Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Album Review: ...Fuck Up My Whole Weekend by The Bumpin' Uglies

Canada is becoming a factory for producing great pop punk bands. Another coming of the assembly line is Winnipeg's The Bumpin' Uglies (sometimes shortened to The Uglies) who this past summer released a new EP named ...Fuck Up My Whole Weekend.

Curiously the EP begins with a song titled Retirement. I must admit I was expecting far more of a fast paced snotty style of pop punk but was pleasantly surprised to hear a more melodic style with plenty of fantastic harmonies. There is a feeling of restraint throughout the track, making you think something big is about to happen. That big thing is the chorus. It's not quite an explosion of sound but it is a hook filled few seconds that you can't help but want to dance and sing along too. Next up is the song Keepin' Up With The Jonesers. This track really picks up the pace and manages to squeeze in a lot during its short one minute and seven seconds time span. This really takes me back to the days of 90s skate punk with fast guitars (including some incredible soloing) accompanied by some hard hitting yet catchy vocal delivery.

Reelin' In The Beers (I don't think The Bumpin' Uglies like the letter 'g') is the title of the third track. I loved the changes in melody between the verse and chorus on this - the verse feeling a bit for urgent and then a extremely catchy chorus. There is a great bridge section in the song where the rhythm of the track is completely switched around before reverting back to the original formula to complete the song with a flourish. The penultimate track is called New Ways. As I listen to the track something really strikes me about lead singer Bill Quinton's vocals - how throughout the whole record they remain restrained and he doesn't over stretch himself with the vocal delivery. He knows his range and doesn't feel the need to push himself past his capabilities. This really helps with the whole sound of the EP.

...Fuck Up My Whole Weekend finishes with what I think is the best song on the EP, Jesus In A Jail Cell. Beginning with an opening riff that reminded me of NOFX's Seeing Double At The Triple Rock, before some nice, fact paced vocals join the party. This beautiful guitar work continues throughout the song. The Bumpin' Uglies continue with the up-tempo, urgent verses before a catchy, bouncy chorus that'll get you singing, smiling and having an all around ace time.

Stream and download ...Fuck Up My Whole Weekend here:

Like The Bumpin' Uglies here:

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Album Review: Love Songs For The Departed by Eaten Back To Life

Eaten Back To Life are a four piece pop punk band from Missouri. The band, influenced by the likes of The Ramones, The Lillingtons, The Riverdales and The Huntingtons as well as 80s horror movies, released a new EP back in May named Love Songs For The Departed. Here is my review.

The EP begins with a short thirty-nine second blast of music named Dimension Duality. This serves purely as an introduction, not only to the EP but to the punk style that Eaten Back To Life play. The buzzsaw like guitars really show a band that wear their influences on their sleeves.

The album starts properly with the second song, Together Tonight. This is a pop punk record so there had to be a song about being in love. Together Tonight is about being together no matter what bad stuff is happening to you. Like you would expect from a pop punk song, there are plenty of hooks and catchy lines during the track. The band sound at their best when the gang vocals come into play down the final stretch. Born To Kill starts with some more wonderful buzzsaw guitars before we are greeted with a slightly rougher, gravelly vocal. Something I wasn't quite expecting but really enjoyed. This mixed with the softer, sweeter vocals towards the end of the song made for some very interesting listening.

The fourth song Defect is about trying to figure out what makes a "defective" person tick. This song did remind me a lot of Teenage Bottlerocket in its sound, but that is by no means a bad thing. The music is relentless, played at a breakneck pace that really gets you pumped up and another brilliant vocal performance really amps the energy up even further. I had a feeling of breathlessness by the time the song finished. The penultimate song on Love Songs For The Departed is named Contact With The Other Side. This track reverts back to the more sugary sweet, pop punk sound - similar to The Queers or Squirtgun (I've been reading a book about Lookout Records, hence why those two bands came to mind). I like the variety displayed in Eaten Back To Life's sound. I often find that pop punk releases can be hampered a bit by sticking too much to the same formula and sounding too similar. With the two distinct vocal styles in Eaten Back To Life this doesn't happen. The tempo of the track is not quite so fast paced as the previous tracks and certainly focuses a lot more on melody. The song itself is about drifting through life wondering if you are actually alive. Sometimes things that happen just don't feel real and you begin to question yourself and potentially your sanity.

Love Songs For The Departed concludes with a song named Undertaker. This is another solely instrumental track. I like that the EP is bookended with two instrumental songs, giving a feeling of having a start point and an end point with the story in-between.

Stream and download Love Songs For The Departed here:

Like Eaten Back To Life here:

Monday, 28 November 2016

Album Review: Keep Bleeding by The Doublecross (by Emma Prew)

It’s not often that I stumble across something completely new to me, really like it and then think ‘I must review this!’ – that’s usually Colin’s job – but that was exactly what happened with Keep Bleeding by The Doublecross. The album was described as being ‘for fans of Bruce Springsteen and The Gaslight Anthem’ which sounded like me, so I looked the band up on Bandcamp to have a listen. It turns out that The Doublecross isn’t a band exactly, it is a solo project from Welsh singer-songwriter Jon Greenwood, but either way it is rather good.

The first song on Keep Bleeding is called One More Time and begins with loud, fast guitars – definitely a good way to kick off an album. Jon Greenwood’s vocals have a slightly rough tone but not in an over-the-top kind of way. I was instantly hit by a a sense of ‘yeah, this is that kind of Americana-tinged alternative rock kind of music that I like’ and was more than happy to hear some more. Switching things up a bit already, the second song, My Only Friends Are Chemicals, starts with vocals ahead of any instruments. Palm-muted guitar soon joins the mix but the lyrics remain at the forefront. The lyrics are clearly pretty negative (‘Some conversation would kill the pain, But friends like these got nothing to say.’) but the music and the vocal style doesn’t make the song seem so. A great song. Fireworks and Butterflies is slightly slower paced track than the previous two but the guitars remain loud with that lovely slightly distorted sound. This is another prime example of a song with pessimistic lyrics that somehow manages to sound happy and uplifting – ‘I will let you down, And watch you hit the ground.’

By the fourth song, The Stars That Never Shine, I realise that the ‘sad song that sounds happy’ theme is one that epitomises The Doublecross. It’s also something that Jon does very well. Some of the lyrics are rather catchy as well – ‘Well it’s been a lonely ride, But now we do just fine, We keep bleeding through the night, We’re the stars that never shine.’  She Might Be The One begins with more of a simplified sound – muted guitar and clear vocals, but no drums. The moderate tempo of the introduction got me well invested into the lyrics and I was already well sold when the full band sound comes in after a minute and a half. There is also a neat little guitar solo towards the end of the song – a bit different to the previous song on the album. The sixth song on Keep Bleeding is called Bad Dreams and it’s one of my songs I chose to have on the CPRW November Playlist. I’ve listen to the album quite a lot over the last few weeks but this is the song that stood out to me the most. It’s upbeat, melodic and has some great lyrics. If you listen to only one song from this album, listen to Bad Dreams.

The Wire is the title of the next track on the album. A single snappy guitar riff is played throughout the majority of the song and it really gets your head nodding, with a second guitar playing more of a melody at certain points. It’s a powerful song both musically and lyrically – ‘She deserves to be alive for so much longer.’. The next song, Shattered Health, is a catchy one with roaring guitars and pounding drums. The chorus in particular is brilliant, ‘Doing the best I can, To forget about the days when, I was a better man, And you were never there for me.’ The Doublecross sound reminds me a lot of Broadcaster, another band who I recently fell in love with after seeing them at Fest 15. This ‘sound’, whatever you want to call it, is just perfect to me. Following on from Shattered Health is Hurt People Hurt People. Firstly I really like the play on words in the title (and lyrics), even if it is clearly going to be a fairly bleak track. The guitars and vocals are intense on the first verse but when the chorus kicks in there is a nice overlaid melodic guitar riff. This melody works well with the overall sense of emotion in the song and is extended towards the end of the song.

