As the Kerrang Awards loom, a loosely linked ‘tour’ with varying qualities of headliners can always be anticipated – 2012 was no different. The first of this short string of gigs was held on a freezing cold, very rainy Jubilee weekend, an hour and a quarter after it was supposed to start. Christ, even Queenie had to be having a better time than this.
Firstly, music aside, we were at the ‘Fuelled by Relentless’ tour, held at the ‘Relentless Garage’…
‘Can I have a Relentless?’
‘Nope, we don’t have any.’
‘What energy drinks do you have?’
‘None. Not Even Coffee. We hate Caffeine. Dirty Dirty Evil Caffeine,’ ( I may have paraphrased).
‘In that case, fine sir, can I have a thimble-full of lemonade?’
‘Yes, yes you can. That’ll be fifty quid.’
True story bro.
The tragedy of caffeine absence aside, myself and my drowned companion eventually made our way through the crowds, rung out our sodden coats and set up camp near the overpriced, understocked bar.
First up were With One Last Breath (3.5/5), a pleasant Asking Alexandria-style outfit, fresh from a triumphant support slot on Of Mice and Men’s most recent tour. Now, I rather enjoy this relatively new genre – the smattering of synths, the inevitable clean nasal-y vocals, some chunky riffs and just enough shouting to piss of your mum, but not enough as to scare off the teenagers. And, on the whole, the boys did good. With some catchy hooks and near pitch-perfect clean vocals, WOLB managed to create an atmosphere that almost crackled with energy. Yet while I enjoyed the majority of their set, sometimes their riffs dwindled and fell into mediocrity. But hey, not every song can be a cracker, right? Despite this, with such a fast-growing young following, they’ll no doubt be heading towards large tours of their own.
To say Feed the Rhino (3.5/5) were the wildcard booking of the night would be a massive understatement. This was hardcore, bearded, angry and ready to flatten you; a musical shovel to the face. The Kent five-piece delivered a blistering slab of aggression to an enthralled and increasingly bruised crowd – the first mini wall of death of the evening was nothing short of a joy to behold. A tip of the cap to all involved. Throughout their set, old material from ‘Mr Red Eye’ blended seamlessly with new tracks from the upcoming ‘The Burning Sons’, cementing FTR’s place as British hardcore stalwarts. While I can’t say they’ll have many crossover fans from the WOLB and Yashin camps, it’s safe to say they definitely won over a chunk of the audience who were otherwise unfamiliar with the genre.
Yashin (4/5) are going places. They have the songs, the musicianship, the showmanship, and most importantly, the hair, to become Kerrang’s new darlings. Firstly, I’d classify myself as a Yashin fan; I’ve seen them multiple times, have the CD, the t-shirt and the overriding sense of age that comes with attending one of their shows (At such gigs, as soon as you pass 18, you’re automatically demoted to drinking at the back of the room with the dads.), and their set was good. Not brilliant, but good. Yashin have damn good songs – catchy, often anthemic, and a lot of fun to listen to. They’re arguably masters of the clean/scream dual vocal approach and have a very tight, practised stage presence. Despite this, they seemed to fall a little flat on the night; clean vocalist Harry Radford seemed to be slow getting on his game, and their choice to play predominantly new, unfamiliar material may not have been the best. While down the front, they had their obligatory die-hard screaming fans, at the back, those of us who fancied a nice drink and a dance were forced to endure the overly-vocal musings of a decidedly anti-Yashin herd of elephants. You’re facing forty, pissed and hungry. We get it. Now shush. Despite their valuable input, the set was incredibly enjoyable – vocalist Kevin Miles unfurled a vocal versatility that just about blasted everyone else’s efforts out of the water; the screams had a great natural tone, and the growls were deep and clear enough to wake Cthulhu from his watery home. The new material, despite a muted reception, sounded catchy as hell, and like so many others, I’m more than keen to hear their upcoming offering ‘We Created a Monster’.
Skindred (5/5). Where to start? I’ve been to hundreds of gigs, seen countless bands, endless musicians and enough gimmicks to finish off Eurovision, but never, ever have I seen a band that consistently delivers like Skindred. Being charismatic, animated and distinctive is one thing, and being note-perfect and skilled is another, but somehow, by some cosmic interference, Skindred were created to embody all such traits. Benji Webbe’s showmanship is almost as notorious as their genre-destroying sound; Ragga-Metal…Punk…stuff. Whatever it is, it works; it’s a sound so distinctive and personal to the Welsh outfit, that to hear anyone else try to imitate it would feel alien at the very least. The set thrown at the Garage was a well-considered mix of old and new- starting with the veritable aural assault of ‘Roots Rock Riot’, and finishing with crowd-favourite ‘Warning’ (where the patented ‘Newport Helicopter’ was out in force). Anthemic tracks such as ‘Trouble’, ‘Nobody’ and ‘Stand for Something’ were delivered with all the ease of seasoned professionals, yet performed with all the passion and intensity of a Rottweiler on crack. As ever, Skindred’s set was intermingled with a plethora of samples and mismatched outros – from recordings of the Imperial March and Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’, to brief performances of AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ and their own ‘Rudeboy for Life’ (a hugely underrated song that should really grace more setlists). Samples and snippets aside, it is Webbe’s stage presence and empowering speeches that really wrap up the live Skindred experience; through collective gestures and shirt-swinging, the crowd move as one, but through his speech, we all feel as one. His impassioned sentiments of ‘liking what you like, and fuck everyone else’ ring true through the generations and result in a palpable sense of unity and togetherness. Quite often, Webbe takes digs at the audience, layers on sarcasm like concrete, or uses high levels of self deprecation to get laughs from the audience – yet tonight his tack was different. It was positivity from start to finish; no mid-way pauses, no insults and no slurs. To leave this Skindred gig as anything other than sweaty and happy, was nothing short of impossible.