Brighton gigs: September 2011 to January 2012
September then, as far as I remember it was warmer than the summer, and filled with amazing gigs in and out of Brighton. Starting things off was an Brighton Anti-Fascists benefit gig at The Cowley Club headlined by China Shop Bull who were quite something. Mashing up a bit of drum’n’bass with punk isn’t a hugely original idea, but it is one that few have done well. These guys certainly know how to party anyway, coming up somewhere between Goldie Lookin’ Chain and Mouthwash - they even played a drum’n’bass cover of The Dead Kennedys, purists will complain, but I had cider so didn’t. Support came from Primeval Soup and Skurvi. Primeval Soup manage to be one of the most consistently brilliant bands in town, I’m not going to describe them except to say that if you’ve not seen them, do. Skurvi didn’t impress too much, coming across as a bit too planned and methodical, a bit like Fugazi with beer.
The next weekend saw the end of an era, the last ever punk show at The Hobgoblin. Why the last ever punk show? They don’t want any more there, and after discovering a few things out about the place (see page 9), I’m not stepping foot in the place again. The gig was opened up by Brighton newcomers Matt Black and The Emulsions playing their second ever show, still a bit sloppy at this point, but within a month or so they were many times better so I’ll describe them properly then. Next up was Richie Blitz, you all know who he is, acoustic punk singalongs, but definitely not in a shit way - he’s a smart songwriter and dangerously under appreciated. Luvdump returned to Brighton with their frantic ska-core sound which managed to get the whole room soaked in sweat, as if it wasn’t enough already. I’d been waiting to see Beng Beng Cocktail play for so long, it seemed like I never would, hell, it nearly didn’t happen until they finally got to the stage. Semi-acoustic crack-rocksteady, if you can imagine such a thing, despite being absolutely shattered after a rigorous touring schedule and due to return to France the next day, they played amazingly, dropping in couple of covers including a bit of Leftöver Crack with guest vocals from Union Jack’s vocalist. The crowd loved it and I think we all sent off a Brighton institution in style, with the room more packed than I’ve seen in years and dancing until way past we were meant to have packed up for the night.
Things quietened down until October, when we were treated to Kanada’s Test Their Logik at The Cowley Club. I like a bit of hip-hop, but always get turned off by the a-political, capitalist nature of so much of it, so it was refreshing to see a conscious hip-hop duo doing something. Musically they weren’t anything to write home about, but it was the message that was more important. Support came from Cowley regulars Primeval Soup and some of Matt Black and The Emulsions, playing sans-frontman and dropping in a few covers from Mig’s other project, The Last Laugh.
The next night saw quite a bill hit The Hydrant, Anti-Vigilante opened the night to, well, not many people. Seriously, how can such a great band perform so energetically and yet still get no reaction apart from a bit of polite clapping? Obviously not enough people appreciate their ska-core/hXc mashups these days. I didn’t waste my time watching The Junk, and returned to see a much heartier reaction to Random Hand who were nothing short of amazing, getting the now packed room moving to their brass-led, ska-punk-metal tunes.
Monday was a little more chilled out, with a bit more of that hippedy-hop at The Cowley Club. I didn’t see much of Scribe Tribe, but wasn’t impressed, and when they spent the rest of the evening talking loudly over the other acts, I was even less impressed. Ratface from Bristol on the other hand, did impress, smoothly flowing lyrics and some interesting backing tracks made it an entertaining performance. I was really impressed by Clayton Blizzard, blending folk with acoustic rapping, slightly reminiscent of Captain Hotknives for his narrative talent, and (I hate myself for saying this, but it’s the best I can do) The Streets.
Fireworks night arrived as it does every year, and the inevitable glorification of some dead Catholic. He might have tried to blow up parliament, but Guy Fawkes really wasn’t all that. Still, blowing stuff up is fun. Not as fun as tonight’s Schnews benefit at The Cowley Club though. I’d seen The Sporadics a few months back and they impressed me then, but even more so tonight with an old-school punky-dub sound, and even a few references to Public Enemy, which is always a good sign. Bristol’s Spanner also impressed immensely, with some shouty, brassy, ska-punk, but not in a cheesy way. I had been ridiculously excited about seeing Headjam again, as I always am. Featuring members of AOS3 and playing in much the same vein, but with their own unique style, featuring almost choral, haunting vocals and a bassy, free-party dub sound, I absolutely love this band, and I’m pretty sure they’re one of those outfits I could never tire of seeing.