Drawing towards the end of the album, track number ten is called 020814 (which I imagine is a date). The song begins immediately with vocals and, I could be wrong, but I feel like there’s more venom and bitterness in Jon’s voice for this song. The chorus is another catchy one and will certainly get your head nodding, despite the melancholic theme of death. ‘Well you look so good when you’re dressed up for my funeral, It was such a perfect day, Remember when you were dancing on my grave.’  Forever Pretending To Sleep is the penultimate song of Keep Bleeding. You’d think that after ten songs that The Doublecross sound would be set in stone but this song has jangly guitars rather than the more distorted sound of previous tracks. The guitars aren’t quite acoustic but they certainly sounds fresh as the album draws to a close. A guitar solo ends Forever Pretending to sleep and fades out into the last song on the album, The Lake. This is probably the slowest song of Keep Bleeding and rightly so as the closing track. It’s also the most stripped back song with a simple guitar melody that doesn’t detract from the vocals. The whole album contains some quite personal lyrics but they are most apparent in The Lake. ‘I’m learning how to feel alive, I’m learning how to smile. Can I teach you how to cry? She loves me more than I love myself…’

I’m sure some readers of the blog have already heard of The Doublecross but if you haven’t then I highly recommend you go and check them out. Keep Bleeding is definitely one of my favourite album discoveries of the year, maybe it’ll be one of yours too.

You can find The Doublecross on Facebook here and Bandcamp here.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Colin's Punk Rock World Playlist: November 2016

Here's what Dan, Emma, Omar, myself and, our new addition, Robyn have been listening to in November.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Album Review: Habitats by Foxtrot

It seems likes every week I'm discovering another excellent band from Australia. This time it's a four piece from Melbourne named Foxtrot. After releasing their debut album Gone Fishing in 2013 this past June they released a new album named Habitats on Jackknife Music. I've been loving it for a while but am only just getting round to reviewing it.

The name of the opening song on Habitats is The Daily Take. Starting out with some guitar feedback before lead singer Josh Newman's distinctive Australian accented vocals kick in. The vocals are loud and clear over some quieter punk rock music, really making you listen to what's being said. The vocals are delivered in quite a short, punchy style making it so easy for a the listener to sing along with and get invested into the song immediately. This leads into the song Updike. Beginning with a little organ playing and Newman's vocals being particularly soft, before the really explode into life and song gets going properly. It's hard not to compare Foxtrot to The Smith Street Band because of their sound. Foxtrot however have so much more of a punk rock ooomph with their music. When they slow things down it's emotional and full of heart but when they really turn up the punk rock you better get ready because the sound is massive and it's great! The Luck Of The Draw feels like a lot of anger went into this song. After some excellent duelling guitars start the track, the lyrics "Who The Hell Are You? Who The Fuck Am I? What Gives Us The Bloody Right, To All Of This, To Be The Lucky Kids, Born In The Right Place At The Right Time" come in. Straight away it's pretty clear that the song is about feeling lucky about being born somewhere safe and free of poverty when some people are born in some terrible places. I wonder if this song was written in response to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's policies on asylum seekers.

The fourth song on Habitats is named No Place Like Home. This track features a lot of "whoa-oh" moments throughout its two minutes and thirty-five second duration. I really enjoyed this - it makes it much easier to get into a song if it has plenty of catchy moments. And what's catchier than a "whoa-oh"? There is also plenty of substance in the track. It's about coming together as a community after feeling like you're all alone and it feeling like a family. Pens, Paper, Strings, the next track, has some added violin during the song. Adding another string to the Foxtrot bow. (I don't care that that is an awful pun, it amused me!) The song is about writing songs to please people other than yourself and adding something different so that you don't get bored - hence the violins. I think this is incredible song writing. Moving on we have a song named My Own Little 48 Hours. Here Foxtrot revert back to the tried and tested to great effect. This song, about longing for the weekend because you hate your day job, is easily relatable. The ending of the song is a little different. It feels very much like an intro for the next track, Time Irrelevant rather than an outro for My Own Little 48 Hours. It's a great piece of musicianship, reminding me of a western movie but it did feel a little odd being at the end of one track when it could have been an interlude or at the beginning of the next song. Time Irrelevant is a song with a massive sound. Continuing the wild west sound, Foxtrot have added some brass to the song to give it an extra layer. Newman's vocals deliver the short, punchy lyrics with plenty of power but the real focus of the song has to be on the music itself. This is one of those songs that really proves that modern day punk rockers are experts at their instruments and it's not all three chords as fast as you can. There is so much skill on show here.

One Way Ticket is the title of the eighth song on the album. Musically we start off with some mellow, jangly guitars that almost fall into the emo genre. One Way Ticket is played at a slightly slower tempo than most of the songs on Habitats and slowly builds towards its big finale. It's a song about learning to deal with things in a more positive way. This is a nice, uplifting song. I Guess That's Why They Call It A Pecking Order has quite a long guitar intro before we reach quite a laid back vocal section, which is followed by a great sing-a-long chorus. This is the sort of chorus that if you can get a whole crowd singing along to it'd be one of the musical moments that can move you. It's a song that makes you look at yourself and question the way you live your life. The penultimate track is also my favourite on the album, Miner Bird. Stripping it back to a mor folk sound, Miner Bird is an acoustic guitar driven song that creates one hell of a party. This is a song that has a couple of ups and downs within it but when it's up you can't help but sing, dance and smile along with it. This is the song at a Foxtrot gig that I imagine really gets the crowd going bananas. Last up we have the song The Things We Forget. The lyrics "Sometimes You Find The Most Beautiful Things, In The Places You Don't Even Bother To Look Anymore" immediately stood out to me letting me know that this would be another uplifting song. It's about remembering all the things that made you happy from days gone by. Some fantastic advice. The song then finishes with the lyrics "If The Smokes Don't Kill Us First Then I Guess It Could Be Worse." More uplifting words about remembering that you don't have it so bad. A fine way to complete Habitats.

The Australian punk scene is currently one of the fastest growing in the world with more and more truly great bands appearing all of the time. With Habitats, Foxtrot show they're amongst the very best of them.

Stream and download Habitats here:

Like Foxtrot here:

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Art of Punk: SINC and Hot Water Music

Scott Sinclair, or simply SINC as he is better known, is a painter, illustrator and video game artist (not to be confused with the British footballer). You’ve probably seen his work, even if you didn’t know who the artist behind it was.

He’s recently (relatively speaking) worked as an artist on the Guitar Hero games and as an art director for Bioshock. Since then he has been involved in the formation of The Molasses Flood – a video game company whose first game, titled The Flame In The Flood, features incredible art of SINC’s creation (he was asked “How would you like to make a game that looks like your personal work come to life?” by the game’s designer) and a soundtrack by Chuck Ragan. I’ve not played the game but it does look awesome judging by the trailer.

The fact that Chuck Ragan is responsible for the video game’s soundtrack is actually no surprise as he and SINC have a long history of working together. After completing his degree in illustration at Ringling School of Art and Design in Florida, SINC became involved with the then blossoming Gainesville punk scene. He painted artwork for the likes of Less Than Jake and Radon as well as other Gainesville bands, but it is his paintings for Hot Water Music that he is most famous for.

The style used for classic HWM albums such as Caution, A Flight And A Crash and No Division is very distinct and I’ve always thought that it is unlike anything else you ever see on punk record sleeves. The artwork makes me think of Picasso – which is definitely not something you’d say about much in the world of punk rock – as SINC uses a sort of cubism in his depiction of character’s faces. The art of Hot Water Music, aside from their last album Exister (designed by Horsebites), simply is Scott Sinclair. I love how they clearly let him do whatever he wanted or use whichever piece he had already created, as they obviously admired and appreciated his artwork. I’m sharing a couple of paintings without the album titles on them but even with ‘Hot Water Music’ and the relevant album title in place, it doesn’t detract from the amazing art. Look how small the text is on No Division (below) – the band was willing to let the artwork speak for itself.

I unfortunately don’t own any Hot Water Music albums on vinyl – mostly because I’m never sure which to buy first (I know that All Ages in Camden has a couple in stock) – but if I did, I think I’d happily have them framed as a series on my wall. They’re great individually but also look awesome together.

I didn’t realise until I started to do a little further research that SINC is also responsible for the design of the classic Hot Water Music logo – I mean, it makes sense really. He’s a very talented man and I hope that if or when HWM decide to make another album that they will work with SINC again – if he’s not too busy making video games anyway!

Monday, 21 November 2016

Album Review: Misery + Disaster by Shit Present (by Emma Prew)

Earlier this month, and following on from their 2015 debut self-titled EP, Shit Present released a new 6-track EP titled Misery + Disaster. We got sent Misery + Disaster to review by the lovely folk at Specialist Subject Records, ahead of its release. Unfortunately they sent it while we were on holiday in Florida so I’ve ended up writing this after the album is officially released (sorry!) – but it also means I have my pretty screenprinted vinyl version (and a lyric sheet) now!

