Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Gig Review: Hamburg Booze Cruise 2022 Day 3 26/6/22

It was now time for the third and final day of Hamburg Booze Cruise. It had been an incredible two days of music so far and we were very much looking forward to one final day. First we had to find breakfast though, which was harder than you might have thought. It turns out places open much later in Hamburg than they do in London so we decided to visit a local(ish) park first. It also turned out that the Hamburg half marathon was happening that morning and a lot of roads were closed. This all became quite a mission and we were sweating before we even got to see our first band of the day.

Park visited, half marathon negotiated and breakfast consumed, we headed down to the docks to once again board the MS Tonne. The first band we were seeing today was Wasted Years from Cologne. The five-piece play melodic pop punk music with some great hooks and big choruses. Given that we weren’t quite feeling our best this morning, this was a refreshing way to start the day of music. It was fun, breezy and punchy and certainly dusted off the cobwebs for us. The set did seem to go on for ten minutes more than we were expecting which meant that the following band had to cut theirs short – or so we thought. It turned out that because Shellycoat had to pull out that Wasted Years had been given extra time and the next band, The Sewer Rats would be splitting their set into two halves.

The Sewer Rats were next to play on the MS Tonne and immediately made it feel like a basement gig on a boat. Lead singer Chris prowled around the front of the stage, offering the microphone to folk in the crowd to sing along and getting everyone on the boat involved. As I mentioned earlier, we only got to see the first half of the set (we didn’t know there would be a second half) as we got off the boat when it docked to go and check out some other bands. We did get to see Rejuvenate, I’m Quittng My Job, Pch 101 and what I am told was a Social Distortion cover though and had a lot of fun. Roll on Punk Rock Holiday where we are seeing The Sewer Rats once again.

Back on my dry land we made our way to Molotow Club for The Muttnicks. Arriving at the club with a bit of time to spare, we immediately got drinks before joining the small crowd of people to watch the Hamburg band. Playing 90s inspired punk rock, The Muttnicks played through their set with a lot of passion and energy. I first became aware of the band in 2019, seeing them play on the MS Tonne. I’m really pleased I got to see them again as they played with the same magic that they did three years ago. Since seeing them for the first time, I’d gone away and listened to their music and it was nice be more familiar with their songs this time. I feel like The Muttnicks are one of the most underrated bands in Germany. They write killer songs and are fantastic live.

Next we headed down to Nochwache for a bit of emo courtesy of Fine And Great. Featuring Manu of Captain Asshole and Tooney from Call It A Comeback, Fine And Great were one of the bands I was most looking forward to on the Sunday of Booze Cruise. Heading to Nochwache I remembered the sound issues from the previous day and worried that they might affect Fine And Great as well. Thankfully the problems that happened on the Saturday seemed to be fixed and this pleased me greatly. In a set that I’m pretty sure contained their entire discography, Fine And Great wowed and astounded the crowd that had gathered at Nochwache. Both Manu and Tooney had a great presence on the stage and complimented each other perfectly. Both of their vocals were on top form, despite this being the third set Manu had performed in two days. I think the band are at their best when the pair are singing together or harmonising – it’s one of those things you really have to see live to really appreciate just how good they are. I was expecting to really enjoy Fine And Great and they still surprised me with just how good they were. Easily in my top five performances of the entire festival.

Following Fine And Great’s set we made the walk back to Molotow Club for skate punk legends Cigar. As we were walking up to the venue, we noticed a van pulling up and realised that it was actually the band just pulling up to the venue. This gave me flashbacks to the day before snd the delay with 100 Kilo Herz. Fortunately, Cigar were able to enter the venue and basically plug in and play and I don’t think there was actually any delay in starting the set. I was really impressed with this attitude and, to me, this really embodied what DIY punk should be. I only stuck around for about five songs, as I wanted to get something to eat before the final three bands of the festival, but had a great time watching the band do what they do best, playing really intricate and fast skate punk that has plenty of melody and super vocals. Cigar have been a band for a very long time now and, after seeing them live for the first time, it’s clear why they have had such longevity.

After getting a pot of falafel, salad and chips we made our way to a new venue for us named Grünspan. It’s a much bigger venue than any of the other venues Booze Cruise use and allowed for all of the festival’s attendees to gather together to end the festival, which I thought was really cool. As we entered the venue I was taken aback by the beauty of the space. Most venues of this size are soulless rooms owned by corporations, Grünspan felt like a special building to be in.

New Yorkers Tired Radio opened the show. The band had been on a European tour with Überyou on the build up to the festival and we were looking forward to finally seeing the band. The four-piece were out on the road supporting their excellent 2020 release Patterns. That album is full of raspy vocals, big soulful tunes that I’ve always thought would be great to see live in a tiny basement. It turns out that they also work seriously well in big rooms as well. I was personally surprised by the energy that the crowd still had after a long, warm weekend of punk rock but that enthusiasm that started the festival remained and was potentially even bigger than before. During the set, the band’s lead singer Anthony Truzzolino spoke about how they had stepped away from punk rock for a while before finding their way back into it and forming Tired Radio – and now they were in Hamburg playing Booze Cruise and that was really cool. The story was so heartwarming and a great advertisement for continuing to do the things you love and going after your dreams. Tired Radio played a fantastic set, warming the crowd up for the chaos that was about to come.

The penultimate band for all of Booze Cruise 2022 was Swiss DIY punk legends Überyou. The previous two times I’d seen the band I was in absolute awe of their live show and I was so excited to finally see them again. The band took to the stage and there was this sense of atmosphere in the crowd until all hell broke loose. I’ve said many times in this blog, on our podcast, or just to people I’ve been talking to in person that Überyou connect with a live crowd in a way that I’ve never seen any other band do. Front person Ian spends a big portion of the opening couple of songs with the crowd, getting everyone hyped up – not that they needed much encouragement. Throughout the entire set there were massive singalongs and a constant stream of fists high in the air. Something I always enjoy with Überyou is how the band has three main singers, I think this gives them such a dynamic. As Ian doesn’t play an instrument in the band, it allows them to work as a hype man between the moments where he’s not needed to sing and it adds so much to the band’s live performance. I use the phrase passion and energy a lot when describing bands but it definitely applies more so to Überyou than any other band I’ve ever seen. There’s also such an urgency to the way they play that I love. Songs such as Survivors, Make It Last and Overdrive obviously go down really well with the crowd, as does their cover of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing where they are joined on stage with their friends in Tired Radio. I came away with the opinion that Überyou are the best live band in the world firmly cemented in my mind. What a moment this was.

Last and by no means least were emo legends The Get Up Kids. A lot of pals back in the UK were getting excited for their shows supporting Jimmy Eat World later that month. The packed crowd in Grünspan also seemed very excited to see the Kansan band. Now, I have to be honest and admit that I wasn’t especially excited to see the band. Not because I particularly dislike them, I just didn’t grow up with them like a lot of people did. They passed me by. In fact, I only really know one of their songs, Holiday, and that is because our friends Burnt Tapes covered it. All of this however didn’t stop me enjoying everyone else in the crowd really enjoying The Get Up Kids’ set. The band first formed in 1995 so are obviously a very polished live band. Each member of the band were so in sync with each other. Something I did like with the band is how they have two lead singers, something I was not aware of before the set. This really helped keep the set fresher for me, especially as the pair have different vocal styles. Speaking to friends after the set, they all said that they really loved the set and the band played every song that they wanted to hear. If you were a fan of the band, it was a real festival highlight and the best way to finish Booze Cruise Festival 2022.