As the temperature rapidly dropped, I soon began to remember the problems of wrapping up warm before heading to gigs that I had suffered last year. After freezing my arse off walking to The Hydrant, I was immediately reduced to a puddle of sweat watching Chas Palmer-Williams with his not so new, but fully formed band perform in the middle of the mostly empty room. As if it wasn’t clear from his Lightyear days, Chas is a hell of a performer, and also clearly has a gift for catchy songwriting. He closed the set on his singalong “Now You’ve got the Midland’s Maddest Man” by sending everyone up on the stage, while they continued to perform from the floor - cramming that many people onto a stage looking down towards five people seemed what it must have been like being in a not very successful late-90s ska-band, but what do I know? Random Hand returned, but seemed to get less of a reaction than when they headlined a few weeks previously. A spot of pit jousting and nearly decapitating myself on the ceiling fan soon saw to that though. Big D and The Kids Table somehow manage to have got themselves stuck in a timewarp, seeming almost exactly the same as when I first saw them nearly ten years ago. They’ve got some new songs, but to be honest, their best ones are the ones they were playing back then. Finishing on L.A.X. was a good move though, as there’s no denying that’s a classic.
On the subject of bands not changing over the course of a decade, Voodoo Glow Skulls played The Albert a few weeks later. Frankly, I was bored senseless by them, if they’ve written new songs, then they’re indistinguishable from every other song they’ve done, and frankly, after playing the same songs so well for this amount of time, they sound exactly as they do on the records I never listen to. I decided to give The Junk another chance, mostly because it was cold outside. Again, they’ve got some good songs, but they’ve been playing them exactly the same for a couple of years now. The most interesting band of the evening was openers Tyrannosaurus Alan, blending frantic ska-punk with hip-hop, while also managing to be entertaining between the songs too, this is a band to check out.
December opened up with Caz’s free birthday gig at The Hydrant with an all local lineup. I didn’t make it down in time to catch the first band, but by all accounts I didn’t miss much. Next up were new local youths Matt Black and The Emulsions, who as I mentioned before, have come a long way in the few short months they’ve been playing together. While frontman Matt shouts and throws himself around the stage, Mig (of The Last Laugh) provides a balance in vocal styles with a more rap based approach. Combining straight up punk with the occasional bits of hip-hop and dub, not to mention a great on-stage chemistry that few bands manage to muster. The set ended in trademark fashion with a pile of people on the floor, unfortunately, I was at the bottom of it. The Barracks seem to be a criminally underrated band, despite playing frequently for a couple of years now, and having an amazing album out, they seem to get little recognition - if you like straight up punk rock without the posturing, give them a listen, you won’t regret it. The ASBOs did their usual thing, catchy street-punk with endless knob gags. And finally The Junk did exactly what they did the other day, except on a different stage.
Things started to quiet down as the weather got colder, any spare cash disappeared into the capitalist abyss and students drifted away for Christmas. Cop on Fire played The Cowley Club, but I was still recovering after seeing them the night before at Resistrance in Bristol - they were amazing there, so I’m sure they were just as good in Brighton.
The first gig of the new year wasn’t one I was particularly looking forward to going to, nor was planning to, but it was free and there was nothing else to do on the 2nd January so I headed down to the Green Door Store. Gnarwolves were OK, if you’re into your Latterman style melancholic-punk thing. There’s something about British bands doing this that I don’t get though, it just doesn’t seem to fit - unless you’re called Leatherface. Rough Sex seemed to be a covers band, I hate covers bands. I had some hope for Little Ease, with members having been in Break the Habit and Los Mendozas, but they just seemed like a not as raucous Fucked Up and talked far too much about football.
Still, with the prospect of the Brighton Punx Picnic returning with an amazing lineup in April, as well as 12 months of gigs ahead, and some great new bands discovered, I’m looking forward to 2012. Have a good one.