that copy of Americana that Paul left on our bedroom floor in 1999 (please clarify that we're brothers). And even then it was more the cover than the content. MySpace was where I discovered the more niche stuff off my own back.
Paul: We're not even related though...
Mike: That does explain a lot. My endless charm and inability to grow a beard finally explained.
Colin: Fun fact, Americana was the first punk album I ever owned. … What was the local punk scene like where you grew up?
Mike: Paul's answer but 10 years later.
Paul: 2000–2003 it was pretty strong, a lot of DIY shows, a lot of local ska and punk bands. Capdown, 5 Knuckle and the like all played 20 minutes or so away from our parents' house. But it's always been about 3 dBs Down.
Colin: You have told me many times about your love of 3 dBs Down.
Mike: It was massively centered around the Lion in Northfleet and the bands we saw and then started putting on, for me. Excluding the occasional My Chemical Romance at Wembley and Reel Big Fish at the Astoria, I grew up on the local bands and didn't really know any different.
Colin: Sounds like you grew up in a good scene. What made you guys start putting on your own shows?
Paul: Stupidity… and boredom. I put on my first show in 2005 because there was a lack of punk gigs at the Lion and I wanted to go to one.
Mike: It was more fun than school. Despite the trip to the cashpoint every few shows because we didn't make enough money to pay the venue or the bands… 10 years later, we can just use PayPal.
Colin: This was before Be Sharp was a thing?
Paul: Yeah, we didn't even have a promo name.
Colin: How long was it before Be Sharp started?
Paul: I put on local bands sporadically between 2005–2008 and then started properly when Mike muscled in in early 2009.
Mike: Originally as LSP before changing our name because of the Simpsons reference.
Paul: And LSP was an awful name…
Colin: Emma pointed out to me the other day that Be Sharp was a Simpsons reference.
Paul: Early flyers often featured Millhouse.
Mike: 'WE NEED A NAME THAT'S WITTY AT FIRST BUT THAT SEEMS LESS FUNNY EACH TIME YOU HEAR IT.'
Colin: So when Mike muscled in that's when Be Sharp started?
Mike: It's when it became a regular thing, with a bit more organisation behind it – an online presence and all that.
Paul: That's when we started seriously and put on bigger bands, touring bands.
Colin: Did you have any initial goals when you started out?
Mike: The same reason we started a band, to get into gigs for free.
Paul: To have fun, give our friends something to do, help touring bands out with a Kent date.
Mike: This way we just didn't need to learn songs.
Paul: And yeah free gigs.
Mike: Once we realised that we weren't completely awful at it, our goals changes a little. But essentially it's to help bands out and have a good time with our mates.
Colin: Who was the first big band you put on?
Paul: Jaya The Cat, somehow.
Mike: They did their own sound at that gig…Wait, they did their own sound the next time we put them on?
Paul: That was the second time, last minute to be fair. Stayed at mine, saved on sound and hotel prices. Had a week to promote that. Tuesday night 'n' all!
Mike: And smashed it!
Colin: How did you manage to book Jaya The Cat!?
Paul: Standard practice really. They were being booked by Ian Hidden Talent Bookings at the time, I sent a nice email pretending I knew what I was talking about.
Mike: Getting a contract for the first time was an experience.
Colin: When did you start putting on gigs in London?
Paul: LSP LDN
Mike: Originally it was Hassan from Triple Sundae (New EP out soon, check them out on all your usual social media channels) who was putting on London shows under the LSPLDN name.
Colin: I hear Triple Sundae are alright.
Mike: We did a few gigs at various venues before finally settling in a more permanent way at the New Cross Inn. As for the first London shows, Paul will be able to answer that with his rainman-like calendar brain.
Paul: I think it was when we were doing DIY monthly shows at various venues with The Pisdicables, The Provokers, My Third Leg and Vibe Dial Circus, around 2012. I think NXI was just the easiest venue to deal with, had backline and didn't charge us hire fee. Unlike Bird's Nest and Unicorn, we could charge entry at NXI, so it was easier to meet guarantees through sales, rather than hoping everyone sinks 10 pints for that bar percentage.
Colin: That leads wonderfully into my next question. Be Sharp has become synonymous with NXI, how did the relationship start?
Paul: The events team at the time used to book My Third Leg as local openers on ska shows, so we got to know them. Once Katy (Just Say Nay) was running the show, we used to co-promote in-house gigs, as well as DIY-ing our own. Our first big one was Authority Zero in 2013 (or 2014). That was a learning curve for sure.
Mike: When they moved the bar from the middle of the room to the side, it was obvious they wanted to be a venue and not just a pub. The faith that showed in the community and the scene was a big factor.
Colin: What's the process behind putting on a DIY gig?
Paul: It depends if there's fees to make or if everyone is happy with door split to be honest. We've always promoted our shows equally, but if one has no overheads and the next has the potential to lose a grand we haven't got, there's different processes:
Step One: Find a band.
Step Two: Find a venue.
Step Three: Promote hard
Step Four: ????
Step Five: (Absolutely no) profit
Steps one and two could be swapped, it varies.
Colin: Has the way you promote changed much over the past ten years?
Paul: Facebook rather than MySpace for online promo. Still do analogue flyering when we can, but I don't think much has changed, Mike?
Mike: Sorry, I was buying apple turnovers in Sainsburys.
Paul: Fifa after this?
