Archive for the ‘Live/Gig Reviews’ Category

I’ve made the long trip to Deal a few times, but this one feels a little different – almost as if things have come full-circle. Almost two years ago to the day, I walked into a small pub on a backroad in Gravesend, and came out with my perspective on music and punk rock changed forever, and a fair bit of that impact was down to the band shoved on first, who quite honestly blew me away like few other bands have done before or since. Back then, I knew them as nothing more than three dudes and one dudette kicking out blistering old-skool punk rock so full of energy and vitality that they reminded me of just why I fell in love with rock ‘n’ roll music. Since then, I became quite the fanboy, travelling the length of the county to catch their shows, crashing on band members’ floors, and getting to see in uncompromising close-up detail the rigours of being a fan-friendly punk rock band in a scene full of smug, preening metallers,  ‘hardcore’ kids and scenesters chasing the front page of NME.  I saw members come and go, with those who remained shouldering the burden of progress under the crushing weight of apathy, personal and financial troubles, and motivation, and I witnessed a band I loved veer close to the edge of breakup on multiple occasions. After a year of stuttering through limbo and a limp-wristed attempt at a comeback, tonight feels like a shot at redemption.  Back in the town where it all began, with ghosts of their old hardcore local following gathering in earnest, The Submission are fired up and ready to prove to everyone that they’re back for good – and here to stay.

It should seem pretty obvious from that rather personal intro that there’s definitely a part of me crossing his fingers and hoping tonight is a roaring success – surely, after so many dead ends and mis-steps, tonight will be the night where they get it right. The vibes are good, there’s at last a settled line-up to the group, and with a nicely-large Telegraph crowd – including some ex-members and many long-time fans – stoked and ready to dance, all the ingredients are in place to make this comeback nothing less than explosive. Because let’s face it, if you’re going to make a comeback, doing it in front of a slightly-inebrieted home crowd is as good a place as any, right?

This being a pub show, the majority of the two (two!) lengthy setlists are covers of punk, rock ‘n’ roll and ska standards, but it seems only right that they kick off with one of their greatest tunes, the Rancid-baiting ‘Stay In Action’. From the moment the group hit the first chord, the pace and electricity of old comes rushing back, and with a Ramones-style intensity to proceedings, the set whizzes by on a rollercoaster through rock ‘n’ roll history. It’s blistering, energetic and outrageously fun – y’know, just how it used to be. Immediately the ‘comeback’ shows from earlier in the year pale in comparison, and I don’t find myself making excuses for old times’ sake; every cymbal crash, chord crunch, bass run and keyboard babble is exactly where it should be and buzzing with raw electric vitality. And with all this comes a much-missed sense of fun –  at last, frontman Richard Harris has a smile on his face as he shares some friendly banter with the crowd. Bassist Sadie Williams grooves away to her heart’s content with a constant mischievous grin, constantly hyping the crowd on whenever a big gang chant is called for. When you have everyone in the room, band included, grinning like idiots and  bouncing around madly to not only classic tunes like ‘Johnny B Goode’, the Ramones’ ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’, and Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come’, but storming original tunes like ‘I’m Lazy’, ‘Get Up’ and ‘No Tomorrow’, you know you must be doing something right.

The biggest single reason for this transformation is new-ish drummer Bernie Watts. I say new-ish in that this isn’t the first time he’s drummed with the group – he’s often acted as stand-in where a permanent drummer wasn’t available, and having already hired and fired one sticksman not up to scratch, it was perhaps a no-brainer to get Watts in the hot seat for good. Again, the improvement is staggering – where not long ago you’d listen out for a roll, crash or pounding beat that was never going to come, or grimace at the audible clunks in timing, now the drumming returns to its rightful place as the absolute bedrock of everything good about the performance. No good rock ‘n’ roll group was ever built on shakey foundations, and with Watts behind the kit, finally the Submission have a platform to move forward with, both musically and in the live arena. The other new member, Sadie’s father Cliff Williams, has bedded in rather nicely in his role as keyboardist, and while he nor his musical style is really what you’d stereotypically associate with punk rock – something he seems to acknowledge as he drops cod-gospel riffs into some of the interludes between songs – the musicianship and extra dimension his babbling, syrupy organ blasts give to the melting pot wall of sound is welcome and refreshing in a musical climate that often prides itself on pure unlistenability. The subtlety seems to be rubbing off – even Harris seems a little more reserved with his vocals these days, perhaps realising that he can serenade the crowd occasionally as well as bark at them. No such reservations from Sadie,  and why not; when you’re one of the very finest bassists in the entire UK scene, you have enough of an excuse to go nuts every now and again.

 Alongside the classics from rock ‘n’ roll history and the classics from the band’s back catalogue, there’s also a few hidden gems to saviour. Rarities like ‘Out Of Control’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’, the latter being one of the most under-appreciated tunes in the band’s canon, get a dust-off and a rev-up tonight, and a couple of brand-new tracks are rolled out. ‘Lay Oh Lay’ is a raucous blast of galloping folk-punk to rival Captain Bastard and the Scallywags at their finest, and ‘Old English Rose’ is a slow, lighters/drinks/fists-in-the-air ballad designed with pub singalongs in mind, and as such works as a calmer sequel to ‘No Man’s Land’. In a way tonight demonstrates all the many facets of the band – they can rock the covers better than most pub bands, they already have an armoury of storming anthems in the bank, and there’s more great music still to come from them. And that’s perhaps where I’d sound my only word of warning – whilst tonight has been indeed a roaring success, The Submission’s future lies in places bigger than this. It would be rough justice if a band with such a derth of passion and talent were allowed to become nothing more than a pub covers band, because as great fun as they are, these guys have the ability to write some truly spectacular punk rock ‘n’ roll music – and it deserves to be heard.

That’s all for another day though. Tonight, in the here and now, was all about getting a once-proud band back on it’s collective feet, and they succeed in style. Back in April, I saw what seemed to be a spent force, dourly rolling through the motions with the handbrake on, and wondered whether now was the time to turn my back on the band that were my gateway drug into the world of underground punk rock music. Well, here’s the news: last time I said this I was proven wrong, but now I can say it with full confidence: The Submission are back.

Setlist Quality: 92%
Delivery: 89%
Crowd Relations: 84%

Overall Rating: 90%

 

All words by Adam Johnson.

