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.

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