The first song on Misery + Disaster is called Sick Of Me and it was the first to be released to the world, a couple of months before the EP – it was a frequently played track of mine for several weeks. Starting off with a clip of a voicemail message, Sick Of Me doesn’t entirely break new ground for the band but it is just as just good as the songs on their self-titled record. It is angsty and punchy with catchy singalong-able lyrics. The subject matter in Shit Present songs are often quite personal to Iona and this is the case here, with the song being about being unhappy in a relationship. ‘You’ve got a lot of nerve talking about my misery, I’ve got a lot of nerve needing a bit more time to breathe.’

Next up is The Line. It starts off a little quieter than usual with the vocals simply accompanied by palm-muted guitar. That doesn’t last long however and The Line soon becomes a full band affair. Lyrically this song is quite hard-hitting with Iona expressing feelings of anxiety – not an uncommon subject for the band. She sings of ‘standards’ that people have, or perhaps a certain person, and how it can often seem impossible to meet them. ‘There are days that I only see unnatural light, I can’t go outside when I’m so easy to criticise.’ 

Shit Talk is the third song on Misery + Disaster and is probably my favourites. It’s a mid-tempo track with some great distorted guitars. The music gives the song a sort of care-free tone (or perhaps more of a ‘I don’t give a fuck’ feel, as this is Shit Present we’re talking about) but, of course, the lyrics tell a different story. The chorus in particular, while being pretty darn catchy, feels like a punch in the face to the person that Iona is singing about. It’s a break-up song but it isn’t a sad one – it’s an angry one. ‘You’ll be doing well, You’ll land right on your feet. My personal hell is when you’re leaving me.’

With one of the longer musical introductions of the album, House (Breakdown) is a song with pounding drums and melodic guitars. It feels like the introduction could have easily gone on for a fair bit longer than its 30 seconds without dragging but, hey, Shit Present aren’t a band to idle. The song is another about feeling negative, anxious and insecure but somehow the lyrics seem to hit home all the more – these are after all feelings that many of us have, whether we admit it or not. Sometimes you just need to let it out. ‘Break down, break down, nothing can save me now. I’ll just smash it all up and I’ll let it all out.’

Evil Way, the penultimate track on Misery + Disaster is a melodic and upbeat indie punk song with some excellent guitar riffs – the bit right at the beginning actually reminds me of The Menzingers. Evil Way is about someone who pushes others away when they’re feeling down and that that isn’t necessary the best course of action. ‘You just keep fucking up but in the most evil way, Twisting all my words until I’ve got nothing left to say and I know you might feel alone but it’s not okay, And I’m not the only person you pushed away.’ The chorus is powerful but it’s the closing lines of the song that really stick with you – ‘You said you love how I speak the truth, Wish I could say the same of you.’

Bringing the EP to a close is Against The World!. Mixing things up a bit, this song starts with a more stripped back sound than we’re used to with Shit Present. The guitars are jangly and although, I think, not actually acoustic they have more of a folk punk feel than the band's more typical indie punk. For the first minute the song sounds very different, until the volume is cranked up and Iona really lets out her anger and frustration. Although the sense of anger from the rest of the EP returns in the song, it still sounds more set apart from the other songs on Misery + Disaster – and not in a bad way. Against The World! is a refreshing end to another great Shit Present EP.

Shit Present’s debut self-titled EP was great and Misery + Disaster is just as good. You can buy it now from Specialist Subject – and they might even have some of the screenprinted vinyl left. You can also find the band on Facebook here.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Book Review: Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories by NOFX and Jeff Alulis

Before we really get into this I feel like I should apologise if this is rubbish. I'm going to attempt a book review, something I probably haven't done for twenty years. The book in question is The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories by NOFX and Jeff Alulis.

I took the opportunity to read Hepatitis Bathtub during my flight to Florida last month. Downloading it onto a Kindle borrowed from my mum (she's going to get a shock if she ever decides to read that book) I was fully engrossed by this autobiographical account on the lives and career of one of the most influential and controversial punk rock bands of the past thirty years.

Each chapter of the book is a different member of the band's story of a particular time in their lives, written in a chronological order (or as close as possible to that). Fat Mike, Erik "Smelly" Sandin, Eric Melvin and El Hefe all give great accounts on a variety of events and are joined by former members of NOFX as well - all of which are incredibly frank, open and honest throughout the book. This was a big part in me struggling to put the book down and wanting to keep on reading to find out what happened next. Considering the amount of writing I do, I'm not actually a massive reader. If I do read something it's usually a comic rather than an actual book but Hepatitis Bathtub really had me gripped. I spent any down time on holiday reading the book, learning about the next crazy scrape NOFX would find themselves in.

Long time fans of NOFX will know of the crazy party animal association that comes along with the band, so like you were probably expecting the book to be filled with hilarious tales of wild nights and debauchery. And there is a lot of this; including a tale of Smelly accidentally kidnapping some punk rock royalty and El Hefe nearly going to jail for twenty years. There are also some really dark, disturbing and quite shocking moments in the book. Growing up in the 1980s California punk scene, and judging from many of these stories, NOFX are very lucky to not only to avoid being in jail but to be alive.

There are also some horrible recollections from the band member's lives away from the NOFX. There are some extremely graphic stories of drug and alcohol addiction, sex, bondage, molestation, rape, terminal illness, abuse and death. Reading through this book there were plenty of times where I'd stop and just think "fuck" this is crazy - and not in a good way. You have to give the band a massive amount of credit for the bravery shown in telling these stories, many of which had been long kept a secret from each other until the release of the book. Some of these stories have had lasting mental scars on the band for life and it would have been much easier not to tell these stories in this book.

Of course things come up to the present day and NOFX reflect on what being in the band has meant to them and how it has impacted their lives in a positive way. It was good to have such an uplifting ending to what (I can't repeat this enough) is a very dark book. These guys know just how lucky they have been to have had such successful careers. It's inspiring that these guys, despite all their flaws and issues, have gone out and lived the life they that have always dreamed of having.

Like I said I'm not an avid reader by any stretch of the imagination but I just could not put The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories down. It's a compelling read that really outlines what it was like being in a punk band in the late 80s and early 90s. These four guys have an amazing bond together that can clearly not be broken by anything. They are a family. They have really good times and really bad times but through it all they are still together and stronger than ever. I've read a few books on punk rock over the years but none of those even compare to this amazing read. I've seen a lot of people say it's a great read even if you're not a fan of NOFX or even punk rock music in general and I whole heartedly agree with that statement.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Top Tens: Colin's Top Ten (Twelve) Fat Wreck Chords Albums

A Fat Wreck is a new documentary about legendary independent punk rock record label Fat Wreck Chords. With its DVD/Blu-Ray/VOD release happening on the 22nd of November I thought it would be a fun idea to pick my top ten releases from the label. I looked through the list and could only narrow it down to twelve. I refuse to take any off of this list, so this is now a top twelve Fat Wreck Chords releases. I've done the list in a chronological order rather than in order of favouritism, as I couldn't decide on an order without changing my mind twenty seconds later. Have a read - I'm curious to know everyone else's top twelve Fat releases!

Mad Caddies - Duck and Cover (1998)

Road Rash was the first Mad Caddies song I ever heard and I instantly fell in love with the band. This was a time when Fat Wreck were mostly putting out melodic skate punk albums and the Mad Caddies offered something completely different, combining punk rock, ska, polka, reggae and a whole host of other genres to create their own unique sound. Other favourites on Duck and Cover are One Shot, Macho Nachos and The Joust.

Less Than Jake - Borders and Boundaries (2000)

Borders and Boundaries completes the trio of what most people think are Less Than Jake's best albums. Borders and Boundaries is the Gainesville band's first release on Fat Wreck Chords after releasing Losing Streak and Hello Rockview via Capitol Records. Borders sees the band slowly start to drift away from the upbeat ska punk of their early career and develop a more serious edge. Classic songs include Gainesville Rock City, Look What Happened, Pete Jackson Is Getting Married and 1989.

Anti-Flag - Underground Network (2001)

Although the Fat Wreck release The Terror State features my two favourite Anti-Flag songs (Turncoat and Rank 'N' File) I've always felt like Underground Network has more songs overall that I like - thus making it a better album in my opinion. This was one of my first times listening to a proper political punk rock album. I felt like a proper punk rocker listening to the serious political music, even though my favourite track on the album was Spaz's House Destruction Party. Other favourites are Underground Network, Stars and Stripes, Watch The Right and Angry, Young and Poor.

