Friday, 22 July 2022

Album Review: Astroturf by Hot Mass (by Lara Roberts)

It’s 2022 and the world is slowly adjusting to a new normal, post-pandemic way of life. While we take tentative steps together exploring this new world, there are still a lot of home comforts, things that are the same but just a little different – little changes that you didn’t realise you would enjoy or need unless The Great Fuck Up happened back in 2020 (more self-service and cashless payments, praise be).

Six years after their first album was released, Swansea punks Hot Mass are back in the studio working on their sophomore album, Happy, Smiling, and Living the Dream. The first single from their upcoming album is a journey of self-discovery and self-assurance while trying to navigate your way to self-acceptance in the very modern face of not quite fitting in with everyone around you. It’s something we’ve all felt at some point, some more than others (hello!), so you’ll find that both the Astroturf melody and lyrics are easy to connect to from the first play. With lyrics like “these crossword clues don’t get any easier, and fuck the words they spell out – just stay what you are and light up the room day after day” – it’s almost as if the song is cheering you on to stay true to yourself, a long-lost friend that’s got your back, to stop you questioning who you are.

“The song embodies the punk-derived sonic textures that we love, but I wanted to pay homage to the early college/indie rock era and the free-floating guitar parts that are a staple of those genres” explains vocalist and guitarist Rhys Jenkins. Hot Mass have successfully and authentically produced a sound that is reminiscent of 90s college and indie rock, while staying true to their original, more punk rock roots. Bands like Weezer (Blue Album-era), The Pixies, and Dinosaur Jr. are thrown at you from the get go, albeit with tighter guitar playing than a noise-fuelled free-for-all. This works exceptionally well, keeping a more ‘punk’ edge to the track.

Full of catchy and comforting melancholic melodies and poignant positivity, Astroturf is a fantastic introduction to what promises to be new sound for the band. Nervous Tension was a solid first album for Hot Mass, and Happy, Smiling, and Living the Dream builds on that with the introduction of a few little changes, creating a more mature, self-assured sound.

Astroturf is available to stream everywhere from 22nd July 2022. Make sure you check out the video too.

Happy, Smiling and Living the Dream is out August 2022 on Brassneck Records (UK), This Charming Man Records (EU), and Black Numbers (US).

This review was written by Lara Roberts.

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Gig Review: Bristol Booze Cruise 2022 at Exchange, Bristol 19/6/22

It was time for the second day of Bristol Booze Cruise and, although the line-up didn’t look as much to my tastes as the first one did, I was still looking forward to a fun day watching bands and hanging out with friends.

Our first activity of the day was to visit Specialist Subject Records. It was fun going in and knowing everybody in there who had had the same idea as us. Record shops should be a communal experience shared with friends and this was nice. £60 later we left and made our way to Oowee Vegan for some lunch, then dropped our records off and returned to the Exchange for the day.

The first act of the day was once again down in the basement. This time it was Lauren from La Moxie with an acoustic set. Lauren stated that she wasn’t used to playing a set so early in the day or so sober and was a bit nervous. This didn’t stop her storming through the set and showcasing her impressive vocal range. Not knowing much about La Moxie, I didn’t know any of the songs but I did really enjoy the cover of Thrash Unreal by Against Me!. This was a nice way to ease everyone who got back to the Exchange early into the second day of Bristol Booze Cruise.

The band who were picked to open the stage in the main room were Brighton skate punks Making Friends. We’d previously seen the four-piece for the first time back in November at the New Cross Inn and I was looking forward to seeing them again. If you’ve not listened to the band yet, they’re a fast, fun, energetic band who not only write killer songs but are also extremely entertaining to watch live. Lead singer Ryan is a ball of energy, jumping around the stage. Throughout the set he managed to break a few things which resulted in some humorous banter between the band and added some extra chaos to the performance. This set was quite a pick me up to get me amped for the rest of the day.

Breakfast With Bears were next on in the basement. I had no knowledge of what to expect when I made my way back downstairs to see the band. As I arrived, the band had just got started but then had to stop due to a broken guitar string. When they got going again, they proved themselves to be an incredible band taking influence from alternative rock, emo, math rock and punk rock to create an impressive sound. As tight as they were though, I did have a difficult time connecting with the band. I think this was in big part due to the band’s lead singer spending most of their time with their back to the crowd whilst singing. I don’t know if it was a stylistic choice or a bad habit but I have to say that it did take something away from the performance.