Booze Cruise Festival 2019 was one of the best festival experiences I’d ever had and I was excited and had high expectations for 2022. The festival did not disappoint in the slightest. The bands delivered in a big way and the whole thing was very well organised but, much like in 2019, the true highlight was the atmosphere around the festival. Everyone was in such good spirits and just wanted to have a great time with friends, old and new, watching amazing punk rock bands. The punk community in Germany, and, I guess, in particular in Hamburg, is a special thing. It’s very welcoming to people from further afield and, despite being in a different country and only knowing about ten people at the festival, I felt just as at home as I do at the New Cross Inn (my regular punk venue) and that’s the best feeling. Most of us get in to the punk community because of the feeling of belonging that it brings and it’s special that this feeling spreads to different scenes all over the world. Booze Cruise remains one of the best festivals in the world and I can’t wait for 2023. If you’re reading this and have thought about attending the festival in the past but are on the fence then I couldn’t encourage you more to take the plunge.

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

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Gig Review: Hamburg Booze Cruise 2022 Day 2 25/6/22

Day one of Hamburg Booze Cruise had been a brilliant day. Day two was now ahead of us and was scheduled to be our busiest day of the weekend and we were excited to get started.

After some delicious pizza at Überquell, we made our way down to the docks to board the MS Tonne. Something quite unique about Booze Cruise is that they takeover a boat and have bands playing as they do a lap of the docks. As we approached the boat, there was already a big crowd gathered and I became a little worried about getting on before capacity was hit. Thankfully it seemed as if everyone got on and were ready to see some great bands.

The first band of the day aboard the MS Tonne was Second Youth. If you have read our day one review (if you haven’t, go do so and then come back to this page), you will know that we also had the pleasure of watching them the night before at Hafenklang. On the boat, Second Youth only had a twenty minute set and the band wasted little time as they tore through their set. The good thing about seeing a band multiple times in quick succession is that you quickly become more aware of their songs. This meant I enjoyed the set even more than the evening before and even had myself a little sing-along. In a moment that really tickled me, once again the guitarist went to introduce a song and it turned out that again he skipped the song Morons. This was a great way to start the day.

Following very quickly on from Second Youth were Snareset. I was really impressed with how prompt the changeover times managed to be on the boat, given that it’s not your traditional gig setting and they were on a tight schedule. This was my first time seeing Snareset and, if I’m being completely honest, I hadn’t listened to them a whole lot before either. I should have however, as they were great. Playing a melodic and emotional form of gruff punk rock, the band had me hooked from the very start of their set. The lead singer’s vocal was phenomenal and I really loved watching their drummer as it seemed like he was having the time of his life. At one point, something went wrong with the drums and the band impressively managed to continue on with the song and pick things back up as soon as it got sorted. Sadly the boat sets were only twenty minutes long today and I would’ve loved to see more of Snareset.

After the boat returned to the dock, we raced up to Überquell to see our favourites Captain Asshole play an acoustic set. We arrived back at the venue as Manu and Basti were just getting started with their set. I’d seen Manu play an acoustic set online during the lockdown and I was really excited to see it live. The duo played through some songs from both of Captain Asshole’s albums. Between the songs, they joked about being unpractised with the set but I don’t think anyone would have noticed if they hadn’t said anything. This was a really fun and unique experience for us and it was fun to have a quieter sing-along with the band in preparation for their full band set later in the day.

After Captain Asshole finished we headed back to Molotow Club for an afternoon celebrating fifteen years of Gunner Records. By the time we reached the venue it was already in full swing with Jeff Rowe, Kirsty & Cory Call and The Carolyn already having played earlier. Learning from the heat in the venue from the day before, we made sure to get drinks quickly and we ended up getting two Fritz Colas (the best cola) and a pint of water between each band just to keep us going. We were full of sugar, refreshed and set for an evening of great punk rock. Chartreux were the first band we saw during the Gunner Records party. I first became aware of Chartreux thanks to my friend Chris ( on Instagram). He recommended them to me and I quickly became a fan. There’s a bit of the Hot Water Music’s about them with their two main vocalists, though their bass player also joined in with the gang vocals as well. I was really impressed with their stage presence. They felt like a band you couldn’t take your eyes off for a second and sounded every bit as good as they do on record. Chartruex are one of many bands who played Booze Cruise that more people need to be aware of!

After catching up with some friends in the Molotow backyard and picking myself up a Chartreux LP, it was time to head back inside for Little Teeth. I first saw Little Teeth back at the 2019 edition of Booze Cruise. This wasn’t the plan, they had been kind enough to fill in for another band. I enjoyed them and went on to enjoy their album Redefining Home as well. Since then, Little Teeth has gone through some line-up changes and are now a three-piece. For this gig they had the bass player of Dankeschatz filling in for them. Little Teeth were perhaps one of my biggest surprises of the festival. I really loved their set. Lead singer Cory Call has such a great vocal. If you haven’t ever heard him sing I seriously suggest you go out and do so – it’s just magic. I believe the band only played songs from Redefining Home during the set and as I was so familiar with them, from my review of the album, it really added to my enjoyment of the set. Little Teeth were superb.

Our first band in the Molotow backyard were Zurich’s The High Times. The High Times are Zurich punk heroes Überyou’s sister band. They formed just before the lockdown and this was our first opportunity to see them live. I can remember Überyou filming a live set during lockdown for Booze Cruise and during that set The High Times performed some songs and they were fantastic. They then released a superb debut named Heat. I was pumped to see them. We made sure we got ourselves a good spot down the front of the stage to watch their set. As they began their first song, the thing that struck me was how much less polished they were than on record. I don’t mean that in a bad way either, Dom’s vocals have a bit more of a raw style to them live and I really enjoyed that. The highlights came when Dom and Marc shared vocal duties and created this huge sound. The band have this great chemistry on stage and this pours out into the audience. I think there were a lot of people saying “wow” at the end of their performance.

Back inside Molotow for Arterials was next on the agenda. Arterials were my find of Booze Cruise 2019 – I was blown away by their intense take on 90s melodic punk rock. Lead singer Flo has an incredible stage presence making them a hugely watchable band, as well as excellent songwriters. Since then the Hamburg four-piece have released the excellent The Spaces In Between and I was so excited to see some songs from it live for the first time ever. It was nice to enter Molotow and see that a big crowd had gathered to see the band. They started with a bang and were every bit as amazing as I remembered. Much like in 2019, I was captivated by what I was watching on stage. Even in the Molotow Club heat the band were giving it everything, playing a mixture of songs from Spaces In Between and previous album Constructive Summer. There was little banter between songs as the band continued to tear through their set, this only added to the band’s intensity and it was absolutely great. The set sadly flew by far too quickly for my liking – I would have happily stared open mouthed at the stage for much longer – but unfortunately all things must come to an end. The set ended in quite confusing way (especially for a non-German speaker) as partway through the final song (The Spaces In Between, I think) the guitarist chucked their guitar at their amp and that was that. Despite this abrupt end, Arterials played one of my favourite sets of the entire festival.