The Dickies - All This and Puppet Stew (2001)

This was my first introduction to The Dickies. The first song of theirs that I heard was Donut Man and I thought it was fantastic. I forget where exactly I heard it but something about this silly but ever so catchy song made me want to hear more. I went into my local HMV and bought All This and Puppet Stew and smiled my way through the album. Recently I picked up this album on vinyl whilst visiting Exeter and was reminded just what a fun album this is. Check out See My Way, Howdy Doody In The Woodshed II and, of course, Donut Man.

NOFX - War On Errorism (2003)

This was my first proper exposure to NOFX. I'd heard bits and bobs in the past, but this was the first proper album I checked out and it began a big love affair with NOFX. It mixed politics and humour brilliantly. It was smart and fun and no two songs sounded the same. This, kind of importantly, was the band's first full length album on Fat Wreck - kind of surprising given that it's Fat Mike's own label. The album is the beginning of a whole new chapter in the legendary and completely crazy story of NOFX. The Separation Of Church and Skate, Franco Un-American and Idiots Are Taking Over are still staples on NOFX set lists all these years later.

Me First & The Gimme Gimmes - Take A Break (2003)

Putting a covers album on a top twelve list feels like a strange thing to be doing but Me First & The Gimme Gimmes' fourth studio album is just so much fun and, I don't know about you but, I like it when my punk rock albums are fun. The Gimme Gimmes have a go at covering R'n'B songs and pull it off brilliantly. Lead singer Spike's voice is spectacular on this album. I'm quite convinced that The Gimme Gimmes can take on any genre of music, make it punk and improve it. Their versions of I Believe I Can Fly, End Of The Road, Isn't She Lovely and Nothing Compares 2 U are brilliant.

Chixdiggit! - Pink Razors (2005)

In my opinion Chixdiggit are the most underrated band in the entire history of Fat Wreck Chords. This opinion was solidified after seeing them at The Fest last month. Pink Razors is my favourite Chixdiggit album and one of my all time favourite pop punk albums. It's fast, it's fun and it's oh so catchy. Check out the songs I Remember You, You're Pretty Good, Geocities Kitty and J Crew and try not to smile. I also loved that on the CD version of Pink Razors there was a bonus track where the band listened to the album and did commentary on it.

Descendents - Cool To Be You (2004)

It's the Descendents. I don't think I need to say any more than that.

Against Me! - Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live In London!!! (2006)

This is my favourite live album of all time. It served as a best of album for a time when, for me, Against Me! were at their very best. As much as I love their newer stuff I don't think they will ever top the feeling these raw and powerful early songs still give me today. Against Me! were at the forefront of a new wave of punk rock bands that took punk rock to new heights in the underground scene. This is a collection of songs that are incredibly important to me in a setting where they are at their best - live!

The Loved Ones - Keep Your Heart (2006)

The Loved Ones took the punk scene by storm with the release of Keep Your Heart. Since then Dave Hause has gone on to become a superstar of punk rock, with everything he touches becoming golden. Whether it was later Loved Ones albums, his solo work or his recent work with The Falcon. This is sing-a-long punk music at its finest. Jane, 100k and Player Hater Anthem are all classics.

Dillinger Four - Civil War (2008)

Civil War is the fourth album from Dillinger Four and the second to be released on Fat Wreck. It's an album that was delayed for two years so it had to be great. It was. There was a shift in the D4 sound - it's a heavier, slicker-sounding album with more of a more mature and thoughtful approach to song writing. Gainesville is among my all time favourite songs and Parishiltonisametaphor, The Art of Whore, Fruity Pebbles and Ode To The North American Snake Oil Distributor are also all well worth your listening time.

Masked Intruder - MI (2014)

I plumped for this Masked Intruder rather than the first self-titled one as that was originally released by Red Scare Industries. Masked Intruder are becoming one of the most popular pop punk bands in the world at the moment and it's due to these brilliantly written songs. Getting past the whole gimmick thing and thinking of the band as songwriters I think that it's amazing that they can write so many entertaining songs about not getting the girl and getting into trouble with the law and still stay interesting and varied. I Fought The Law, Crime Spree, Hey Girl and Most Beautiful Girl all get massive reactions at Masked Intruder gigs - and rightly so.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Album Review: Blood On The Trucks by Bad Dylan

Alex, formerly of Skank Agenda and No Ta, has been hard at work organising a charity album. It's quite a fun and interesting concept for an album. It features a backing band and a collection of singers from various punk bands taking lead vocal duties on the songs. To make it that little bit more interesting the backing band have taken the moniker of Bad Dylan and each song is a cover of a Bob Dylan song. The album is cleverly titled Blood On The Trucks, playing on the title of Bob Dylan's album Blood On The Tracks. This title also ties in with the charity that the album is supporting - SkatePal, a charity that helps build skate parks and teaches children how to skate in Palestine.

Full disclosure: I know absolutely nothing about Bob Dylan so can't compare each track to the original. It's only because Emma mentioned that Bad Dylan sounded like Bob Dylan that I thought to check. Thanks to Emma and Google for helping me with this - I could have looked very silly. Because of my lack of knowledge on all things Bob Dylan, I've been through the album and picked out my personal favourites - maybe they'll make me go and check out the originals.

The very first track on the album turned out to be one of my favourites. Deeker of Make-That-A-Take Records, Uniforms, Joey Terrifying and Tragical History Tour takes vocal duties on the song It Ain't Me Babe. Beginning with a short audio clip we are then treated to a fast paced street punk fuelled jam. It was the chorus that especially stood out to me on this track with its gang vocals giving the song a more raucous feel to it.

Alex of Skank Agenda/No Ta takes lead vocal duties on the third track, You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. This cover really reminded me of Skank Agenda, a great band that I only got into just as they were splitting up. The vocal delivery is quite laid back, it really helps you hear and appreciate the lyrical content of the track. The drumming on the song really caught my attention as well, fast and furious throughout, getting the blood pumping. There is also a hint of Rancid about the track, musically anyway. Alex and Tim Armstrong sound nothing alike.

A quartet of vocalists help out on Idiot Wind. Matty and Cait from Roughneck Riot are joined by Jen from Hello Mabel and Molly from Bolshy. The four singers each take different verses on the track, giving it a varied sound before sharing the chorus. The thing about the song that really caught my imagination was actually right at the end where the foursome finish the song accapella style and sound fantastic together.

Acid Drop are a band that are sadly calling it a day soon so it was great to hear Ben Hannah's voice pop up on the album. His gravelly style gives a lot of life to any song he sings, whether it's his own or covering a Bob Dylan track named Like A Rolling Stone. At times on this track it feels like he is preaching to a crowd - if he is he can consider me converted.

Tangled Up In Blue is another track that features a collection of singers. This time Richard, Roy and Jaap from Black Volvo offer their take on what I assume is a Bob Dylan classic. A good dollop of hardcore punk rock really got me excited, - I can't help but think that any Bob Dylan superfans could never imagine his tracks ever sounding like this. There's a nice little tribute to him at the end of the intense two and a half minutes of the song with a small piece of harmonica playing.

I was a little disappointed that Jens, Thomas and Jason of Matilda's Scoundrels' track wasn't more of their usual folk punk style but it was interesting to hear them sing in a different style. They took the vocal reigns on the song Hurricane. The vocal delivery is almost like the chaps are reading a story to a crowd with a musical backing. This really got me listening quite intently to the track and is another nice change of style for the compilation.

Tim Loud's version of Isis was the first track on Blood On The Trucks where I figured this is quite close to the original version of the song. I was right (when I checked out the original). Tim Loud's version feels much louder and angrier and has more of a bluesy sound to it than the more folky sounding original. It's clear that on Tim's cover he had a lot of fun with playing around with the track and adding his own spin on it.

Clearly a lot of time and energy went into creating this album and it's for a fantastic cause. If that's not reason enough to buy it then you are also spoilt with SEVENTEEN fantastic and unique punk rock covers of one of the most influential (apparently) artists of all time.

Stream and download Blood On The Trucks here:

Like Bad Dylan here:

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Album Review: Anyone And Everyone by Colour Me Wednesday (by Emma Prew)

Colour Me Wednesday released a new 4-track EP earlier this year, titled Anyone and Everyone, on Harriet and Jen’s own Dovetown Records, plus KROD Records (France) and Wiener Records (US). I’m a little late to reviewing this, although I’ve listened to it and seen them live since its release, so better late than never eh?

The first song on Anyone And Everyone is titled Don’t Tell Anyone. It’s a track I first heard played live and I instantly liked it from my first listen – not to mention it getting stuck in my head for days. Musically it’s a soft indie pop song with infectious vocal harmonies in the chorus. Lyrically, Don’t Tell Anyone is about dealing with anxieties and doing things at a pace that is right for you. The bridge, which comes after a neat little guitar solo, particularly stood out to me – ‘I live in the last minute, I bathe and I thrive in it, And I have never been better’.

