So. This gig. Three “hardcore” bands two storeys up above a moderately scummy side street in an inoffensive county town in the Midlands. On a school night. Grateful for it happening – not much happens in Worcester. But expectations were not excessive. By way of context, the venue – the Firefly – is a three-storey Georgian pile with a maze of rooms, a competition-class range of draft beers and a quirky top floor gig space like some kind of stylish boutique drawing room. The place does occasional open mic nights and puts on the odd band – but nothing regular or high visibility. The place keeps a fairly low profile – no website, minimal publicity outside its own walls, even their facetube page is a bit undercooked – but has the makings of an absolute gem of a venue. Seriously. And the place was, to be fair, packed out. £3 – Three quid in. Bargain. Quid a band. Not going to argue with that. And so. What evening’s entertainment did you get for this princely sum?
First on – The Best Revenge. Spunky skate punk. Coulda been watching Snuff or Jailcell Recipes in May 1991 at JB’s in Dudley with a copy of RAD magazine in the pocket of my Skull Skates pants. In my book, that’s a good thing. A very good thing. Proof of the strength of the formula that it still sounds as good and bright now as it ever did. Nice.
Next – Thirty Six Strategies. Melodic female-fronted hardcore. Now. Some proper heavy hitters with serious alt and punk pedigree in here – not least the fairly legendary punk vet Ian Glasper (google him and you’ll see what I mean). Female Vocalist exactly as it says on the promo material – Debbie Harry, but maybe a touch of the Shirley Manson. Great, great voice, great look, professional strength songs – although maybe could do with moving around a bit more. But what do I know. This can look undignified. I remember seeing a sweaty Brody Dalle over-enthusiastically rocking out to her music at the old Birmingham Academy (nee Hummingbird) some years back, and it was all a little embarrassing. In any case there’s a lot of the high-end proto-emo Dischord / Dag Nasty about this band. Rocking out just wouldn’t go. Leave that for Paramore or that shocking vehicle for that chick out of Gossip Girl. This band only formed last year, and are already getting coverage in the national music press – and are apparently supporting the venerable (and downright glorious) nomeansno when they play London in a week or two. And very, very damn good luck to them indeed.
And finally – headline act. Fights and Fires. Never heard of this lot before. Only afterwards did it click that all the merch on sale was theirs… Four chirpy kids in matching shirts and a bit of a speccy geek up front. Nice line in banter. Thinking this’ll be breezy pop punk at best. Then the geek made a noise. A righteous, proper hardcore noise.
Now. Bend me over, smack my arse and call me fucking Gabriel. I was not expecting THAT.
Energetic, tight as you like and with a sound like Trash Talk at their most melodic, with very Bronx-style vocals… and nothing wrong with that (damn… that geek, he’s good). Whilst the influences are undeniable, these boys have a real distinctive sound of their own – a line in heavy ultra-chugging breakdowns that the kids went wild for and that in its rock and roll-ishness is very now indeed.
Despite knowing a hell of a lot better I have to report that I found myself being sucked in to the moment and went a bit feral. And spent a good part of the remaining evening running around with teenaged boys on my head. Which they seemed to appreciate, anyway. That I found myself doing this with half of the previous band on (Thirty Six Strategies) – I definitely had my head in the bassist’s armpit, I remember that – all added to the experience. Awesome. The remarkable thing is that this band (Fights and Fires) have been going for 5 years and have a serious back catalogue. A back catalogue that you can pick up on Bandcamp in ten minutes for less than a packet and a half of fags – go on. Do it. They deserve you.
Apparently too they play all over Europe. Relentlessly. They are probably one our main current punk exports to the Eurozone. But they exist entirely beneath the surface in the town where they all grew up and (I guess) still live. That’s right. They and in fact all three bands are from this self-same, nondescript county town… Worcester. It also turns out – thanks to the magic of the interweb – that the record label they are signed to, Lockjaw Records also originated in… Worcester [editor’s note – while Lockjaw certainly began in Worcester, the label was taken into new ownership last year and is currently prospering elsewhere in the West Midlands].
It’s not a big place. Great place to bring up kids. Good amenities. Good motorway access to the rest of the country. Nice people, nice countryside. Gave the world Elgar. But thought to have absolutely no underground music scene. Nigel Kennedy used to live out in Malvern next door to an old colleague of mine. But that’s about the length of it. You’re pretty much right off the beaten touring track – anyone heading for this neck of the woods either goes to Birmingham or Bristol. So unless you like tribute bands, blues and harmless acoustic, received wisdom was: nothing happening. If this unexpected triple-headed act of smashing it was anything to go by, you never know whether something just might.
I understand that this is planned to be a monthly thing – last Thursday of the month. Next one is apparently going to be mathcore. MATHCORE? In this town? Needless to say, I’m going. Will let you know how it goes.