Friday, 29 October 2021

CPRW Playlist: October 2021

CPRW Playlist: Here's what Brett, Chris, Dan#2, Emma, Ilse, John, Lara, Lee, Marcus, Omar, Rich, Richard, Robyn, Theo and myself have been listening to in October.

Thursday, 28 October 2021

Column: Colin's Fest 19 Preview

We booked our tickets for Fest 19 way back when they went on sale back in April 2020. This was a time before most people really understood what effect COVID-19 would have on the world. We mostly decided to go due to our great friends Triple Sundae and Burnt Tapes getting booked to play the festival and we wanted to celebrate them accomplishing something they’ve worked so hard to achieve with them. Sadly, but understandably, Fest 19 was pushed back a year and our tickets rolled over. The effect the pandemic had on the world continued and more and more bands (particularly the international bands) had to drop out. I, being equal parts naïve and optimistic, still had high hopes that we would still be able to attend so I spent my summer listening to every single band on the line-up so I could work out what I thought would be the perfect schedule for me.

Heartbreakingly the day came when we had to make the decision to refund our tickets as it became clearer and clearer we wouldn’t be able to travel. Because of all the effort I’d put in to listening to all the bands, I still wanted to write a preview for the Fest. Perhaps anyone reading this will find a band they hadn’t previously checked out and be encouraged to go and see them. I’m writing this in a way that describes what I would have done if things could have got better and we could’ve jumped on the plane to Gainesville. Fingers crossed we can make it to Fest 20 instead.

Friday 29th October

I’d start my day and the festival with Plastic Flamingos at Mother’s Pub (15.10–15.40). Based in North Carolina, the four piece are a late addition to the festival and I was really pleased to see them added. Lead singer Brian has long been a popular member of the Fest Friends community and I know they must be absolutely delighted to get on the line up. Plastic Flamingos play a fun combination of surf rock and power pop that always puts a smile on my face when I listen to them. American Television (16.50–17.20) released my one of my favourite albums of 2020 in the shape of Watch It Burn. That title feels so appropriate given everything that happened in 2020. They play energetic pop punk music with big choruses. The majority of themes of the band’s songs are growing up and watching the world fall apart, something all of the Fest attendees will relate to I’m sure. Last year they also released a five song covers EP, I’d love to hear their cover of Officer by Operation Ivy live.

From Mother’s Pub I would go over to Heartwood for an early evening of ska courtesy of Bad Time Records. First up is New Orlean eight piece Joystick (17.40–18.10). I Can’t Take It Anymore is one of the best ska punk releases of the year. Swapping between third wave ska punk and skacore, it’s fast, fun and aggressive. It’s also extremely thoughtful and touches upon some heavy subjects. Following on from Joystick are the mighty Omnigone (18.30–19.00). Former Link 80 guitarist Adam Davis’ newest project are one of my favourite bands in the world. Their debut album, No Faith, is a skacore masterpiece and some of the latest songs the band have released look to continue on in the same form. Omnigone were the band on the line up I was most excited to see and I’m so sad I can’t be down the front singing my heart out to the band. Also playing at the exact same time as Omnigone are Boss’ Daughter at The Wooly. They are another band I was very keen on seeing but clashes are always an inevitability on any decent festival line up. The third of a triple threat of Bad Time ska bands are Catbite (19.20–20.00). The Philadelphian band are on their way to becoming the biggest ska band on the planet and, again, I’m desperate to see them live. Taking on an updated version of traditional ska and two tone, I imagine every Catbite set is a super fun dance party full of massive smiles.

After catching a little bit of Kill Lincoln at Heartwood (20.20–21.00) I would make my way to Knockin’ Boots Saloon for The Eradicator (20.35–21.15). From the moment I first discovered the squash loving punk rockers I’ve been very keen to see them. I imagine it’s a very entertaining and unique live show that also results in the crowd getting all the kinds of rowdy. Musically I would describe The Eradicator as a super aggressive melodic pop punk style. Really catchy songs screamed into your face – often about squash. What’s not to love? I would have to leave Knockin’Boots a little before the end of The Eradicator’s set to head to Loosey’s for City Windows (21.00–21.40). City Windows were one of my favourite discoveries when researching all the bands on the line-up. The beauty of festivals is the chance to discover new bands you were previously unaware of. Overseas festivals add an extra bonus of getting the chance to see new bands before they make it to your own country. City Windows are a four piece based in San Diego, California, who play melodic gruff punk. They feature plenty of my favourite musical device – gang vocals. My memory of Loosey’s is that it’s a reasonably small room so I would be looking forward to getting sweaty with a room full of new best friends singing along to this awesome band. Speaking of new discoveries, next up is Bashful (21.50–22.20) at somewhere called Vecinos. Bashful play that wonderful kind of pop punk that you would expect to find at Fest. High octane and melodic with fantastic vocals and plenty of opportunity for singing along with the band.

As much as I love to check out new bands at festivals, it’s always fun to see old favourites as well. After Bashful’s set I would head back to Knockin’ Boots for Broadway Calls (22.35–23.15). I was excited to see Broadway Calls on their UK tour with The Flatliners in 2020 but sadly that got cancelled. Fest was my opportunity to catch them again but here I am stuck in the UK. In 2020 the Oregon based three piece released the excellent Sad In The City on Red Scare Industries and I imagine that the set would have been packed with songs from that album, alongside many of their bangers from their back catalogue. After Broadway Calls I would head back to the ska party at Heartwood for the legendary Mustard Plug (23.30–00.00). I love that headlining a day full of so many of the new bands who are dragging ska back into the punk scene’s attention is an act that’s been going strong for thirty years. I’ve only managed to see Mustard Plug once live (at Fest 15 in 2016) and I’ve been desperate to see them again. I’ve been hoping for a UK tour but alas, no such luck. Mustard Plug are a perfect pick to close the ska stage – I can close my eyes and imagine the massive “whoa-ohs” from the crowd during Beer (Song).

Following Mustard Plug I would rush back to Loosey’s for the final two bands of my day. Firstly The Slow Death (00.00–00.40). The Slow Death are a band I’ve been aware of for ages but for some reason I never checked out properly until I started my Fest research. It turns out that The Slow Death are a midwest punk rock super group with members of Dillinger Four, The Ergs and Dear Landlord among others. Three of my favourite bands, so I really should’ve been paying more attention. The band recently celebrated 10 years of their classic album Born Ugly Got Worse and I guess are celebrating by playing Fest. If you know what those bands I listed sound like then I’m sure you have a great idea of what to expect from The Slow Death. The final band of my Friday at Fest are Tiltwheel (01.00–01.40). Tiltwheel have the exact sound I think of when I think about a traditional Fest sound. Raspy voiced melodic punk to shout along to in a sweaty room. At this point in the day I’m sure that plenty of Festers will be on their last legs and Tiltwheel strike me as the perfect band to send everyone into the night after one final party.

Saturday 30th October

My Saturday starts off early and peacefully with a trio of acoustic acts. Tim Browne of Elway (12.00–12.30), Jen Pop of The Bombpops (12.40–13.10) and Kali Masi (13.20–13.50) will all be performing at 4th Avenue Food Park. This seems a great way to ease into another long day watching some of the best bands in the world. The first full band performance of the day for me would be Goalkeeper at Fox Lounge (14.20–14.50). Goalkeeper are a three piece from Philadelphia. The band play more of a cleaner sounding pop punk style similar to the likes of The Ataris, New Found Glory or Real Friends and I feel like they would have a nice nostalgic feel. Let’s face it, most of us grew up listening to this sound and still enjoy it from time to time. I will get the opportunity to see Goalkeeper at Bristol Booze Cruise next summer so that’s something to look forward to. Staying at Fox Lounge for something completely different, up next it’s Hans Gruber & The Die Hards (15.10–15.40). Hans Gruber & The Die Hards are one of the few ska bands playing that aren’t signed to Bad Time Records. Playing a bit of ska, a bit of punk, a bit of thrash and any other sound they fancy, HG&TDH are one of the most unique sounding ska bands in the scene currently and I would expect a wild and crazy live show where anything could happen.