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Picture the scene: legendary punk rockers The Descendants arrive in London for a two-date tour. First night doesn’t go to plan – actually, it nosedives into embarrassing farce the very second lead singer Milo Augermann’s voice decides it doesn’t want to work anymore half a song into the set. After shambling through the show using whoever happened to be standing near the stage at the time as impromptu singers, the band inevitably postpone the second date the following night. So what do you do if you’re the highly-rated support band on such a tour and you suddenly have nothing to do on a Tuesday night in London? Obvious, really – head over to a tiny South London bar, gatecrash an open-mic night and have a big ol’ punk rock party. As you do. And when the announcement was made that a certain band called Teenage Bottlerocket would be making their debut London headlining show in a venue with a stage roughly the same size as a council house bathtub, I knew immediately that this was not to be missed; this show had legendary ‘I was there’ status written all over it.
And boy, was I right.You have to pity the bands playing the open-mic night as already planned – they were treated to the bizarre scenario of playing to the largest, but probably the most apathetic, audience they will ever face. A room packed high with be-mohawked punkers and leather jacket-sporting rockers foaming at the mouth for punk rock action and being treated to the sight of, in order: an awkward-looking emo band (whom anxiously thank the masses for not throwing things at them), followed by a petit woman covering Mariah Carey (complete with window-shattering wails) and some random experimental metal jams that serve only to bemuse even the band themselves. An utterly weird spectacle that only serves to emphasise the last-minute, underground feel of the show.

But finally, at 9:30pm sharp, the rather clueless MC introduces some band called ‘Teenage Rocket-Bottle’, who proceed to squeeze onto the stage and fly into action for their set, speeding out of the starting gates at 100mph with ‘Skate or Die’.

And from there they never look back; roaring at top speed through a non-stop, runaway rollercoaster of pure, old-fashioned punk rock fun, while the baying mob go, frankly, absolutely insane. Frenzied pogoing, frantic slam-dancing, spectacular stagedives and chaotic crowdsurfs, all present and correct for every minute of every song. The manic energy is unrelenting, crashing back and forth between the band and the crowd like tsunami waves. It’s an incredible spectacle to behold, with the guitar-toting frontmen of Ray Carlisle and Kody Templeman unable to stop grinning like hyperactive teenagers as they merrily orchestrate the carnage, tossing out one glorious singalong anthem after another. Seriously, I’ve never been to a show where EVERY SINGLE SONG has people rabidly hollering the choruses back at the band. Rise Against, AFI, Cancer Bats, Billy Talent? Forget it. None of them could manage it. But these four punkers from Wyoming make it look effortless.

Make no mistake, folks, this is not particularly complicated stuff. Pretty much every song has at least one chord sequence that could’ve been lifted from the Ramones’ or Green Day’s back catalogue, and a large amount of the songs seem to blur together under the same four-to-the-floor drumbeat and four-chord hooks, with a couple of exceptions; ‘Fatso Goes Nutzoid’ in particular cranks the slam-dancing up to hyperspeed levels for ninety out-of-control seconds. So yeah, it’s simple, not particularly original, and not particularly deep either. What it is, is energetic, passionate, emphatic, and absolutely brilliant fun from start to finish.

And you know what? In the largely stale musical landscape of today, that may be enough to stand out. Too many bands nowadays seem to view ‘fun’ as either something that’s somehow beneath them and their fringes, or an excuse to goof around and make penis jokes like we’re all 11 years old. And similarly, too many bands view ‘punk rock’ as an excuse to splurge out some clichéd slogans and be deliberately shit. Tonight, TBR provide a timely reminder as to how fantastic punk rock music can be, with a stinging cocktail of pop hooks, melodies big singalong choruses infused with raucous, driving energy. And that reminder turns out to be one of the greatest gigs this author has ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

Rating: 94%

You know something? This whole local punk scene thing has it’s upsides. 2 gigs in 2 consecutive Saturdays, both blessed with awesome lineups of the movers and shakers of UK underground punk and ska music. And both featuring Tyrannosaurus Alan, funnily enough. But, whilst the Medway boys were the undisputed stars of the show last week in Sheerness, a crammed Camden Underworld packed with an all-star lineup from the length and breadth of the UK is a different proposition. Make no mistake, this is a step up from last weekend, as good as it was; this is a heavyweight showdown in the heart of the capital, and one that has ‘gig of the year’ stamped all over it, top to bottom.

There’s two ways you can view Tyrannosaurus Alan’s (9/10) opening slot – either, it’s to guarantee a blazing start to proceedings, or a result of booking agent politics that does the band a disservice. In a way, their 30-minute set gives evidence for both cases – for the former, they blast out their fantastic rap-ska-punk hybrid and get bodies moving with no effort at all despite the 4:30pm start time and a distinct lack of alcohol consumed thus far (I say that – I wouldn’t put it past some members of this audience to have been drinking since sunrise), and for the latter, their set is of such storming quality (as always, really) that it leaves the nagging impression that they should be hitting the stage later and further up the bill. That would be the case in a perfect world, but a) I can understand the reasons behind the scheduling, and b) to be honest, the T-Alan crew don’t look like they give a fuck about such issues – they’re just here to kick ass and have fun, just as always, and it’s only good and proper that they have a like-minded audience, with skank pits kicking off without a second invitation. The dual-vocal attack is as always a devastating combo, with guitarist Ollie Bill Harries spitting, bouncing and skanking, and partial trombonist Simon Champ hollering, barking and urging the crowd on. Drummer Craig Shepard holds everything together with tight and ruthless beats, and the horn section of Sam Wilson (trumpet) and Tom ‘with dreads’ Broster and Chris Humphrey (saxophones) deliver hooks aplenty in the eye of the storm. A blazing start to the event, and a childhood dream (if you believe the band) fulfilled in style. If there’s any justice, this lot should be back here in more prominent slots – who knows, maybe even headlining – in the near future.

I spoke before about how difficult it is to follow on from T-Alan, and tonight it’s the turn of Broken Nose (5.5/10) to try and step up in the wake of the explosive opening. What doesn’t help this particular band’s cause is a lead singer who’s constant screamed vocals sounds like Zach de la Rocha getting raped by Frank Carter and Kid Rock in the toilets – this may be personal opinion, but I couldn’t stand them. The rest of the band appeared to follow suit, spewing forth a somewhat functional blasting of punky, hardcore-y heaviosity that, combined with (and mainly because of) the razor-blade-being-rammed-into-my-ears vocal delivery, begins to grate very swiftly. However, occasionally they’ll switch to a slower reggae groove, and it’s here that they earn a few points back, because they’re much superior in this element. It’s almost cunning how they do it – just when I’m really getting pissed off over the terrible screaming, a nice reggae section or riff comes along to calm me down again. Yes, I see what you did there, Broken Nose, you sly bunch, but it’s still not enough for me to fully enjoy your set, especially when you toss aside the reggae pretensions anyway for a final two songs of crashing caterwauling. Like I said, this could be personal opinion; I mean, a fair few people seem to think Laila from Sonic Boom Six’s vocal delivery is maddeningly awful, and I quite like it. Also, the idea of ska-core as a genre doesn’t really wash with me, so what I will say is give them a listen for yourself – if this is your thing, then take this review as ignorant bile. Otherwise, steer clear.