We then ventured outside to the backyard to watch a bit of Lagwagon before moving on to our next venue. I can’t admit to being the biggest Lagwagon fan but I do always enjoy them when I see them live. I was also very intrigued to see what it would be like to see Lagwagon in a venue setting such as Molotow’s backyard. It was a packed crowd to see the Californians play their set. We only hung around for three songs (After You My Friends, Falling Apart, Violins) before heading off and letting some of the folk waiting outside the venue in. It was so packed that a one in one out system was happening.

Next we headed to Nochwache to see Hell’s Ditch. The band had been one of my highlights from Bristol Booze Cruise a week earlier and I was keen to see them again. I was especially keen after speaking to bass player Christian earlier in the day and learning of Nick and Jonny’s travel woes. Their flight had been cancelled and the pair had chosen to drive 600 miles to get to the festival instead. That’s some dedication to playing their first show on the mainland! If you read the first part of our Hamburg review you will know about my dislike of the Nochwache long thin stage with the drummer in the corner. It’s weird. It looked even stranger when a band has six members like Hell’s Ditch do. Unfortunately there were some sound issues in the venue that plagued not just Hell’s Ditch but Captain Asshole after them as well. This didn’t prevent Hell’s Ditch playing a stunning set however, having seen them the week before and at MPF in April there weren’t any new surprises in the set for me – except when Nick got on someone in the crowd’s shoulders to sing during the set, that was new. It was a super fun set with bangers such as Vacant Hearts, Hope Is Hope and The Likes Of Us sounding great despite the sound issues. Hell’s Ditch are playing gigs here, there and everywhere and I seriously suggest that you go see them, they are the real deal.

Next were the band I was most excited for over the entire weekend/month/year of music, Munich’s Captain Asshole. Gosh, I love this band. I had already christened the day Captain Asshole day as soon as I’d woken up that day and everything was leading up to this next thirty minutes. I positioned myself at the front of the stage, right in front of singers Manu and Max and I was giddy. This is what I expect that people who care about Christmas feel the morning of the big event. Sadly there were some issues getting the sound right, especially with the lead guitar, but that didn’t stop the band playing an excellent set and me having the time of my life. As soon as they began set opener Dave Lizewski, I sang as loudly as I could and my fist was constantly found punching the air above me. This was my first opportunity to see the band since they released their brand new album of the year contender, Successfully Not Giving Up, and all the songs they played from it fit the set list perfectly. Even with the lack of lead guitar, they sounded great. It was during this set that the ska kid in me came out and I sang the guitar solos like I would a horn line in a ska song. This might be too much of being a fanboy nerd but I was having the best time so didn’t really care. Of course, they also played plenty of bangers from What An Awful Life, the album that started my love for the band as well as being a big influence into my exploration into the brilliance of European punk rock. Captain Asshole played a set that lived up to all my build up, even with the guitar problems, and I’m so excited to see them again this year at Punk Rock Holiday in Slovenia and The Fest in Gainesville. I look forward to the next Captain Asshole day!

After Captain Asshole’s set we made the trek to Hafenklang/Goldener Salon for Career Suicide and 100 Kilo Herz. When we arrived, Career Suicide were well under way playing to a super packed room in Goldener Salon so we went and found somewhere to sit and wait for 100 Kilo Herz. Enjoying a delicious Fritz Cola, I noticed that all of the band’s flight cases were still on the floor and it was about fifteen minutes before they were due on. They eventually got the cases cleared and began to soundcheck just before they were due to start playing. Then there seemed to be some difficultly with the monitors and it was getting well into their scheduled set time. By the time they seemed to be ready it was time for us to leave to go to Überquell for The Sewer Rats and The Jukebox Romantics. I was quite disappointed with what happened with 100 Kilo Herz but these things happen so I just hope I’ll get the chance to see them again.

We arrived at Überquell for the final two bands of our day and it was safe to say we were quite exhausted. I can’t think of two better bands to give you that last dose of energy to get you through the night than The Sewer Rats and The Jukebox Romantics. The Sewer Rats were the first to take to the stage. The band had become a firm favourite of mine since the last Booze Cruise and I was pleased for the opportunity to see them once again. Since I last got to see them, they have released the excellent Magic Summer album. If memory serves correctly, they opened the set with the album’s lead single Rejuvenate which was the perfect choice. It’s a song about recapturing your youth and forgetting about your day-to-day struggles. That’s what Booze Cruise and all festivals are really, a chance of escapism that everyone needs from time to time. The Sewer Rats are one of the most fun bands to watch. They write catchy songs with great sing-alongs and are played in such a fun loving spirit that makes it hard not to smile when seeing the band. I enjoyed The Sewer Rats set so much that I made plans to catch them again on the MS Tonne the next day.

Our final band of the day was New York’s Jukebox Romantics. It seems I only ever see the band in Hamburg and I’m fine with that because they are absolutely loved and pull such a good crowd. Starting the set with Buried With Children, which included frontman Mike Terry running through the crowd during the extended intro to get the crowd pumped up (not that they really needed it), from then on it was one big party. The band’s passionate style of punk rock is made to shout along with and that’s exactly what the crowd at Überquell did. It was great to hear older songs such as the aforementioned Buried With Children and Breaking Rad alongside newer songs like Hey Nora. The Jukebox Romantics also love to throw in a cover or two during their set as well, on this occasion it was True Believers by The Boucning Souls and Blink-182’s Go, they smashed both songs. JBR are one of those bands that seem to unite a room which, I guess, is a big reason why they get so much love. They come across as genuine fans of the festival and are so pleased to be able to travel and play Booze Cruise. It seems like Hamburg is just as much a home for them as New York is and it’s a wonderful thing to witness. This was a party and the best way to end the Saturday.

Captain Asshole day was a wonderful day!

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

Monday, 1 August 2022

Gig Review: Hamburg Booze Cruise 2022 Day 1 24/6/22

In 2019, Emma and I attended Hamburg Booze Cruise and agreed it was one of the best festival experiences of our lives. We got tickets for the 2020 edition as soon as possible and got excited as the line-up was announced. Unfortunately, for reasons we’re all painfully aware of, we had to wait patiently until 2022 before we could go back again. But the time finally arrived and no pandemics, train strikes or awful airports were going to stop us!

Hamburg Booze Cruise takes place in five different venues, as well as on a boat, around the St Pauli area and hosts a selection of top quality international bands as well as a whole host of amazing bands from Germany. For me, I was especially excited to see the European bands as there is a whole host of brilliant bands in mainland Europe and now, because of Brexit, it’s going to be extremely difficult for them to come to the UK to tour which is really disappointing. When the schedule was announced we made our plans and, as with all festivals that have seriously stacked line-ups, we had to make some decisions over clashes but when the plan was finished we knew we were in for a fun-filled weekend.

After getting our festival wristbands from the lovely Cruise Records, our first band of the day was at Molotow Club. Originally we were hoping to see Bikini Beach open the festival for us but unfortunately they had to pull out and were replaced by Abramowicz. The five piece are from Hamburg, which I guess explains how they were able to jump on to the bill at the last minute. I was quite pleased about this as I’d been aware of the band for a while and this was my first opportunity to check them out. If you haven’t heard before Ambramowicz before, they play a soulful style of melodic punk rock, with the band’s lead singer having a deep a husky vocal. I really enjoyed Ambramowicz and they were a great start to the festival for us.