Colin: I hope you bought some for everyone.
Paul: One thing that's never changed is we discuss gigs and figure out supports whilst playing Fifa – or Pro Evo back in 2010. It centres the mind when you ping one in from 30 yards.
Mike: And then my phone died. I'm back. We have the backing of the venue now, we can take bigger risks and make things happen that we couldn't before. That helps hugely. In terms of the promo, we do what we can but the bands and punters all do their bit. When we started, I got people to our gigs by saying 'yeah it's a fiver in, but they don't ID at the bar.' We don't do that now…
Paul: That's necessary when you start promoting at 16 and the only people you know are your school friends.
Colin: Do you guys have any rules about which bands you book?
Paul: We try and be apolitical, but obviously there's some bands we'd never touch. Also, ska bands get gigs by default.
Mike: Now that there are so many bands that play under the Be Sharp banner, the rules we would've had before are less strict. But yeah, general rule is no dickheads. Some may slip through but in the scene you kinda assume that people are wise and understand the scene and the ethics. Some don't, but it's hard to vet every member of every band.
Paul: I can't think of a time when we've said 'never booking them again'. And we must have booked 1000 bands by now.
Colin: There are plenty of bands that could be considered "Be Sharp bands." How does a band get that status?
Mike: Come to gigs (even the ones you don't play) and have a good time. Not forgetting the £50 per member deposit.
Paul: Call Me Malcolm, King Punch, The Pisdicables all came to us to get ska shows (and all come to shows they don't play). We do have our regular local support bands and it's mostly those that have been there from the beginning in some capacity. Or bribe us.
Mike: A lot of our regular bands are ones that we've known since way back. But new members to our little community are always welcome. The likes of Codename Colin are 'new' and I wouldn't say there are specific rules. Just be cool with it.
Colin: Do you ever argue about which bands you should put on?
Paul: Not too much. We both have our favourites and tend to think like, Burnt Tapes love Pkew Pkew Pkew, they get on that; Fastfade love No Fun At All, they get on that.
Mike: There are a few exceptions but for the most part it's mutual.
Colin: Be Sharp shows are renowned for their "everyone there is your best friend" vibe. Is this something that's happened organically or something you've worked hard at achieving?
Mike: Organically. We've never said person A or person B isn't allowed in. It's self policed and we're very lucky that the vast majority of people are lovely and we're lucky to call them mates.
Paul: It was always what we wanted and luckily it's just happened that way.
Mike: It's pretty much impossible to be angry while listening to ska anyway. You can't crowd kill to Reel Big Fish.
Colin: Be Sharp are also known for their all dayers, which I love. What do you think makes them so special?
Mike: It's like having a mini festival. At Chewing on Tinfoil last week there were a couple of [young] kids there to watch their parents play in a few of the opening bands, they were done by 6 before it filled up. They couldn't do that if it was a 'normal gig' so that's a nice touch.
Paul: That community vibe. Every time. And when there's so many good bands out there, we want to see them all. Seeing a couple of under 10s at Chewy was heartwarming. The next generation.
Colin: I love them, as it's a day hanging out with mates between watching great punk bands.
Mike: Where's the downside?
Colin: Sore feet.
Paul: By the time the headliners start, it's carnage. If we had 2 supports, people are barely warmed up.
Mike: And, the sore head after 10 hours of drinking for some of us. Or 48 hours if you're a certain someone that goes to see the same band the next day.
Paul: I did not feel good on the way to Bristol. Glad Fishlock only had 2 supports!
Colin: Do you guys have a proudest Be Sharp moment?
Mike: I have a lot, it's nice to know that something that started as a hobby means a lot to so many people.
Paul: Too easy to say Goldfinger I guess… watching Call Me Malcolm, The Pisdicables, King Punch, Codename Colin, etc. go from local openers to playing major festivals. Seeing 200 people go sick to a band that are playing because we like them will never get old.
Mike: Cramp In Your Leg Fest is up there, but that's more pride in our community as much as anything else. Watching Call Me Malcolm headline last time out was incredible and it got a little emotional. … Gotta point out that we don't manage these bands, they do it all themselves. We're just lucky that they carry on working with us when they can easily go somewhere else for a London gig.
Colin: Over the past few years, you seem to be getting most of the bigger American/Canadian bands coming to New Cross on their tours. How has this happened?
Paul: Reputation mainly. Agents tend to play it safe and/or have loyalties. They know they can trust us to promote, pay the bands and provide beer and hummus. The Hit The Switch and Cigar shows we got as we put on This Is A Standoff last year. Their front man, Steve, started a booking agency and approached us as he had a nice time.
Colin: Having such a good reputation must be something you're really proud of.
Mike: My whole time studying the music industry at uni was basically 'be a bastard to be successful' and that can get in the bin. Help your mates, help their mates and the rest is a bonus.
Colin: What have you got planned for the ten years of Be Sharp celebrations?
Mike: A quiet night in.
Paul: ALL OF THE GIGS! (See here) … Some old friends, some new, business as usual really, except we're older and possibly wiser. Only six years until Mike has been doing this half his life.
Mike: Fuck off.
Paul: 9 years for me.
Colin: And what's next after this year? Any plans to expand Be Sharp?
Mike: Well, I got sent an interesting email earlier.