It appears screamed vocals are en vogue tonight, as next band up I.C.H. (7/10) are also quite keen on them. But instead of shrieking-cat-in-a-washing-machine, I.C.H.’s frontman prefers gruff, whiplash barking to get his point across, and it’s a little easier to digest, if no easier on the ear. I was told minutes before their set that these boys are due to tour sometime next year with The Jack Brews, and it doesn’t take long to work out why – crushing, rollicking old-skool punk rock with hardcore overtones are the order of the day here, delivered with absolutely no subtlety and a lot of devastating pace. If you’re looking for a metaphor to describe them, try to imagine Rancid doing a set composing entirely of covers of all of Lars Fredrikson’s favourite 1980s UK street punk and hardcore bands, and you have a fairly accurate summation of I.C.H.’s schtick. It’s relentless, with buzzsaw riffs and runaway train drumming battering you senseless, and although I don’t have much time for hardcore music personally, there’s enough punk rock crunching guitars and attitude in the melee for me to be drawn in. It does suffer from getting a bit samey, but in a short, sharp, half-hour shock of a set, the lack of deviation from the standard formula works well, especially with the amount of alcohol now starting to float around the venue. Job well done, and that tour with the Brews sounds like an enticing prospect.

The first of the three touring bands, Dirty Revolution (7.5/10), are up next, and…hang on, are you sure this isn’t The Skints arriving early? A female-fronted band playing mellow reggae…actually, that’s where the similarities end. For one, The Skints actually have memorable tunes – too many of DR’s early songs just seem to float absent-mindedly out of the venue without ever leaving any kind of mark. Which is rather odd, considering I’ve been led to believe that these guys (and girl) are known for a gritty and powerful mix of punk, ska, and reggae – I can only think I got the wrong Facebook page, although it did look very convincing. Because what I’m seeing, and what I’m hearing, isn’t particularly dirty, and it’s not very revolutionary either, if you’ll pardon the pun. I did miss the very start of their set, so maybe I missed a few gems, but what I did see was pretty run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter stuff, with their music lacking the chilled, easy melodies of Captain Accident or Jaya the Cat, or the gritty street feel of The Skints. It’s desperately crying out for an identity, which is why it’s refreshing to see them chuck the reggae pretensions in a skip for the final couple of songs and up the tempo, and it’s now that they reveal themselves as a fine little ska band with real promise in this area. And by ska, I do mean just ska, for a change – as I’ve said before, whilst ska-punk is all very well and good, there seems to be an absolute deluge of bands ploughing that particular furrow currently (including the two bands at the top and bottom of this bill), and not much exclusivity for either ska or punk rock as individual styles, and I’d love to see Dirty Revolution progress with their ska overtones, not only for the reason above, but because they seem so damn good at it. The excellent band anthem ‘I Love Reggae (I Love Ska)’ proves this with a fine ending to their set, but it doesn’t seem enough. It may be that the earlier reggae-orientated stuff needs repeated listens on Myspace to sink in, but it’s the 2-3 ska tunes at the end of the set that earn them most of the points, because they were the only tunes that managed to hold my attention and get me interested.

I happen to end up directly stage front for the start of Moral Dilemma’s (7.5/10) set, and as a result I end up getting shot-blasted in the face with an assault on the senses as they kick into their set. It’s a 3-piece, with a singer touting a Gibson SG and a female bassist who contributes backing vocals, but any comparisons to The Subways are given a stern battering over the head with a stick of wood before being dumped in the gutter. Like I.C.H. earlier, MD are all about the hardcore punk, and just in case you hadn’t gotten enough screamed vocals for the evening, frontman Craig Temple knows no other way of delivering vocals than by screaming them like an outraged bear. Musically, they remind me a lot of Black Flag, and for most that would be a massive complement – but I’m not a big fan of Black Flag, sacrilegious as that probably is. So by all rights, I should stick my fingers in my ears and head for the bar, but again like I.C.H. earlier, there’s more than enough here to keep me heartily engaged, no matter how much the vocals begin to grate – and believe me, they do. First off, the sheer amount of energy on display is pretty astonishing, from all members. Bassist Chloe Chourrout snarls backing vocals and bounds around the stage with wild abandon, and Temple himself is a mass of sweat and frenzied spasms of movement – when he’s not abusing his guitar or loosing his temper with the microphone, he’s rallying the troops in the crowd in between the songs with stirring anti-authoritarian speeches, topically revolving around the student protests and riots in London a few days ago, and whilst I do think it’s easy nowadays for bands to shout ‘fuck the police!’ and get a reaction, much like it was cool for US bands to shout ‘Fuck Bush!’ intermittently a few years ago, the level of passion and righteous fury these sentiments are delivered with deserves much respect. Secondly, they aren’t afraid to mix the standard hardcore formula up occasionally, either by slowing the tempo a little (which isn’t saying much considering their standard tempo is somewhere between stupidly fast and hyperspeed) or breaking things down, bit by bit, allowing Chourrout a chance to exhibit some neat and excellent bass skills, before building things back up to a riotous conclusion. It’s these moments that prevent things from getting too samey, and this (admittedly rather slim) level of restraint gives the high-octane moments more impact. I’m curious to see if they develop on this in the future. For now, I can best sum them up as Black Flag mixed with 80s UK and US hardcore punk, so if you’re a big fan of those styles, then feel free to dismiss my ramblings, because you’ll almost certainly enjoy Moral Dilemma.

