Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Gig Review: The Movielife at The Electric Ballroom, Camden 18/6/15

Who remembers Drive Thru Records? During the summer of 2003 I really got into a lot of bands on that label, bands like New Found Glory, Finch, Allister and The Movielife. Sadly The Movielife disbanded in 2003 so I never got the chance to see them live. To my complete joy late last year The Movielife announced some reunion shows and eventually added a London date at Camden's Electric Ballroom. I was already quite excited for this gig and then the support was announced, Gnarwolves and Apologies, I Have None. This was going to be one hell of a night.

I've only been to the Electric Ballroom twice before but it has quickly become one of my favourite venues. There's something about the place that makes it perfect for seeing live music. It's a nice sized space that doesn't feel overly cramped even when full and you can always get a decent view of the stage. The first band to take to the stage were London's Apologies, IHave None. Regular readers of this blog will know how much I love that band so as always I was very excited to see them. As soon as Sat In Vicky Park started the crowd seemed to swell and sang loudly along with the band. Apologies only had half an hour tonight so stormed through as many songs as possible, playing songs from the album London as well as last year's Black Everything EP. The band pulled out all the stops tonight with guitarist Simon brought out a drill to create some fantastic guitar sounds. Despite some issues with the bass (which Gnarwolves Thom  tried to fix) these boys were absolutely fantastic. If you haven't check them out yet you are letting yourself down.

Up next were the crown prince's of UK punk rock - Gnarwolves. I was really interested to see what the crowd would be like for their set. This would be the first time in a while that I'd seen Gnarwolves in a support slot. At their own headlining shows the crowd get's absolutely crazy, there is nonstop stage diving and moshing. It's all in good fun but a bit too rowdy for me so I usually hang back because of the barrier stage diving was not on the agenda. Perhaps this was because of the lack of kids invading the stage but I think this could have been the best performance I've seen Gnarwolves give (and this was my seventh time so I'm hardly new to the band). Thom, Charlie and Max were all flawless and put as much into this performance as they would a headline show, as every band should. Bottle To Bottle and Smoking Kills from the self titled debut album got massive reactions as did old favourites like Community, Stability, Identity and History Is Bunk. There was also a funny moment when the crowd broke into a chorus of Die For The Government by Anti-Flag after Thom mentioned that the last time they played the Electric Ballroom they were supporting the political punk rockers from Pittsburgh. Gnarwolves as always really delivered and proved just why they are rising so quickly. Great fun!

Now it was finally time for The Movielife. I had been waiting for twelve years for this moment, a moment I really thought would never happen. I listened to The Movielife the day of the gig for the first time in a long time and realised something quite special. I loved bands like New Found Glory and Allister back in the day but now when I listen to their music it always makes me feel old and is definitely not something I'd listen to now. Listening to The Movielife, final album Forty Hour Train Back To Penn in particular I never once felt like that. After all these years in doesn't feel dated at all. Full credit to the band for writing an album so wonderfully, it's a mature, catchy pop punk masterpiece. When the band took to the stage you could instantly see in front man Vinnie Caruana's face just how excited he was to be playing these songs again after all this time. A huge smile rarely left the New Yorkers face throughout the set as he and the rest of the band stormed through a set of classic songs. The crowd in the Ballroom loved every single one of them and sung louder and louder. Vinnie spoke about the struggles the band flying over from New York because of delayed flights and how they had to buy new tickets to make sure they made it to London in time for the show. You would have never realised though with the amount of energy and passion all five members of the band put into the show. They were clearly as appreciative of the crowd for turning up and supporting as the crowd were for The Movielife for reforming. God I hope this is a more permanent thing and The Movielife perform more and more because they are still absolutely brilliant.

Now listening to Miss Me by Demon Smiles

Monday, 29 June 2015

Gig Review: Slam Dunk Festival South, Hatfield 24/5/15

Over the past two years Slam Dunk Festival has become one of my favourite days of the year. I've enjoyed myself so much at the past two years that I booked the day off from work without even getting a peak at this year's line up. Another reason I love going to Slam Dunk is that it's one of the few gigs of the year where a nice sized group of my friends will come along with me. This year my friends Dan Moles, Smurf, Marilyn and Emily would be coming and I couldn't wait.
After arriving at Hatfield University and joining seemingly the world's longest queue (I hate queuing for gigs) we made our way into the festival site and Dan Moles, Smurf and I made our way to the Desperados stage where Survay Says were already a good way through their set. The New Jersey based pop punk/ska band were playing their first ever run of shows in the UK and from what I caught of their performance it was obvious to see that they were giving everyone who came to see them a fantastic show. Definitely a band on the rise. After Survay Says we headed over to the Monster Stage (via a food stand) to meet Marilyn and Emily to watch a hardcore band named The Color Morale. I had never heard of The Color Morale before and in all honesty their music isn't really my glass of coke but I did enjoy watching the kids get excited for them. It was very entertaining watching the smaller kids in the pit just bounce off this massive guy with ginger dreadlocks. At the conclusion on their set I asked Marilyn what she thought of the band and she said "they were alright, I only wanted to watch because the singer is friends with Jonny Craig." Brilliant.