Paul: I think we could potentially use bigger venues for certain gigs, but that wouldn't be a Be Sharp show. A 1000 capacity band in a 350 capacity spot is what we've always wanted. But also, watch this space…
Mike: We're not greedy. A good show is more important than a big one. If we can do both, happy days. But there's no rush.
Colin: That should be your tag line.
Mike: Maybe for the 20 year rebrand.
Colin: I'm all out of questions now, so I guess I should wrap this up. Anything else you'd like to add?
Mike: Shout out C-Rage for being our go to artwork guy. He redesigned our logo which you'll see on the new posters and it looks mint, as always.
Paul: Just a heartfelt thanks to everyone that comes to our gigs. We've spent the last 5 years constantly humbled that people come out with the same aim as us. To watch great bands and have fun.
Mike: We love you and Emma and all the CPRW crew. You guys rule and we're super grateful. 🙌
Paul: The bands are alright too.
Mike: And you suck at fantasy football. More than I do.
Colin: Guardiola ruined me yesterday. Bloody triple captain Sterling on the bench!
Mike: Ouchhhh. One of my other leagues had a guy who was 7th overall in the world. Nonsense.
Colin: Okay, I won't take up anymore of your Fifa time. Thanks for doing this interview and thanks for being Be Sharp and giving us somewhere we feel at home. CPRW 4 B#
Paul: ❤️ Thank you. ❤️
Mike: U da best.
Thursday, 14 February 2019
It’s not often that I find myself in a church. If I’m not there for a wedding then I’m probably there for a gig. I’ve been to Union Chapel, a fully functioning church and music venue in Islington, a couple of times for acoustic shows. The sound is incredible and the stained glass window backdrop is also pretty impressive – in my entirely atheist opinion. Gigs there are unlike anywhere else and so when Brian Fallon – frontman of my favourite band of all time, The Gaslight Anthem, and solo artist in his own right – announced that he would be doing an acoustic tour in the UK (and Europe) titled Songs From The Hymnal, I was quite keen. My parents, who I introduced to TGA years ago and are keen gig-goers themselves, were also keen so it was to be a lovely Prew family outing.
Union Chapel is a seated venue with a first-come-first-served system for its church pews. Mum insisted on queuing up outside half an hour or so before the doors opened to ensure we got a good spot. I’m not really used to queuing for shows anymore – you don’t have to at the NXI after all – but it wasn’t too cold and proved worthwhile when we got inside and claimed out seats. Another slightly different but lovely thing about gigs at Union Chapel is that they offer hot drinks. It felt like quite the novelty to have a mug (mug, not disposable cup!) of hot chocolate whilst waiting for the music to begin. I wouldn’t exchange my punk gigs in pubs for this sort of thing all the time but it was really nice as a one-off.
Joining Brian for all of the dates on the Songs From The Hymnal tour would be Craig Finn, most famously known as being the frontman and lyrical mastermind of American indie rock band The Hold Steady. The Hold Steady have always been a band that I’ve liked when I’ve listened to them but I’ve never properly got fully into any of their albums or developed the same love for them that I know many people, CPRW’s Richard included, have. That didn’t matter a great deal for Craig’s performance at Union Chapel since he mostly played songs from his solo releases anyway with just one Hold Steady track, Certain Songs. To succinctly describe Craig Finn’s music and performance style I would call him a ‘storyteller’ in the most literal sense. The opening song of his set, God In Chicago, was more of a spoken-word piece with some gentle guitar backing than your typical song. It was perhaps a little odd if you weren’t expecting it – and I wasn’t – but it certainly held my attention. I preferred the songs that had a bit more melody behind them but the storytelling element was definitely a great feature of his performance. I actually heard someone behind me say ‘They were just stories, not songs’ in a negative manner after Craig’s set, which I found quite amusing and ironic since they’d come to see Brian Fallon – king of storytelling both in his songs and live performance ramblings.
Obviously, I’ve probably said it a hundred times on this blog, I absolutely adore The Gaslight Anthem and owe them a hell of a lot for getting me into the music I am into today. Because of this, TGA songs will always be my favourite Brian Fallon output but, that said, I have really enjoyed his solo offerings since the band ceased to be as well. I was looking forward to hearing a mixture of all things Fallon played in such an intimate and special setting and I was certainly not disappointed, nor was anyone else! Just walking onto the stage, it was clear how loved this man was by the audience’s rapturous applause. It was a particularly loud reaction for the church setting but thankfully people went quiet when Brian picked up his acoustic guitar and opened with his first song, Long Drives from his first solo album Painkillers. There’s nothing worse than people talking during an acoustic act! As I expected, the setlist consisted of a combination of Brian’s more recent solo material and a handful of Gaslight songs. It was great to hear Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?, from the 2008 EP Señor & The Queen, get a rare outing as well as an old fan-favourite solo tune, The Blues, Mary. Brian told us how he often gets requests to play the latter live and the only reason he hadn’t until then was because he’d forgotten about it. I hadn’t – I’ve got it in my iTunes library from ten years ago! This being Brian Fallon, there was of course stories a’plenty in between songs, often ending without a conclusion because he forgot where he was going with a particular anecdote – it added some unintentional comedy to the evening. At TGA shows, I would sometimes find Brian’s rambling a little annoying but in this setting it added to the whole experience. Perhaps because it was just Brian and his guitar, it felt more natural. Actually it wasn’t just Brian and his guitar because for a couple of songs – I don’t recall which specifically – he swapped his guitar for an electric piano, as if things weren’t magical enough already. Hearing songs such as Smoke, Among Other Foolish Things and A Wonderful Life live again reminded me how good an album Painkillers was, while Etta James and See You On The Other Side prompt me that I really should listen to last year’s follow-up Sleepwalkers some more. My love for Brian Fallon never went away – I saw The Gaslight Anthem play The ’59 Sound (the best album of all time) in full less than a year ago – but after watching him at Union Chapel I have a new level of appreciation for everything that he does and has done for those that love his music, me included.