Since when did it get so crowded in here? Seriously, there’s suddenly no room to move in here, with bodies crammed shoulder-to-shoulder on the Underworld floor. Actually, it’s no surprise that the room has filled up so quickly – we’re at the business end of the gig, and the penultimate band on have been the go-to band to support pretty much every big US punk/ska band that has toured here in the last 18 months or more. Yup, it’s time for me to see what the fuss is about and catch The Skints (8.5/10) live for the first time, and whilst I do enjoy their set of gritty street reggae/dub stylings, it bewilders me just how maniacal the crowd get – moshing, pogoing and stagediving at the slightest opportunity, which seems odd considering the music they’re actually hollering along to, though I suppose with the amount of drink flowing around the venue by now, you could put some dross by Coldplay on the speakers and people would still go berserk to it, and as I’ve already said, The Skints collective have been gathering fans left, right and centre over the last year or so to form together a hardcore band of followers. All of what I’ve written so far sounds like I’m being condescending to The Skints, which would be doing them a disservice – their high musicianship and technicality flows into the gritty, guttural rapped vocal lines to create a lovely fusion of melody and bubbling rhythm. They see T-Alan’s 2 co-vocalists and raise them 3 here – drummer Jamie Kyriakides is probably the pick of the bunch with a throaty and soulful delivery, which meshes brilliantly with quasi-frontwoman and multi-instrumentalist Marcia Richards at stage front. Richards’ vocals veer sometimes into dancehall in a rootsy trip through reggae’s history books, and it always has this lovely feeling of flitting over the top of the music around it. The only weak link is guitarist Josh Rudge – his rapping is often close to God-awful, and sometimes downright cringeworthy, but it does improve in all fairness as the set goes on. Musically the band are close to spot-on, with Richards’ threatening to steal the show whilst flitting between vocals, saxophone, flute, melodica and keyboards with ease, but to be honest the true heroes of The Skints are the rhythm section ofKyriakides’ drumming and Jon Doyle’s excellent and fluid basslines. The band themselves recognise this and allow Doyle a nice solo section in one of the songs, and his bass work subtly drives each song forward. In reggae, great bass work is absolutely vital, and The Skints have that area nailed to a tee. Overall, a higly enjoyable set, although it still doesn’t convince me that the band are worth the rabid adoration they are affored. Maybe I’m being overly cynical, and The Skints themselves certainly deserve plaudits for an excellent and unique take on roots reggae.

So, just like last week, the penultimate band on the bill threaten to steal the show, and also just like last week, a fair few people seem to bail, thinking that there’s nothing else to offer. Unlike last week though, a) there’s still a very healthy contingent in the crowd for the headline act, and b) there’s absolutely no way Random Hand (10/10) will allow themselves to be upstaged by one of the support acts, and as they charge into action, there’s a sense of something pretty special erupting. 2010 hasn’t been the best of years for the Hand, but now that they have a new drummer in place, they’ve returned and are ready to make up for lost time. The formula they’ve crafted and honed demonstrates the advantage of restraint I talked about earlier – the furiously skanked verses mixed with anthemic choruses and buzzsaw riffs to form a ridiculously catchy, energetic and powerful ska-punk-rock explosion quite unlike anything I’ve heard. The closest comparison I can perhaps give is a ska-influenced Billy Talent, but even then that particular metaphor is tenuous to say the least. What is so special to behold is that nothing the band does feels at all forced; it’s all so natural, effortlessly fluid and razor-sharp. Frontman Robin Leitch is an intense whirligig of energy during songs, and a warm, friendly presence between songs, chatting with the crowd in his distinct Bradford burr, and directing the captive audience to pull off a couple of Camden Underworld firsts: the first ever ‘crawl of death’ (as opposed to Wall of Death, see?), and the first ever figure of 8 circle pit around the twin pillars on the Underworld floor. As a promised reward for this, he gives us ‘partial nudity’ in return – basically him struggling to get his sweaty T-shirt off. All fun stuff, especially with guitarist Matt Crosher interjecting occasional lines, and a brief technical delay with Crosher’s guitar is smoothed over effortlessly. So, with any divide between band and audience well and truly dismantled, we’re invited to join in heartily with the Hand’s ska-punk party, through any way possible – outright moshing, pogoing, skanking, hollering along with Leitch and his cohorts, crowd-surfing, stage-diving, you name it, people are doing it without a second thought; almost as if it’s obligatory, nay, compulsory. Even members of the other bands are at it, with several members of T-Alan in particular dancing and grinning like idiots (and even stagediving at some points). They inspire that level of rabid emotion through almost every second of their set – and when you’ve got an armoury of tunes of such high quality as this, coupled with such a superb live show, it’s no surprise at all. Every member plays their part – new drummer Sean Howe is a powerhouse of crashing beat precision, bassist Joe Tilston stakes his claim to be one of the best bassists in the business at the moment with a superbly rhythmic and fluid performance, and the dynamic duo of Leitch’s barked vocals and Crosher’s dynamic guitar work are the formidable icing on a brilliant and anthemic cake. Speaking of anthems, the Hand certainly aren’t short of one or two of those – the obligatory new songs from delayed new album ‘Seething is Believing’ show a nice progression from the already existing material, ramping up the riffs and trombone hooks to new levels. But with a back catalogue as strong as this, inevitable fan favourites have already been formed, and nearly all of them are unleashed tonight; the rousing ‘Play Some Ska’ comes early on, and the stunning double-gut-punch of ‘Anger Management’ and ‘Scum Triumphant’ ends the regular set. After a one-song encore of the equally excellent ‘I, Human’, the band say their goodbyes and depart, to leave behind the wreckage of a sweaty and delirious crowd, delighted with the night’s entertainment.

I began this review by touting this gig as possibly one of the best of the year, and overall, despite some dips in quality (and a contingent of plastic punk posers trying not to spoil their mohawks, but we’ll talk about that in another post), tonight has lived up to billing in some style – a great combination of reggae, ska and uncompromising hardcore punk, bookended by probably the two strongest ska-punk bands in the U.K. at this time. And on tonight’s evidence, 2011 looks like a fantastic year in prospect for the UK underground scene.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

Standing on the platform of a freezing cold Walmer station in the wee small hours of Sunday morning, waiting for the train that would take me homeward bound to Swanley, I found myself (amongst swearing under my breath at the fact my train was delayed, and perhaps yawning) reflecting on the previous 24 hours that had gone before it. Just down the road from the station I was sat at was The Railway Pub, and at this hour of the morning, only some broken glass on the pavement outside and some tatty posters in the windows gave any clue at what had come before it. It had seen me experience a gig like no other, one I had to travel nearly 60 miles just to get to, a fair distance for any gig, let alone one by local bands in a tiny pub in a small coastal town, but one that was a pretty hefty rollercoaster of music, beer, and great fun from its relatively slow start to its blistering finale. And now that I’m back home and back to normal levels of sleep and energy (just about), it’s time for me to recount, in as much detail as I can, that hectic Saturday afternoon and evening.