Next I’m off to the Heartwood stage for Dollar Signs (16.00–16.40). Dollar Signs were my must see act of the Saturday. I’ve been dying to see them for years and their newest album, Hearts Of Gold, is currently my album of the year. Even on recoding they are this incredible ball of frenetic energy so I can only imagine what they are like live. I very much feel like this could be one of those big Fest moments that people will be talking about for a long time. The band write hugely relatable songs about growing up, trying to fit in and living with mental health problems and they do it all whilst putting big smiles on the listener’s face. Luckily for me the fine folk who organise Booze Cruise are bringing Dollar Signs to Europe next summer.

At the conclusion of Dollar Signs’ set I will rush over to The Wooly for Telethon (16.40–17.10). Telethon are an Emma Prew favourite, she loves the band’s last two albums Hard Pop and Swim Out Past The Breakers. The five piece don’t seem to confine themselves to one particular sound, combining power pop, indie, punk, folk, ska and anything else they feel like. This makes me think that they’ll be very entertaining to see live. Staying at The Wooly, Madison Turner (17.30–18.00) are up next. This is another band I only discovered thanks to my extensive Fest research. Madison started out as a solo artist before going full band on their latest effort, A Comprehensive Guide To Burning Out. Much like Telethon it seems that no genre is off limit for Madison Turner, mixing together folk, scrappy indie, pop punk and ska upstrokes. There are also loads of delightful harmonies on the record which I think will translate brilliantly to a live setting.

I’d probably have to leave Madison Turner a little early to head over to High Dive for Nightmarathons (17.50–18.30). I’ve been a big fan of Nightmarathons since hearing their 2019 album Missing Parts. It’s been on regular rotation at CPRW Towers since its release and I’ve never got to see them live. Something I really enjoy about Nightmarathons is their use of multiple vocalists and, of course, their gang vocals. The style creates such a big opportunity for a big sing-along that you would always expect from a band playing Fest. Next I would head to Vecinos for Almost People (19.00–19.30). Almost People play fantastic pop punk music with very smart lyrics. They remind me a lot of Spraynard whenever I listen to them and that’s always a good thing. As I mentioned earlier, whenever I go to a festival abroad I always make a point of checking out bands that aren’t as likely to find their way to the UK and Almost People fit into that category.

Dikembe (20.00–20.40, Heartwood) seem like a band you have to see at Fest at least one time. The band are a big part of The Fest team and play every year. The four piece play a crossover of jangly emo and alternative grunge music and their discography offers a lot of varying sounds. This should make for a very interesting live set in front of a passionate hometown crowd. Following Dikembe I would head back to High Dive for Devon Kay & The Solutions (20.50–21.30). I can only imagine the amount of fun that this set is likely to be. I’ve seen Devon play a few times with Direct Hit in the past and he is always great to watch on stage, so it would be great to see what he’s like as the actual front man of his own band. Something that I think is really cool about DK&TS is how much their sound changes between albums, this has got to make for a spectacular live set.

In 2019 Gainesville punk legends Hot Water Music (21.30–23.00) did two nights at the Camden Underworld in London. One night they played Caution in full and the other they played A Flight And A Crash. I only managed to go to the Caution night so Fest would have given us the opportunity to see A Flight And A Crash in full. And to see them do it in Gainesville would have been such a special and unique moment. Like the time I got to see Less Than Jake play Gainesville Rock City in Gainesville. Obviously this will take place at Bo Diddley Plaza, in front of what I’d expect to be a capacity crowd.

I have to admit, I’ll probably leave HWM a little early to go and catch Rad Owl (22.40–23.10) at Fox Lounge. Rad Owl are one of a number of fantastic bands I’ve discovered due to being on this line up. Featuring ex-members of bands such as Samiam, Gratitude, Align, The Stereo and The Tank, Rad Owl play melodic punk rock packed with big hooks and plenty of moments to sing-along to. I’ll continue to hang out in Fox Lounge for the next band Bricheros (23.30–00.00). The band are originally from Peru but now are based in Denver and LA. Another great discovery for me due to them being on this line-up, they play some of the best Ramonescore pop punk I’ve heard in some time. I feel like they offer the Fest line-up something a little different whilst also fitting in perfectly. If it wasn’t likely to be super hot, I fully expect the room to all be wearing their leather jackets, straight jeans and Chuck Taylors for the Bricheros set.

My penultimate band of Saturday at The Fest will be Debt Neglector (00.00–00.40) at The Wooly. Debt Neglector are a politically charged melodic punk rock act that perhaps also fall into the skate punk bracket. Every time the band came on on my shuffled playlist they really made me stand up listen. I especially enjoyed the vocals from the band. There is a sharpness to them that really make you take in every word they say and have you itching to scream them back at the band – if you’ve got the energy to do it that is, it’s way past my bed time at this point. The last act of the day for me would hopefully be Radon (00.50–01.30) at High Dive. Radon are Fest legends and I feel like I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t go and see them at Fest. I would fully expect this set to turn into a big sweaty mess with massive pile-ons and big sing-alongs. If you don’t know Radon, they play straight forward punk rock with elements of country fused into their sound. They definitely make for a late night drunken sing-along in a room full of friends, old and new.

Sunday 31st October

My Sunday would start off with seeing the wonderful Raging Nathans (14.00–14.30) at Vecinos. I’ve been a big fan of The Raging Nathans after seeing them at Manchester Punk Festival a few years ago. Unfortunately I’ve managed to miss them every other time they’ve been to the UK since so I’ve got to take this opportunity to see them. Since I last saw them, the band have been very busy releasing the excellent Oppositional Defiance and Waste My Heart – two albums packed with pop punk bangers. Next I would head to Knockin’ Boots for Wolf-Face (14.50–15.30). Wolf-Face are a band I feel like you need to see before you die. It looks like such a fun experience. I’m amazed the band haven’t found their way to the UK yet as I imagine they would go down an absolute storm. The band dress up as wolves and many of their songs feature wolf puns but I think it’s very unfair to class them as a gimmick band due to the strength of their songwriting and musicianship. The songs definitely stand up on their own without the theatrics. A must see band.

Next I would head back to Vecinos for two bands. First would be Atlanta’s Reconciler (15.50–16.20). I’ve been a fan of the three piece since discovering their album Set Us Free in 2019. Reconciler play a mid-tempo brand of punk rock with a vocal that really sets them apart from many of their peers. I’d argue that Jospeh Lazzari has the best voice out of almost everyone playing the festival and I’d love to witness it live. Following on from Reconciler we have Xed Out (16.40–17.10) who have recently released an excellent EP titled Give Me The Night. Xed Out hail from Richmond, Virginia, and feature former members of Smoke Or Fire and The Bled. That shows a band with some fantastic calibre. Listening to the EP, I’m really impressed with the way the band use a smooth, clean vocal alongside a raspy harmonising one. It creates such a cool sound and stops the band sounding like a lot of other acts. Give Me The Night could be one of my favourite EPs of the year and I’m gutted to miss this opportunity to see the band live.