Next up is Two-Fifty For You Girls. This is a more up-beat pop punk track and is definitely one to get you nodding your head and tapping your feet along to. It sounds like a happy-go-lucky feel-good kind of track but, as is generally the way with Colour We Wednesday, the song has an important message in its lyrics. Two-Fifty For You Girls is about how some people look down on the younger (and perhaps particularly female) generation and assume that our thoughts and opinions are not valid. The chorus of the song is from the ‘older’ person’s point of view – ‘Oh to be so young and clueless, You are all the same! This wisdom may never find you, This is not a game for kids.’

Horror Story is the next track on Anyone And Everyone. This song has a somewhat bitter tone to it but that doesn’t stop it from having the typical Colour Me Wednesday catchiness. The song is about having trust issues and needing to distance yourself from other sometimes, particularly when there is difference of opinion involved. The opening lyrics are some of my favourites from this EP – ‘I don’t trust anyone, Anyone but me. I don’t trust anyone, And it’s set me free.’

The last song is called In Your Shoes and it sees Colour Me Wednesday take quite a different turn musically. It’s definitely the least punk sounding track on the EP, with more of an dreamy electronic pop vibe to it. It feels like because of the change in musical style that there is more focus on the vocals and the lyrics of the song. In Your Shoes is a song about having to deal with grief and not forgetting about the people that have made differences in your life. ‘And life marches on, Though the air is thick. I get older on the outside, People are gone like they never existed.’

You can stream and download Anyone And Everyone now
And you can also like Colour Me Wednesday on Facebook

Monday, 14 November 2016

Album Review: Last Time I Swear by Splitters

Splitters are a new band from Detroit, Michigan, featuring members of Break Anchor, Due North and Cheapshow. This November they are releasing their debut album Last Time I Swear, on For The Love Of Punk Records. My good pal Lauren Mills of Mills On Wheels PR suggested I check this album out claiming that I'll love it. She was not wrong.

Last Time I Swear gets going with a track named Horrible Terrible. The song starts out slowly with some soft guitar chords and a quiet but strained vocal. Of course it doesn't take long for the full band to kick in and we are treated to some great mid-tempo punk rock in a similar vein to Elway or Arms Aloft. Horrible Terrible is about knowing all your shortcomings but refusing to change. It finishes strongly with a big gang vocal ending singing the lines "I'm A Serpent Sick With Sin And I Cannot Repent, I'm A Serpent Sick With Sin And I Will Not Repent." The next song, Black Tar, continues the big sing-a-long theme. Like all the best mid-western style punk rock, the track is full of soulful hooks that will get a crowd really involved with the song. Black Tar is a really sad song telling the story (hopefully fictional) of a girl going through a very hard time who eventually takes her own life. Songs like this, although are sometimes are hard to listen to given the subject matter, are good in helping people who suffer with mental health issues to realise they are not alone. The song Cheap returns to the start slow, get fast style that Horrible Terrible used at the start of the album. Splitters lead singer Ben's vocals really come into their own on this track. Whether it's quieter or loud and fast they're always perfectly clear despite the raspiness of them. Kind of like Brendan Kelly on later Lawrence Arms records. I loved the changes in tempo throughout Cheap - starting slowly, picking up some pace before finishing with a slower pace which fuels a big finale to the song. Southbound is the name of the fourth song on Last Time I Swear. Southbound is a track that most punks can relate to. It's about going against the grain no matter how difficult it might seem. Splitters use travelling on the highway as a metaphor of this - "Still Fighting Northbound Traffic Heading South". I like the use of metaphors in songs, they make you think and thinking is good.

The fifth track is the album's title track and Splitters change things up slightly with the intro on this song. The guitars are a bit stabby and bouncy and there is a bit of bluesy sound to them adding a bit of variety. Last Time I Swear is one of the slower songs on the album but definitely one of the most passionate. It builds slowly until Ben's vocals explode into life as he screams about accepting who you are despite any pitfalls you might have. The opening lyrics of the next song, Spinning Tires, grabbed my attention immediately. The line "Dragging Knuckles On The Floor Again Just Like The Day Before" is just a line that anyone stuck in a job that they hate can relate to. The line at the beginning of the second verse is just superb as well - "When Everyone I Know Is Growing Up, I'm Still Doing What's Best For Me." Another hugely relatable lyric for someone like me who seems to spend far too much time explaining to people that I'm happy earning a moderate wage and spending all of my time on trains heading to gigs. Do what you love. The song finishes with the life affirming lyric "It Just Makes More Sense To Me." The penultimate song on Last Time I Swear is named Can Of Gasoline. On this track Ben sings about his frustrations with the falseness of everyday life and wanting to escape from it all. There is a great section towards the end of the track where a second vocalist joins Ben and they sing out a mundane everyday conversation between each other. Really great songwriting. Finally, we come to the final track on the album, Rocking Chair. On this track the band take a look at life as an older person and looking back on the way you've looked after yourself as you've grown up. This is one of the faster paced tracks on Last Time I Swear and is packed with a lot of passion and energy. I love songs that sound like the band really believe in what they are singing and that's certainly the case here.

Splitters have come out of nowhere and put out one of my favourite albums of the year. When I review an album, listening back to songs over and over again whilst reviewing them can sometimes get a bit annoying and a little dull. But that is definitely not the case here, at times I listened to songs probably about ten times in a row and not once did I feel sick of the song. This is an incredible album from a band that will soon be everyone's favourite. Amazing.

Pre-order Last Time I Swear here:

Like Splitters here:

Friday, 11 November 2016

Gig Review: The Fest 15 Day Three 30/10/16

After a decent night's sleep it was time for the third and final day of The Fest 15. Emma and I were both pretty knackered after two full days of watching some of the best punk rock bands on the planet but were excited for the day ahead. After breakfast I popped out and got another massive salad and can of Pepsi as it was a meal that served we well the day before. I also added a chocolate bar I had discovered called a Whatchamacallit - which is the best chocolate bar ever (except maybe Kinder, because you know - Kinder). Fuelled up we headed back to Bo Diddley Plaza for a final day of punk rock fun times.

(Emma's sections are in italic)

Opening up the day at Bo Diddley Plaza were Philadelphia based three piece Cayetana. This indie pop punk band only formed in 2011 so to be opening the biggest stage on the final day of Fest 15 had to feel like quite the occasion for the band. Neither Emma or myself were aware of Cayetana's music before now so we decided to just to hang around in the shade towards the side of the stage and watch the set from afar. A good amount of people did brave the blistering Florida sun though and seemed to really enjoy their set. The band seemed to be on top form and no doubt earned themselves some brand new fans with their performance.

After Cayetana finished we stuck around Bo Diddley Plaza to see the man, the myth, the legend - Jeff Rosenstock. I'd had the absolute pleasure of seeing Jeff Rosenstock perform live earlier in the year but this would be Emma's first time. A couple of weeks before The Fest, Jeff released his third album Worry. My copy didn't actually arrive until the day I left for Florida so I would get to hear many of those songs for the first time at Fest. This was by no means a bad thing, sometimes I think it's cooler to hear tracks for the first time live. Especially someone like Jeff Rosenstock who really brings his music alive whilst performing on stage. Maybe I couldn't sing along but I could do plenty of dancing to more songs that are becoming instant classics in my eyes (and ears). I loved everything he played from Worry but I couldn't help but get extra excited when songs from We Cool? were played. Hey Allison, Nausea, I'm Serious I'm Sorry and You In Weird Cities were all played and I made up for my lack of singing on the new stuff to belt these songs out as loudly as I could. It was also pretty cool to see Wil Wagner of The Smith Street Band join Jeff Rosenstock (and band) on stage during You In Weird Cities. One of those cool moments that you'll only see at something like The Fest.

Staying at Bo Diddley Plaza it was time for another of my personal favourites. It was time for RVIVR. It was really starting to get hot outside now but I was determined to stick it out and be as close to the stage as I could. Seeing RVIVR completed a quartet of bands from the Latterman family tree that we had gotten to see over the weekend. I'd say it was a case of saving the best until last but RVIVR, Latterman, Iron Chic and Tender Defender are all bloody fantastic. I would maybe go for RVIVR as a favourite because of how much I love the dual vocals of Mattie Jo Camino and Erica Freas. There was a nice surprise on stage today as well, Lou from Caves was playing bass for RVIVR. This was my fourth time seeing RVIVR and I'm pretty sure they've had a different bass player every time. Starting out with Rain Down from their self titled album - which was another nice surprise me as I've only seen them begin with The Seam from album number two, The Beauty Between - RVIVR instantly got the fine folk at Bo Diddley pumped for their set. Of course RVIVR's set was full of classic songs from their discography, as well as a brand new song that has gotten me really excited for a new album. Erica and Mattie also took time out to talk about how much the Fest has grown in terms of inclusiveness and how it has become a safe space for punks from all different backgrounds. Obviously with this being my first I don't know what it was like before but I can say from my personal experience I felt warm and welcomed by everyone, like I was home. RVIVR are one of the most important bands in punk rock, not only because they make amazing music but also because of their message. Do yourself a favour, check out RVIVR.