Next we made the fifteen minute trek to Hafenklang and Goldener Salon for the next group of bands. Due to the distance between venues, you do kind of have to make a bit of a commitment to venues for a sustained amount of time so you don’t tire yourself out jumping from venue to venue throughout the weekend. We arrived at Hafenklang not long after Saarbrücken’s Sidewalk Surfers had begun their set. The four piece play what I think is best described as street punk music. I had listened to Sidewalk Surfers a little bit in preparation for the festival and enjoyed it but seeing them live really took my enjoyment to the next level. I think a big part of this was due to the fact they were clearly enjoying themselves on the stage and I love when I see that. The band’s bass player in particular looked so stoked to be playing Booze Cruise. With plenty of songs about friendship, growing up and partying, Sidewalk Surfers were a perfect choice for the festival. I enjoyed the set so much I made sure to grab a record before leaving the venue.

Upstairs in Hafenklang there is a venue named Goldener Salon. I actually only ended up seeing one band there the entire festival and that was Friends With Boats. Friends With Boats are a new band in the German punk scene who have thus far only released one song. This was enough to make me want to see them live however as it’s a superb song. After seeing them live I can confirm that they have a few more superb songs. On the CPRW Podcast, I spoke about how Friends With Boats are a collection of older gentleman who all looked as if they were having the time of their lives on stage. I guess playing in the band acts as a bit of escapism for them. They played a hugely enjoyable set and I look forward to them releasing more music soon.

Back in Hafenklang it was time for Italy’s Second Youth. The band had been on a tour of Germany on the lead up to the festival and had had all kinds of van trouble on their adventures. They were probably quite relieved to have made it to Hamburg to play the festival. I wasn’t overly familiar with the band before the festival, aside from the small amount of research I did, and I was really keen to check them out. Playing music that’s a bit oi!, a bit melodic punk, a bit gruff and a lot of energy, Second Youth capture a sound that I don’t hear a lot of and I loved it. Down the front they seemed to have a bit of a fan club who knew every word, which is always great to see. I recognised Friday Night, On And On and 1992 from my brief listening before the festival and had a great time hearing them live. There was a funny moment where the band’s guitarist introduced Friday night when in fact they were supposed to be playing a song named Morons. This was a brilliant first time seeing Second Youth and I was now looking forward to seeing them again the next day aboard the MS Tonne.

After Second Youth we made the walk back up to Molotow Club for The Carolyn. The trio had travelled all the way from Atlanta, Georgia, to play the festival and I was pleased to see that a very nice sized crowd had gathered to see them. The thing that struck me hard when we went back in to the venue was just how hot it was. We were not expecting this and had no recollection of the venues being so warm back in 2019. It had been a very warm day in Hamburg and it definitely affected the venues. (Why don’t they have air con?) Trying to ignore the stream of sweat that had begun falling down my back, I settled in to watch The Carolyn. Something I really enjoyed and didn’t notice when I had listened to them previously is how the band had two lead singers. This always adds such a cool dimension to bands and does a great job in keeping them sounding fresh. I assume that the setlist was majorly made up of songs from their recent Gunner Records release, Rhythm Of My Own Decay, and they got a great reception. I hope I get the opportunity to see The Carolyn again soon, at a time where I’m not so distracted by being so overly warm and uncomfortable.

Next we made our way into the Molotow Club’s backyard where a stage had been constructed since the last time we were in here. The first band we saw play the stage were Australia’s Press Club who were on a huge European tour. I know a lot of people talk extremely highly of Press Club’s live show and I was very keen to experience it for the first time. What an incredible band Press Club are! Natalie is one of the best front people I’ve seen in some time, doing an incredible job in controlling the crowd. They played to one of the most rambunctious crowds I saw at the whole festival with Natalie at times jumping into the crowd to join in the fun. The energy that the whole band displayed during the set was something else, I guess being from Australia they are better equipped to cope with the heat than we were as we had to take a little break during their set to grab something to eat before going back to enjoy the rest of the set. Songs such as Headwreck and Suburbia were the big stand outs for me but what a set it was. The band are back in the UK in November and I think we’ll do our best to get tickets to one of their shows. Press Club are a band that everyone should be talking about.

After Press Club’s stunning set we ventured back into the Molotow sweat box for Between Bodies. The four piece were only playing their eighth show ever which made their set even more impressive. The Internet tells me they released their debut EP just before the pandemic hit which sadly put a stop to any shows that they had planned to promote it. With no shows to play, the band focussed their energy into writing and recording their upcoming debut full length. But now they can play shows and it seemed that it wasn’t just us who were super excited to catch them. Playing a punchy emo style with elements of early Alkaline Trio and Spanish Love Songs, listening to the songs and getting the opportunity to see them live has me convinced that Between Bodies are on the track to some very big and exciting things. With three lead singers it means that they have so many options with the way that they approach their music and this works so well for their live dynamic. I was well and truly captivated by their set. Following a band as good as Press Club must have surely been quite daunting for a new band but Between Bodies absolutely delivered during their set. There was a tightness which given that they had to borrow Snareset’s drummer as a stand in was all the more impressive. I’m so excited about Between Bodies and I can’t wait to be that guy that says ‘I saw them play their eighth show’ when they’re taking over the music world. Get on board the Between Bodies train now!

Following the Between Bodies set, we hurried to a new venue for us – Nochtwache. After only one wrong turn we eventually found our way to the venue. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed by Nochtwache as a venue. It looked a cool spot from the pictures I saw online before the festival but upon arriving I realised that the stage was quite a long, thin one. This meant that the drummer, rather than being behind the band, was in a long line with them. This took a little getting used to and I think this did affect my enjoyment of Custody. I also messed up with my timings as the band were well into their set by the time we arrived. They started earlier than I thought they did and we sadly ended up missing quite a chunk of their set. I was really impressed by how tight they were however, as well as how good lead singer Sami’s vocals were live. I just struggled with the layout of the stage, it was weird to see a band play in that formation and took some getting used to. I look forward to seeing Custody again at some point.

The final band of our night was Shellycoat performing a No Use For A Name cover set at Überquell. In 2019 we’d seen Shellycoat do a Get Up Kids cover set but didn’t managed to see their own live set. This ended up being the case again as we managed to see the NUFAN cover set but sadly one of the members of the band got sick which meant Shellycoat had to drop out of their own set. I’m not the most hardcore of NUFAN fans but always enjoyed them whenever I listened and I was looking forward to seeing what Shellycoat would do with their songs. I expected an emotional set full of big sing-alongs and that’s exactly what I got. Karen Eumes’ vocals suited the songs so well and really gave the songs this extra emotion that I’m sure most of the room got caught up in. Running through timeless NUFAN classics such as Dumb Reminders, Soul Mate, Justified Black Eye, Not Your Saviour and, of course, International You Day. This was a special Booze Cruise moment and one I’m so pleased I got to experience.

That concluded the first day of Hamburg Booze Cruise 2022 and what a way to start the festival it was! We still had two busy days of music ahead of us and were so pumped for what was to come.

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

Friday, 22 July 2022

Album Review: Astroturf by Hot Mass (by Lara Roberts)

It’s 2022 and the world is slowly adjusting to a new normal, post-pandemic way of life. While we take tentative steps together exploring this new world, there are still a lot of home comforts, things that are the same but just a little different – little changes that you didn’t realise you would enjoy or need unless The Great Fuck Up happened back in 2020 (more self-service and cashless payments, praise be).