It’s off to Downtown Fats for the first time of the day for the next two bands. First is Saint Augustine’s Kid You Not (17.00–17.40). It seems as if Kid You Not have become a Fest staple over the years. This makes sense as they certainly have a big Fest sound. I’ve loved the band since discovering Never A Dull Movement in 2017, playing that melodic sing-along punk style that I love so much. The gang vocals give their music a huge sound and the band get better with each and every release. Kid You Not feel like they could be one of the best kept secrets in punk rock, it baffles me that more people in the UK aren’t talking about them. We then switch things up with a return to some ska punk. I couldn’t not go see more ska bands could I? Flying Racoon Suit (18.00–18.40) are a seven piece band from Ocean Springs, Missouri, who play their own unique style of ska punk. Featuring dual vocalists and an extremely tight horn section, I imagine that you don’t get the full Flying Racoon Suit experience unless you’re witnessing them live. With influences ranging from metal to indie to jazz to raucous punk rock, nothing is off limits for the band which will make for a fun and exciting set.

After a fun skank I’d head off to Boca Fiesta’s for Articles (18.30–19.00). Articles were probably the first new band I discovered when I originally bought my Fest ticket in early 2020 and I was so excited to see them live. From the moment I heard them I knew they were a band for me, playing melodic pop punk music with a super raspy vocal – that’s my absolute jam. There’s a no thrills approach to their sound that I always enjoy, it’s dirty and raw with plenty of fist in the air moments. Next I’ll return to Downtown Fats to resume the skanking with Matamoska! (19.00–19.40). Matamoska! are a band I’ve been aware of for years but never got round to checking out until they appeared on the Fest line up. I would describe Matamoska! as Latin America’s version of The Toasters. They’re not fully punk sounding and take elements of traditional ska music and bring them to the 21st century. The band sing in a variety of languages which I think will do the thing that ska music is supposed to do, unite people.

Next I’ll walk back to Vecinos for another two band stint at the venue. First up is Moonraker (20.00–20.30). If it wasn’t for that pesky pandemic I would have had the opportunity to see Moonraker three times in 2020. The chance of going to Fest gave me one chance in 2021. Hopefully I’ll have better luck in 2022 when the band are currently due to come to the UK for Bristol Booze Cruise. Another raspy voiced punk rock band with multiple vocalists, Moonraker are another band that seem to go under a lot of people’s radars and I have no idea why. I have had many conversations with my good buddy Matt from Ear Nutrition about just how good they are and how more people should know them. Get to know them! Next on at Vecinos are Lightweight (20.50–21.20). Another band I discovered because of their involvement with Fest, when I first heard Lightweight I was quickly reminded of my friends Forever Unclean. Each song that popped up on my playlist was an absolute banger and I can see big things in the future for Lightweight. Brilliantly blending indie and pop punk into a sound that will please everyone, I can’t find anything not to love about this band. Unfortunately I’d have to leave Lightweight a little early to run to Loosey’s for what will be my final band (that aren’t cover sets) of the entire festival. It feels kind of fitting that it would be Rutterkin (21.20–22.00) who are essentially my festival headliner as they’re probably my favourite new discovery due to this year’s Fest. They have just a week ago released their phenomenal debut album, A Portal For Spirits, and I guess their set at Fest would act as an album launch party for them. You’ve read this far, you probably know what I’m going to say here. Raspy vocals, multiple singers, gang shouts, plenty of opportunities to shout along with my fist in the air – what more could a person possibly want? I’m gutted I can’t be at Fest for this. Hopefully they’ll be back next year.

I’d finish the festival at Downtown Fats (assuming I can get in) for two huge cover sets. The first being Catbite performing as No Doubt (22.00–22.40). I’m going to admit that I’ve never been hugely into No Doubt and don’t know much of their music aside from the hits, but I can definitely imagine Catbite having a lot of fun with the set and it going down an absolute treat. After Catbite’s set We Are The Union, with the help of some friends, will be performing an Arrogant Sons Of Bitches cover set (22.50–23.40). The Arrogant Sons Of Bitches are cult heroes in the ska punk world and this is likely the closest we’re ever going to get to them coming back. It feels right that Fest (for me at least) would finish so ska heavy. Ska has re-emerged into the punk world, thanks in a big part to Bad Time Records, and I think it’s great that Fest has welcomed the scene into the festival with open arms. Ska is going to play a big part in Fest 19 and I imagine it will in many more Fests to come.

So, that’s what I’d do if I was able to get to Fest this year. Hopefully you will check out some of the bands I was looking forward to. I will be fully living vicariously through many Festers thanks to the beauty of social media this weekend and hope you all have amazing (and safe) times. Fingers crossed we’ll finally be able to make it back over for Fest 20!

This column was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Album Review: Model Citizen by Meet Me @ The Altar (by Ilse R. Smit)

In case you’re a pop-punk fan and haven’t come across Meet Me @ The Altar yet, you’re in for a treat and you’re welcome! I get to say that because I started listening to them before they got signed to Fueled By Ramen late 2020, so I guess you could say I’m kind of an OG. Although I suppose I do have to thank for that. Anyway, Meet Me @ The Altar is a three piece pop-punk (with breakdowns) band located in Florida. When I first heard their track Beyond My Control on their Bandcamp I remember that I was really blown away by 1) the quality of the songs (both in music and production), and 2) Edith Johnson’s amazing voice. The band seems like they have great live-energy without seeming like they’re trying too hard (not unimportant if you’re a pop-punk band) and are just overall a great addition to the pop-punk landscape. Their music reminds me a lot of fans of “old school” pop-punk while they modernized the genre and made it their own at the same time. They’re on several tours over the next couple months, hitting the US and the UK, and you have no idea how much I envy anyone who is able to go see them. Back to the review though, here are my thoughts on Model Citizen by Meet Me @ The Altar.

Model Citizen is all about acknowledging mental health issues, that “it’s okay to not be okay”, but also about being hopeful that it’ll get better and wanting to work on yourself. Although there is some fluctuation, the energy level of the EP is fairly consistent overall. It’s very easy to listen to it on repeat as the transitions between the tracks is so smooth, you’ll be surprised when you’ve reached the final track if you zone out just a little bit.

Feel A Thing covers the realization that something isn’t right and you need help. The song is very high-energy, starting off with a bit of old school video game music (you’ll get what I mean when you hear it) which is a lot of fun, and dives right into the pop-punk pool after that. Mapped Out is about feeling lost and trying to find your way back. The title of Brighter Days (Are Before Us) speaks for itself. That song is followed by Now Or Never, but more on that one later. Never Gonna Change reads to me as a low point in the recovery process (perhaps induced by the events of the previous song? Who knows!). Recovery isn’t a straight line and it sounds to me like Never Gonna Change is about slipping up and being overly critical of yourself. It’s easy to get lost in a negative thought spiral when that happens. It’s okay to dwell in it just a little though, and this song could help you do just that. The transition to the next song is just great. Wake Up starts with a whisper telling you to, well, “wake up” and get out of that negative thought spiral. It’s the closer of the EP and it’s all about self-reflection, acknowledging what you’ve done but also not being too hard on yourself and trying again. Overall these are fun, relatable songs, delivered to you in heavy pop-punk riffs with lyrics that sound like they come straight from the heart. And what a voice!

