This is my final ‘best of 2015’ list and I've saved what I think is the most important until last. For me, it's the most important because I believe that what makes a good band great is their live performance. If a band can make me feel something when I see them live then I'm pretty much a fan for life. Here are my top ten gigs of 2015.
10. NOFX/Alkaline Trio/Lagwagon/Capdown at Brixton Academy 5/7/15
I can't ever remember going to a gig that had this much star power. Co-headlined by NOFX and Alkaline Trio, with special guests Lagwagon and, on this show of the tour, legendary UK skacore act Capdown the line up was special enough but then you had to throw in the fact that NOFX played the entirety of their classic album Punk In Drublic and Alkaline Trio played From Here To Infirmary from beginning to end, things I never thought I'd get the opportunity to see.
9. Teenage Bottlerocket/Wonk Unit at The Underworld 9/8/15
This was my second time seeing Teenage Bottlerocket and the first time I'd got to see them headline a show. I enjoyed them in a support slot at a Dropkick Murphys show in 2013 but having the opportunity to see them headline their own show proved to me why they are the best pop punk band on the planet. Their set was full of so much fun and energy and their enthusiasm for the music spilled into the crowd. This was a feel good punk rock show if ever there was one. The thing that stood out the most to me throughout the set was Teenage Bottlerocket drummer Brandon Carlisle's performance, I don't think I've ever seen a drummer put so much into a set and to see the enjoyment he got from drumming was something special. Sadly this was the last time I would had the pleasure of seeing Brandon drum live as he sadly passed away in November. This performance will stay in my head for a long time. Wonk Unit also played the best set I've ever seen them play.
8. Frank Turner/Ducking Punches at The Waterfront 26/8/15
I was incredibly lucky to get tickets to this gig which was a warm up show for Frank Turner's solo headline shows at the Reading and Leeds Festival. I'd been wanting to see Frank play a solo set for many years as I'd only ever seen him play live with his band, The Sleeping Souls, and him being supported by Dan Allen of Ducking Punches playing a home town show made it feel like a very special evening. Playing a selection of songs from Dance Before You Sleep and upcoming new full length Fizzy Brain, Dan was joined by various members of Ducking Punches throughout the set. I love Ducking Punches and this set was an absolute delight. Frank Turner had some work to do to top Dan's set but he somehow managed it. If I'm being 100% honest I've fallen a bit out of love with Frank’s music over the past couple of years but I will always love his live performances. I love how much of himself he puts into a performance every single time he plays, whether it is with or without his band. My overriding memories of the set are him playing Once We Were Anarchists, the song that turned me into a Frank Turner fan, and a cover of Meat Loafs Bat Out Of Hell, which was just amusing.
7. [spunge]/Whitmore/Phinius Gage at the Garage 26/9/15
A big part of my decision to include this gig on my list is for very personal reasons. Regular Colin's Punk Rock World readers will know that [spunge] were my gateway band into underground punk rock music, a reason to be excited for the gig alone. But what made this gig extra special for me was that I got to take the woman that I love to see the band that changed my life. I can't imagine I'll ever get that opportunity again. The whole gig filled The Garage with a feeling of nostalgia as [spunge] plus supports Whitmore and Phinius Gage came together and put on a fantastic show throughout. Whitmore were fantastic, I'd forgotten just how much I liked Whitmore back in the day but it was of course [spunge] who were the highlight of the night. I've seen them so many times throughout the past few years but they never fail to get me smiling, dancing and singing along.
6. Frenzal Rhomb/Mike TV/Direct Hit/Maladroit at The Underworld 30/4/15
Australian punk heroes Frenzal Rhomb played a show in the UK! It had been 11 years since they had been over here and I never expected it to happen again. The Underworld put on an amazing line up of punk rock with French band Maladroit, Americans Direct Hit and the UK's own Mike TV. Mike TV and Direct Hit are two of my favourite bands in the world and both played brilliant sets and I could have gone home a very happy man before Frenzal had even played a note. Then Frenzal Rhomb took to the stage and I was amazed by just how good they were. They played songs from their entire discography, whipping the crowd into a frenzy in the process. The Underworld crowd were so thankful for Frenzal Rhomb returning to our shores and the band seemed just as thankful for the crowd for showing up. As I looked around the room it was clear that everyone was having the best night, on stage and on the floor.
5. The Movielife/Gnarwolves/Apologies, I Have None at The Electric Ballroom 18/6/15
Much like with Frenzal Rhomb, I never ever expected to get the chance to see The Movielife live. The band reunited earlier in the year for a few shows in the USA before announcing a short tour of the UK. This got a lot of people very excited and then I think they showed a stroke of genius in booking Gnarwolves and Apologies, I Have None as their support - two of the biggest bands in the UK scene. Gosh I was excited for this show! First up were AIHN who played a fantastic set full of excellent sing-alongs. Then it was Gnarwolves with what was my favourite set I've seen them play. They always play hard and fast and get a great reaction. A lot of times at Gnarwolves shows the crowd go crazy with ridiculous stage dives that put me off getting to close to the front but this didn't happen at The Electric Ballroom and I was very thankful. Then it was time for Long Island legends The Movielife. The Ballroom was full of nostalgia as the five-piece played through their back catalogue of songs. I hadn't listened to The Movielife for a while and had forgotten just how many fantastic songs they had. To finally hear them live was amazing.