Alongside The Menzingers, there was one other band at Fest 15 who score highly on my favourite bands list – The Smith Street Band. Although I’d seen the band multiple times prior to Fest, I wasn’t any less excited to see them once more in Gainesville. Smithies’ Bo Diddley slot was at 3.30pm which meant they were playing at the hottest time of the day, because of this (and after watching some of the previous acts in the blazing sun) I decided to stand off to one side in the shade. The great thing about Bo Diddley Plaza as a venue is that, although it’s the largest stage and audience capacity, you can generally see the stage fairly well from anywhere. Kicking off their set with I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore, it didn’t matter one bit that I wasn’t down the front and I loved it from the outset. Playing a good variety of songs from each of their releases, the Australian four-piece seemed quite at home at Fest – and as one of the only international bands (and the only band not from North America) playing the main stage they had every right too. Halfway through their set, The Smith Street Band treated us to a track from their forthcoming album called Death To The Lads and were joined by label mate Jeff Rosenstock. We’d heard the song once before in London and it was certainly good to hear it again – now we just need the full album!

After Smithies, we left the sunshine of Bo Diddley Plaza to see another Australian band, The Decline. As Colin has already mentioned, Market Street Pub was a really great venue for watching bands as it was possible to stand in one of the raised areas and so being safe from ‘the pit’ as well as having a great view of the stage. We managed to claim one of these decent viewing spots to watch the Aussie skate punk. Neither of us had seen The Decline before but I think I can safely say that we’d be keen to see the band again as they were brilliant. Fast-paced and lively – the perfect Fest band. When stating that they were from Australia they asked if anyone else was also, which produced a few shouts and hand raises. They also asked who was from anywhere else other than America – cue input from further Festies. Further proof of how unique The Fest is to draw people from all over the globe.

We weren’t able to stay for the whole of The Decline’s set as we wanted to go over to Whiskey House, just over the road from Market Street Pub, to see Jose Prieto of MakeWar’s solo acoustic set. As I missed his band’s full set, I agreed that we could sacrifice the end of another band’s set to see him – fun fact: The Decline were actually on tour with MakeWar before Fest! Colin told me that MakeWar played mostly tracks from their new album (that I hadn’t listened to at the time) during their full band show but Jose chose to play some of his older songs, that I was familiar with. There’s definitely a reason why Jose’s original solo project used to be named Sad And French (well, I’m not sure about the French part). Hearing songs such as Shorter Days And Longer Nights and Another Way To Let You Go live and completely stripped back was another level of emotion. Jose’s performance was heart-wrenching, but honestly in the best possible way.

Leaving Whiskey House, we found ourselves with a gap in our schedule where we didn’t have definite plans to see a certain artist. I’d listened to Everymen on our (previously mentioned) Fest 15 Spotify playlist and suggested that we go and check them out, at least for a few songs. Everymen were playing in a venue we hadn’t yet been to (not that we actually made it to all of the Fest venues anyway) called Tall Pauls. It turned out that Tall Pauls was a reasonably sized venue with some excellent interior design choices – my favourite part being the inflatable skull with moving eyes (I really hope it is there all year round and it wasn’t just for Halloween). The stage was set up with old-fashioned style microphones but, with a modern twist, they had coloured light boxes attached to them. All these additional venue elements were much suited to Everymen, a rowdy DIY folk punk band. We only stayed for a few songs but during that time memembers of the band played their instruments in the crowd. It was certainly something different to the more typical punk bands and probably just what we needed on Sunday afternoon.

After we checked out Everymen we made our way to Rocky's Piano Bar for a bit of a relaxation time. There we checked out the first band of the day to play at Rocky's, Orlando's Henrietta. In all honesty neither me or Emma knew who Henrietta were before the set and we did pretty much go to Rocky's because it seemed like a good place to have a pit stop before the end of the nights fun - there were seat available. Henrietta played a good set of punk rock music though and kept my attention throughout their time on the stage. Combining indie, punk and emo, Henrietta were unlike any band we had seen all weekend and offered a nice bit of variety to the evening.

Once Henrietta finished we checked out a bit of Jabber covering the Spice Girls, before heading back to Bo Diddley Plaza where we got some food and checked out the merch stands. After spending far too much money there, we got into the crowd for another of our favourite acts. Everyone's favourite unlucky-in-love criminals, Masked Intruder. I'm sure everyone knows who Masked Intruder are by now so I won't go in to their whole criminal gimmick thing here - there doesn't seem any need for it. What I will say is how fantastic Masked Intruder are as a live band. The songs are perfect for a live performance and the band itself are masters of entertaining a crowd. Each member of the band, and Officer Bradford who acts as somewhat of a hype man for the band, play their roles perfectly and have Gainesville dancing, singing along and most importantly of all smiling and having fun. During the track I Fought The Law, Officer Bradford jumped into the crowd and proceeded to dance with everyone he lays eyes on, as well as offering high fives and hugs a plenty. There are some nice surprises from the band's set, the first being Roger of Less Than Jake fame taking over from Green on guitar for Hey Girl so Green can get into the crowd and find a girl to bring on stage to dance with. The second surprise really blew my mind. It was time for Heart Shaped Guitar. Normally the band find a lady from the crowd to get on stage to sing the lady's lines in the song - on the record it is sung by Maura Weaver of Mixtapes. To everyone's surprise for this performance of Heart Shaped Guitar at Fest 15 the band brought out Maura to sing it with them. This was one of those magical moments I never thought I'd get a chance to see and to use a cool, trendy person term - I was pretty stoked. I can't think of many bands I enjoy watching more than Masked Intruder. One does spring to mind, however, and they were up next!

Why is Emma reviewing Colin’s favourite band I hear you ask? Well, before Fest when we saw Less Than Jake and The Menzingers (two separate gigs) in London we decided that Colin should review Menzo’s Fest set and I should review Gainesville kings, Less Than Jake – to mix things up a bit. I must say, I feel more than a little under-qualified to review this band but it does help a little that I absolutely loved their Sunday night finale performance, so I have nothing but good things to say. As the folk at the front for Masked Intruder moved to go and get beers, or whatever, I eagerly claimed us a spot at the front. This was our first time getting so close to the Bo Diddley Plaza stage but what better band to do so for than the Fest 15 closers. And what better band to close Fest 15 than Less Than Jake, one of Gainesville’s best and most celebrated bands of any genre and almost definitely the best ska punk band. Now, prior to October 2016 I hadn’t seen Less Than Jake before but I was more than happy – excited even – to see the band for a second time in the same month (their Brixton show earlier in October is one of my top gigs of the year). They are an incredible band that really is best enjoyed live, such great performers and they always look like they are having as good a time as, if not better than, the crowd. Unlike perhaps a more typical punk band, there’s more to their performance than their music alone – there’s toilet paper guns and dancing a’plenty from the LTJ mascot. Such things may sound gimmicky but they’re really not and, besides, Less Than Jake played a hell of a good setlist too. This being a hometown show and there being many people in the audience who have been fans for years and years, have seen them countless times and know all of the words to their songs, it probably comes as no surprise that they played some of their biggest ‘hits’ from their back catalogue – and their older songs in particular. Songs such as Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts, Dopeman, The Science of Selling Yourself Short, Look What Happened and All My Best Friends Are Metalheads were played and were extremely well received by the crowd too. Playing a hometown show has got to be pretty special, even more so when your hometown is host to the best punk fest in the world and your band is the one ending it. And so, the highlight of their set was their very last track – and it could be no other – Gainesville Rock City. I know it has been a dream of Colin’s for ten years or more to hear Less Than Jake play this song in Gainesville. He finally got to hear it and I did too.