I love Brian Fallon and everything he does.
This gig review was written by Emma Prew.
Wednesday, 13 February 2019
We last reviewed Detroit four piece Splitters back in 2016 following the release of their excellent debut, Last Time I Swear. In December 2018, the band – which consists of members from Break Anchor, Due North and Cheapshow – put out a new three song EP named Short Shrift on Little Rocket Records which I was very much looking forward to listening to.
Short Shrift begins with the song Algorithm. If you've not heard Splitters before then I'd best describe them as a slower tempo Lawrence Arms with more of a rock 'n' roll edge to them. Algorithm starts really slowly with just a basic guitar part and vocalist Ben's spiky vocal easing us in to the track. Soon enough the rest of the band join in and we have big sing-along chorus of "we're getting short shrift to everything, look how we're doing now." From there we get a great guitar solo before leading into what I think is the first proper verse. I liked how Ben kind of spoke/sang the verse, it gives the style a bit of a new and fresh take.
Doesn't Matter Why sees Splitters up the tempo with a great opening guitar part that allows you to feel like something great is on its way. When those vocals come in the excitement has built up enough in you that you just want to sing every word back at Splitters as loud and as passionately as you can. The song is about looking back at things in your past and realising that things change and it's no use reflecting on it. It's a kind of a reflective song about not being reflective. The ending was a big highlight with some great gang vocals repeating the line "all that's over now." I love the recording of these gang vocals – they feel slightly muted and not in your face, giving more of a mature vibe.
The third and final song is named Ugly. Splitters are so good at starting songs. All three of these tracks have had me wanting to sing along before even knowing the words. Here it builds slowly in again before the words "there's a reckoning..." come in. The song sees the band go back to a slower tempo but it's packed with an infectious melody that really pulls you in, along with chorus of "good fucking bye ambivalence, I'm out." I love a simple chorus I can pick up quickly and Ugly certainly has that. There's a hint of anger in Ben's vocal that adds some emotion to the track. It's about wanting to get out of a situation you don't want to be in and wishing the best for everyone involved in the future.
Splitters are one of the American punk scenes' best kept secrets. They have this great quality of feeling familiar but also having a freshness to them that not many bands have. I'm not sure how much of a full time thing Splitters is but they are a great band and I'd love for them to find their way to London at some point so I can catch them live.
Stream and download Short Shrift here: https://splittersdetroit.bandcamp.com/
Like Splitters here: https://www.facebook.com/splittersdetroit/
This review was written by Colin Clark.
Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Boxing Day are a five piece pop punk band from Belgium who have been around since 2016. Influnced by pop punk giants like blink-182, The Wonder Years and Neck Deep, Boxing Day have gained a reputation for writing wonderfully catchy yet depressing songs. On Boxing Day of 2018 the band released a new two track single named Retrospect. Nick for Real Ghost Records sent me over a stream, convinced that I was going to love it. Did I?
The first song on the single is titled Whisper Like You Mean It. From the start of song I immediately get the impression that this song is going to be a bouncy pop punk track with a sadness about it. The opening guitars will get a crowd jumping up and down but there is a depressing tone to the sound that makes it feel quite bittersweet. When vocalist Monsi comes in, the song switches to a more intense style that ramps up the emotion in the song. Like all pop punk songs should do, the chorus is a big ear worm that will find a home inside your head in no time at all.
Up next is the single's title track, Retrospect. As you might expect from its title, the song is about looking back on your life and realising how certain events have shaped what was to come. This is more of a mature sounding pop punk and I dig it. It's making me think and feel something, something a genre such as this can sometimes struggle to do. It's a very restrained song that doesn't really explode into life like you might think it would, instead allowing its message to grab the listener.
This style of pop punk continues to get more and more popular. I've listened to fair amount of different bands in the genre and I have to say Boxing Day are among the best. There's a maturity in their songwriting that will attract older pop punk fans as well as youngsters just finding the genre. It certainly feels like Boxing Day could do some big things in their career.
Stream and download Retrospect here: https://boxingdaypoppunk.bandcamp.com/album/retrospect-ep
Like Boxing Day here: https://www.facebook.com/boxingdaypoppunk/
This review was written by Colin Clark.
Monday, 11 February 2019
So, doing this review is breaking a couple of rules I try to stick with on CPRW. The first being not reviewing bands that have split up and the second is not reviewing something that has been out for longer than three months. I had to break these rules for this superb release! The band in question are Los Angeles based three piece Gentlemen Prefer Blood. The band released their final EP, Weathered, in September last year on La Escalera Records and It's Alive Records – two superb labels. Unfortunately, in September, the band also announced they were breaking up and played their final show at the beginning of October. I sadly only discovered Gentlemen Prefer Blood this year and fell in love with Weathered before finding out they split up.