Six years after their first album was released, Swansea punks Hot Mass are back in the studio working on their sophomore album, Happy, Smiling, and Living the Dream. The first single from their upcoming album is a journey of self-discovery and self-assurance while trying to navigate your way to self-acceptance in the very modern face of not quite fitting in with everyone around you. It’s something we’ve all felt at some point, some more than others (hello!), so you’ll find that both the Astroturf melody and lyrics are easy to connect to from the first play. With lyrics like “these crossword clues don’t get any easier, and fuck the words they spell out – just stay what you are and light up the room day after day” – it’s almost as if the song is cheering you on to stay true to yourself, a long-lost friend that’s got your back, to stop you questioning who you are.

“The song embodies the punk-derived sonic textures that we love, but I wanted to pay homage to the early college/indie rock era and the free-floating guitar parts that are a staple of those genres” explains vocalist and guitarist Rhys Jenkins. Hot Mass have successfully and authentically produced a sound that is reminiscent of 90s college and indie rock, while staying true to their original, more punk rock roots. Bands like Weezer (Blue Album-era), The Pixies, and Dinosaur Jr. are thrown at you from the get go, albeit with tighter guitar playing than a noise-fuelled free-for-all. This works exceptionally well, keeping a more ‘punk’ edge to the track.

Full of catchy and comforting melancholic melodies and poignant positivity, Astroturf is a fantastic introduction to what promises to be new sound for the band. Nervous Tension was a solid first album for Hot Mass, and Happy, Smiling, and Living the Dream builds on that with the introduction of a few little changes, creating a more mature, self-assured sound.

Astroturf is available to stream everywhere from 22nd July 2022. Make sure you check out the video too.

Happy, Smiling and Living the Dream is out August 2022 on Brassneck Records (UK), This Charming Man Records (EU), and Black Numbers (US).

This review was written by Lara Roberts.

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Gig Review: Bristol Booze Cruise 2022 at Exchange, Bristol 19/6/22

It was time for the second day of Bristol Booze Cruise and, although the line-up didn’t look as much to my tastes as the first one did, I was still looking forward to a fun day watching bands and hanging out with friends.

Our first activity of the day was to visit Specialist Subject Records. It was fun going in and knowing everybody in there who had had the same idea as us. Record shops should be a communal experience shared with friends and this was nice. £60 later we left and made our way to Oowee Vegan for some lunch, then dropped our records off and returned to the Exchange for the day.

The first act of the day was once again down in the basement. This time it was Lauren from La Moxie with an acoustic set. Lauren stated that she wasn’t used to playing a set so early in the day or so sober and was a bit nervous. This didn’t stop her storming through the set and showcasing her impressive vocal range. Not knowing much about La Moxie, I didn’t know any of the songs but I did really enjoy the cover of Thrash Unreal by Against Me!. This was a nice way to ease everyone who got back to the Exchange early into the second day of Bristol Booze Cruise.

The band who were picked to open the stage in the main room were Brighton skate punks Making Friends. We’d previously seen the four-piece for the first time back in November at the New Cross Inn and I was looking forward to seeing them again. If you’ve not listened to the band yet, they’re a fast, fun, energetic band who not only write killer songs but are also extremely entertaining to watch live. Lead singer Ryan is a ball of energy, jumping around the stage. Throughout the set he managed to break a few things which resulted in some humorous banter between the band and added some extra chaos to the performance. This set was quite a pick me up to get me amped for the rest of the day.

Breakfast With Bears were next on in the basement. I had no knowledge of what to expect when I made my way back downstairs to see the band. As I arrived, the band had just got started but then had to stop due to a broken guitar string. When they got going again, they proved themselves to be an incredible band taking influence from alternative rock, emo, math rock and punk rock to create an impressive sound. As tight as they were though, I did have a difficult time connecting with the band. I think this was in big part due to the band’s lead singer spending most of their time with their back to the crowd whilst singing. I don’t know if it was a stylistic choice or a bad habit but I have to say that it did take something away from the performance.

Cherym were one of the bands we were most looking forward to on the Sunday of Bristol Booze Cruise. The three piece from Derry had already begun their set when I got back upstairs. Playing their fun, breezy indie punk sound, you just couldn’t help but smile and have a little bop along to their songs. Cherym have been a band on our radar for sometime and we were very pleased to finally have the chance to see them live. I particularly enjoyed their enthusiasm to be playing their set and this really rubbed off into the crowd. Between the songs, they made jokes about praying for them to make their ferry home even though they’re not religious. This became a running theme throughout the set. They also took the time to tell the crowd their different pronouns which I for one appreciated. I don’t know how often Cherym make it to England but I’ll be sure to catch them again next time they play nearby.

Back in the basement it was time for probably the band I was most excited for of the day – Regal Cheer. The Brighton based duo had been on a short weekend tour and managed to squeeze Bristol Booze Cruise in as an added date which I was very pleased about. Playing noisey indie punk, I was impressed with how big they managed to sound with just a guitar and drums. Having two singers also helped with that. As I watched, slightly in awe, they had me thinking of an old favourites of ours – Bangers. This may have been because we had earlier been in Specialist Subject Records but the power that came from the guitarist’s vocals really got me. The rawness of the set was something I also really enjoyed, especially in retrospect of the rest of the day which was packed with more clean and polished sounding bands. Regal Cheer were my Sunday highlight by some way. Check them out.

Following Regal Cheer was Weatherstate. Weathertstate were a band I’d seen on plenty of posters over the last few years but had never really checked out. As we arrived back in the main room the band had just got started. After checking them out before the festival, I was keen to see what they would be like live. Listening to them on Spotify I enjoyed their raspy vocalled, high energy pop punk style. For some reason, which could have very much been the fact that I was starting to get tired, I didn’t feel like it translated very well to their live performance. It all felt a bit static to me. There were plenty of people in the room that did really seem to be enjoying them but, after about four songs, I decided that I needed to have a bit of a break and took the opportunity to do so.

Say It Anyway were next on in the basement, playing their second ever show. The band feature former members of The Run Up, who I was a big fan of, and the former singer of Save Your Breath. As much as I loved The Run Up, the songs that Say It Anyway had been trickling out since their formation hadn’t been doing much for me so I was a bit anxious about what they would be like live. I’m pleased to report that I was super impressed with them after seeing them live. It wasn't surprising, given how long the band had played together in The Run Up, that they were really tight and you could tell that the singer also had some serious frontman chops as he owned the crowd. As I was watching, I realised that I shouldn’t compare Say It Anyway to their previous bands as they are different and shouldn’t be judged on their previous work. It’s new and it’s different and, you know what, seeing them live is a lot of fun! I’m pleased for the boys and look forward to seeing where this band takes them.

I Feel Fine had already started their set when we made it back to the main room. Once again, I only caught a few songs of their set as I was starting to lag a bit and needed to take more rests. Gosh I was impressed with I Feel Fine though. Playing fiddly emo/indie punk with big choruses and harmonies, I Feel Fine are a really good band. I’m a big fan of multiple vocalists that give a song that extra bit of power and I Feel Fine’s songs seem to be full of them. Like I said, I only hung around for a bit as I needed the break but what a good band I Feel Fine are – hopefully I’ll be able to catch them again before the year finishes.

Arguer were a band I knew absolutely nothing about and they were on next in the basement. Sadly they didn’t really do much for me and, once again, I only hung about for a couple of songs before leaving again. There did seem to be quite a few people in the room who were into it though and that was nice to see.