It’s pretty safe to say that the day hardly got underway in glorious fashion – in fact, if you had no prior idea of the quality of some of the bands following, you’d be well within your rights to have walked through the front doors, seen the first band playing on the first stage (what I’ll call from now on the Bar Stage), and have turned round and walked straight back out the door again to stay in for the evening with The X Factor. I’m not joking – opening band Dr Goon (2/10) were so atrocious they had to be seen to be believed. Not seen for too long, mind – just long enough to realise that listening to them play was on a par with sticking a cordless drill in one ear and a screwdriver in the other. Their main problem (amongst the myriad of others) was that they looked like they had never even seen each other before, let alone played together. Lesson 1 for up-and-coming bands, kids – make sure you are relatively tight as a unit before you even think of looking for gigs. As much as I poked fun at the early iterations of My Third Leg for their technical sloppiness, at least they could hold a tune together. The Total Goons were so shockingly sloppy it sounded at times like each member was playing a completely different song – each very badly. Matters were hardly helped by a singer who looked utterly comatose, and a keyboard player who had got lost at a trad jazz gig and never found his way back home. The only reason they managed two scores was the fact that their guitarist and drummer at least looked into it, although the one shred of talent in the entire band was firmly with the guitarist – imagine Clem Burke after a particularly ham-fisted frontal lobotomy and you have Collection of Dribbling Goons’ drummer. Which leads me nicely onto Lesson 2 for up-and-coming bands: if you are borrowing someone else’s equipment, avoid breaking it, as the drummer did when he managed to somehow split the skin of the bass drum with the pedal. And then Lesson 3 – don’t then use this pause in play to advertise a show you’re playing on the very same day not very far away from there. This is perhaps one of the biggest faux pas you can commit, particularly when one of the chief organisers of the show you’re currently playing (and owner of the piece of equipment you’ve just broken) happens to be standing right next to you. Fortunately, Mr Rich Harris kept his rebuke short and to the point (a barked ‘fuck off’) and the Travelling Band of Blithering Goons were allowed to leave with all of their members still in one piece. What made the incident particularly hilarious was how farcically awful they had performed – it made you wonder how on Earth they managed to get two gigs at all, let alone on the same day. Answers on a postcard please – for now, I’m calling bribery.

It’s not too much of an exaggeration to suggest that anybody could look good following on from the pile of foul-smelling shite that had opened proceedings, but having said that, I genuinely quite liked Shattered Resolutions (6.5/10). They flitted from drop-C tuned metal-y, sometimes stoner-y fuzz rock to something a bit more faster paced, but whilst certainly not reinventing the wheel, they at least showcased a bit of flash and imagination. Of particular note is how the two guitarists, Aaron Dixon and James Revell, deliberately manufactured two different sounds from their respective guitars, which when combined together created an interesting mix, using it to try and expand the songs sonically. They traded solos nicely too, and when you throw in Tyler French’s yelped vocals and the fairly dynamic rhythm section of Robby Levesley on bass and James Nesbitt (no, not the James Nesbitt) on drums, you have a group that have promise. They could’ve scored higher had their set had the energy and confidence their music deserved, but they are a young band, and have time on their side to iron these creases out.

Sadly, one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing pulled a complete no-show – The Moo Woos. In fact, a no nothing – not a phonecall, not an answering of a phone call, no appearance at all. Very frustrating, as it puts a big black mark next to their name, which their music doesn’t deserve, and I’m sure they would’ve thrived in the intimate setting and atmosphere of the venue, but hey, their loss I suppose.

So we move straight back into the backroom stage where Shattered Resolutions had performed, and we find The Plan’s Andrew Keech (complete with trademark flat-cap) and Ben Gower, but instead of their partners in crime in The Plan, instead they are backed up today by a myriad of different instruments and members. Time to welcome to proceedings Captain Bastard and the Scallywags (7.5/10), a band with not only a spectacular name, but a spectacular array of weapons in their sonic arsenal – alongside the traditional guitar/bass/drums triumvirate, we introduce an acoustic guitar, a mandolin, an accordion, and a penny whistle, just for good measure. I was told beforehand to expect folk-punk fun to rival Calico Street Riots, with perhaps some added Guinness and pirate shenanigans, and that’s a fairly accurate description. They deviated from the standard, fast-paced folk-punk template at times though, and this refreshing change of pace enabled them to make better use of the wide variety of instruments at their disposal – the mandolin in particular, played with great aplomb by Jordan Harris, was particularly prominent, and pennywhistlist (is that even a word?!) Kayla Harlow lead off one song in fine solo fashion. Just like Calico, all of their songs are infused with the bouncing energy and sense of unabashed fun that makes the genre great. Two things largely let them down – firstly, Keech’s vocals were suffering due to illness and were largely reduced to a series of barks and croaks, and secondly, the band are still a work-in-progress in terms of gelling as a unit – one song had to be abandoned and the drumming fell out in several other parts. But, as I was quick to remind Keech afterwards, they are a new band, having only played 2 shows before this, and particularly with this many instruments in the mix, it would take a little more time for things to start clicking completely smoothly. For now, they are a band easing into life on the circuit, and I look forward to seeing them progress, as there is a lot of potential laying in wait.

Next up on the Bar Stage were, from a personal perspective, the biggest surprises of the day – A Boy Named Girl (8/10). I’d seen them a couple of times beforehand, and both times had never really ‘got’ them, and I really don’t know why. Maybe I had an in-built indifference and cynicism for the largely bland, generic pap that passes for modern pop-punk nowadays which clouded my judgement of them before, but on this particular evening, I went into their set with an open mind, and I was hooked from first outrageously catchy note to last. Y’see, this is how modern pop-punk should sound – yes, there’s floppy fringes, yes, there’s half-tempo breakdowns, but they are interwoven into tunes packed with hooks and properly shimmering choruses, and a sound that avoids being hackneyed and cliched, and a stage presence that sidesteps plastic posturing and concentrates wholly on having a damn good time, which is exactly what the crowd that gathers to watch them do have. The theme of being tight as a unit has run constantly throughout this review, and I have to come back to it, because that’s one of ABNG’s biggest strengths – good pop-punk has to be razor-sharp in it’s delivery, and that’s something the five-piece pull off brilliantly. Great job, and I’ll happily admit to being wrong about them before.

I didn’t actually watch directly the next act, the Disclosure Project (6/10), so take this rating as being based on what I heard whilst having a break from the music with a beer in the bar as they performed in the backroom. All I saw directly of them was their soundcheck, which told me that they were a expansive and technical three-piece. What I heard from them in the background after that proved that pretty much right, but also told me that they somehow had a knack of making even epic rock songs by the likes of Foo Fighters and 30 Seconds to Mars sound…well, kinda boring. I don’t know why, they just didn’t grip me. Let’s put it this way – I was waiting for them to drag me away from the bar and into the backroom to watch them, but they never managed it. Every song of theirs seemed to drag it’s heels somehow, and they came across as being a bit MOR for my liking. Still, I will give them credit for being musically tight and technically very sound, with a decent depth.