Weathered begins with the song Demons Are Real. This is mid-tempo punk at its best. The song starts at a slow and thoughtful pace, gradually building towards the big sing-along that the song's beginning threatens immediately. Bands such as Elway are fantastic at this style of punk rock and Gentlemen Prefer Blood really give them a run for their money on this track. The use of gang vocals always puts a smile on my face and this is the type of music that begs for a massive sing-along. Up next is The Loner, which continues with the mid-tempo punk rock sound. The guitars and a chugga chugga sound throughout literally being the engine of the song, while the melody comes mostly from the vocals. The contrast in the melodic vocals and the more driven guitar is what initially caught my attention when first listening to the track and it was the chorus that really kept me around. The song does eventually allow the guitar to shine with a bit of a solo building towards a final chorus that, again, uses gang vocals – making the song sound big.
Bees Knees has more of a Lookout Records pop punk style too it, perhaps not surprising after discovering that one of the members of Gentlemen Prefer Blood was in Big In Japan. The tone of the EP changes slightly to a more upbeat and bouncy sound that keeps Weathered feeling fresh. Despite being more of a pop song, the tempo never really changes as the band seem to focus on melody rather than speed. It's a short song but it's a lot of fun. On the fourth track, Return Policy, the tempo does get upped as Gentlemen Prefer Blood take you back about twenty years to what for me was the golden age of pop punk. If you loved The Mr T Experience, you'll love Return Policy. The song starts off in quite a fashion with some crashing drums opening the track. The drums thump throughout, really keeping the energy high. For the first time on the EP, Gentlemen Prefer Blood bust out some killer harmonies, which should be expected on this style of pop punk song but were enjoyable nevertheless.
The penultimate song on Weathered is named Coke & Spiriter (which should be pronounced co-conspirator). Gentlemen Prefer Blood revert back to that midwestern gruff punk sound that opened Weathered here. It begins with the repeating lines of "we've come a long way home, we've come a long way following the hope, don't get lost" that will quickly have you singing along. It's a pretty simple sounding song that's really effective, you can't help but be drawn in to. Even the extended outro to the song has this brilliant quality to it that just has you wanting to listen to it more and more. The EP is completed by the song Unless You Say. Throughout the song the drums seem to be turned up louder and play a simple beat, giving the song a solid spine that allows the guitars and vocals to be a bit more playful. Unfortunately, at times it's difficult to pay attention to much else other than that repetitive drum beat. There's a section in the middle however that slowly builds, towards the song's finale which features some of the EP's best harmonies to finish Weathered off in a lot of style.
Weathered was a great little surprise and I'm so sad to discover that the band decided to split not long after its release. It's one of those brilliantly simple records that always finds a way to worm its way into my heart and mind. Even though Gentlemen Prefer Blood are no longer a band, this is still a release to check out!
Stream and download Weathered here: https://gentlemenpreferblood.bandcamp.com/album/weathered
Like Gentlemen Prefer Blood here: https://www.facebook.com/gentlemenpreferblood
This review was written by Colin Clark.
Friday, 8 February 2019
You may have heard that this year Be Sharp Promotions are celebrating their tenth anniversary. Throughout the year Paul and Mike are going all out, putting on some of the best shows at the New Cross Inn. The first show in this celebratory year happened to coincide with Paul's birthday so there was double the reason to celebrate! An all dayer being held on Saturday the 2nd of February was headlined by Dublin's finest Chewing On Tinfoil, a band that have formed a close working relationship with Be Sharp over the years. The day was looking stacked and we were excited.
The day was kicked off with pop punks The Half Strikes. Armed with some superb guitar playing and a fantastic three-part harmony, this was a great way to start the day. With the bright sun shining into the venue, listening to these catchy and up-tempo tracks immediately put a smile on my face. I'd previously caught The Half Strikes last year where they played an excellent cover of Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American. This time they busted out a brilliant version of Weezer's Buddy Holly. If you want to find your new favourite pop punk band then you should look no further than The Half Strikes.
Up next were Kent's Skiv. Despite being unwell, guitarist Liam powered through the set, sitting on a stool whilst bassist Conor took his vocal duties. Skiv are one of the most hotly tipped new bands in the London scene and on the evidence of this performance it's clear to see why. Frontman Jordan continually shows why his bands are always so loved with his impressive vocals and great lyrics. What I love most about Skiv is that I don't really know what genre of punk rock they really fall into. They seem to have taken the styles of melodic, skate, pop and gruff punk and poured them into a blender and come up with Skiv. So far they've only released two tracks, Wasteman and Gumdrop Candy Mountain, which the band finished their set with. I'm really looking forward to the release of their debut EP/album, whenever that may be. Skiv are back at the New Cross Inn on Sunday 24th of February for a benefit gig for Mind. Come down.
Peckham's Love Songs are a Be Sharp favourite discovery of 2018. The four piece play a post hardcore style with some superb and intense gruff vocals. This was my fourth time seeing them and they continue to blow me away. Love Songs have an impressive stage presence that really captivates the audience. I'm really looking forward to the four piece getting some more music out so I can really fully embrace these songs and have a good sing-along. These guys have so much promise and are going to be huge.