Cherym were one of the bands we were most looking forward to on the Sunday of Bristol Booze Cruise. The three piece from Derry had already begun their set when I got back upstairs. Playing their fun, breezy indie punk sound, you just couldn’t help but smile and have a little bop along to their songs. Cherym have been a band on our radar for sometime and we were very pleased to finally have the chance to see them live. I particularly enjoyed their enthusiasm to be playing their set and this really rubbed off into the crowd. Between the songs, they made jokes about praying for them to make their ferry home even though they’re not religious. This became a running theme throughout the set. They also took the time to tell the crowd their different pronouns which I for one appreciated. I don’t know how often Cherym make it to England but I’ll be sure to catch them again next time they play nearby.

Back in the basement it was time for probably the band I was most excited for of the day – Regal Cheer. The Brighton based duo had been on a short weekend tour and managed to squeeze Bristol Booze Cruise in as an added date which I was very pleased about. Playing noisey indie punk, I was impressed with how big they managed to sound with just a guitar and drums. Having two singers also helped with that. As I watched, slightly in awe, they had me thinking of an old favourites of ours – Bangers. This may have been because we had earlier been in Specialist Subject Records but the power that came from the guitarist’s vocals really got me. The rawness of the set was something I also really enjoyed, especially in retrospect of the rest of the day which was packed with more clean and polished sounding bands. Regal Cheer were my Sunday highlight by some way. Check them out.

Following Regal Cheer was Weatherstate. Weathertstate were a band I’d seen on plenty of posters over the last few years but had never really checked out. As we arrived back in the main room the band had just got started. After checking them out before the festival, I was keen to see what they would be like live. Listening to them on Spotify I enjoyed their raspy vocalled, high energy pop punk style. For some reason, which could have very much been the fact that I was starting to get tired, I didn’t feel like it translated very well to their live performance. It all felt a bit static to me. There were plenty of people in the room that did really seem to be enjoying them but, after about four songs, I decided that I needed to have a bit of a break and took the opportunity to do so.

Say It Anyway were next on in the basement, playing their second ever show. The band feature former members of The Run Up, who I was a big fan of, and the former singer of Save Your Breath. As much as I loved The Run Up, the songs that Say It Anyway had been trickling out since their formation hadn’t been doing much for me so I was a bit anxious about what they would be like live. I’m pleased to report that I was super impressed with them after seeing them live. It wasn't surprising, given how long the band had played together in The Run Up, that they were really tight and you could tell that the singer also had some serious frontman chops as he owned the crowd. As I was watching, I realised that I shouldn’t compare Say It Anyway to their previous bands as they are different and shouldn’t be judged on their previous work. It’s new and it’s different and, you know what, seeing them live is a lot of fun! I’m pleased for the boys and look forward to seeing where this band takes them.

I Feel Fine had already started their set when we made it back to the main room. Once again, I only caught a few songs of their set as I was starting to lag a bit and needed to take more rests. Gosh I was impressed with I Feel Fine though. Playing fiddly emo/indie punk with big choruses and harmonies, I Feel Fine are a really good band. I’m a big fan of multiple vocalists that give a song that extra bit of power and I Feel Fine’s songs seem to be full of them. Like I said, I only hung around for a bit as I needed the break but what a good band I Feel Fine are – hopefully I’ll be able to catch them again before the year finishes.

Arguer were a band I knew absolutely nothing about and they were on next in the basement. Sadly they didn’t really do much for me and, once again, I only hung about for a couple of songs before leaving again. There did seem to be quite a few people in the room who were into it though and that was nice to see.

The problem with having a two day festival with the bands being on straight after each other is that there is little time to rest and I think this really hit me hard as I got to a point of not wanting to stand in dark rooms watching bands I didn’t know and had to take myself out of the situation.

New Jersey’s Hit Like A Girl had just started a UK tour with I Feel Fine when they took to the main stage in Bristol. It was really cool to see another band from outside of the UK had been able to make it over for Bristol Booze Cruise. The four piece play indie/emo punk rock. They weren’t a band I knew much about before the festival but despite my tiredness I was determined to stick around the stage for longer than I had the previous few bands. The thing that really stood out to me during the set was how they didn’t sound anything like I expected them to. They were a lot quieter and, dare I say, moodier than the sound I had in my head which was a lot more shouty. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy them though, they created this mesmerising atmosphere which I found hard to ignore. There was something in the room that I really struggle to explain but it was very pleasant. Unfortunately somewhere at this show or the one afterward, the band’s drummer caught the dreaded covid so the band had to soldier on as a three-piece for the rest of their tour. All credit to them for completing the tour though.