The problem with having a two day festival with the bands being on straight after each other is that there is little time to rest and I think this really hit me hard as I got to a point of not wanting to stand in dark rooms watching bands I didn’t know and had to take myself out of the situation.

New Jersey’s Hit Like A Girl had just started a UK tour with I Feel Fine when they took to the main stage in Bristol. It was really cool to see another band from outside of the UK had been able to make it over for Bristol Booze Cruise. The four piece play indie/emo punk rock. They weren’t a band I knew much about before the festival but despite my tiredness I was determined to stick around the stage for longer than I had the previous few bands. The thing that really stood out to me during the set was how they didn’t sound anything like I expected them to. They were a lot quieter and, dare I say, moodier than the sound I had in my head which was a lot more shouty. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy them though, they created this mesmerising atmosphere which I found hard to ignore. There was something in the room that I really struggle to explain but it was very pleasant. Unfortunately somewhere at this show or the one afterward, the band’s drummer caught the dreaded covid so the band had to soldier on as a three-piece for the rest of their tour. All credit to them for completing the tour though.

Back downstairs and it was time for London’s Dangers Of Love’s last ever show. Somehow, despite London being where I go to most of my gigs, this would also be my first ever time seeing the band. The three-piece wasted little time in getting set up and quickly launched into their set. Playing a mixture of garage and indie punk rock, the band stormed through their set with very little time spent bantering between songs. This set was the shot in the arm I really needed during the day, it was a sound that was completely more my kind of thing. The folk who had gathered in the room seemed to really enjoy it as well, as there were plenty down the front with smiles on their faces. My only complaint about the set was that it was over far too quickly. They did seem to cut their set a little shorter than what their allotted time was. I’m putting this down to the fact that they ran through all of the songs that their current singer sings on, rather than those of previous member Giles. It was a fun way for the band to bow out and I’m glad that I got to see them at least one time.

I think that Future Teens were far and away Emma’s favourite band of the day. The Boston quartet were mostly unknown to us before the festival but we both came away really impressed. Fronted by guitarists and vocalists Amy and Daniel, the band do the dual vocal thing perfectly. They give the band such a great dynamic and create this fantastic sound. Playing the indie punk style that seems to be the theme of the day, Future Teens offer a different approach to it that I found really refreshing. Something else that set Future Teens apart from a lot of the other bands playing the stage was just how much fun they were to watch as well. The band were really playful and seemed to have a few in-jokes with some of the things they did on stage and I really enjoyed that. At one point during the set Daniel broke a guitar string, this left Amy to perform a song solo which became one of the most emotional moments of the day. I nipped out early to get a drink but meeting up with Emma afterwards she approached with wide eyes and said “they are my new favourite band!” This was a nice moment.

The band given the task of closing the basement stage for the festival were the UK punk scenes hot new thing, Out Of Love. We were fortunate enough to see them play their first ever live show at the Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes in 2021. I remember being absolutely blown away by them and was very excited to have the chance to see them again. The band tore through their set, I think they might have near enough played every song they’ve released so far and it was a pleasure to hear them. At times I did feel like the sound wasn’t as good as it could’ve been which is weird for the Exchange. That could also have been because I was stood right next to one of the speakers though and it distorted the whole sound. Out Of Love put in a powerful and energetic set, clearly a band that leave everything on the stage whenever they play and that is something I really appreciate. The five-piece seem to be getting bigger and bigger support slots and on this evidence it’s so well deserved.

The final act of Bristol Booze Cruise was Tigers Jaw. I have to admit that I’m not a Tigers Jaw fan. They’re fine but also not a band that really get me excited. However, when we made our way back to the main room for the final time, it was clear that I was in the minority. The room was absolutely packed from the front to the back. So much so that Emma and I had to hang out by the little bench bit in the corridor that links the main room to the bar. Emma, being a short person, took the opportunity to stand on the bench to get a good view. I, however, took the opportunity to have a seat as I was really tired. I tried to then really zone in to what the band were doing without getting distracted by everything that was going on around me like I often do when in a crowd. The band are clearly a seriously gifted group of musicians and can write some catchy indie-emo punk music. The dual vocalists give them a more developed sound and the keys are a great addition to their sound. Throughout the entirety of their hour plus long set they seemed to have the crowd gripped, as not many people seemed to leave the room for a drink when they were playing. When they played the one Tigers Jaw song I do know, June, the crowd did seem to become more animated – I assume that’s the banger. Tigers Jaw did a big UK and European tour and wowed crowds all over and it was a very fitting way to finish off the festival.

In the build up to Bristol Booze Cruise, there was a strange feeling of trepidation towards the festival. With all the bands dropping out and the last minute replacements coming in, I couldn’t help but worry that the atmosphere might feel a bit flat and not what I’ve come to expect from a music festival. As soon as I arrived at the festival however, any fears quickly vanished as I was reminded that, despite bands dropping out, the line-up was still stacked and more importantly there were loads of friends from the punk community surrounding me. Ultimately, that’s what really makes a good festival great. Being surrounded by likeminded people all ready to have a great time. You can’t beat that feeling and for me Bristol Booze Cruise had that feeling in abundance. I had a great time with friends, watching lots of bands – some that I’ve seen loads, some that I wouldn’t normally go and see at their own gig.

All in all, Bristol Booze Cruise was a lovely time. Big thanks to Daniel and the rest of the Booze Cruise team for persevering with it when, at times, I’m sure it would have felt easier to just cancel it. Then it was on to Hamburg for the next part of our Booze Cruise double weekender!

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

Monday, 11 July 2022

Gig Review: Bristol Booze Cruise 2022 at Exchange, Bristol 18/6/22

When Bristol Booze Cruise first happened in 2019, we were gutted that we had other plans and had to miss out. It looked like such a fun line-up that included many of our UK favourites as well as plenty of bands from overseas, many of whom were coming to the UK for the first time ever. After then attending the Hamburg Booze Cruise a few weeks later, Emma and I promised ourselves that the following year we would attend the Bristol version. We bought tickets, a superb line-up was announced and then 2020 happened and the world stopped. Fast forward two eventful, for all the wrong reasons, years and we were finally back in Bristol and looking forward attending the boatless Booze Cruise at the Exchange. Unfortunately due to all of the events that happened in the past two years, the line-up was looking very different to the one that was originally planned. It was a great shame but completely understandable given the circumstances. We were determined to have the best possible time nevertheless and were looking forward to seeing loads of bands, as well as getting to hang with friends from all over the UK all weekend.

After grabbing food at OM Burger with Matt Ear Nutrition and his wonderful partner, Charlotte, we made our way to the Exchange and instantly found loads of friends who had gathered at the venue early. This was one of my favourite things about the whole weekend. The opportunity to catch up, hug and hang out was one that was cherished just as much as getting to see so many awesome acts and it was a real highlight of the entire weekend.

The man tasked with opening the whole festival was our pal Hassan of Triple Sundae. Triple Sundae were in Bristol to play another gig and Hassan was asked to come down to open the show. I’m glad he agreed to as I’m a big fan. Hassan played a selection of Triple Sundae songs – including a couple of new ones from their soon to be recorded debut album – as well as a track from his hip hop project Lounar. Armed with just an electric guitar in the basement, it was a cool opportunity to hear these re-workings of songs I’ve heard so many times previously. This was a great way to ease us into the weekend as well. And if you’re yet to check out Lounar then I highly suggest that you do. Lounar writes songs about Hassan’s experiences growing up as a Palestinian in the UK and speaks out about the ongoing injustices that are happening in his homeland. You can support the Palestinian people here. Please do so if you can.