After Less Than Jake I was pretty much ready for my Fest 15 experience to finish. Less Than Jake are my all time favourite band and I'd just seen them from the front row in their hometown at Fest. I'm not sure it can get better than that? If it wasn't for the fact that we'd left before The Copyrights the night before then I probably would have said to Emma let's go home and finish the night and the festival on that incredible high. But I really wanted to see The Copyrights so off to the High Dive we went with a few tears in my eyes due to the overwhelming brilliance of Less Than Jake.

We were both pretty exhausted by the time The Copyrights began their set so my memory of the set is pretty hazy to say the least. I know that they played an entirely different set from the night before. Frontman Adam said that the band had had to learn forty songs for Fest, that's pretty impressive. The crowd absolutely loved it with plenty of people climbing up on stage to crowd surf. How these people still had the energy to do this after three (or five in case of the pre-festers) is beyond me, full credit to those crazy folks. It was cool to see The Copyrights after all these years of being a fan, I just wish I was a bit more with it to really embrace the set.

With that our Fest was done. The Fest 15 had truly been a dream come true for both Emma and myself. We have both really wanted to attend the festival for years but had never had anyone to go with. When we first spoke, going to Fest was one of the first things we bonded over. Being in Gainesville together fourteen months later, basically due to Emma being very good at organising me is just incredible to me. We have both said before the festival that we wouldn't be able to come every year due to the cost of flying to Florida and also wanting to visit other parts of the world. But I think that we both would love to come back to Gainesville every year for the rest of our lives, if we could. Fest is just an amazing life experience. I don't even think you have to have a big love of punk music to enjoy it. If you like great bands and most importantly great people then The Fest is for you. It'll be the best three days of your year every single year.

The day after Fest, Emma and I took one last trip into the downtown area of Gainesville where Fest was situated. It was a strange feeling as it felt like a ghost town compared to the past four days. After grabbing a bite to eat we popped into two great Gainesville record shops - Arrows Aim Records and Hear Again Records, spent far too much money again and then made our way to Bo Diddley Plaza one last time. We had expected it to be all fenced off while a crew takes all of the stage rigging down, tidies up and generally helps put Gainesville back together. To our shock it was all done and completely spotless (aside from a few bits of ticker tape from Less Than Jake). It was like Fest hadn't happened and it had all been a wonderful dream. We took a seat looking at the stage and took stock of the past few days. I thought about just how organised everything had been. Not a single band started late or overran, there were no issues with sound, no trouble with the crowd that I'd seen or heard of and it was always so tidy. At gigs in the UK, so often you have to walk through piles of empty plastic drinks cups at the end of the night and all of the floors would be so sticky due to spilt (or thrown) drinks. This was never the case in Gainesville. For an outside stage in the UK it would take weeks to get back to normal, The Fest managed it in less than a day. That in itself is an incredible achievement.

In summary, like my wrist band says, I LOVE TO FEST.

Final t-shirt game scores:

Masked Intruder (Colin): 13
PUP (Emma): 22

Emma wins! (I knew I would.)

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Gig Review: The Fest 15 Day Two 29/10/16

It was time for day two of Fest 15 and I was thinking about the problems that I'd experienced from the first day. The main ones were that I hadn't eaten or drunk enough throughout the day because I'd been too busy running round wanting to check out all of the bands. I decided a good way to help fix this problem would be to eat as much as I possibly could before heading to Fest. After having breakfast reasonably late I headed to the local Circle K to stock up. In the Circle K I bought a massive turkey and ham salad (which also had cheese in it as - all American food seems to have cheese on it) and a huge can of Pepsi - twice the size of the ones that we get at home in the UK. Before leaving for Fest, I ate it all down and we made our way downtown for day two of The Fest!

(Emma's sections are in italic)

Our day started off at Bo Diddley Plaza to see San Francisco's Dead To Me. Featuring former members of One Man Army, Western Addiction and Enemy You, Dead To Me are somewhat of a punk supergroup and are a much loved part of the punk rock scene. Opening up the second day of the festival is arguably a harder job than opening the first day. I imagine there were a lot more sore heads on the second day of the festival. This didn't deter the band, who are currently performing as a four piece, from putting on a great show. Bass player, Chicken, in particular stood out on stage, looking permanantly angry as he stalked and snarled around the stage. Highlights for me was old classic Don't Lie and new tune I Wanna Die In Los Angeles.

Next up was a special Off With Their Heads acoustic set in Loosey's. We left Dead To Me a little early knowing that this would be a very popular set and not one we wanted to miss out on. Unfortunately when we arrived at Loosey's there was already a fairly sizable queue so we weren't sure if we'd get in at all. We decided to stick it out until Iron Chic's set at Bo Diddley was due to start, if we were still in the queue then we'd call it quits and go and watch that. Happily we made it in and managed to catch what we thought was half of Off With Their Heads set. We later found out, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, that the opening ten minutes or so of the set had been spent with Ryan Young officiating a Fest wedding which meant we only ended up missing a couple of songs - though one was Clear The Air, so that sucked. What we did hear and get to shout along with was a real treat. This was a big departure from OWTH's normal, full speed ahead, as loud and as angry as possible approach to punk rock and not something I'd expect to ever see again so I was happy to see some of it even if we didn't get to see it all.

After Off With Their Heads we decided to go and watch the rest of Iron Chic's set at Bo Diddley Plaza. They were halfway through their set when we arrived and there was a huge crowd so we watched from towards the back of the crowd. Looking at the stage I noticed that Iron Chic had a special guest with them in the form of Mattie Jo Camino of RVIVR, Latterman and Tender Defender on backing vocals. Mattie Jo must have been one of the busiest performers over the entire Fest weekend! If you've experienced Iron Chic live before, you know what to expect. Big fist in the air sing-a-longs to the best melodic punk band in the world. Even with only catching half of their set, I could feel my throat getting sore from shouting along with front man Jason Lubrano at the top of my voice. Highlights of the set included a cover of my favourite Ramones song Bonzo Goes To Bitburg and the band being joined by another member of RVIVR, Erica Freas, to sing her part on the track Don't Drive Angry.

When Iron Chic finished, we went off to a place named Boca Fiesta to check out a band neither of us were that familiar with - Chicago's The Brokedowns. All I knew of The Brokedowns was a 2010 released album named Species Bender but nothing after that and Emma knew nothing at all besides hearing the odd song on a Fest playlist. Hopefully we were in for a great surprise. We made our way to Boca Fiesta, getting a little confused at how you get in to discover the stage was actually set outside in the bar's beer garden. What a good setting for some punk rock in the Florida sunshine. Taking to the stage and making some jokes about how early it was in the day to be playing a set, The Brokedowns did in fact surprise me by just how much I enjoyed their set. It was some hard hitting mid-western punk rock in a similar vein to Dillinger Four, just with much more shouting. The Brokedowns are a band that loves to have fun and it's apparent throughout their set, smiling throughout their songs and making plenty of jokes in-between. They are a band I've been listening to lots since I got home.

After spending most of day two thus far in the blazing Florida sunshine, I was quite happy to return to the coolness of High Dive to see Tender Defender. Being a fan of the members of Tender Defender’s other bands – RVIVR, Iron Chic and Latterman – I knew that Tender Defender were a must see. With only one 5-track EP behind them, they are a relatively new band but that didn’t stop them from drawing a large crowd. Being relatively new probably also means that many people won’t have had a chance to see them yet – us included, as Tender Defender were in London while we were up north for Manchester Punk Festival – so there was much excitement. Their set consisted of tracks from their self-titled EP and they closed with an excellent cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark, which got a big thumbs up from me. It was a lively and fun set that finished all too quickly – one of my favourites from the weekend.

Leaving High Dive, we headed back out into the sunshine and made our way to a new venue – The Midnight. We arrived at what we thought was going to be another indoor bar show to the sound of saxophone and trombone being played around the corner. We followed the music and found London’s Ghouls playing the last song of their stripped back but not quite acoustic set (electric guitar plus the aforementioned horns) in a sunny courtyard area. As they finished up their set we settled down on one of the benches ready to see Dan Allen of Ducking Punches, one of the only UK artists we’d be seeing at Fest, play a solo acoustic set. If you don’t follow the band then you probably won’t know that Dan broke his leg a couple of months ago filming a music video, because of this he still had his leg strapped up but thankfully he was able to walk around. Unfortunately, as we soon found out, he’d also lost his voice so wasn’t sure how good a performance he’d be able to do. His reasonably short set consisted of only the most singalong-able Ducking Punches songs so that everyone watching – and there was quite a gathering of people – could help him with the words. It was excellent. With The Midnight’s courtyard singing louder than Dan himself I had a proper sense of ‘This is what makes The Fest special.’