Back downstairs and it was time for London’s Dangers Of Love’s last ever show. Somehow, despite London being where I go to most of my gigs, this would also be my first ever time seeing the band. The three-piece wasted little time in getting set up and quickly launched into their set. Playing a mixture of garage and indie punk rock, the band stormed through their set with very little time spent bantering between songs. This set was the shot in the arm I really needed during the day, it was a sound that was completely more my kind of thing. The folk who had gathered in the room seemed to really enjoy it as well, as there were plenty down the front with smiles on their faces. My only complaint about the set was that it was over far too quickly. They did seem to cut their set a little shorter than what their allotted time was. I’m putting this down to the fact that they ran through all of the songs that their current singer sings on, rather than those of previous member Giles. It was a fun way for the band to bow out and I’m glad that I got to see them at least one time.

I think that Future Teens were far and away Emma’s favourite band of the day. The Boston quartet were mostly unknown to us before the festival but we both came away really impressed. Fronted by guitarists and vocalists Amy and Daniel, the band do the dual vocal thing perfectly. They give the band such a great dynamic and create this fantastic sound. Playing the indie punk style that seems to be the theme of the day, Future Teens offer a different approach to it that I found really refreshing. Something else that set Future Teens apart from a lot of the other bands playing the stage was just how much fun they were to watch as well. The band were really playful and seemed to have a few in-jokes with some of the things they did on stage and I really enjoyed that. At one point during the set Daniel broke a guitar string, this left Amy to perform a song solo which became one of the most emotional moments of the day. I nipped out early to get a drink but meeting up with Emma afterwards she approached with wide eyes and said “they are my new favourite band!” This was a nice moment.

The band given the task of closing the basement stage for the festival were the UK punk scenes hot new thing, Out Of Love. We were fortunate enough to see them play their first ever live show at the Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes in 2021. I remember being absolutely blown away by them and was very excited to have the chance to see them again. The band tore through their set, I think they might have near enough played every song they’ve released so far and it was a pleasure to hear them. At times I did feel like the sound wasn’t as good as it could’ve been which is weird for the Exchange. That could also have been because I was stood right next to one of the speakers though and it distorted the whole sound. Out Of Love put in a powerful and energetic set, clearly a band that leave everything on the stage whenever they play and that is something I really appreciate. The five-piece seem to be getting bigger and bigger support slots and on this evidence it’s so well deserved.

The final act of Bristol Booze Cruise was Tigers Jaw. I have to admit that I’m not a Tigers Jaw fan. They’re fine but also not a band that really get me excited. However, when we made our way back to the main room for the final time, it was clear that I was in the minority. The room was absolutely packed from the front to the back. So much so that Emma and I had to hang out by the little bench bit in the corridor that links the main room to the bar. Emma, being a short person, took the opportunity to stand on the bench to get a good view. I, however, took the opportunity to have a seat as I was really tired. I tried to then really zone in to what the band were doing without getting distracted by everything that was going on around me like I often do when in a crowd. The band are clearly a seriously gifted group of musicians and can write some catchy indie-emo punk music. The dual vocalists give them a more developed sound and the keys are a great addition to their sound. Throughout the entirety of their hour plus long set they seemed to have the crowd gripped, as not many people seemed to leave the room for a drink when they were playing. When they played the one Tigers Jaw song I do know, June, the crowd did seem to become more animated – I assume that’s the banger. Tigers Jaw did a big UK and European tour and wowed crowds all over and it was a very fitting way to finish off the festival.

In the build up to Bristol Booze Cruise, there was a strange feeling of trepidation towards the festival. With all the bands dropping out and the last minute replacements coming in, I couldn’t help but worry that the atmosphere might feel a bit flat and not what I’ve come to expect from a music festival. As soon as I arrived at the festival however, any fears quickly vanished as I was reminded that, despite bands dropping out, the line-up was still stacked and more importantly there were loads of friends from the punk community surrounding me. Ultimately, that’s what really makes a good festival great. Being surrounded by likeminded people all ready to have a great time. You can’t beat that feeling and for me Bristol Booze Cruise had that feeling in abundance. I had a great time with friends, watching lots of bands – some that I’ve seen loads, some that I wouldn’t normally go and see at their own gig.