Next up it was time for my day to really get started. Long running Boston ska punks Big D & The Kids Table were making their first appearance in England in years and it would be my first time seeing them so you can only imagine how excited I was. I clearly wasn't the only one because as soon as the band started playing the floor began skanking as Big D ripped through songs from their entire catalogue, whether it was fast paced ska punk like LAX or slower summer ska like Shining On everything went down a storm. The highlights of the set for me was the cover of The Specials song Little Bitch, closing song Noise Complaint and of course the classic LAX, a song which I helped start a circle pit for the first time ever, which was great fun. Big D & The Kids Table done often tour the United Kingdom anymore so when they do you have to make sure you go and see them. Another band that never tours anymore is legendary Derbyshire ska punk band Lightyear. I was lucky enough to see Lightyear at their last ever show at the Islington Academy back in 2012 and to this day it remains one of my all time favourite gigs. A Lightyear show has always been just pure unadulterated fun and nonsense and this would be no different. From a giant backdrop of a crudely drawn penis, a picture of bass player Bars as a young child or attempting to crowd surf as a pantomime horse Lightyear were on a mission to have as much fun as possible. The good times that the band were having were infectious, the smiles on the faces of the crowd indicated that they were having just as good a time as the band. I wish Lightyear would play more, there isn't a more entertaining band in the world. After Lightyear finished with the excellent Pack Of Dogs I reluctantly wondered over to the Monster Stage with Dan Moles and Smurf to see Bury Tomorrow. A massive crowd had gathered to see this Portsmouth based five piece. Just like The Color Morale this type of music is not a genre I'm a massive fan of but I could certainly see why they are so popular. I watched from a far as the crowd went mental for them. The dual vocals worked brilliantly as they switched from a clean vocal to a more throaty growl. Bury Tomorrow are certainly leading the way in the UK's metal scene.

Up next were festival favourites Zebrahead. I won't lie I can't actually remember a thing from they're performance on the stage because the pit was insane. I described it to a friend as part dance floor, part fight for survival (Smurf came out of it with a cut next to his eye and I had a bruise between my eyes) but 100% awesome. This would be my sixth time seeing Orange County pop punk/rap group and like every other time they stole the show. The crowd for their set was one of the best I've ever been in, everyone fully focused on having as much fun as humanly possible and making sure everyone around them was as well. One guy lost his shoes and another lost his phone but they were looked after as they attempted to find them. Crowd surfers (of which there were many) were carried, sometimes two at a time. If anyone hit the floor they were picked up straight away. This is the kind of spirit that a punk show should be all about. Absolutely loved it. Up next was the only time throughout the day when things got a little negative. Unfortunately there were some technical difficulties that delayed the start of Goldfingers set. Obviously this was one of those things but it was frustrating having to wait around not really knowing when Goldfinger would be on stage. As soon as Goldfinger were ready everyone's mood was instantly lifted. Coming onto stage to that song Let It Go from that Frozen movie, which even the security guards (who were fantastic all day) sung along to Goldfinger exploded into Spokesman and the crowd went nuts. Dan Moles, Smurf and I had all been wanting to see Goldfinger for a long time and now it was finally happening. Goldfinger were a big part of my introduction into punk music as a teenager and I was immediately hit with a feeling of nostalgia listening to songs such as Counting The Days, Superman and 99 Red Balloons. I loved the surprise cover of Knowledge by Operation Ivy as well. I'd waited a long long time to see Goldfinger but it was completely worth the wait, just brilliant.