Hang on, I’m feeling a bit of de ja vu coming on here…or should that be Dave Ja Vu, to be precise? Yes, for the second time in as many days, it was time for me to check out up-and-coming ska-punkers My Third Leg (8/10), Gravesend’s chief representatives at the show, and the penultimate band up on the Bar Stage. Having seen them only the night before I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from them, and so it proved, as they turned in what was not only a step up from their performance in Central London, but the best performance I’ve seen from them so far in their burgeoning career. Bizarrely enough, despite the malfunctioning drumkit (still hungover from the brutalising it got earlier on in the day), drummer Paul Smith produced his most consistent tub-thumbing performance yet, with no obvious cock-ups – I can barely believe I’m writing this! – and the rest of the band also played to the top of their strengths. Frontman Will Woodrow was all-action, a powerful mix of crashing guitar leads and strong singing, and he was ably back up by his cohorts – additional guitarist Mike Smith was a highly rhythmic sidekick in the six-string antics, and bassist Dave Ja Vu was all beaming smiles and rippling, anchorweight basslines. Their standards were all wheeled out and given a battering – the joyous singalong of ‘3470 Miles’, the skankpit-baiting ‘Going for a Drive’, and the moody ‘Time Travel’, and the rest from their Fift E.P., all present and correct and all sounding excellent in such a setting. A nice injection of ska-styled energy into an evening that was swiftly building towards an entertaining crescendo.

I had another break after this one to get another pint or so in and to conserve energy before the finale, so I missed IRIS’s set, only hearing glimpses in the background – nowhere near enough to give them an accurate rating. The odd snatches I did hear did sounded heavy, technical and pretty creative in parts, so one to watch out for for the future perhaps.

In all fairness though, anticipation was by now building with all the speed of a runaway freight train for the arrival onto the Bar Stage of the local heroes to finish off the evening in spectacular style. And so, at around 10pm in the evening, The Submission (9.5/10) arrived on the Bar Stage, briefly tuned up, and blasted headlong into action, with a furious and spectacular medley of ‘Reggae Rock Rebels’, ‘Stay in Action’ and their rendition of the unofficial rock ‘n’ roll national anthem, ‘Johnny Be Good.’ And so began a rollercoaster journey through The Submission’s personal vision of punk rock – rip-snorting energy, raucous singalongs, buzzsaw guitar riffs, hooks aplenty, and pure, uplifting power. Frontman Richard Harris was as always the absolute heart and soul of the performance, channelling the spirits of Joe Strummer, Jake Burns, Tim Armstrong and other legendary punk frontmen into his ballistic, gung-ho delivery, bellowing his vocals, headspinning, jumping around and thrashing the life out of his guitar like it was his last night on Earth – just like every Submission performance, then. That’s not to say they are a one-man operation – in fact, bassist Sadie Williams acted as the calm counterpoint, quietly grooving and locking the operation down with rock solid and neat bass work, and stayed cool and collected despite the chaos erupting around her. A lot of kudoes has to go to stand-in drummer for the evening Bernie Watts, who despite less than a handful of rehearsals with the group, slotted in with no problems at all, and was a reliable and steady hand behind the kit. Sadly, guitarist Phil Morgan was reduced to errant bystander for most of the set, as a stray beer glass caused terminal damage to his amp very early on, but in true Submission fashion, a little hiccup like this wasn’t allowed to get in the way of the chaos.

It’s a measure of their quality as songwriters that their original songs, such as the stomping ‘No Motivation’ or the blistering ‘No Tomorrow’, merged seamlessly into the setlist alongside the gamut of covers they rolled out. Tonight the covers list included the traditional brace of Rancid tunes (‘Radio’ and ‘Roots Radicals’), as well as their 100mph rendition of the classic Clash anthem ‘White Riot’, a frenzied rev-up (if it ever needed revving up in the first place) of Green Day’s ‘Maria’, and further run throughs of ‘Longview’, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ (which pushed the dancing and moshing to almost chaotic levels), blink-182’s ‘All The Small Things’, the ’80s pop hit ‘Spin Me Right Round’ and the Stiff Little Fingers’ ‘Barbed Wire Love’ – all of them delivered with exactly the same hammerhead precision and relentless energy as their originals.

There was also just enough time for a mid-set interlude to finally unveil the surprise ‘guest’ band, Meat Whiplash, whom were in reality The Submission but with sadly departing landlord Stu and wife Wanda guesting on vocals and drums, respectively. As a way to bow out, guest-starring with the headline act at your own farewell gig is a pretty stylish way to go, and Stu celebrated the occasion by rolling back the years and giving as good as he got on covers of Department S’s ‘Is Vic There?’, the Dead Kennadys’ ‘Holiday in Cambodia’, and The Jam’s ‘That’s Entertainment’. Wanda gave the drumkit a sound battering for a few numbers before allowing Bernie to re-take the hot seat and instead gave additional vocal support up front, and the Whiplash’s brief set closed with a madcap run through Electric Six’s ‘Gay Bar’, before they departed to allow The Submission to wrap things up in style, firstly with the aforementioned ‘Should I Stay…’ and ‘Longview’ covers before drawing the mayhem to a close with ‘It Won’t Stop’, as defiant a statement as any to end what could possibly be their last showing at this particular venue. The only things that stops me giving them a maximum score was the issues with Phil’s guitar, and the fact that the set sort of never really regained the early momentum after Meat Whiplash’s cameo appearance, although neither of which can really be attested to the band, and they were still my personal favourite band of the entire day by some way – that’s not to be disrespectful to the other bands, some of whom were excellent (okay, not Dr Goon), but that’s more a measure of just how much I enjoy watching The Submission play – they are, to my mind, a live experience like no other.

So, here comes the part where I try and condense down everything into a handful of easily digestible sentence nuggets to summarise the entire review. Not easy, but I’ll give it a go anyway: as a gig, it was sometimes inconsistent, although fortunately gradually improved to a spectacular zenith at the conclusion after a dreadful start, but as an experience, it was a fantastic day and evening which will last in the memory for a long time – long after I had departed Walmer on the first train back home, and long after I’ve even finished writing this very review. Congratulations to everybody involved in setting up and organising this great show, and I’d like to wish Stu and Wanda all the best in their new pursuits – if this is to be the last time rock ‘n’ roll comes to The Railway Pub in this fashion, then it’s safe to say it went out in style.