Now Or Never strays from the thematical path. In an interview with SPIN, drummer Ada Juarez mentions it was important for them to include a love song on their EP. I think the song breaks up the EP well, as it comes fourth on the six song EP. I love that they specifically mention that it can be interpreted both romantically as well as platonically. They did a great job encapsulating that feeling when you’re with someone and it’s just like you’ve entered this state of mind that’s all about having a good time in the here and now. Like your brains forgot how to worry about things, and not wanting that to end (which, for dramatic purposes, of course it does). I don’t know what to say, it really hits me and I’m not sure if I love or hate that because it reminds me of some really good times but it also makes me miss my friends! Oh well, I’m all about letting my heart strings get plucked, without the drama, so the verdict is: I love it. I also just think it’s a very enjoyable song!

To conclude: this EP is really great y’all! It tells a story, it hits you right in the feels, it’s comforting, it’s fun, and I love that they decided to write about these hard topics and managed to make it sound uplifting. This band is gonna go places and I’m very excited to see how many young people have found the representation they were looking for and will be inspired by them to follow in their footsteps.

Stream Modern Citizen here.

Follow Meet Me @ The Altar on Instagram and Facebook.

This review was written by Ilse R. Smit.

Monday, 25 October 2021

Album Review: Hands Off! by Jet8 and The Shifty Grifts

I first became aware of Czech skacore band Jet8 in 2019 when they made the trip to South London for Level Up Festival. I instantly became a fan of the band following their high energy performance. After that performance I made the extra effort to keep up with what the band were up to. In 2020 they released the incredible Chasing The High album. Now, in 2021, they’re back again with a new split EP with a band I wasn’t previously aware of named The Shifty Grifts – who are also a skacore band from Prague. I’ve said countless times on CPRW how much of a fan I am of split releases, they are such a great way to discover new bands. The split EP is titled Hands Off! and features two new Jet8 songs, two new The Shifty Grifts songs and a collaboration between the two bands.

Jet8 kick the EP off with their song Sixty Pounds. As I’ve come to expect from the band, the track starts with pounding drums, a shredding guitar and a big horn line. This creates so much energy from the outset. It’s not long before Martin’s powerful vocals come in which brings the intensity to the song. The song is about fighting to live your own life the way you want to despite the powers that be trying to hold you down. The breakdown that then leads to the big finale is classic Jet8. Their second song is titled Rise Up. This is another song about being your own person and fighting for what you believe in. Jet8 do these songs so well and this is another fantastic example of that. The track starts off in a very horn heavy manor which really caught my attention and then saxophonist Daniela takes a turn on lead vocals. This was a nice surprise and added a fantastic extra element to the band’s sound. Jet8 are fantastic at writing ferocious choruses that will have a crowd shouting them back at the band with real passion.

The first of The Shifty Grifts songs is titled Kill The Rich. This was my first time listening to the band and I was instantly in love with them. The band are more than happy to jump between melodic punk rock to bouncy ska and even a bit of reggae on the song, showing they have no borders when it comes to their songwriting. Kill The Rich starts with some real intensity before switching to some upbeat ska that will get everyone skanking and then jumping to a more high octane chorus. This is one of those songs that has so much going on and will leave you breathless. The theme of the song follows what Jet8 were also singing about – standing up for yourself and not getting downtrodden by folk who believe they are better than you. Next is The Hunger, The Rent, The Hate. This sees The Shifty Grifts showcase some crack rocksteady in their sound. Once again, the song looks at being downtrodden by “the man”. In this particular case, they sing about how the hardest workers are the ones on less pay and are struggling to make ends meet just so the people with the most money can make more of it. This is a song I really relate to a lot.

The final song, Keeping Me Sane, sees both bands team up. This is such a cool way to finish the split and I wish more bands would do the same. This is an upbeat ska song that gives thanks to the music that helps you find your way through life. There’s a really upbeat and positive feeling to the whole song and it had me smiling throughout. I’m a sucker for easter eggs in songs and there are plenty sprinkled throughout the lyrics that I loved picking out. I really want to hear this song live at some point, with both bands performing it.

Hands Off! is a superb EP. Easily one of my favourites of the year. It shows off two brilliant bands from Prague and it has me wondering what the rest of the Czech scene is like. There has been a lot of talk about the ska scene “returning” in recent months and these are two bands you definitely shouldn’t be sleeping on.

Stream and download Hands Off! on Bandcamp here.

Like Jet8 on Facebook here. And like The Shifty Grifts here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Album Review: Bad Press by Captain Accident & The Disasters (by Theo Martin-Herbert)

An absolute belter for ska and reggae fans here. Captain Accident and The Disasters have recently put out a meditation on modern life, opening up with a slow track that winds its way into your brain, welcoming the end of the world and asking you to dance while everything burns. This invitation sets up the tone for the rest of the album, mulling over how we got here and how we can keep things positive now that we are here.

The album has a great pace throughout, slowly beckoning you over to come and listen before picking up the pace. Couple that with some fantastic guitar work throughout – great lead lines permeate the experience, really accentuating and complimenting the songs with added textures and hooks. The production too is crisp and clean, every stab coming through with a great vocal sound as well, so definite props are deserved for that! Overall, Captain Accident have crafted something special for all you ska and reggae fans out there – give it a listen and enjoy the end of the world.

Stream and download Bad Press on Bandcamp here.

Like Captain Accident & The Disasters on Facebook here.

This review was written by Theo Martin-Herbert.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Album Review: Funeral Pop by Vampire Slumber Party (by Theo Martin-Herbert)

This one man solo project has put out a pretty fantastic example of pop-punk for all your ears; a personal, catchy and slick debut effort that calls back on the memories of your favourite pop punk band's best days. Opening up hard with a big, anthemic number, the release keeps up the pace, putting out something that really hits a good rhythm and is perfect for a late summer release. I was genuinely impressed at how well the track listing went together, hearing some of the songs out of order really showed how well the album has been thought out and laid out for the listener.

The sound reflects an early 2000s era Blink 182 record to my ears, which I love. The polished, low-mid heavy with a bright edge sound lets the guitars really fill up the space and keep an interesting high end to keep that energy up, along with a lot of almost duelling guitar lines snaking their way in and out of each other. This all adds up to give some great texture and depth to the songs that reward repeat listens, something you'll definitely be doing with this record. Also it's refreshing to see something bouncy and energetic ending the album, giving you something to hum away until you can put it back on repeat. Definitely give this one a listen and I can't wait to see what Yusuf Laher comes up with next if this is anything to go by.

Stream and download Funeral Pop on Bandcamp here.

Like Vampire Slumber Party on Facebook here.

This review was written by Theo Martin-Herbert.

Monday, 18 October 2021

Album Review: Ollie Ollie Oxen Free by Authority Zero (by Theo Martin-Herbert)

It's an absolute pleasure to listen to something so precise and perfectly designed for what the group is going for. Authority Zero's latest, ''Ollie Ollie Oxen Free'', instantly hits with an understanding of what it is and what you're in for, confidently and effortlessly introducing the listener to the beginning of a perfect pop punk album. However, it does manage to deftly avoid any writing clichés, I was constantly surprised throughout by how song structures winded in and out of choruses, how those choruses gave you just enough of what you know and love while giving you a fresh take or an entirely new angle. Definitely the sound of a confident and able band having fun, creating a record that's an absolute joy to listen to.

