Thursday, 4 November 2021

Gig Review: Till The Fest Day Three 10/10/21

I think it’s fair to say that after two days of Till The Fest we were beginning to get tired but there was also much excitement running through my body as today was Lightyear day! One of my favourite bands ever, returning to my favourite venue, surrounded by loads of friends from all around the UK. It was going to be a special day.

We started our day by meeting our good friends Matt and Charlotte from Ear Nutrition and Mark from INiiT Records and Our Lives In Cinema at the New Cross House for a Sunday roast. It was lovely to catch up with some wonderful people. With a bit of time to kill before the first band of the day, after we ate we ventured upstairs of the New Cross House to check out the record fair. Up there we hung out with Mark, who was selling CDs from his INiit Records distro, and we got to see John Allen from Disconnect Disconnect Records and picked up a couple of records from him.

Records bought, we headed to Amersham Arms for the first band of the day, BaldHead And The Dreads. I couldn’t think of a better way to start the third day of Till The Fest. The fun loving foursome always put a massive smile on my face whenever I see them play and in all honesty this might have been my favourite time seeing them live. Obviously BHATD are a band that don’t take themselves too seriously, they do this because it’s fun and it really comes across on stage. That’s something I really appreciate whenever I see them. There are plenty of songs about drugs and dogs, the band’s two favourite things, but on their most recent EP they also step into the world of politics on the song First Class War (probably my favourite of their songs). Whatever they’re singing about, the band’s excellent musicianship and knack of a witty lyric always shines through. If we were the sort of website that gives out ratings, we’d give a 10/10 for fun ways to start a day.

Our original plan was to see Bottlekids next but unfortunately they had to pull out of the festival so we decided to hang out at Amersham to check out Norwich five piece Southpaw. Southpaw are a band that I’ve been aware of for years but never managed to check out. I assume they don’t play many shows anymore and when they do they are around the Norfolk area. I didn’t really know what to expect from the band but I think the best way to describe them is as an alternative punk rock band. Their songs ooze melody and the band’s lead singer had some great pipes on him. My highlight was watching their guitarist bounce around the stage, pulling silly faces and generally just messing around. Very entertaining. He reminded me of Warren Fitzgerald of The Vandals in many ways.

Next were On A Hiding To Nothing. I used to see these guys quite regularly in London before members began to move around the country. During lockdown the band managed to record and release a brand new album named We’ll Probably Be Fine, which is due to be physically released by Cat’s Claw Records and Bearded Punk Records – keep an eye out for that. Their set was comprised almost entirely of songs from the album. I don’t think I’ve given it nearly enough time and after hearing it live I look forward to giving it plenty more spins. On A Hiding To Nothing play super fast, super melodic skate punk. Whenever I watch them I’m blown away by just how quickly the band play their songs. What’s even more impressive is how bass player Jack manages to bounce around the stage with such force whilst still playing his instrument. I always get a bit worried watching Jack bounce around on stage as I can still remember the time he ruined his knee on stage a few years ago. With every stamp I wince just a little bit. It’s good to see that he seems to have made a full recovery though. This was another exhilarating set from On A Hiding To Nothing.

After On A Hiding To Nothing we made our way to New Cross Inn, where we had planned on spending the rest of our day. We arrived as The Social Club were already way into their set. We bumped into some friends who informed us that the ladies toilets had basically exploded and had given the venue a particularly shitty scent. I, for some reason, couldn’t smell it so that was a bonus for me! Something that was not at all shitty was The Social Club. I only got to see four or five songs but I was very impressed. Fronted by former Captain Everything member Lewis, the band played more of a melody driven, indie rock style that’s a lot of fun. Despite the apparent scent, the venue was still very busy and a lot of people squeezed down to the front for a sing and dance to the band. I was amused by the pledge that the band got the crowd to say, joining ‘The Social Club’, it reminded me of Dave Gorman’s commandments from Are You Dave Gorman? That’s a twenty year old reference. Hopefully you get it.

At the conclusion of The Social Club’s set we popped a couple of doors down to Beirut for some dinner to set us up for the rest of the night. Have you tried their falafel wrap yet? I seriously suggest you do. After another delicious dinner and making use of a non-exploded toilet we returned to NXI for Nervus. Nervus are a band I always enjoy immensely whenever I see them live but never seem to listen to them when I’m at home. That’s something I seriously need to amend because what a fantastic group of songwriters the band are. With each song they get better and better and certainly seem like a well oiled machine. I’m not sure whether or not that this was Nervus’ first show back since lockdown but, if it was, I’m even more impressed by how good they were. Front person Em has one of the best voice in punk rock. They have this wonderful ability to grab the entire room’s attention and have them baying on their every word. Songs such as Sick Sad World and It Follows go down extremely well with the crowd, as does They Don’t, which felt especially poignant given everything that’s come to light about the Met Police in recent weeks. Nervus have built up a reputation as one of the UK’s best bands in recent years and it’s hard to argue that it isn’t true.