Opening up the main stage was Croatia’s Trophy Jump. I was excited to finally see the four piece live after being keen to for years. Their recently released album, Feels, has been one of my favourites of 2022 and I was particularly excited to hear some of those songs performed live. The band did not disappoint with their own brand of sing-along indie punk. I don’t know how many people in the crowd were overly aware of the band before the day but there was a small group of folk down the front singing along with the band including members of Burnt Tapes, Early Flights and Dan from Tape It Shut/CPRW. It’s always great seeing a band look so pleased to be on a stage performing and they were as tight as I expected. Highlights of the set for me were Neon Lights – it was great to see Phil Burnt Tapes join the band on stage to sing his part and then get crowd surfed by the rest of Burnt Tapes – and hearing my two favourite Trophy Jump songs, Leather Couch and Hugs On Drugs, live was fantastic.

Next downstairs in the basement was Scotland’s Flinch. Flinch was a late addition to the line-up due to some drop outs. Flinch is the newest project of Slowlight’s Beth which started as a solo thing but has since become a full band. Beth was already driving for Goodbye Blue Monday on their tour so it made complete sense for them to jump on the show. I was really excited when it was announced that Flinch would be playing as I’m a big fan of their album Enough Is Enough. After Trophy Jump, I hurried downstairs to get a prime position for their set. By the time they began it was nice to see a reasonable crowd gather for the set. I really enjoyed how respectful the crowd were as well. Flinch’s music is quite quiet and, in the small basement, if people started having a chat it could overpower the music, which obviously would have sucked. Thankfully that didn’t happen though and we got to enjoy the set. It was absolutely captivating, being in a silent room added to the emotion of the songs and there was a bit of an atmosphere that suggested that we’d been a part of something. This is what live music should be about, connecting with your crowd, getting them to experience and feel something and Flinch did just that. I’m now super keen to see them perform with their full band.

Lincoln’s GUTS. were the second band on the main stage. They were another new addition to the line-up and I knew absolutely nothing about them before the set. A cool thing about the late additions to the festival was that it meant, for a lot of bands, I was going in very blind and sometimes that’s the way to discover a new favourite band. The three piece played fuzzy pop punk music and had plenty of enthusiasm. It was a big contrast to Flinch’s set previously and I think I might have had a difficult time adjusting to the different sound however. The band played with lots of energy and the crowd, that was growing with every band, seemed to really enjoy it. I did leave a little early to make sure I got a good spot for the next band in the basement, Moonraker!

Way back in 2020 when Moonraker got announced for Bristol Booze Cruise I was over the moon. They’re a band I’ve loved for a long time. I forget how I discovered them but have been hooked ever since. 2018’s Lanterns was one of my favourites of that year and their 2022 release The Forest will no doubt find its way on to my end of year list. As international bands began to drop off of the festival, I was extremely worried that Moonraker would do the same, especially as they hadn’t booked any other gigs in the UK but I was so excited to see online when they had boarded a plane to the UK and had landed. I made a point of telling the Burnt Tapes to make sure they catch them as I thought they would love them. As I entered the basement they were already down there, positioned at the front of the crowd. I made my way to join them and we were also joined by fellow Moonraker UK fan club member Matt Ear Nutrition. The Californian three piece played a set that made them so perfect for this festival – fast punk rock music with raspy vocals and big choruses. Nick and David’s vocals were superb together as they echoed around the basement. I have to admit that when I saw they were playing the basement I was a little disappointed as I felt like they deserved to play to a bigger crowd, especially as they had travelled so far, but it was cool to see them playing in the tiny room. It was hot, it was sweaty and it was a lot of fun. I got to talk to David and Nick later in the day who were two super friendly human beings who I can’t wait to see again at Fest. I’m sure guitar player Matt is also a bit of a legend but I didn’t get to have a chat with him.

Brighton pop punks All Better had already started their set by the time I made it back upstairs. The band are currently out and about supporting their new album, How To Be Alone. I previously saw All Better in Brighton a few years ago when they opened for Spanish Love Songs, Pkew Pkew Pkew and Goodbye Blue Monday and was intrigued to see how they’ve progressed since then. The band know how to write a slick pop punk tune that’s for sure. The band seemed to be effortlessly cool on stage and looked as if they were having a lot of fun, which is what this music is all about. Their between song banter was also pretty entertaining as well. I didn’t spend much time watching their set as I wanted to make sure to get a good spot for Goodbye Blue Monday who were next on in the basement. This was perhaps the slight issue with the basement being so much smaller than the main room. You had to miss bits of the main room bands to make sure that you could get in to the basement if you wanted to see whoever was playing next in there. I have no solution on anything that could be done to fix this, it’s just part and parcel of a multi-stage festival.

If you’re a long time reader of the blog then you know what a big fan of Goodbye Blue Monday I am. I bloody love those boys, not just as a band but for also being awesome people. I’m clearly not the only one as when we made it down to the basement, about ten minutes before their set was due to start, the room was already pretty full. I made my way as close to the front as possible and was still about five rows back. It felt like there was a feeling of anticipation in the room as we waited for the band to start. And as soon as they did it was sing-alongs galore. My head is a little sketchy on the songs they played (cut me some slack, I saw every band at Bristol Booze Cruise and forgot to make a single note) but every song was so well received. Favourites from their previous two EPs as well as some new ones, from the debut album that they’re currently in the middle of recording, got plenty of love. They also played a snippet of a 16 minute epic that they’ve written for the album that I’m really keen to finally hear the finished version of. Goodbye Blue Monday are a band that connect so well with their audience and it’s a big part of why they get so much love from everyone who meets them. I think if you were in the room and didn’t know much about the band, you most definitely left as a fan. I think the set finished with Love Is A Noose For Two, Misery-Punk Ruined My Life and Take Your Pills to some final massive shout-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-alongs. I still love Goodbye Blue Monday very much and hope it’s not too long before I get to see them again.

After Goodbye Blue Monday’s storming set it was back upstairs for Soot Sprite. The Exeter based band are going on a UK tour with Okay, Bye later in the year so this was a great opportunity to see them before then. I wasn’t overly familiar with the band before the festival but I knew they were getting a lot of buzz in the indie punk scene and have been working with Specialist Subject Records. I was particularly impressed with Elise Cook’s voice throughout the set. I always think it must be hard to sing as well as you do on record when you perform the songs live but Elise smashed it. The room was extremely receptive to the set but I again had a hard to adjusting to the softer sound after the rowdiness of Goodbye Blue Monday’s set. It’s always great for a festival to have bands that sound different from one another and it’s important to check out new bands but I had a hard time really getting into it on this occasion. Soot Sprite were clearly a good band and deserve all of the attention they’ve been receiving and I will make sure to catch them again at a later date.