4. Masked Intruder/Murderburgers/Waco at The Borderline 17/5/15
This show was really, really fun. I assume that everyone who is reading this blog will know who Masked Intruder are by now so I won't go into detail about their criminal gimmick. I, like many other punks, are not normally into a gimmicky type punk band but Masked Intruder just do it so perfectly. Not only do they write some of the best sugary sweet pop punk but they also play it perfectly. Sometimes on record the songs can be a little too poppy for my tastes but when I see and hear them live they are just fantastic. Their set included girls dancing on stage and Officer Bradford dancing with the crowd and then stripping off to a thong on stage. Only at a Masked Intruder show will you see a grown man pretending to be a policemen strip down to his underwear! To add to the fun Masked Intruder were joined by The Murderburgers and Waco. The Murderburgers were the perfect band for this tour being the UK's best pop punk band. I'm always amazed by Fraser’s ability to sing and play guitar as fast as he does. Waco really amazed me during their opening set. Their own brand of punk rock & roll really caught my attention and I immediately went and checked out their brilliant debut EP Sundown.
3. Red City Radio/Harker/Burnt Tapes at The Brixton Windmill 17/7/15
This show felt like a proper punk rock show. At the tiny Windmill pub in Brixton, Red City Radio, Harker and The Burnt Tapes played one of the sweatiest gigs I have ever been to. Starting were London-based Greek punks The Burnt Tapes. The Burnt Tapes are one of my favourite newer bands in the UK scene and I'm predicting big things for them in 2016. Obviously influenced by bands like Red City Radio they play, loud, melodic, gruff punk brilliantly and are always a real treat to watch. Brighton's Harker were next. What always impresses me with Harker when I see them is how much more intensity comes out of their live shows than their recordings. To me this shows a band that really care about what they’re playing and who play each set like it could be their last. Harker have just released a brand new EP titled A Lifetime Apart on Paper + Plastick Records and No Panic! Records and it's fantastic. They’re another band with a big year ahead of them. Red City Radio must be one of the hardest working bands in the world. This year the Oklahoman band managed to get to England on three separate occasions and wowed crowds every time. There's always is a feeling of positivity swirling around Red City Radio's music and this feeling is amped up when they play live. Garrett Dale is incredible as a front man, really getting the crowd going crazy. When I watch him it's like watching a preacher address his congregation (a room full of sweaty and often drunk punks) who lap up every word he says.
2. The Smith Street Band/Muncie Girls/Shit Present at The Lexington 1/8/15
I've lost count of the amount of times I've said that The Smith Street Band are the most uplifting and basically therapeutic band I've ever seen. This gig was at the beginning of their European tour that finished with their debut shows at Reading and Leeds Festivals (they were fantastic at Reading). Despite being jetlagged the Aussie boys put on a superb set playing songs from all of their amazing albums. Ably supported by Muncie Girls and Shit Present the whole event was a joyous occasion. This was one of Shit Present’s first London shows and it was great to see Iona Cairns (bassist of Great Cynics) show off some of her own material. Their debut album that came out later in the year was extremely well received and this show gave a taste of how good they are. They also played a cover of The Ergs classic Pray For Rain, which I loved. Exeter's Muncie Girls have been one of the best punk bands in the scene for a number of years now. Every time I see them I'm amazed at how much they seem to have improved. Everything about them now shows what a great band they are with confidence, skill and fantastic songs. Muncie Girls debut album finally comes out next year and I'm really excited for it.
1. Random Hand/Sonic Boom Six/River Jumpers/Faintest Idea at Camden Underworld 13/9/15
There was no other show that could go at the top of this list. Random Hand’s final ever show (for now hopefully) at their home-from-home the Camden Underworld. This show was always going to be a massive and emotional party before the support acts were announced but when the support bands were announced it was clear that this would be the most unmissable show of the entire year. Long-time friends of Random Hand Sonic Boom Six as well as River Jumpers and Faintest Idea ensured that this night would be crazy. Faintest Idea started things off with a set showing why many people are expecting the Kings Lynn ska punks to take up Random Hands mantle of the country's premier ska band. Next up it was Brighton melodic pop punks the River Jumpers who played with a great amount of enthusiasm but felt slightly out of place at a ska punk show. That said I still loved everything about their set. Since frontman Nick put down his guitar the whole of River Jumpers’ stage presence has improved and they are a much more entertaining live band. It was great to see Sonic Boom Six playing this show and it seemed only right that they did considering the history both bands have together. Because of this The Boom played a mostly old-school set, which the crowd at the Underworld went bananas for. Sonic Boom Six are one of the most respected bands from the ska punk world. Their long awaited new album will finally come out next year, without a doubt it will be a banger. Finally it was time for Random Hand. This was probably the best I've ever seen them play, unsurprisingly they put everything that possibly had into the set and the entire Underworld responded in the same way by jumping, skanking, moshing and stage diving constantly throughout the set. The set was a long run and they seemingly played everything from the entirety of their impressive discography. It's clear how much Robin, Joe, Dan and Sean love being Random Hand and it's a massive shame that they felt it was time to stop. They went out on top and with a massive bang, including a huge stage invasion for the final track - the classic Scum Triumphant. Random Hand will never, ever be forgotten.