The day was beginning to beat us so we decided to hang out towards the back for the final two bands of the day. The first of which was Swedish skate punk legends Millencolin. A while ago I wrote a couple of blogs showcasing some of Europe's best punk bands, Millencolin are the godfathers of that scene - at the time of writing this I cannot think of a band that's had more success all over the world. They were back in England for the first time in a long time promoting brand new album True Brew. I had purposely not listened to True Brew before Slam Dunk as I always enjoy hearing new material live first and I have to say it sounded fantastic. The same can be said about the bands older stuff, this was my first time seeing Millencolin and even from the back of the room I was blown away. The songs were all great and the performance was as energetic and fun as you would expect. I'm looking forward to Millencolin coming back to England to do a run of headline shows, hopefully sooner rather than later. Slam Dunk 2015 would be finished for me by Reel BigFish. The long running ska punk band have had plenty of line up changes over the years but have always remained one of the best live acts in the scene, no matter how many times I've see them I always come away with a great big smile on my face whistling the tunes to some ska classics. This night would be no different as they played songs from all of their albums, all of which got fantastic receptions. The band through in a couple of nice surprises as well by throwing in their cover of Veronica Sawyer by Edna's Goldfish (one for the old school ska punk fans), mixing in Self Esteem by The Offspring during Beer and bringing out Laila and Barney from Sonic Boom Six to perform Hiding In My Headphones. Nobody would ever accuse Reel Big Fish of reinventing the wheel and you do basically know exactly what you are going to get from their live show. That's by no means a bad thing though, I can't think of many better bands to close another brilliant Slam Dunk Festival.

Now listening to I Can Not Live Without You by The Apers

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Album Review: Growler by Müg

I haven't blogged in a while, haven't really even put  that much thought into blogging again for a little while. Then something changed that. Mark from London based punk band Müg got in contact with me with a copy of his bands new release Growler. Not because he wanted me to review it, just because I have reviewed Müg in the past and he thought I might want to give it a listen. That was so awesome of him, I really can't imagine that in any other scene something like that would happen. I really wanted to expose everyone to this record now, so hoped that it would be good. It wasn't good - it was fucking awesome. (Regular readers of this blog will know how much I try not to drop swears into my writing, but Growler deserves it to demonstrate just how good I think it is.)

Out With The Old is the name of the opening track on Growler. It begins with a long thoughtful musical intro before exploding into life. Backed some Bad Religion-esque harmonies Müg's lead singer throws us into a frenzy with some passionate vocals. The songs about the frustration of being unhappy in the scene that you're in and starting your own one. A great opener to the record. The second song Red Bandanas (not Bananas like I first thought it said) begins with an excellent drumbeat that hooked me into the song from the get go before being joined by some buzzing guitar work. I love the way that the vocals are used to carry the melody of the track, kind of like adding another instrument to the song. This song sounds like classic Müg with a massive chorus to go along with the melodic verses. Necktie sees Müg get political. The song starts with some fantastic tricky bass work as the singer spits some venom about the lack of the "everyman" in British politics, about how there is nobody truly representing "the little people." This song is some fast and furious punk rock with a really strong message. Track four is named Whaddyawant? It feels like there is a big NOFX influence in this skate punk jam. The band really show off their skills as musicians throughout the track as it pounds along at a great pace. This feels like a song that could really get a crowd going crazy.

The second half of Growler starts with the song Idiot box. This was the song that really stood out for me on my first listen of the release. The three part harmonies during the end of the song are as good as you will hear on any punk rock release, absolutely first class. The song is about turning off your TV and getting out and actually living your life the way you want to and not the way TV suggests you should. I love this message. Dug is the shortest song on Growler at just 1.01 long. As you might expect it's a fast and frantic punk rock storm with the vocals again carrying the melody of the song. The guitar work at the start of the track is something that El Hefe would be proud of. The penultimate song Bitter Moon sees Müg slow things down and go into thoughtful mode. Utilising just a guitar and vocals the song really draws you in and really makes you concentrate on the lyrics. Despite its simplicity Bitter Moon is packed with hooks and could become a fan favourite live song for the band. Bitter Moon finishes and Müg launch into the final song They're Happy. I loved how seamless this felt. Bitter Moon and They're Happy could easily pass as one song or as two separate tracks. They work brilliantly as a pair or individually. They're Happy is an explosive way to complete Growler. This is skate punk at its finest, fast guitars, a pounding drumbeat, excellent melodic vocals with a big chorus which will make you want to sing loud and throw your fists in to the air.

Growler could very easily find its way into my top ten albums of the year. It has everything I enjoy in a punk rock release. When people mention skate punk you always go back to the 1990's when most of the classic albums in the genre were released, I think Growler could easily fit in amongst the very best of them - it's that fucking good.

Buy Growler here: https://mugrocks.bandcamp.com/ 

Now listening to The Obituaries by The Menzingers