Next up were UK punk rock legends Crazy Arm. The Devonshire punks have been a big part of the DIY scene for as long as I can remember now and earlier this year they finally released their long-awaited new album, Dark Hands, Thunderbolts, which they spent the week leading up to Till The Fest touring. I took up a spot on the side of the New Cross stage ready to just stare in awe at one of the best bands in the country. Crazy Arm decided to start their set five minutes earlier than scheduled to allow them to play an extra song – which was fine by us. The set had a perfect blend of tracks from the new album along with so many old favourites. The band got the crowd moving from the very start of their set and I had a great time from my view point watching friends at the front of crowd loose their minds dancing and singing along to the band. For their latest album and recent live shows Crazy Arm have added another vocalist, Tia Kalmaru, to their ensemble who really gave an extra layer to their live show. Not only did they provide some excellent harmonies but did a fantastic job in keeping the crowd’s energy up throughout the set. At one point they even spent some time down in the front of the crowd having a dance which was a great touch. After a blisteringly good thirty five or so minutes the band finished on Tribes and gave the crowd one last big sing-along.

Our penultimate band of the weekend was Apologies, I Have None. Even ignoring the pandemic and lockdown, it felt like forever since I last saw Apologies, I Have None. They are a band that I seemingly used to see every other month and were a big part of my introduction into the DIY scene so it definitely felt fitting for their big comeback to be at Till The Fest. NXI was packed with people expecting an emotional experience and that’s exactly what they received. Over the years, the band have become masters of creating a mesmerising atmosphere wherever they play. The whole room seems completely transfixed on the stage during the entirety of the set and explode into life for some of the biggest sing-alongs of the weekend. The last few times I’ve seen the band, lead singer and guitarist Josh has provided plenty of humorous banter between songs but on this occasion it was all business, with the band seamlessly moving from one song to the next. Each song was shouted passionately back at the band, each time they started a new track it felt like this was the crowd’s collective favourite ever. It’s always great to hear Concrete Feet live, the band showed off their fun side by setting off a confetti cannon during The 26 (I think it was The 26, feel free to correct me) and the sing-along during Sat In Vicky Park was one of those you had to be there to really understand just how special it was moments. This was unsurprisingly very close to being my favourite set of the entire weekend. Welcome back Apologies, I Have None.

It’s no secret for long time readers of CPRW that Lightyear are my favourite band. When they got announced for Till The Fest I could not have been happier. For me, the whole weekend really lead up to this moment – Lightyear taking to the New Cross Inn stage for what could be the last ever time. Unfortunately trumpet player Neil couldn’t make the show but the wonderful Pook would be deputising on trombone. I love watching Pook dance around on stage so this was a lovely bonus. The venue must’ve been at capacity at this point for a band that are one of the most important bands in the history of UK DIY punk. What’s always great about watching Lightyear is that you never know what to expect. I don’t think Lightyear really know themselves what’s going to happen when they take to the stage. It’s a whacky ride that everyone in the building ends up on. As soon as the band began their set you know it’s going to be a chaotic and messy hour and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Frontman Chas Palmer-Williams, the finest lyricist of his generation, is a whirlwind on stage.  There’s a whole load of messing around going on whilst singing some of the most meaningful words ever recorded. At one point Chas comes to the side of stage, picks up a roll of blue paper towels and for no reason whatsoever – other than Lightyear – launches it into the crowd. At another point he unplugs his microphone for the crowd to sing into and then tries singing into the aux cable – because Lightyear. During Blindside the band is joined on the already cramped stage by people dressed as a horse and a jockey. They came on a little too early which added to the chaos that was happening before us. If you’ve witnessed the nonsense that is Lightyear before, you’ll know that very often after the band provide us with their Morris dancing breakdown the ‘horse’ comes on stage. Speaking of Morris dancing, the band seemed to improvise, instead of using proper sticks they had tooth picks which we thought was hilarious. If you hadn’t seen the band before you probably had no idea what was happening, but you will next time. Naturally they finished the set with A Pack Of Dogs, which again turned into chaos with the harmonies on the breakdown getting everyone on stage and in the crowd confused. I think it’s impossible to see Lightyear live and come away with anything other than a massive smile on your face. Even Matt Ear Nutrition had a big smile on his face at the end of the set and he is not a fan of all this trumpety nonsense. Lightyear are the best, I can’t wait for their next last ever show.

Now’s the time where I write a summation of the entire weekend. I think it’s quite a hard thing to really summarise well as it was such a special weekend for so many different reasons. The last eighteen months has been very difficult for all the obvious reasons and, for me, Till The Fest felt like someone had finally hit play again after life was paused for so long. For many people this would have been their first shows back, or their first time back in London, or even their first time being amongst so many friends again. I personally got to spend some quality time with so many brilliant people, people I’ve known for years, people I’ve met recently or even people I met for the first time at the festival and it really lifted me. I probably didn’t see as many bands as I normally would at a festival but I did get to experience being in that special punk festival environment that I had missed so much. As you will know after reading this three part review, every band I did see absolutely killed it and from what I understand all the bands I didn’t get to see did too.

So much love needs to go to Ollie and his team of volunteers for not just organising the weekend but ensuring it ran so smoothly. As I said in part one of this review, I was a little sceptical on Till The Fest actually happening but I am so grateful for Ollie for persisting and getting Till The Fest done. It was a real life affirming weekend for me and I’m sure many more people in attendance. I’m already excited to see what Till The Wheel gets organised for next year’s festival. I’ve already got my ticket, have you got yours? One more time, thank you Ollie for everything!

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

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