Appreciation has also got to be given to the production, the guitars have a fantastic and growly energy while keeping a high-end sizzle and clarity, making every lead line cut and every rhythmic part chunk underneath and keep the bounce. Absolutely fantastic stuff and I'll certainly have to nerd about on some forums to check out what gear was used on the record. The energy and bounce of the record is catapulted by the slick production by Cameron Webb, with the band noting in various interviews that he helped push the positive vibe of the lyrics and the pushed the music of the band to try approaches such as working from drum ideas to create full songs. It really shows in the freshness of the tracks throughout, a record such as this that is so dedicated to a sound can really slow down towards the last third of the album, but Authority Zero deftly avoid this, striding throughout and keeping their own pace.

With "Ollie Ollie Oxen Free", Authority Zero have crafted an absolutely fantastic experience. Fresh, confident and inspiring, definitely a perfect antidote to the past couple of years, I heavily recommend grabbing this record and letting it wash away the negativity we've all experienced as we close out the year. Fantastic stuff.

Stream and download Ollie Ollie Oxen Free on Bandcamp here.

Like Authority Zero on Facebook here.

This review was written by Theo Martin-Herbert.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Column: In Defence Of UK Ska

First things first, I guess that I need to explain the title of this column. I’m fairly certain that everyone reading this will know about the excellent book In Defence Of Ska by Aaron Carnes. In the book Aaron sets out to stand up for ska and explain that the genre is actually really good despite it often being seen as uncool by music folk in all areas of the industry. If you haven’t read the book yet I thoroughly recommend it. The book also has an accompanying podcast where Aaron is joined by Adam Davis of Link 80 and Omnigone and a special guest each episode which is well worth a listen.

This column isn’t about defending the good name of ska and trying to convince you that it’s cool. It’s about the idea that it’s ‘back’. I’m disputing this because, for me and a loyal, dedicated and fan base in the UK, it never went away!

For a very brief history of ska punk, the genre blew up in the mid to late 90s in America with bands like Reel Big Fish, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less Than Jake, Goldfinger, No Doubt, Mustard Plug and loads more exploding into the punk scene. Like all waves that reach a high and then drop, on the way down somebody somewhere decided that ska punk wasn’t cool anymore and the genre returned to the underground. There were of course loads of bands still playing ska punk in the States but their audience was nothing like it was when ska hit its high. In recent years, ska punk has been back on the rise. The Interrupters have become one of the biggest names in punk rock, even appearing on big American talk show Jimmy Kimmel. California based Bad Time Records has been consistently putting out album of the year contenders from the likes of Kill Lincoln, Omnigone, Catbite, We Are The Union and Joystick, among others. Skatune Network, the YouTube channel of We Are The Union trombone player Jeremy Hunter, where they take popular songs and cover them in a ska style gets shared endlessly. In early 2021 DIY prince Jeff Rosenstock re-released his 2020 album No Dream as a ska album titled Ska Dream. That release irked me. Not because it was a bad album and not because I saw it as someone jumping on to the ska bandwagon. Jeff is a former member of the legendary Arrogant Sons Of Bitches and has always expressed a love of ska. It was because a lot of people in the UK seemed to be proclaiming that ska was back. It wasn’t back. It was still alive and had retained its passionate fan base for years and years.

My first introduction to the UK’s DIY ska punk scene was through [Spunge]. I’ve said so many times that it’s now boring, but the Cheltenham based four (five at the time) piece were my gateway band into ska and punk rock music. I discovered them around 2002, which was around the time that their third album The Story So Far was released. This introduced me to loads of UK bands who, throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, toured relentlessly to packed crowds every night of the week. Along with [Spunge], there were bands such as Capdown, Lightyear, King Prawn, Farse, No Comply, Adequate 7, Whitmore, Ye Wiles, Jesse James, Howards Alias and The Filaments. How’s that for a walk down memory lane? You had labels such as Household Name, Golf Records, Moon Ska Europe and Deck Cheese putting out incredible albums on a regular basis.

These bands then influenced the next generation of UK ska bands. As we moved towards the mid 2000s to 2010 bands such as Sonic Boom Six, Random Hand, Mouthwash, Grown At Home and The JB Conspiracy were popping up and carrying on the scene that the bands before them had built.

At this point the big wave of ska in the USA had well and truly ended but the popularity of the likes of Less Than Jake, Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish remained. Whenever those bands would tour the UK they would play to thousands of people every night. In 2007, Less Than Jake had a six night residency at the Astoria in London where they played all six of their albums to packed crowds. The UK still loved ska punk.

Around this time TNSRecords in Manchester were releasing music from the likes of Faintest Idea, Rising Strike, Beat The Red Light, Harijan, John Player Specials, Stand Out Riot and Sense Of Urgency. The ska punk scene was absolutely thriving in the North of England. Down South bands such as ClayPigeon, The Skints, Anti-Vigilante, Tyrannosaurus Alan, New Town Kings, Imperial Leisure and The JunK were always on at The Camden Underworld and drawing impressive crowds. Let’s also not forget Dirty Revolution from Wales and The Hostiles from Glasgow as well. There were small ska scenes all over the UK and it was still a great time.

Big alternative festivals such as Boomtown and Rebellion would regularly book these bands for their summer events, allowing them to reach an even bigger audience. Proving that people still loved ska punk music.

Massive ska punk all dayers would become a regular event. The Camden Underworld would regularly host a Christmas party packed with ska punk bands and in Bristol a venue named the Fleece would run an event named Skank Fest which would regularly host gigs that ran from midday until midnight with ten or so bands.

There does come a time in scene cycles where the crowds begin to change. The older members of the crowds begin to settle down and find themselves with responsibilities that mean that they can’t get to as many gigs as they used to. This cycle obviously applies to the people in bands as well, responsibilities and life get in the way and playing shows all over the country begins to take a back seat. This did mean that the amount of shows began to dwindle but this gave opportunity for the next wave of bands to come along…

Yes, here is the bit about our best friends in Be Sharp Promotions. After putting on ska shows around Kent and South London since 2009, in 2012 they found a home at the New Cross Inn. Since then the pub/venue has become synonymous with ska punk. Bands such as Call Me Malcolm, Popes Of Chillitown, Tree House Fire, Captain Accident & The Disasters, The Bar Stool Preachers, King Punch, Just Say Nay, Millie Manders And The Shut Up and The Pisdicables have all made names for themselves at Be Sharp shows. Word has spread far and wide about the great things that Be Sharp and NXI are doing for the ska scene and legends such as Random Hand, Lightyear, King Prawn and The JB Conspiracy have regularly taken to the stage to sold out crowds. They’ve also managed to attract international acts such as Big D & The Kids Table, Jaya The Cat, The Toasters, Dave Hillyard & The Rocksteady Seven and, the big one, GOLDFINGER!

In my opinion NXI really became the home of ska punk when Mike and Paul Smith of Be Sharp teamed up with Chris Fishlock of Fishlock Promotions (based in Bristol) and Jason Berden of El Topo Bookings (from Belgium) to create Level Up Festival. These promoters all met at a Bristol Skank Fest (which I was also at) and the idea for Level Up was conceived. Level Up is a three day festival that takes place at NXI every July. Since starting in 2017 the weekend has become a staple in ska punk fan’s diaries with people travelling from all over the UK and further afield to attend the festival. Despite only having three editions so far (bloody pandemics), Level Up has not only been the setting of so many fantastic moments and memories but has also helped strengthen the ska punk community. It’s a beautiful weekend and, in the words of Craig “C-Rage” Darran, it’s “ska punk Christmas.”

So, in conclusion, ska punk never went away in the UK and continues to go from strength to strength. More and more bands are coming out and releasing fantastic albums. The scene remains as supportive as ever, you will often see members of different bands deputising in other bands or just joining for guest spots. Ska punk shows remain big sellers. At multi-genre festivals the ska bands always get massive receptions. Thinking of Call Me Malcolm’s amazing Gorilla set and Manchester Punk Festival still puts a smile on my face.

