Considering that we don’t actually live in London, Colin and I only occasionally go to gigs that aren’t in the big smoke. Last Friday however we ventured less than 40 miles to Hemel Hempstead which is, of course, the home of Codename Colin. We’d never been to the venue or town before (Colin actually said he’d only heard of the place since knowing the band – I’m from Milton Keynes so I know it as being on the trainline to London) so it would be interesting to see what a gig there was like. There was also the added lure of top ska punk bands Filthy Militia and Last Edition plus local pop punkers Saving Sebastian, as well as the fact that the gig was Halloween themed – any excuse to wear my skeleton dress. We arrived fairly early and found the Oddfellows Arms, a small live music pub in the Apsley area of Hemel Hempstead, suitably decked out for Halloween and already reasonably busy.
Filthy Militia were the first band on and, despite having some trouble with trains out of London and arriving later than they’d have liked, they quickly embraced their role as opening band to get the room moving. It’s somehow been over a year since we saw Filthy Militia (despite seeing singer and guitarist Frosty regularly at the New Cross Inn), so we were particularly looking forward to their set. Joined by Snowy from Codename Colin on trumpet, Filthy Militia played a brilliant set comprised of tracks from their 2018 EP, Innocent Until Proven Filthy, such as Storm Warning and Little Sister, as well as some new songs – notably one about ‘everyone’s favourite zombie’, Jesus. We were also treated to a rendition of Monster Mash which, obviously, got the Oddfellows Arms singing and dancing. The evening was off to a great start, that’s for sure.
The pub was starting to pack out a bit more by the time the second band were due on stage. It turns out that Saving Sebastian are rather popular in their hometown and we soon understood why. The four-piece’s brand of pop punk isn’t normally the sort of thing I’d listen to but there’s no denying that these chaps know how to put on a fun live performance. It’s full of all the banter and jokes you’d expect from a pop punk band – plus one of their members was dressed like Geri of the Spice Girls – including when they said they were going to play a Blink 182 song and proceeded to play Linoleum by NOFX. Other than the cover, their setlist consisted of tracks from their two EPs with a particular highlight being Hometown, for obvious reasons, from this year’s Minefield EP. We’ve seen Saving Sebastian twice before, at the New Cross Inn, but I think I enjoyed them more in their home setting.
Leicester’s Last Edition are one of my favourite ska punk bands in the UK at the moment and so I was understandably rather eager to see them play again – even if they were the band of the line-up that we’d seen most recently. All ska punk bands are fun live but there’s something about Last Edition that makes me want to dance that little bit harder. It’s probably those wonderfully infectious sax lines but it might also have something to do with how much fun the band seem to be having when they perform. Tracks such as This One, Last Orders and the instrumental Skank Only from their 2016 album, Best Foot Forward, were well received alongside some new as yet unreleased songs. One thing that’s for certain is that I can’t wait for them to release their next EP or album. Vocalist and guitarist Matty mentioned at one point that Last Edition have spent their last two Halloween weekends playing with Codename Colin so it was nice to be there for the third time.
Many alcoholic beverages later (not for me, I was driving), it was finally time for Codename Colin to take to the stage. Filthy Militia, Saving Sebastian and Last Edition had got the audience suitably warmed up but I expected that Codename Colin would take things to the next level. Opening their set with a statement about how we were supposed to have left the EU on the 1st of November and, singer and guitarist, Charlie proclaiming ‘We love Europe’ before bursting into the beginning of The Final Countdown was just perfect. The song had the crowd singing and dancing from the very start and it didn’t relent when the band moved onto their own songs. The band, who are now a five-piece, were joined by their ex-saxophone player Sam who no longer lives in the UK (I can’t recall if it was Sweden or Switzerland that he’s moved to!) making Codename Colin a six-piece for one night only. This was our first time seeing Codename Colin in any shape or form since they released their excellent debut album, Escape From Everything, in June this year. We’ve listened to the album a lot at CPRWHQ so it was great to hear and sing along to my favourites from the album including World’s Gonna End – a song that feels increasingly more apt as the days go by – and Dreamstate. As well as their killer original songs, Codename Colin are rather good at covers as already displayed with their opening song. Having seen the band cover a variety of pop and rock songs over the years, my absolute favourite has to be Feeder’s Just A Day. Throwing it into their Halloween party set was definitely a good idea as the crowd lapped it up – I guess turns out us punks really like early 2000s indie rock. We also enjoyed Codename Colin’s rendition of Five’s Keep On Movin’ perhaps a little too much. The band played for over an hour, with some breaks in between songs to hand out prizes and allow Charlie’s vocals to recover, but it flew by. Finishing up with Escape From Everything, the album of the same name’s closing track, we were all left with smiles on our faces.
I didn’t know what to expect from a gig in Hemel Hempstead but it was an excellent night. Should the opportunity arise, we will certainly be returning to Oddfellows Arms – particularly if Codename Colin are playing.
This gig review was written by Emma Prew. (Rubbish photography also by Emma.)