It couldn't be a Paul birthday bash without his favourite band ever playing – 3dbs Down. Combining crunchy pop punk with some ska riffs, this long running four piece were an extremely popular edition to the day's line up. We unfortunately missed the start of their set as we popped out to get some dinner – if you're at a New Cross gig, we seriously recommend Beirut Canteen for a delicious falafel and halloumi wrap. As we made it back to the New Cross Inn 3dbs Down were in full swing and had a big and enthusiastic crowd watching them and singing along. Like The Half Strikes earlier (who 3dbs Down share a member with), the band used a wonderful three part harmony that really added a huge amount to each song. Harmonies done well can seem like an added instrument and that is definitely the case with 3dbs Down. Hopefully they'll be back at the New Cross Inn again soon!
I've been fortunate enough to see Triple Sundae a lot over the past year and I'm beginning to run out of superlatives to describe them. These chaps are big favourites in the New Cross scene and put on a great performance each and every time they take to the stage. A lot can be said of the fact that they always put a lot into their set and don't grow complacent despite being regulars in this scene. The set was a mix of songs from last year's Peace Of Mind EP and some material from a new release planned for later this year. 2019 is already looking big for Triple Sundae with appearances at Washed Out Festival in Brighton and Bristol's Booze Cruise announced. I can see more and more people jumping on board with them, getting down the front and singing loudly to this melodic pop punk.
Crack-rocksteady legends The Foamers took to the stage next. These guys were a big part of the UK punk explosion in the early 2000s and it is always an absolute pleasure to see them. Like 3dbs Down, they don't play that often anymore but when they do they have a dedicated and loyal fanbase come out to see them. Playing at a blistering speed, it's not long until the band have the audience into a frenzy with equal parts skanking and moshing. That's the great thing about the bands from The Foamers era of punk rock, people grew up on these bands and still adore them. They hold a special place in our hearts and it's always special when they get together for shows. Long may it continue.
The penultimate (kind of) act of the evening were Kent's Spoilers. One of the current scene's most beloved acts who always play to an enthusiastic crowd at the New Cross Inn. By this point the crowd were well and truly fuelled up on the merry juice and were very much up for a dance. Spoilers played a set largely consisting songs from last year's excellent Roundabouts record. These songs have now had plenty of time to work their way into the minds of the crowd which meant there was plenty of big sing-along moments. A band with a heart of gold that's also always up for a little bit of mischief, leading the crowd in singing happy birthday to Paul and then encouraging us to crowd surf him out of the New Cross Inn. The set was finished up with the always emotional Punks Don't Die and then Roundabouts. Spoilers were a great band to finally finish getting the crowd ready for Chewing On Tinfoil.
Whenever Chewing On Tinfoil are in town it's a very big deal. The band are loved everywhere and sadly aren't able to play as many shows as I'm sure we all would love. That said whenever they do play it feels all the more special and makes them unmissable. People had come from far and wide to see the band at the New Cross Inn, including Jason from El Topo Bookings who came all the way from Belgium especially for the gig. A huge crowd was now gathered and the anticipation was extremely high. Expecting a passionate and raucous crowd, we opted for a good spot around the side of the stage. This was a good decision as not only could we see the band do their thing but we could see the pandemonium in the crowd. Starting out with the crowd-pleasing Fuck Team Sports, the whole room immediately joined the band in one of the biggest sing-alongs I've ever heard at New Cross. This continued throughout the entire hour long set as the band played favourites such as Just Like Me, Forty Shades Of Grey, Let Me Let You Down, Sons & Mothers, Charlene, One Good Shirt and, the set closer, Holy Communion. As I looked towards the crowd, the passion and emotion that I could see on the faces of the people squashed down at the front was something extremely special. There were crowd surfers a plenty during the set including a couple of first timers that the band encouraged the crowd to look after. This was one of those performances that leave you completely spellbound. This band means so much to so many people and it was a complete pleasure to be in that room, seeing them play an incredible set with so many friends around us. What a band Chewing On Tinfoil are!
The party didn't stop after Chewy finished their set though! Be Sharp had organised an after party with punk rock cover band taking to the stage, The Aversions. For us hardcore souls who lasted the night, this was one last chance to have a great big sing-along to some of our favourite songs from the 90s as well as a recent cover of a cover. My highlight was the performance of Lagwagon's May 16 which I had a great time singing and dancing to down the front with Jason and our buddy C-Rage. Other songs included Time Bomb, Let Them Eat War, Superman, No Cigar and the Mad Caddies cover of Green Day's She. Sadly we weren't able to stay right until the end because of trains and stuff but we had a great time and I hope The Aversions get booked at the New Cross Inn again.
What a day this was. A great way to begin Be Sharp's tenth anniversary year as well as celebrating Paul's birthday.
This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.
Thursday, 7 February 2019
My favourite time of the year is fast approaching. Over Easter weekend, Manchester Punk Festival returns for the fifth year running and is looking like it's going to be the best weekend yet. I've been fortunate enough to have attended the previous four MPFs and have had some of the most wonderful times of my life. For this week's top ten I figured it might be fun to share them with you. However, I failed miserably at sticking to ten so here's my top twelve MPF memories.
(This is written in chronological order, not in order or favourites.)
MPF1: Going By Myself
In 2015 I didn't really go to gigs with anyone but myself. I was also just getting through a very rough time mentally where my depression and anxiety was at an all time high. When I came across this awesome festival that was happening in Manchester with so many of my favourite UK punk bands playing, I knew I had to go no matter how difficult it might be for me. This would be my first time at a festival by myself – it was a pretty nerve racking and there were a few times that I almost bailed. I didn't though and went on to have the most amazing time watching so many great bands and singing my heart out all weekend. After one visit, I knew this festival was something very special and I made a promise to myself to attend every single year.