The ties between the UK and American ska scene remains strong as well. Call Me Malcolm released their latest album Me Myself And Something Else with the help of Wiretap Records. Pook, formerly of Beat The Red Light and current member of Redeemon and The Filaments, recently started his own label/distro named Pookout Records to help UK ska fans get hold of new American bands’ releases without having to pay a fortune in shipping. Pookout Records regularly sells out of their Bad Time Records releases very quickly and they are also working on releasing music from some exciting new UK bands. Paul of Be Sharp recently started his own booking company with fellow NXI promoter Eddie name ACA Booking and have linked up with Bad Time to help those bands come to the UK to play gigs. This is a great opportunity for the bond to grow even stronger and hopefully open doors for UK bands to go to the USA and showcase just how good our scene is.

To conclude the conclusion, ska didn’t die in the UK and I doubt it ever will.

This column was written by Colin Clark.

All photographs taken by Emma Prew at various ska punk shows over the past five years.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Album Review: I Won't Reach Out To You by Hot Mulligan (by Lara Roberts)

Hailing from Michigan, Hot Mulligan have that perfect blend of pop-punk and emo that those of us growing up in the late 90s and early 00s had as the soundtrack to our teenage years (just me?). What they’ve done perfectly is take this iconic sound and modernise it, but keeping it true to that original, emotionally charged pop-punk sound.

This 5-track EP opens up gently with the ethereal sounding, dream-like One For The Boy. With the lyrics “Stay home, stay home” repeated over and over, you can’t help but think back to those early, unknown days of 2020. The vocals are almost lost amongst the guitars, completely capturing that feeling of what the world felt back then – confusion and uncertainty – but hearing those words over and over, drowned out in the background – Stay home, stay home.

In complete contrast to the opener, Featuring Mark Hoppus is a fun, catchy, straight-up pop-punk tune. It’s much fuller-bodied, and has that classic pop-punk subject – girls. We’re looking back on lost love, coming of age, and high school crushes. This tune doesn’t come up for air, and it ends as abruptly as it starts. The title, Featuring Mark Hoppus, is (I assume) a friendly crack at Hoppus being featured on almost every pop-punk release of the last 10 years or so. He doesn’t feature on this EP.

It’s almost as though Nathan Sanville’s voice was designed to make the music Hot Mulligan are producing. Losing Days opens with a brief acoustic guitar and Sanville driving out the lyrics, as though there isn’t enough force in his body to make them any louder, urgent, or important. After screaming “Forget it” over and over, we’re hit with power chords, melodic guitars, and pounding drums, easily transforming this one into an instant pop-punk classic.

Pop Shuvit (Hall Of Meat, Duh) really hones in on that modernisation of the pop-punk sound. There’s a neon/electronic sound to it, but it’s incredibly subtle and adds to the song rather than taking it over. A catchy little number, with an upbeat chorus.

The closer on this EP, Please Don’t Cry, You Have Swag, echoes the opening track, recycling the lyrics and the soft guitar. It’s a lovely, gentle little song with raw vocals and honest lyrics, before exploding into a brief but desperate chorus of “stay home, stay home”. A visceral, reflective, emo-pop ballad which closes the EP beautifully.

First of all, I want to point out how great the song titles are. It’s something I’ve come to expect from bands with an emo thread, and Hot Mulligan deliver. That aside, the only negative I can think of is that there are only 5 tracks, coming in at just under 12 minutes. If you are a fan of pop-punk and emo in any form, and particularly enjoyed the brief life of Sadboi pop-punk, then I’m pretty confident that you’ll enjoy this EP and any of Hot Mulligans’ previous releases.

Stream and download I Won't Reach Out To You on Bandcamp here.

Like Hot Mulligan on Facebook here.

This review was written by Lara Roberts.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Album Review: Between The Richness by Fiddlehead (by Richard Mair)

Hardcore is going through something of a creative renaissance. Drug Church stand out as the leading lights with a sound that has equal parts in common with 90s alt-rock bands such as the Pixies as they do with Minor Threat or Gorilla Biscuits; or take the bonkers noise inspired shenanigans that The Armed released with Ultrapop, an album that is equal parts Converge styled metalcore fused with ridiculous pop songs of noise merchants Fang Island. A further point to consider in this evolution is the role influential icons play in expanding the sound. For example Patrick Kindlon of Self Defense Family fame using Drug Church as an experimental release of ideas or the re-emergence of Brian McTernan as a focal point in Be Well also demonstrates the potential for scene legends to reinvent and reinvigorate a scene that at times can be static. Against this is the sphere in which Fiddlehead operate. A band that emerged into the world on the back of a much loved and respected icon, yet at the same time so very different to what had come before. Comprised of members of Have Heart and Basement, the lineage is truly astounding and yet it’s the personal introspection into the deepest emotions of frontman Patrick Flynn that is central to what makes Fiddlehead unique.

Now I must admit their debut album was in every sense a slow burner. It didn’t grab me initially. That’s not to say it wasn’t good; it just took me the best part of a year to click. Since then it’s been on rotation constantly and a follow up easily on the most wanted list… thankfully it doesn’t disappoint. In fact it ups the ante and some. Between The Richness is a triumph in every sense; it’s doubled down on everything that made Springtime and Blind so revered. It’s creative, emotional and, above all else, full of heart and soul that further explores Patrick Flynn’s personal family history and story.

Continuing the overriding theme of loss that drove Springtime and Blind, the opening track (“Grief Motif”) is introduced via a spoken word poem (that also concludes the album – bringing it neatly full circle) of E. E. Cummings. Its theme of loved ones staying with you in your heart shows that, whilst the grief and despair from the first album has somewhat moved on to a more hopeful realisation of happy memories, the principle remains the same. This is an album that delves into the deepest recesses of the human psyche. Exploring the depths of Patrick’s emotions and, in particular, this time around his hopes and fears for his own family. Throughout the album this feeling of anxiousness and being responsible for new life permeates all its facets. Images like watching loved ones sleep (“Joyboy”), living with academic pressure (“Down University”), or drifting apart and reconnecting with people – especially lovers – (“Million Times”) are central to the album. It digs the depths of human emotions and experiences to put into words what so many fail to articulate and does so beautifully. Every song is a genuine sing-along anthem; yet at the same time it remains very ‘adult’ in its approach to angst. Iron Chic this is not, yet I’d argue it’s equally as cathartic and explosive.

The spoken word intro gives way to an almost chant like refrain that echoes to the words “fall apart” through its brief runtime. Despite its upbeat nature (and likely fan favourite appeal in much the same way the chant of “Through our bleeding we are one” is synonymous with AFI) its second track “The Years” which really kicks things off, creating a one-two opening combo akin to Spanish love Songs Nuevo into Sequels, Remakes & Adaptations.

“Million Times” is a more sedate song by and large, although the chorus is an explosion of emotion and the song’s final third is a joyous fist pumping release. It’s a genuine pop song hidden in a post hardcore aesthetic. It gives way to the most punk rock song on the album. “Eternal You” is a gruff punk anthem; played at breakneck speed and with a angsty, angry vocal delivery that makes it stand out on the album where everything is much more nuanced. It concludes with another spoken word section which continues to tell the underpinning story behind the whole collection. In a similar vein, “Down University” is a straight forward “rocking” song, which reminds me of No Division-era Hot Water Music complete with cheerleader vocals, whilst “Get My Mind Right” shares its DNA with the more hardcore roots of the band. The up tempo songs really stand out as being of the highest quality, crafted with precision and guile that keeps things fresh. Nothing feels repeated or forced. Between The Richness is a real storyteller’s journey of an album and, whilst it can certainly be enjoyed by dipping into the odd song, it’s best savoured from front to back where the ebbs and flows; peaks and troughs come to life.