We stuck around at The Midnight after Dan’s set to watch one of my favourites Lincoln Le Fevre, again. I knew we’d be leaving his set early to get back over to Bo Diddley Plaza for The Menzingers main stage set, but I was more than happy to watch a few Lincoln songs again. There’s something really captivating about his music – vocals with an Australian twang and his charming storytelling ability – that means I could happily watch him day after day. He expressed that he was feeling a little worse for wear after the first day of Fest but that didn’t stop him from putting on another flawless performance. A highlight of the set was his song Hope & Crown which, when played live, features a lot of harmonica, additional experimental guitar riffs and extra lyrics – very reminiscent of blues music and something that can only really be pulled off live.

After hanging out at The Midnight, Emma and I made our way back to Bo Diddley Plaza for The Menzingers. Emma and I are big fans of the Philly foursome and had already seen them in London earlier in October (plus Emma saw their secret set the day before at Fest) so we pretty much knew what to expect from the show. But that didn't stop them being absolutely brilliant. Playing a set that was strikingly similar to their London show, we sang from the opening of Lookers to the end of In Remission, I even kept singing along to Casey whilst I was in line for the toilet with a friendly Fest punk. The only time we weren't singing was when they played brand new song Bad Catholics from upcoming new album After The Party - I'm sure next time we see them we'll sing-a-long with that one as well. The Menzingers are Fest Legends and Fest 15 was their tenth consecutive year playing the festival. To celebrate this fact Fest leader Tony Weinbender came on stage with a cake to help commemorate the special occasion. It really is quite the achievement for the band who have grown along with The Fest. If The Fest goes for another twenty years I imagine that The Menzingers will be playing it.

When I initially looked at The Fest 15 schedule I noticed that Cheap Girls would clash with The Menzingers. I’d seen Cheap Girls before and, although I really do like them, figured that I probably wouldn’t skip one of my absolute favourite bands for them. However, we did end up being able to catch a few Cheap Girls songs at the end of their set. Cheap Girls were playing in a venue called Cowboys and this was our first and only time that we’d be going there. Given the name of the venue, you can probably imagine that when not being used as a Fest venue Cowboys is a western-themed night club – not the kind of place that us punks would typically go to (nor probably be allowed into). There’s been a lot of reports of the Cowboys staff treating Fest goers badly over the weekend which is not cool but there’s no denying that a venue the size of Cowboys is greatly beneficial to Fest. And the nightclub was packed out with people watching the Michigan band. As I said, we didn’t get to hear many songs from Cheap Girls but they did play Her And Cigarettes, Slow Nod and Pure Hate in the latter half of their set. Their style of music is right up my street so I'm keen to see them again, properly, soon.

We split up again and I went along to High Dive to see one of my favourite discoveries of the year - Western Settings. The band, from San Diego, had just finished a European tour (though they didn't come to the UK, boo!) landing back in America a few days before Fest 15 began so I was expecting them to be tour tight during their performance. By golly they were! Western Settings, with Problem Daughter's Regan Ashton filling in on guitar, played a fantastic set of melodic pop punk. Featuring gruff, raspy vocals that allow for some great fist in the air, scream as loud as you possibly can moments. There are a few new bands emerging as the next wave of awesome punk bands and Western Settings are leading the charge.

After Cheap Girls, we left Cowboys and returned to Bo Diddley for a brief time to grab some food from the kiosks within the plaza. Feeling suitably nourished it was time for Colin and I to part ways again as he wanted to see Western Settings and I didn’t want to miss Joe McMahon. I had to queue for a little while when I arrived at Rockey’s Piano Bar – clearly there were lots of people as keen to see the Smoke Or Fire frontman as I was – but I made it inside while Joe and his band were still soundchecking. Another Life, Joe McMahon’s debut solo album released a few months ago, is one of my favourite albums of 2016 so I was very happy to find that he and his band would be playing the album in full… at least, I assume they played it in full as I left after track 9, Black Socks Set Sail, as it was time for Not Half Bad. It was great to hear the songs played live and Neon Lights in particular was a highlight. Joe explained how although the song was first recorded for a Smoke Or Fire album it was always meant to be a solo track and the version on Another Life is how it should have sounded from the beginning. I love those little insights into songs that you only get from hearing an artist talk about them.

After meeting back up with Emma we headed to Durty Nelly's to see Not Half Bad, a band we were both very excited to see for the first time. After finding our way in (the door was out the back - very confusing) we made our way to the stage for the start of the Texan's set. Looking around Durty Nelly's I really liked what I saw. It was pretty small and just felt like a great place to watch great punk bands. As the band (who had two members of California's Moonraker helping them out today) started with the song Van Forever, I noticed that the crowd was a little small - definitely the smallest I had seen so far at Fest. This probably had something to do with Dillinger Four playing Bo Diddley Plaza at the same time. Despite the smallness of the crowd at Durty Nelly's it was probably the most passionate set of fans at any set I saw at Fest. They sung along with every word and got really sweaty, up close and personal with the band. All the years I've been watching Fest videos on the YouTube, this was the closest to the chaotic and fun times I've seen. Their performance really felt like a real old school Fest set and made me smile from start to finish. It was fantastic to hear one of my favourite Not Half Bad songs, Daybeers, live and Emma got a enjoyed hearing Van Forever. There was also a nice moment where they slipped in a section of the D4 song Gainesville into a song, as well as playing a Moonraker song as a thanks to the boys for helping out.

Following Not Half Bad's awesome set we left for the Market Street Pub. I was already on a major high after Not Half Bad and was now incredibly excited to see Pkew Pkew Pkew. The Canadian pop punks have released one of my favourite albums of the year and I couldn't wait to see them live. Turns out a lot of people felt the same way as Market Street Pub was packed. After picking up the band's debut album on vinyl ,we found a good spot towards the side of the stage and settled in for what was sure to be a wild time. Starting out with the song The Prime Minister Of Defence the crowd's PBRs immediately began to spill all over the place. Pkew Pkew Pkew are in their perfect environment with a Fest Crowd, a group of people who love getting drunk and having a lot of fun. I have to admit I hadn't realised just how popular Pkew Pkew Pkew are in America but the entire room was singing along with every single word. This felt like one of those live sets that could be a milestone in the career of a band that helps propel them to the next level.

After Pkew Pkew Pkew's brilliant set we headed back to the High Dive planning on completing our night with three more pop punk bands. First up was Oregon's Broadway Calls. The first and only time I've seen Broadway calls was back in 2013 at the Camden Underworld with a stellar line up including Great Cynics, Gnarwolves and a little known band at the time called Moose Blood. I was really impressed with Broadway Calls that night and I was expecting more of the same in Gainesville. Last time I saw them I remember thinking how different they sound on record compared to a live show. On record everything is really slickly produced and sounds very polished. Live they are still very slick but there is much more of a raw punk feeling to their sound. This is what I prefer and I don't think that I'm alone in this as the crowd at the High Dive went nuts for the three piece. Every song was a sing-a-long and there were plenty of people getting on stage for crowd surfs. Highlights of this set were Be All That You Can Be, Back To Oregon and the awesome Save Our Ships.

Following Broadway Calls we had some pop punk royalty in the form of Chixdiggit! The Toronto based band have been together for twenty five years but this was my first time seeing them. It's safe to say that I was quite excited. And with good reason as this turned into one of the funniest and most entertaining sets of music that I've ever seen. Most Chixdiggit songs contain a lot of humour but it also turns out that frontman KJ Jansen is also a very funny man between songs. Throughout the entire set he would shout to the crowd "Let's hear it for Chixdiggit!" The more he did this the funnier it became. It wasn't just about being funny though, Chixdiggit delivered a set list (made up of mostly requests from the crowd) that showed just what a great band they are. Every song they played was met with dancing, sing-a-longs and big smiles. Playing the "hits" from a pretty extensive back catalogue, not a single person was left disappointed by these legends. They even played new song written for The Copyrights, who were up next that went something like "The Copyrights, they're alright" (that might be completely wrong - it was a long day). Chixdiggit really managed to perk Emma up, who by this point was struggling to stay awake and she particularly enjoyed the song Miso Ramen. Spanish Fever was a highlight for me as well as anything they played from Pink Razors - one of my all time favourite pop punk albums. Chixdiggit were amazing. Let's hear it for Chixdiggit!

After Chixdiggit, we decided to make our way back to the hotel. Poor Emma was exhausted and under the weather, plus The Copyrights were playing another set the next day. We decided it would be good to rest now and live to Fest another day tomorrow!

For those wondering how the t-shirt game is going the scores after day two were:

Masked Intruder (Colin): 10
PUP (Emma): 18