MPF1: Cover Sets After Party
The Manchester Punk Festival After Parties have become a thing of legend. One of the after parties at the first MPF was a covers set at Retro Bar, a tiny basement venue five minutes' walk from the festival's first home Sound Control. Cover sets have become a big part of MPF and are always extremely popular amongst the festival goers, in the first year we had Bear Trade as The Replacements, Just Panic as Against Me! and Leagues Apart as Rancid. It was incredible. As the room packed out the sing-alongs just got bigger and bigger. It was the perfect way to finish an incredible couple of days.
MPF2: First Time With Emma
Manchester Punk Festival Two, in 2016, was Emma's first time attending. I was excited not only to be going with my girlfriend but to show her this incredible festival I'd attended the year before and I wanted her to love it as much as I did. She did. Experiencing MPF with a loved one added so much to the weekend. The festival itself really expanded in its second year as well, with it expanding to three nights instead of two and now attracting some of the biggest names in the world of punk rock – such as The Flatliners – as well as continuing to showcase the best in homegrown talent.
MPF2: Sam Russo's Set
Back in the first two years, the Thirsty Scholar pub next to Sound Control would host acoustic sets. These were always great fun to see in a really intimate setting. For me the undoubted highlight of the acoustic sets at the Thirsty Scholar was Sam Russo's. The pub was packed out to see one of the most loved songwriters in the UK scene. As with every one of Russo's performances, the biggest sing-along comes when he plays Sometimes. This show was no different and, despite having one more song left to play, he decided to finish the set as he knew he wouldn't get a bigger reaction for the final song he had planned. He also delivered the line that's become a bit of an in-joke for Emma and I when he said "There's real punks here!"
MPF2: Revenge At The After Party
Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man are a band that have become synonymous with Manchester Punk Festival. Not just because bassist Andy Davies is a part of TNSrecords and the MPF organising collective but because they've always put on weekend stealing sets. We first saw the local legends at MPF2's after party. The band have been well known for their sense of humour as well as the blisteringly fast punk songs and raucous crowds. This was displayed when they had Mr Blobby open their set for them before launching into one of the rowdiest performances I've ever witnessed live. And it wasn't just the band either, it was the entire crowd. The phrase "it went off" has never been more applicable. I can remember watching this joyous madness unfold in front of me, turning to see Emma who was perched on one of those tables they used to have around the pillars at Zoo (now The Bread Shed) and seeing her face whilst looking at the carnage with a look of content that said "yup, this is where I feel at home."
MPF2: A Visitor From The East
One sign that MPF was a festival that was growing with some speed is the attendance of visitors from overseas. There was a lot of excitement from the festival's organisers that they'd sold a ticket in Japan! We saw this gentleman numerous times around the festival throughout the weekend and he always looked to be having the best time. The highlight of my entire festival at MPF2 was at the after party on the final day. I think Fair Do's were playing and a group of friendly punks approached him and asked if he wanted to crowd surf. The look of sheer joy on this face was heart warming. It was a real moment of the community being together as one.
MPF3: The Burnt Tapes at Zombie Shack
Zombie Shack is perhaps my favourite of the MPF venues. This small bar above the Thirsty Scholar is a tiki-themed space that offers a more intimate feel for your punk rock needs. At MPF3 London via Greece punks The Burnt Tapes played at Zombie Shack and blew me away. I'd actually seen The Burnt Tapes a couple of times before in London but this performance really started my well known love for the band. They absolutely smashed their set, despite probably only playing to about thirty people. There was something about this band and this was the set that would have me beginning to believe that The Tapes are the best band in the UK. This was also my first time meeting the band in real life after conversing with them on the Internet. Great guys. And it was also our first time meeting former Ships Down guitarist and current CPRW contributor Jack who was attending the festival. Also a great guy!
MPF3: Clowns At The After Party
You might have noticed a theme on this list, here's another after party entry! Like I said, they are legendary. At MPF3, Aussie punk rockers Clowns stole the entire weekend with a high octane absolutely bananas set. I, like I suspect a decent portion of the crowd in Zoo, wasn't that familiar with the band before this set but that didn't stop those who made it through to the after party completely lose their minds during Clowns. With the band constantly spilling into the crowd and the crowd often finding their way on to the stage, you just didn't know where to look. It was great to see the organisers partaking in all of this beautiful chaos as well. The memory of Bev going wild in the crowd will be engrained in my mind for years to come.
MPF4: Manchester Pals Fest
Last year's Manchester Punk Festival was probably my favourite so far and probably my all time favourite festival experience. A massive part of this was because the festival has become a place where the UK community meets up for what seems like a big family reunion. Through doing CPRW, I've been lucky to make a lot of friends from all around the UK and some from further afield. It seemed like whatever set I went to there was a friend to high five and hug and it's a beautiful feeling. This year was particularly special for Emma and myself as our best pals and CPRW contributors Robyn and Brett from South Africa were at the festival and sharing accommodation with us which was just wonderful.