Where Fiddlehead excel is in subverting expectations. The personnel are known to be excellent at creating bludgeoning noise but “Loverman” and “Joyboy” are soft, gentle emo-tinged songs that are as delicate as they are powerful. Both are high points on the album, punctuating the more pronounced aggressive songs with real moments of beauty.

The culmination of this angst is “Heart To Heart”; a truly monstrous, massive, epic song. Led by a deep throbbing bass line, it’s the release the album has building towards. On one hand there is an acknowledgement of letting go of the past but perhaps more importantly it feels like the conversation Patrick never had with his own father; that he is telling his own children he will be “in the springtime afternoon” or “be the sunlight” that surrounds them when he is no longer here. “Heart To Heart” is a masterpiece of writing anthemic stadium songs in a hardcore style. Much like Be Well’s “Confessional” of last year, it rounds off an essential piece of modern hardcore with one of the single greatest songs of the last few years. The parallel with that particular song is uncanny, both serving as acknowledgements to the writer’s own children on the aspirations and concerns they harbour for those they hold most dear. Both round their albums off in a real sombre but hopeful and beautiful way.

What took me so long to ‘get’ with their debut wasn’t that it was inaccessible but that the album made you work to appreciate its hooks. This time round I’d argue Fiddlehead have truly nailed their sound. It’s very unique; certainly it’s melodic, and has a real crowd pleasing hardcore sound but it’s also very much an ‘adult’ sound. It doesn’t treat the listener as a child or as someone with a short attention span. At times, it borders on the fringes of art in much the same space that The Armed operate. This approach to thinking man’s hardcore is great to see in a scene that can appear to the outside world as needlessly aggressive. I’d hope that Fiddlehead prove to be a gateway for many more to find out about bands such as Have Heart et al; whilst influencing a new generation of hardcore kids to be equally as creative and inventive with the tropes and constraints associated with the scene.

Stream and download Between The Richness on Bandcamp here.

Like Fiddlehead on Facebook here.

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Friday, 8 October 2021

Gig Review: Fishstock at The Exchange, Bristol 18/9/21

Fishstock is one of the big all dayers/festivals in the DIY punk rock calendar. The annual event is put on by the lovely Chris Fishlock of Fishlock Promotions and takes place at one of the UK’s very best venues, The Exchange in Bristol. Normally Fishstock takes place towards the end of March to celebrate Fishlock’s birthday but due to that pandemic thing we’re still talking about he decided to do it in September instead this year. Emma and I have been saying for years that we need to go to Fishstock but have never managed to find the time. Now we have changed that!

Our day started with an early start which wasn’t overly welcome after a late one in Milton Keynes the night before watching the debut Out Of Love gig (you can read that review here). We boarded our train about 9.30am and arrived in Bristol at lunch time. On our the leg of our journey from Paddington to Bristol we discovered that Leyton Orient were playing Bristol Rovers and that there was also another festival taking place that weekend so the train was packed with geezers and young folk in colourful clothes. I was quite relieved to make it off the train and out of the station. We made our way to our Air BNB, dropped off our bags and then headed out to find some dinner before Fishstock began. We found a place called Oowee Vegan which sells some of the most delicious vegan fast food I’ve ever tasted and I thoroughly recommend checking it out. From there we made our way to The Exchange, said hello to some friends and popped into Specialist Subject Records whilst waiting for the first band of the day.

The band tasked with opening the day was Redeemon. Redeemon are one of the most exciting new bands in the UK ska scene at the moment and feature former members of Beat The Red Light and Smokey Bastard, among others. Playing their own unique brand of skacore and metal, seeing Redeemon always feels like a big deal. The band headlined a Garlic Bread Club show in Manchester the night before so you could forgive them for lacking some energy for their 3pm start but, as you would expect, they put everything they had into the set. I’ve said many times that frontman Pook is one of my favourite people to watch on stage and this was no different. The man is a bundle of energy whether he’s screaming into a microphone or playing his trombone. Redeemon started Fishstock in an explosive way that only they can.

Fishstock was using both of The Exchange’s stages so we made our way downstairs for the first basement stage band of the day, Slug Puppie. Something I always enjoy about going to festivals and all dayers in places we don’t get to visit often is the discovering plenty of new favourite bands so I was pleased as punch to find one here. Slug Puppie are a new band from Bristol. The two piece play indie punk music and I was immediately impressed by how big they sounded and how good the main vocalist’s voice was. They also seemed to be having an absolutely wonderful time on stage which is always nice to see. During the set they played the brilliant single Cycle Home and made a joke about being a new band so they performed a cover. I didn’t have a clue what the cover was so they could have passed it off as their own. (Editor’s note: It was Dancing On My Own by Robyn.) I’m very excited to see more of Slug Puppie in the future.

We made our way back upstairs for the third band, Gimic. Another band I knew absolutely nothing about but did recognise their guitarist and bass player from serving me in Specialist Subject earlier in the day. When we entered the room, the sound system was playing so 90s ska punk music, a sound that couldn’t have been much further away from Gimic’s. The four piece play a straight forward hardcore punk. As you would expect from a hardcore band they were relentless from start to finish and there was very minimal chat between the songs.

Following Gimic we rushed back down the stairs for Lounar. Lounar is the new hip hop project from Triple Sundae frontman Hassan. Hassan has always been a big hip hop fan so used the lockdown to work on this project. This was only the fourth or fifth live set Lounar had performed but you would never have guessed. He paced around the front of the stage working his way through some tracks from his debut EP, Daye3, which you can buy from Make-That-A-Take Records. I’m not much of a hip hop fan myself but it was really cool seeing my friend do something he loves and excels at. Lounar’s songs are heavily influenced by what it’s like to live as a Palestinian man in the UK and seeing all of the atrocities that take place towards his homeland that go unpunished. Between songs Hassan takes time to talk about Palestine in an extremely eloquent way. If you’re unaware of everything going on out there then please take some time to do some reading and consider donating money if you can.

Next on the upstairs stage were Live, Do Nothing, a band that Hassan had just referred to as the best indie punk band in the UK. This was my first time seeing the Cardiff based band and I was extremely surprised when they took to the stage. I was under the impression that the band were a four piece so imagine my shock when we saw the stage had eight people on it and a whole orchestra full of different instruments including two cellos, violin, flute, keytar, keyboards, saxophone, a rainmaker and egg shakers alongside the standard electric guitars, bass and drums. The sound man probably thought the hardest band of the day would be Redeemon, I imagine he was wrong. Before that start of the set, the band announced that this would probably be chaos and they weren’t wrong. It was chaos but it was also a lot of fun. I felt like everything about being in Live, Do Nothing was about having as much fun as possible and this set certainly enforced that view. Hassan was right in his view about how good the band is and I’d love for them to head to London more in the future.

We then returned to the downstairs stage for Acid Claw. This was another band I had never heard of before and was keen to check them out. When we entered the room the band announced that were ready but were awaiting their second guitarist before kicking off their set. He soon arrived and the six piece kicked things off. Playing a hybrid of thrash, punk and ska, I was quickly impressed with Acid Claw. They reminded me a lot of former Manchester band Rising Strike, one of the most underrated bands from their time. It was at this point of the day that the basement stage was becoming quite warm so we decided to duck out early for a bit of a break before the next band.