All in all, Bristol Booze Cruise was a lovely time. Big thanks to Daniel and the rest of the Booze Cruise team for persevering with it when, at times, I’m sure it would have felt easier to just cancel it. Then it was on to Hamburg for the next part of our Booze Cruise double weekender!

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

Monday, 11 July 2022

Gig Review: Bristol Booze Cruise 2022 at Exchange, Bristol 18/6/22

When Bristol Booze Cruise first happened in 2019, we were gutted that we had other plans and had to miss out. It looked like such a fun line-up that included many of our UK favourites as well as plenty of bands from overseas, many of whom were coming to the UK for the first time ever. After then attending the Hamburg Booze Cruise a few weeks later, Emma and I promised ourselves that the following year we would attend the Bristol version. We bought tickets, a superb line-up was announced and then 2020 happened and the world stopped. Fast forward two eventful, for all the wrong reasons, years and we were finally back in Bristol and looking forward attending the boatless Booze Cruise at the Exchange. Unfortunately due to all of the events that happened in the past two years, the line-up was looking very different to the one that was originally planned. It was a great shame but completely understandable given the circumstances. We were determined to have the best possible time nevertheless and were looking forward to seeing loads of bands, as well as getting to hang with friends from all over the UK all weekend.

After grabbing food at OM Burger with Matt Ear Nutrition and his wonderful partner, Charlotte, we made our way to the Exchange and instantly found loads of friends who had gathered at the venue early. This was one of my favourite things about the whole weekend. The opportunity to catch up, hug and hang out was one that was cherished just as much as getting to see so many awesome acts and it was a real highlight of the entire weekend.

The man tasked with opening the whole festival was our pal Hassan of Triple Sundae. Triple Sundae were in Bristol to play another gig and Hassan was asked to come down to open the show. I’m glad he agreed to as I’m a big fan. Hassan played a selection of Triple Sundae songs – including a couple of new ones from their soon to be recorded debut album – as well as a track from his hip hop project Lounar. Armed with just an electric guitar in the basement, it was a cool opportunity to hear these re-workings of songs I’ve heard so many times previously. This was a great way to ease us into the weekend as well. And if you’re yet to check out Lounar then I highly suggest that you do. Lounar writes songs about Hassan’s experiences growing up as a Palestinian in the UK and speaks out about the ongoing injustices that are happening in his homeland. You can support the Palestinian people here. Please do so if you can.

Opening up the main stage was Croatia’s Trophy Jump. I was excited to finally see the four piece live after being keen to for years. Their recently released album, Feels, has been one of my favourites of 2022 and I was particularly excited to hear some of those songs performed live. The band did not disappoint with their own brand of sing-along indie punk. I don’t know how many people in the crowd were overly aware of the band before the day but there was a small group of folk down the front singing along with the band including members of Burnt Tapes, Early Flights and Dan from Tape It Shut/CPRW. It’s always great seeing a band look so pleased to be on a stage performing and they were as tight as I expected. Highlights of the set for me were Neon Lights – it was great to see Phil Burnt Tapes join the band on stage to sing his part and then get crowd surfed by the rest of Burnt Tapes – and hearing my two favourite Trophy Jump songs, Leather Couch and Hugs On Drugs, live was fantastic.

Next downstairs in the basement was Scotland’s Flinch. Flinch was a late addition to the line-up due to some drop outs. Flinch is the newest project of Slowlight’s Beth which started as a solo thing but has since become a full band. Beth was already driving for Goodbye Blue Monday on their tour so it made complete sense for them to jump on the show. I was really excited when it was announced that Flinch would be playing as I’m a big fan of their album Enough Is Enough. After Trophy Jump, I hurried downstairs to get a prime position for their set. By the time they began it was nice to see a reasonable crowd gather for the set. I really enjoyed how respectful the crowd were as well. Flinch’s music is quite quiet and, in the small basement, if people started having a chat it could overpower the music, which obviously would have sucked. Thankfully that didn’t happen though and we got to enjoy the set. It was absolutely captivating, being in a silent room added to the emotion of the songs and there was a bit of an atmosphere that suggested that we’d been a part of something. This is what live music should be about, connecting with your crowd, getting them to experience and feel something and Flinch did just that. I’m now super keen to see them perform with their full band.

