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.

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