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.

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