MPF4: Forever Unclean & Eat Defeat Open Days To Big Crowds
I always have a slight worry at festivals that the opening bands will be playing to very small crowds. There's the worry that the late night and much drinking will keep people in bed for longer and perhaps folk will turn up for the later part of the day. Thankfully this wasn't the case at MPF4! The opening bands we chose on the Friday and Saturday were Eat Defeat and Forever Unclean respectively. Both played to massive crowds who enthusiastically sang along to the bands. This was so great to see and really helped set the tone for the entire day, each day.
MPF4: Ska Punk Reunions
It's no secret how much I love ska punk music. It's the genre that lead me into listening to punk rock as a whole. At MPF4 we were spoilt with not one, not two but three reunion sets from three legendary UK ska punk bands. First up were Random Hand who blew us away on the Friday with a set which felt like they hadn't been away for almost three years. On the Saturday, Lightyear packed out Gorilla and put one of the biggest smiles of the weekend on my face. Then, on the Sunday, Beat The Red Light took to the stage in the Bread Shed and opened the final after party in the ferocious manner that only BTRL can. Ska can be a little bit of a niche genre but it's great to see that MPF are taking a leaf out of Level Up Festival's book and showcasing a genre that is really having a big revival at the moment.
MPF4: After Party
The whole after party on the Saturday night of MPF4 was incredible. The four band bill, featuring four quite different bands all the tore the house down and ensured we all left the festival on a huge high. First up were the previously mentioned Beat The Red Light who really got the crowd pumped up, with singer/growler and trombonist Pook continuing to be one of my favourite people to watch on stage. Next up were Ireland's Chewing On Tinfoil, who I suspect were one of the most anticipated bands of the entire weekend, playing passionate punk rock that garners huge sing-alongs. Always outstanding live. Then we had The Minor Discomfort Band who I had previously never heard of but was amused by the ‘punk rock barn dance’ description from the festival’s program. The room had emptied out a bit by this stage but the rest of the people left in The Bread Shed had a great dance. Finally, to finish the night and the festival, we had one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing all weekend. Dundee's Uniforms brought their brand of gruff pop punk to MPF and put on what was, for me, the best set of the entire weekend. What an after party!
Tickets for the fifth Manchester Punk Festival are on sale here. To see the incredible line-up of bands playing this year have a look here. See you there!
Wednesday, 6 February 2019
Bet Your Life are a three piece band from London, Ontario, Canada. Since forming in 2011, the band have released three EPs and a single. The latest EP, A Reason To Stay, was released in December of 2018 and is what brought the band to my attention. Playing a more aggressive style of melodic gruff punk, I was instantly impressed with what I heard and quickly added it to my "must review" list.
A Reason To Stay begins with the song Boss Fight. I thought that the opening of the song was great – the little pause after the initial beginning adds a sense of tension that really helps build the track. When the vocals came in I was quickly thinking of bands such as Hot Water Music. It wasn't long until I was singing along with the band, with the chorus being particularly infectious. The track is about passing all of your problems on to other people and running away. Next up is the song Rural Juror. On this track, Bet You Life pick the tempo up on the verses giving the song a lot of energy. The song starts in a more aggressive way with drummer Jimi seemingly putting a bit of extra sauce on each hit of the skin. The song is about being stuck in a job in a small town that you dislike and yearning to get out and do something new. This is one of those tracks that many people will relate to and will take a massive amount of joy in singing loud and proud with that fist high in the sky.
The Fly Wheel vs. The Doom Loop is a short and fast song that wastes no time in getting started with the line "here we go again" immediately being shouted out as the track begins. This is one that will leave you breathless as the band storm through, never slowing down once. It's about making the same mistakes over and over again despite all the chances you are given. I would have liked one more verse on the song as it seems to be over far too quickly and I just want more like this! Track number four is named Oceans and is a song about staying true to yourself as a band and being honest, truthful people rather than just saying things to get yourself ahead. This is a mantra that all bands should live by. I enjoyed the shifts in tempo on the song, with the breakdown being used really well to put the song’s message across and then building towards the song’s fantastic finale.
The penultimate song is titled Is Your Death Ray Even Peer-Reviewed? Much like Oceans, this track does such a good job in using different tempos. It gives the song such an epic feeling and takes you on some ride. Starting slowly, for Bet Your Life anyway, the track pulls you in with some punchy music alongside a melodic vocal style that gives the song more of a pop punk feel. After two verses and a bridge, the song punches the red button and goes into hyper speed for the chorus. This gave the song a big shot of adrenaline and got me so pumped up. To finish things off, the band slow things right down and channel their inner Red City Radio, rolling out some delectable harmonies before we explode once more to finish the song in a big way. A Reason To Stay is finished with Getting Out Of The Pigeon Game. The opening melody is infectious and grabs you from the start. There's also some harmonies used early on. This harmony is a higher pitch than the harsh, gruff vocal we've gotten used to from Bet Your Life and the two styles work wonderfully well together. Harmonies play a massive part in the song’s ending as well with some perfect "whoa-ohs" giving the song a much bigger feel – I can only imagine just how good these must be live.
Bet Your Life are a band I'm now a big fan of. This is the type of gruff punk I love, it's the perfect mix of aggression, energy and melody that is begging to be shouted along to. If, in recent years, you've thought that the gruff punk scene has been a bit watered down then you need to check out A Reason To Stay.
Stream and download A Reason To Stay here: https://music.betyourlife.ca/
Like Bet Your Life here: https://www.facebook.com/betyourlife
This review was written by Colin Clark.