Babar Luck has a been a part of the underground alternative music scene for as long as I can remember (and probably longer) but this was my first time seeing him perform live, despite him being a former member of one of my favourite bands, King Prawn. Today he was performing with his band East End Trinity playing songs that he dubbed as English rock ’n’ roll. Babar is an extremely watchable performer and I found my eyes locked onto him throughout the entire set. Even between the songs I found myself enamoured by him. He’s one of those people where when they speak you have no choice but to listen. Between songs he spoke about unity, love and staying true to yourself, something I’m sure everyone in the room could relate to. A fantastic, rocking set by Babar Luck And The East End Trinity.

Kiss Me Killer were ready on the basement stage when we arrived back downstairs. This was a band I’ve been aware of for a while but have never had the opportunity to see live. I was very impressed with the four piece’s take on garage punk and particularly enjoyed the song Sports Direct, which is about quitting a job that you hate. However it was still really hot in the basement so we decided to nip out early once again. We took the time to get some refreshments and to try some vegan doughnuts courtesy of Future Doughnuts, a new doughnut place that has just opened up in Bristol. I tried the chocolate and raspberry one and it was delicious!

Our friends Toodles And The Hectic Pity were up next on the main stage. We hadn’t seen Toodles since they played Do It Together at the New Cross Inn back in January 2020 so we were very excited to see them again. We’ve been in love with Callum, Dom and Max since first hearing Call In Sick back in 2017 and it’s been amazing to see them grow since then. It was also great to get the opportunity to see them play a show in front of what’s a home crowd for the band. This meant there were plenty of people down the front for a good sing-along. Each song the band played got great receptions but the highlights for me were Ducks, Spooky Furniture, Call In Sick and Menthol Cigarettes. The band also treated us to a couple of new songs they’ve been working on which I personally hope will be part of a full length in the future. There was also a funny moment where Callum had to explain that Max was wearing a shirt and tie because he had left a wedding to play the set and doesn’t always dress like that. I think he should. We love Toodles, they’re a great band and also the nicest people. If you’ve not checked them out I suggest you do it now.

Back downstairs we ventured for Toodles & The Hectic Pity label mate Erica Freas. When we arrived Erica was propped up on an amp with their acoustic guitar just starting the set. Erica played what was no doubt the softest set of the day but it was in no way less impactful than any of the louder sets of the day. This set really showcased the diverse sounds that were spread throughout Fishstock. How many alldayers would have a band like Redeemon on the same bill as Erica Freas? This was a big part of why I loved Fishstock. Erica’s set was mixed of old RVIVR and Somnia songs as well as some songs from their solo material. Erica has one of my favourite voices in all of punk rock and it’s always such a pleasure to hear them sing in quieter settings. They capture the entire room’s attention and I think it’s fair to say the room was the busiest it had been all day and it was a wonderfully special time. As was becoming tradition, I ducked out of the room early again because of the heat and had a quick catch up with Andy Davies of TNSRecords and Knife Club before the next band.

Falmouth’s Bobby Funk had already started their set by the time I made my way back inside. The trouble with any all dayer is that they are often a friends fest and you can get distracted from the bands. This one was our first since pre-pandemic and we were catching up with a lot of people we hadn’t seen for well over a year and some parts of the day did sadly get missed. Bobby Funk are a band who have been on my radar since they released their avocado shaped vinyl through TNS a few years ago. This was my first time listening to anything by them other than their song I’m A Cat. The four piece play fast hardcore music that is fun as it can be but can also been about some super serious topics. The band do a great job of balancing the fun and the serious and put together a very entertaining stage show. It’s clear to me after watching Bobby Funk why there is so much talk about the band as they are superb. I expect them to be at the front of the UK hardcore scene for years to come.

The penultimate act on the basement stage were Knife Club. The band are a TNS super group of sorts featuring members of Matilda’s Scoundrels, Nosebleed, Casual Nausea, Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man and, normally, Faintest Idea but Dani was currently on paternity leave. This was one of the band’s very first shows and I personally felt a lot of anticipation about what they would be live. A lot of fun is the answer to that. Andy Davies lives out his rap god dreams. Not by rapping, but by running around the venue as far as his XLR will let him. Knife Club played a politically charged set with a trilogy of songs being about how shit the conservative government is. Knife Club, like a lot of new projects that were conceived in the beginning of 2020, were seriously stalled and it was great to see them finally be able to get out and play some shows. Given that Knife Club live all over the UK I imagine that they won’t be able to tour relentlessly so make sure you catch them live when you can!

The penultimate band on the main stage was Aerial Salad. Quite unbelievably this was only my third time seeing Aerial Salad and it was my third time seeing them with a different drummer. On this occasion Mike and Jamie were joined by Jake, formerly the drummer of Fastfade. We’d joked before hand with Jake that Aerial Salad would be a bit slower than he’s normally used to when drumming in Fastfade. When the band took to the stage and started their set Mike screamed into his microphone that ‘Manchester is in the building’ and off the boys went. It’s the opinion of most in the DIY punk scene that Aerial Salad will be the next band to really blow up. This opinion was cemented in the next thirty minutes as Salad played an incredible set. Comprised mostly of songs from their 2020 album Dirt Mall, we get sing-along after sing-along. Jamie mentions between songs that it’s been so frustrating releasing an album and then not being able to tour it. My memory is a little hazy on the exact set list but, as you would expect from Aerial Salad, it’s banger after banger throughout. We were also treated to at least two new songs from whatever they’re working on next. Whatever it is I am excited for it. The set was concluded with the awesome Romance. I believe they were also going to play one last song which I assume was going to be Habits And Problems but unfortunately Jamie’s guitar string broke.

After deciding to skip Atterkop completely to rest up for the final band, it was time for the mighty JB Conspiracy. The long running ska punk band are one of the most beloved in the UK and are out on the road playing shows in support of their brand new album Beginnings. It did not take long for the band to get the crowd moving as they blasted into the set. Playing a mixture of classics and brand new songs, it seemed to me that the crowd were getting rowdier and rowdier with every song. There’s always a worry for me that when a band has such a big gap between albums that a crowd might not be as receptive to newer stuff, this certainly wasn’t the case at The Exchange. JB managed to cram all eight members of the band on to the stage and still managed find room to have a dance. The energy on the stage poured into the crowd who lovingly gave everything they could for the band. It had been a long day and most people’s first all dayer in years so to see so much energy in the room was a joyous thing. I guess the government mandated exercise is really paying off. Even when the band did slow things down to play Drop Your Anchor it did not dampen the crowds spirit as it resulted in a big sing-along. Something that always amazes me whenever I see the JB Conspiracy is that they always seem to be better than the last time I saw them, which is quite something given that the first time I saw them they set the standard very high and I have seen them over ten times since then. I’m very much looking forward to catching them and being blown away again in New Cross for Till The Fest this weekend.

With that Fishstock was ended and what an incredible day it was! The day was packed with so many amazing bands from all areas of the punk rock spectrum. Something I really loved about the day was the diversity that was offered, not just in the music but the people. This is what an all dayer should be about, a variety of sounds and people coming together and enjoying something in unity. All day all I saw was smiling happy people loving being in each other’s company and it was absolutely wholesome. All the love in the world has to go to Fishlock and the fine folk at The Exchange for such a wonderful day out. It really felt like a bit of old times coming back and it filled my heart. We can’t wait for the next Fishstock!

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