Lincoln’s GUTS. were the second band on the main stage. They were another new addition to the line-up and I knew absolutely nothing about them before the set. A cool thing about the late additions to the festival was that it meant, for a lot of bands, I was going in very blind and sometimes that’s the way to discover a new favourite band. The three piece played fuzzy pop punk music and had plenty of enthusiasm. It was a big contrast to Flinch’s set previously and I think I might have had a difficult time adjusting to the different sound however. The band played with lots of energy and the crowd, that was growing with every band, seemed to really enjoy it. I did leave a little early to make sure I got a good spot for the next band in the basement, Moonraker!

Way back in 2020 when Moonraker got announced for Bristol Booze Cruise I was over the moon. They’re a band I’ve loved for a long time. I forget how I discovered them but have been hooked ever since. 2018’s Lanterns was one of my favourites of that year and their 2022 release The Forest will no doubt find its way on to my end of year list. As international bands began to drop off of the festival, I was extremely worried that Moonraker would do the same, especially as they hadn’t booked any other gigs in the UK but I was so excited to see online when they had boarded a plane to the UK and had landed. I made a point of telling the Burnt Tapes to make sure they catch them as I thought they would love them. As I entered the basement they were already down there, positioned at the front of the crowd. I made my way to join them and we were also joined by fellow Moonraker UK fan club member Matt Ear Nutrition. The Californian three piece played a set that made them so perfect for this festival – fast punk rock music with raspy vocals and big choruses. Nick and David’s vocals were superb together as they echoed around the basement. I have to admit that when I saw they were playing the basement I was a little disappointed as I felt like they deserved to play to a bigger crowd, especially as they had travelled so far, but it was cool to see them playing in the tiny room. It was hot, it was sweaty and it was a lot of fun. I got to talk to David and Nick later in the day who were two super friendly human beings who I can’t wait to see again at Fest. I’m sure guitar player Matt is also a bit of a legend but I didn’t get to have a chat with him.

Brighton pop punks All Better had already started their set by the time I made it back upstairs. The band are currently out and about supporting their new album, How To Be Alone. I previously saw All Better in Brighton a few years ago when they opened for Spanish Love Songs, Pkew Pkew Pkew and Goodbye Blue Monday and was intrigued to see how they’ve progressed since then. The band know how to write a slick pop punk tune that’s for sure. The band seemed to be effortlessly cool on stage and looked as if they were having a lot of fun, which is what this music is all about. Their between song banter was also pretty entertaining as well. I didn’t spend much time watching their set as I wanted to make sure to get a good spot for Goodbye Blue Monday who were next on in the basement. This was perhaps the slight issue with the basement being so much smaller than the main room. You had to miss bits of the main room bands to make sure that you could get in to the basement if you wanted to see whoever was playing next in there. I have no solution on anything that could be done to fix this, it’s just part and parcel of a multi-stage festival.

If you’re a long time reader of the blog then you know what a big fan of Goodbye Blue Monday I am. I bloody love those boys, not just as a band but for also being awesome people. I’m clearly not the only one as when we made it down to the basement, about ten minutes before their set was due to start, the room was already pretty full. I made my way as close to the front as possible and was still about five rows back. It felt like there was a feeling of anticipation in the room as we waited for the band to start. And as soon as they did it was sing-alongs galore. My head is a little sketchy on the songs they played (cut me some slack, I saw every band at Bristol Booze Cruise and forgot to make a single note) but every song was so well received. Favourites from their previous two EPs as well as some new ones, from the debut album that they’re currently in the middle of recording, got plenty of love. They also played a snippet of a 16 minute epic that they’ve written for the album that I’m really keen to finally hear the finished version of. Goodbye Blue Monday are a band that connect so well with their audience and it’s a big part of why they get so much love from everyone who meets them. I think if you were in the room and didn’t know much about the band, you most definitely left as a fan. I think the set finished with Love Is A Noose For Two, Misery-Punk Ruined My Life and Take Your Pills to some final massive shout-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-alongs. I still love Goodbye Blue Monday very much and hope it’s not too long before I get to see them again.

