Friday, 1 February 2019

Gig Review: Random Hand at Village Underground, London 26/01/19

Saturday 26th of January feels like a pretty monumental night in the history of DIY punk rock in London. Almost six hundred people packed into the Village Underground venue in East London to see skacore legends Random Hand play their biggest London show since their triumphant return last year. For support they had three of the bands who have really stepped up in their absence to help keep the scene alive – Popes Of Chillitown, Riskee & The Ridicule and Call Me Malcolm. It promised to be an incredible night.

This was almost an incredible night that didn't happen. A week or so before the gig was due to happen the gig's original venue, Camden Underworld, said they couldn't host because of some flood damage that happened over New Year. Finding a venue that was free on a Saturday night and had the capacity to host as many people who had already bought tickets looked to be a problem but thankfully The Village Underground could assist. This was a venue I'd never been to and, over the past few years, punk hasn't really been a regular fixture in the East of London so I was curious if the venue really knew what they were letting themselves in for. The Village Underworld actually became one of my favourite bigger venues I've been to in a long time. Yes, it took a long time to get in due to very thorough security checks, which I don't mind to be honest, I'm all for idiots with weapons or worse not being able to get into a venue. Once we got in we saw a nice big open space, a nice high stage and a really impressive lighting rig ready for a great night of punk rock.

Up first were Call Me Malcolm. I'm sure you all already know just how much we love Call Me Malcolm here at CPRW – I even named last year's I Was Broken When I Got Here as the best album of 2018. It's always a pleasure to see them but this was the biggest stage and audience I've seen them with so far. Call Me Malcolm have gained a massive legion of fans over the past year and it was nice to see so many down the front eagerly awaiting the five piece's arrival on stage. We all had a big sing and dance from the start before getting absolutely blown away by the third song in their set – they played what's become their traditional set closer, All My Nameless Friends! I looked round at some friends and asked if they were playing a three song set, I was so surprised by this. This earned one of the biggest sing-alongs of the entire night and rightly so! They followed this up with another big hitter from the album – the reggae pop masterpiece, Restore Factory Settings. This is how you warm up a crowd as an opening act. I'm already scheduled to see Call Me Malcolm three more times this year and I can't wait for each and every one of them.

Up next were grime punks Riskee & The Ridicule, a band that have been gaining some serious traction over the past couple of years amongst the punk community. The energy that comes from this band is crazy and it's clear that they're a talented bunch of musicians who love to put on a really rowdy party. Writing catchy songs performed with a lot of intensity and swagger, Riskee whip their fans into a wild frenzy. Songs such as Hipster and Banger got the crowd dancing right out of the gates and Molotov Cocktails slowed things down for the crowd to have a sing-along. The highlight of the set for me was the band's final song, Roots. It's a song about not being ashamed of where you come from because it's just the first step on your journey. There's a real joy in the chorus that put a smile on my face.

When Random Hand announced their hiatus in 2015, I predicted that the Popes Of Chillitown would be the ones to fly the flag for UK ska punk. This was definitely the case with loads of extremely well received shows all across the country and an excellent release in the form of Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard last year. The popularity of the Popes continues to grow with each and every gig they play, which is equally impressive given that I'm sure they have a slightly different line-up each time that I see them. This never stops the Popes doing what they do best though and that's putting on the most energetic performance of the night. Frontman Matt is an extremely watchable fellow, always dancing and never standing still for a second. He doesn't seem to use his acoustic guitar as much anymore but just means he runs around even more. The songs from the new album now feel like old favourites mixed in with the proper classics from their older stuff. Wisdom Teeth still (and I think forever will) gets the biggest reaction but, like every song that had been played so far, they're all very well received.

Now it was time for Random Hand and the level of anticipation in the Village Underground was high. This was only their second London show in over three years and a lot of people came out to see them. As soon as they launched into their set, the venue became one gigantic mosh pit with bodies bouncing everywhere. Early on in their set the Yorkshire based four piece launched into Tales Of Intervention, a politically charged song that is perhaps even more relevant today than it was in 2012 when it was released. The cries of "we are not out leaders" at the end of the track ringing around the room was powerful. This was, of course, a best of set with a few favourites from the album they never toured, Hit Reset, making appearances. I've said this before but I'll say it again, I think it's great how well received these new (kind of) songs always are. They're treated like the other songs in the set, like familiar old friends. Random Hand are still one of the best live bands you'll ever see, Sean's powerful drumming, Joe's smooth bass, Dan's frantic guitar and Robin's growling vocal and trombone blasts come together and create magic. These songs bring out such a passionate response from everyone in the venue. I see people red faced, drenched in sweat emerging from the pit, only to dive straight back in when the evitable next banger begins. A quarter of the way through the set I could already feel my voice getting hoarse from my screaming along to every word. I'll never ever tire of hearing tracks such as Play Some Ska, Scum Triumphant, Anthropology, Bones, Not A Number, I Human, The Right Reasons and, the set closer, Anger Management. Random Hand don't get out to play shows much anymore but when they do it's such a special moment. You really need to make the most of them as you never know when they'll be back again. They continue to prove that they remain one of the greatest punk bands this country has ever and will ever see.

This show was such a triumph. Almost six hundred people out for a DIY punk show on a cold rainy night in January to celebrate some of the best new bands and some complete legends. This was one of those shows where in years to come you'll be able to say you were there – and it seemed like everyone was. Ska punk is most certainly not dead.

This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.

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