Overall Review 9/10

For some reason or another, I didn’t expect this all-day event to be a tremendous occasion, probably because I had become so disillusioned with local-band gatherings after a trip to a recent YOG gig in my home town of Swanley. I also hadn’t heard of many of the bands performing – only the Moo Woos, who I had seen twice before, and Jaya the Cat, who I had been given a folder worth of tracks by one of the promoters, were acts I recognised. The location didn’t appear to be anything special either – a small club strapped onto the side of a relatively small boozer tucked down a backstreet in the middle of shipping warehouses and factories in one corner of Gravesend, with a smoking courtyard and tiny outdoor stage out the back. When I finally arrived at around 45 minutes past the scheduled start of the show, some very bizarre noises were emanating from the outside stage (I’m pretty sure it was The Cripples) and the first band inside were still sound checking. Still nothing yet to persuade me that this would be an amazing day out.

Then the band in question completed their sound check, turned to face stage front and let rip with what can only be described as a sonic punch in the face.

The band were The Submission (10/10), and they proceeded in the next half-hour to remind me why I fell in love with punk rock in the first place. They played hard, fast (think Ramones-type tempo), anthemic, buzzsaw punk rock of the purest kind, and matched the energy of the songs with a furious delivery, led by talismanic frontman Richard Harris, who jumped, hollered, headspan, and not so much as strummed his guitar as beat it to within an inch of it’s life. The rest of the band followed his lead and played to the top of their strengths – drummer Stu Cavell was a powerhouse at the back, guitarist Phil Morgan augmented the guitar assault nicely, and bassist Sadie Williams anchored it all with a bass performance that put me in mind of the likes of the Clash’s Paul Simonon or Ali McMordie from Stiff Little Fingers – hardly flashy, but solid and impressive, and she was never in any danger of being drowned out in the mayhem, as some punk bassists can be. As for the songs? Again, comparisons to punk legends such as the ‘Fingers and the Clash are inevitable – indeed, band anthem ‘You Just Don’t Know’ sounded like it could have been lifted from The Clash’s self-titled debut LP, which is high praise indeed. When they gave the rock ‘n’ roll national anthem, Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B Goode’ a 100mph remix, I was sold. And when they finished with a rip-roaring version of the legendary ‘White Riot’, my mind was made up – The Submission are my new favourite band. They successfully tapped into the original spirit of punk rock much better than 90% of more successful ‘punk’ bands around today, and I certainly had no qualms in spending the princely sum of £2 on their 5-track E.P, which I shall be reviewing soon.

So a fantastic start to the day, and the band charged with continuing where The Submission left off were A Boy Named Girl (7/10), who hit the outside stage about 5 minutes after The Submission finished. ABNG were advertised on the fliers as pop-punk, but the phrase pop-punk puts me in mind of bubblegum acts such as New Found Glory. ABNG put me more in mind of the slightly heavier pop-rocking of acts such as Kids in Glass Houses, and even maybe Lostprophets circa Liberation Transmission. Certainly singer Phil was doing his best Ian Watkins impression throughout the set, or however good he could get, as the band were quite tightly crammed onto the small outdoor stage. The songs lacked the immediacy of other acts, and maybe that’s what let them down a little, as their songs are the kind that may take repeated listens to get used to. I will admit that it wasn’t particularly my type of thing, but I still give them good credit for putting on an energetic show, and to be honest, anybody who was given the task of trying to follow The Submission were having a lot asked of them. Also, their choice of cover was inspired – Ricky Martin’s ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ – and it certainly got people dancing and singing in the smokey courtyard. Full credit to them for that.

Back inside, and I was eagerly awaiting the start of The Moo Woos (9/10) set, having seen them twice before – once at a battle of the bands in Bluewater, where they performed last and blew away every band that had followed them, and another supporting the legendary Stiff Little Fingers. Once again, they didn’t disappoint, with another energetic and powerful set of anthems, including the catchy ‘Chelsea Girl’ and ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’. Just as before, they let loose their cover of Green Day’s ‘Basket Case’ to a rapturous reception from the audience, and the finale to their set was inspired – a combined circle pit and singalong, if you can call it that, to their anti-chav anthem ‘Fuck Drum ‘n’ Bass’ with the crowd joining on the Neg-style ‘Whoop Whoop’s of the chorus. Great fun.

Another thing that hit me about the event came when Submission singer Richie ended up standing right next to me during the Moo Woos set. When I got talking to him, he was friendly and very knowledgeable about punk, and the same was true for the rest of his band – there was not a hint of arrogance or ‘I’m in a band’ aloofness about any of them, and the same was true for the other band members who I chatted to throughout the day. Nothing much in that you may think, but that was one of the great things about the day – there was never an ‘us and them’ divide between bands and fans; they all mingled and drank together as one. It made it something special – you could see a band rip it up on stage, then be sitting having a beer with them after the set.

Up next on the outside stage were acoustic two-piece Torn Out (8/10). All I had heard by them was a rough two-track demo loaned to me by the same promoter who sent me the Jaya the Cat stuff, and I was quite impressed by the way they managed to craft energetic and soulful songs with only two guitars and singer Ben Smith’s gravelly voice. They kept that same feeling of gritty soul throughout their set, and while obviously they were never going to match the other bands on the bill in terms of energy and sonic bombast, they still managed to win over the crowd with a great set. Bassist Steve Knight added an extra dimension to what would have essentially been a solo singer/songwriter project with his clever bass runs and additional shouted backing vocals, but the aspect of Torn Out which sticks out for me is the honest of the lyrics – when Ben sings emphatically ‘We spend our lives chasing lost nights, and we won’t go home until, we know, that, Saturday’s dead to us’ on crowd favourite and set closer ‘Chasing Lost Nights’, you know that it’s coming from somewhere genuine, and it’s not being put on as some kind of act. Much respect.

Back inside, and it was time for the one-off reunion of local scene heroes Drop the Pop (8/10). I’d heard a lot about them but never actually heard a note, so I count myself glad that I managed to catch them for this last-ever show, as I was able to bare witness to their impressive live show. The songs themselves were sometimes difficult to keep up with, veering as they did through several different tempos and time-signatures, but they still proved very entertaining, loaded as they were with plenty of energy and danceability. What also helped was the high technical skill of the three members – singer Jak was a powerhouse singer and let loose many angry noises from his guitar throughout the set, bassist Joe Josland provided neat backing vocals and skillful bass playing, and drummer Josh proved the famous Strummer-ism ‘You’re only as good as your drummer’ 100% correct by flipping between beats and tempos with ease. What also helped was the laugh-out-loud funny stage banter between songs, showing that there appeared to be an easy chemistry between the three members. It is a genuine shame that this is the last we may hear of DTP, as they struck me as a tight and powerful trio capable of great things. Still, as send-offs go, they well and truly head out on a high.