After Goodbye Blue Monday’s storming set it was back upstairs for Soot Sprite. The Exeter based band are going on a UK tour with Okay, Bye later in the year so this was a great opportunity to see them before then. I wasn’t overly familiar with the band before the festival but I knew they were getting a lot of buzz in the indie punk scene and have been working with Specialist Subject Records. I was particularly impressed with Elise Cook’s voice throughout the set. I always think it must be hard to sing as well as you do on record when you perform the songs live but Elise smashed it. The room was extremely receptive to the set but I again had a hard to adjusting to the softer sound after the rowdiness of Goodbye Blue Monday’s set. It’s always great for a festival to have bands that sound different from one another and it’s important to check out new bands but I had a hard time really getting into it on this occasion. Soot Sprite were clearly a good band and deserve all of the attention they’ve been receiving and I will make sure to catch them again at a later date.

Hell’s Ditch were one of my highlights of Manchester Punk Festival and were a band I was looking forward to seeing again. The melodic pop punk band are a six piece and had a difficult time squeezing everyone on to the basement stage. Lead singer Nicholas Davis had to stand in front of the stage and it became basically a floor show. This only added to the fun though as it got the crowd more involved. The members of Hell’s Ditch are all seasoned punk rock pros at this point and know how to put on a show. Nicholas has a great voice and has the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout. Songs such as The Likes Of Us, Hope Is Hope and Vacant Hearts all sound superb in the basement and a few people even sing along. Partway through the set the band repeated their cover of The Clash’s Train In Vain that they performed at MPF. On this occasion Nicholas brought out a tambourine and gave it to a member of the crowd to play during the song. They did a superb job. At some point this tambourine ended up in my possession, I did not do such a good job but I did have a nice time being the seventh member of Hell’s Ditch for a short while. There was a nice moment during the beginning of the set where an elderly gentlemen who was at the festival all weekend appeared at the front and between Nicholas and Tone of the Burnt Tapes a chair was quickly found for him so he could rock out it comfort. It was nice moment to see the community helping each other out. It’s what it’s all about.

Durham’s Fortitude Valley were up next. Featuring members of Martha and ONSIND, this was another band of punk veterans. I really like both of those bands mentioned so very much expected to enjoy Fortitude Valley as well. I guess, to nobody’s surprise, I did. I do feel like it’s a bit unfair to just assume that Fortitude Valley are another Martha/ONSIND side project though as this is really the project of Laura Kovic. They have more of an indie/powerpop sound that was perfect for a Saturday evening. The band played tracks from their recent self titled album and sounded great. I only managed to catch a bit of their set as I was getting hungry so quickly popped out for some food.

At this point, I got a bit distracted and missed most of the next band – Sleep Outside. I didn’t know anything about them at all so went in blind, which is sometimes fun to do. As I arrived in the basement it was quite full for the band and I struggled to spot Emma. Sleep Outside are a three piece alt/emo band from Wales who had a sound that filled the basement nicely. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to see them properly soon and I’ll try not to get too distracted talking to folk.

I did make sure I was in the main room in time for Fightmilk. I first became aware of Fightmilk thanks to my buddy John from One Million Motors recommending them to me. I enjoyed them when I gave them a listen but after seeing them live I’m disappointed that I’ve only just got on the bandwagon. What a good, good band! Playing fuzzy indie punk rock, the London based band were one of my biggest highlights of the entire festival. Definitely the biggest surprise. Lead singer and guitarist Lily had this amazing presence on the stage and their voice commanded the entire room. The songs had that perfect mix of feeling powerful but also being a lot of fun. Not being as familiar with their songs as I perhaps should have been, I did feel a pang of jealousy for everyone down the front for being able to sing-along with the band. I did recognise songs such as Overbite and I’m Starting To Think You Don’t Even Want To Go To Space however and they sounded as good live as they do on record. Fightmilk are such a fun bad to watch live and I can’t wait to see them again. I was extremely sad to hear after the festival that Fightmilk encountered some misogyny towards them during their set. This is awful behaviour to say the least and I hope those involved will never be allowed into the Exchange again. There is no place for that kind of behaviour in our scene and in society in general. It’s 2022 for Gandalf’s sake.