Hell’s Ditch were one of my highlights of Manchester Punk Festival and were a band I was looking forward to seeing again. The melodic pop punk band are a six piece and had a difficult time squeezing everyone on to the basement stage. Lead singer Nicholas Davis had to stand in front of the stage and it became basically a floor show. This only added to the fun though as it got the crowd more involved. The members of Hell’s Ditch are all seasoned punk rock pros at this point and know how to put on a show. Nicholas has a great voice and has the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout. Songs such as The Likes Of Us, Hope Is Hope and Vacant Hearts all sound superb in the basement and a few people even sing along. Partway through the set the band repeated their cover of The Clash’s Train In Vain that they performed at MPF. On this occasion Nicholas brought out a tambourine and gave it to a member of the crowd to play during the song. They did a superb job. At some point this tambourine ended up in my possession, I did not do such a good job but I did have a nice time being the seventh member of Hell’s Ditch for a short while. There was a nice moment during the beginning of the set where an elderly gentlemen who was at the festival all weekend appeared at the front and between Nicholas and Tone of the Burnt Tapes a chair was quickly found for him so he could rock out it comfort. It was nice moment to see the community helping each other out. It’s what it’s all about.

Durham’s Fortitude Valley were up next. Featuring members of Martha and ONSIND, this was another band of punk veterans. I really like both of those bands mentioned so very much expected to enjoy Fortitude Valley as well. I guess, to nobody’s surprise, I did. I do feel like it’s a bit unfair to just assume that Fortitude Valley are another Martha/ONSIND side project though as this is really the project of Laura Kovic. They have more of an indie/powerpop sound that was perfect for a Saturday evening. The band played tracks from their recent self titled album and sounded great. I only managed to catch a bit of their set as I was getting hungry so quickly popped out for some food.

At this point, I got a bit distracted and missed most of the next band – Sleep Outside. I didn’t know anything about them at all so went in blind, which is sometimes fun to do. As I arrived in the basement it was quite full for the band and I struggled to spot Emma. Sleep Outside are a three piece alt/emo band from Wales who had a sound that filled the basement nicely. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to see them properly soon and I’ll try not to get too distracted talking to folk.

I did make sure I was in the main room in time for Fightmilk. I first became aware of Fightmilk thanks to my buddy John from One Million Motors recommending them to me. I enjoyed them when I gave them a listen but after seeing them live I’m disappointed that I’ve only just got on the bandwagon. What a good, good band! Playing fuzzy indie punk rock, the London based band were one of my biggest highlights of the entire festival. Definitely the biggest surprise. Lead singer and guitarist Lily had this amazing presence on the stage and their voice commanded the entire room. The songs had that perfect mix of feeling powerful but also being a lot of fun. Not being as familiar with their songs as I perhaps should have been, I did feel a pang of jealousy for everyone down the front for being able to sing-along with the band. I did recognise songs such as Overbite and I’m Starting To Think You Don’t Even Want To Go To Space however and they sounded as good live as they do on record. Fightmilk are such a fun bad to watch live and I can’t wait to see them again. I was extremely sad to hear after the festival that Fightmilk encountered some misogyny towards them during their set. This is awful behaviour to say the least and I hope those involved will never be allowed into the Exchange again. There is no place for that kind of behaviour in our scene and in society in general. It’s 2022 for Gandalf’s sake.

German punk heroes Irish Handcuffs were the penultimate band on in the basement. To my knowledge, they are the only band to have played every edition of Booze Cruise so it was great that they were able to keep that streak going and were able to get over to the UK for the weekend. The three piece had previously played in Brighton the night before with our friends in Till I’m Bones and the band had impressed them, which added to my excitement to see them play once again. Irish Handcuffs were also supporting their brand new album, Transitions, which is their first in eight years. I’ve not had a chance to listen to it properly yet but judging by the songs they played during the set it’s one I’m going to absolutely lovely. If you’re unaware of what Irish Handcuffs sound like then I think they best way of describing them is melodic pop punk with soulful vocals, kind of like Dave Hause’s former band The Loved Ones. I’m certain the band picked up some brand new fans during their set. Whilst they were playing I noticed that they had Alkaline Trio written on their set list. When they got to that part of their set they told the crowd that they would be playing a cover set at Hamburg Booze Cruise where they would be playing songs by bands that are trios. They wanted to do a test run of Mercy Me by Alkaline Trio. They smashed it and earned a big sing-along from the crowd. At one point Dan #2 came and grabbed me and we sang the chorus as loudly as we could. It was a nice moment. I wasn’t planning on seeing Irish Handcuffs in Hamburg due to clashes and the fact that I would be seeing them in Bristol. I might have to change that plan though as they were so good.

The penultimate act on the main stage was Watford’s Nervus. I only ended up seeing a bit of their set due to wanting to make sure I got a good spot for the Burnt Tapes who were on in the basement next. This was a wise move as we entered the room with a few minutes to go before the set started and it was already getting busy. CPRW Podcast star Lara and her husband Nicky were excited to see the Tapes for the first time ever, as were our friends the Vegan Punks Dan and Jess. I later found out there were a few other people seeing the band for the first time ever. I guess it’s something I take for granted, as being based near London I get to see them all the time. And every single time they steal the show for me. I managed to squeeze my way right to the front to have a great sing-along with the band. This was my third time seeing the band this year and I was as excited as ever for a massive sing-along. For the next 30 minutes, it was almost like a massive karaoke gang vocal party as the crowd sang every word right back at the band. The band thrive in moments like this and the crowd get even more excitable. At one point Dan#2 had a little crowd surf and considering the low height of the ceiling and how tall they are it was quite the spectacle. I was very pleased that my favourite Tapes song Dirt Roads seems to have found a permanent home on the set list, I think belting out that brilliant chorus was the moment I felt my throat starting to get sore. The set originally finished with that perfect combo of Things Get Weird and Yuzi before, after being encouraged by the crowd, the band squeezed in a cover of I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore by The Menzingers. They did overrun their slot slightly but it was a great time had by all.

Bristol hometown heroes The Menstrual Cramps were given the task of closing what had been a fantastic first day of Bristol Booze Cruise. We had seen The Menstrual Cramps for the first time earlier this year when they also headlined Fishstock at the Exchange. Since then I’d also seen them at Manchester Punk Festival. Both times I had really enjoyed it and I had no reason to suspect that it wouldn’t be three for three. I think it’s fair to say that the crowd on this night hadn’t been as busy as it had been at the previous two times I’d seen them but there were still plenty of enthusiastic people ready to have a great time with the band. The band launched into their opening couple of songs and then disaster struck! Their guitarist broke a string. Thankfully the DIY punk scene is a helpful bunch and the Tapes were on hand to let The Menstrual Cramps borrow one of their guitars. From then on, the band tore through their set playing songs such as Hashtag Sad Penis, Tinder Girl, Mutual Masturbation and Neo Nazi among many others. As this was my third time seeing them in the space of about three months it allowed me to sit back and think about what the band’s message is rather than just being blown away by the energy that singer Emilia and the rest of the band have on stage. The Menstrual Cramps are one of the most important bands in the UK at the moment and not just in the punk scene. This is a band that the more mainstream alternative media should be paying attention to. With messages about consent, abortion, racism and misogyny among others, there are a lot of things that can be learnt from the band. They’re an empowering band and one that is seriously needed at the moment. They’re the sort of band that encapsulates what punk should be in 2022.

The first day of Bristol Booze Cruise had been a lot of fun. It was great to be surrounded by friends from all over and every single band killed it. We hung out in the Exchange bar for a little while after the bands finished but fatigue began to set in, so we said our goodbyes and made our way back to the hotel to get some rest ready for another day of bands and buds the next day.

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