I’m pretty sure I remember The Constant Gs (6/10) featuring next outside, although I may have got them and Torn Out mixed up. Either way, the Gs took to the stage despite missing 2 regular members – guitarist Dan Woodrow and bassist Andy Cherry. The stand-in guitarist, Dave Joseph, had apparently a single day to learn the set, while stand-in bassist Sam Van Leer had all of – wait for it – 20 minutes to do the same thing. Alongside this, drummer Paul Smith had a massive hand in organising the entire all-day event itself. I could easily rip into the Gs, but all factors considered, they actually did a good job. Technically they were sloppy, with the occasional falling out of time here and there, but really, it was the kind of day where you could forgive slip-ups like this, and the band still gave it their all nonetheless, with Paul in particular looking like he was trying to do damage to his kit rather than play it, and they still received a hearty round of applause at the end of their set.

From here until Tyrannosaurus Alan my memory of events is a little hazy, probably because I was looking after a friend outside who was a little worse for wear, and also sharing some drinks with the Submission and friends outside, but I do remember catching a little bit of 7 Day Conspiracy, and thinking that they were very powerful and punky. I’ve defiantly made a note to catch them again sometime, as the little bit I saw of them was certainly promising. I also remember catching a little bit of Beng Beng Cocktail on the outside stage, and thinking ‘what on Earth is that bizarre noise from the stage?’ Again, another band to check out properly sometime in the future. I also missed The Sketch/Call Off the Search, but happily I did manage to pick up one of their free 3-track EPs that were being given out, so I’ll give that a listen and get back to you on that.

By the time Tyrannosaurus Alan (9/10) hit the inside stage, it was starting to get late, and a healthy amount of drinks had been consumed by this stage, which meant that proper, full-on skanking could begin. And if the skank pit that was waiting to happen was the proverbial stick of dynamite, T-Alan were the ones to light the blue touch paper and stand well back. They packed the stage out with a healthy array of horns and saxophones, and proceeded to belt out a set of tight, high-energy ska which got everybody in the room moving. If you’re looking for immediate comparisons, Reel Big Fish come to mind, but for me they seemed to recall the sheer, almost out-of-control ska of such legends as Bad Manners, Big 5 and The Selecter, but, more refreshingly, they created a sound which was very much their own – they blended high-energy punk with ska well, and when you throw in Simon Champ’s often rapped verses, you have a truly unique combination guaranteed to whack a smile on your face and get you moving. If The Submission tapped into the original spirit of punk rock earlier on, then T-Alan certainly dug into the spirit of original ska, to the delight of the crowd (including myself).

Pity The Plan (7.5/10), the last act on the outside stage – not only did they have to follow on from T-Alan’s skankathon, they also had to act as the penultimate act of the evening and provide a warm-up to the night’s biggest act, Jaya the Cat – easier said than done. However, they managed it very nicely with a set of fast-paced ska-punk, often veering more towards the punk end of ska-punk, but still getting the crowd skanking nicely. If I did have a criticism of them, and this is only what prevents them from scoring higher, is that the songs did seem to blend together and all sound the same after a little while, and didn’t have the immediate hook of, say, T-Alan. That’s not to say they were bad songs – they certainly got the crowd moving and using up what was left of their energy, especially in one song where they encouraged a ‘skank-off’, with the winner getting a Plan T-shirt. Guitarists Tom Crabb and Andrew Keech pretty much shared frontman duties between them, and one thing the band as a whole couldn’t be faulted for was their energy – despite the late hour (it was getting on for around half past ten) they still gave a hearty and rip-snorting performance. Hats (or should that be flat-caps, in Keech’s case?) off to them for that, and I look forward to getting hold of some of their studio tracks for a listen.

The all-dayer was at last reaching it’s conclusion, and there was a real sense of excitement around the headliners – the anticipation in the room was all to see. The band in question, of course, was the legendary Jaya The Cat (10/10), and they provided the perfect end to proceedings. Everybody by this stage was tired from lots of dancing (and skanking in some cases), hoarse from shouting and singing, and in some cases pretty drunk, and Jaya provided the ideal finale with a relaxed and mesmeric set of punk-tinged reggae grooves. It’s certainly safe to say that they lived up to the hype surrounding them, and they didn’t miss a beat. Frontman Geoff Lagadec had the audience in the palm of his hand and his gravelled-throated vocals fitted the music perfectly, and he lead from the front. Particular praise must go to the rhythm section of Jeroen Kok (bass) and Dave ‘The Germ’ Germain (drums) for providing a tight yet groovy foundation for Lagadec, guitarist Jordi “Pockets” Nieuwenburg and keyboardist Jan Jaap Onverwagt to build on. Nearly everybody used whatever they had left of their voice to sing along to fan favourite ‘Thank You Reggae’ and, when they did ramp up the energy and tempo, such as on the angry anti-establishment anthem ‘Final Solution’, they did this in impressive style without even breaking sweat. However, they did seem more at home with the slower reggae and even calypso melodies, and to be honest so were the crowd, who had skanked themselves to a standstill by this stage. Also, extra credit must go to Lagadec for the moment when he saw me and a couple of my friends trying to get a whaft of the floor fan he had pointed up at him, knelt down and turned the fan around to face us so we could have a nice cooling off for a few songs. Just as had been done so many times already in the day, the barrier between performer and audience had been smashed, and despite the fact that Jaya were probably the most well-known – certainly internationally – of all the acts playing, they still never came across as aloof rock stars – they were simply a bunch of guys inviting everybody to join in with their punky reggae party, and never was that truer than on the closing track, an extended jammed version of the classic Willie Williams track ‘Armagideon Time’ which brought the event to an amazing close.

So, final thoughts on the near-10 hour marathon of music and mayhem? Fantastic. It was completely free of poseurs or anybody who was simply there because it was ‘hip’ or ‘trendy’ – it was a gathering of people all there to celebrate ska, punk and reggae, drink, dance and have a good time. And that’s exactly what they got. The original spirit of punk rock and ska was alive and well, and I cannot thank enough Local Support Promotions, and especially brothers Mike and Paul Smith, for organising and staging an awesome day’s entertainment, and one of the defining moments of this summer for me.

Same time next year, everyone?

Photos by Ben Thompson and Paul Smith.