German punk heroes Irish Handcuffs were the penultimate band on in the basement. To my knowledge, they are the only band to have played every edition of Booze Cruise so it was great that they were able to keep that streak going and were able to get over to the UK for the weekend. The three piece had previously played in Brighton the night before with our friends in Till I’m Bones and the band had impressed them, which added to my excitement to see them play once again. Irish Handcuffs were also supporting their brand new album, Transitions, which is their first in eight years. I’ve not had a chance to listen to it properly yet but judging by the songs they played during the set it’s one I’m going to absolutely lovely. If you’re unaware of what Irish Handcuffs sound like then I think they best way of describing them is melodic pop punk with soulful vocals, kind of like Dave Hause’s former band The Loved Ones. I’m certain the band picked up some brand new fans during their set. Whilst they were playing I noticed that they had Alkaline Trio written on their set list. When they got to that part of their set they told the crowd that they would be playing a cover set at Hamburg Booze Cruise where they would be playing songs by bands that are trios. They wanted to do a test run of Mercy Me by Alkaline Trio. They smashed it and earned a big sing-along from the crowd. At one point Dan #2 came and grabbed me and we sang the chorus as loudly as we could. It was a nice moment. I wasn’t planning on seeing Irish Handcuffs in Hamburg due to clashes and the fact that I would be seeing them in Bristol. I might have to change that plan though as they were so good.

The penultimate act on the main stage was Watford’s Nervus. I only ended up seeing a bit of their set due to wanting to make sure I got a good spot for the Burnt Tapes who were on in the basement next. This was a wise move as we entered the room with a few minutes to go before the set started and it was already getting busy. CPRW Podcast star Lara and her husband Nicky were excited to see the Tapes for the first time ever, as were our friends the Vegan Punks Dan and Jess. I later found out there were a few other people seeing the band for the first time ever. I guess it’s something I take for granted, as being based near London I get to see them all the time. And every single time they steal the show for me. I managed to squeeze my way right to the front to have a great sing-along with the band. This was my third time seeing the band this year and I was as excited as ever for a massive sing-along. For the next 30 minutes, it was almost like a massive karaoke gang vocal party as the crowd sang every word right back at the band. The band thrive in moments like this and the crowd get even more excitable. At one point Dan#2 had a little crowd surf and considering the low height of the ceiling and how tall they are it was quite the spectacle. I was very pleased that my favourite Tapes song Dirt Roads seems to have found a permanent home on the set list, I think belting out that brilliant chorus was the moment I felt my throat starting to get sore. The set originally finished with that perfect combo of Things Get Weird and Yuzi before, after being encouraged by the crowd, the band squeezed in a cover of I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore by The Menzingers. They did overrun their slot slightly but it was a great time had by all.

Bristol hometown heroes The Menstrual Cramps were given the task of closing what had been a fantastic first day of Bristol Booze Cruise. We had seen The Menstrual Cramps for the first time earlier this year when they also headlined Fishstock at the Exchange. Since then I’d also seen them at Manchester Punk Festival. Both times I had really enjoyed it and I had no reason to suspect that it wouldn’t be three for three. I think it’s fair to say that the crowd on this night hadn’t been as busy as it had been at the previous two times I’d seen them but there were still plenty of enthusiastic people ready to have a great time with the band. The band launched into their opening couple of songs and then disaster struck! Their guitarist broke a string. Thankfully the DIY punk scene is a helpful bunch and the Tapes were on hand to let The Menstrual Cramps borrow one of their guitars. From then on, the band tore through their set playing songs such as Hashtag Sad Penis, Tinder Girl, Mutual Masturbation and Neo Nazi among many others. As this was my third time seeing them in the space of about three months it allowed me to sit back and think about what the band’s message is rather than just being blown away by the energy that singer Emilia and the rest of the band have on stage. The Menstrual Cramps are one of the most important bands in the UK at the moment and not just in the punk scene. This is a band that the more mainstream alternative media should be paying attention to. With messages about consent, abortion, racism and misogyny among others, there are a lot of things that can be learnt from the band. They’re an empowering band and one that is seriously needed at the moment. They’re the sort of band that encapsulates what punk should be in 2022.

The first day of Bristol Booze Cruise had been a lot of fun. It was great to be surrounded by friends from all over and every single band killed it. We hung out in the Exchange bar for a little while after the bands finished but fatigue began to set in, so we said our goodbyes and made our way back to the hotel to get some rest ready for another day of bands and buds the next day.

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