New Riot – Avondale House (SMILE FEST), 28th February 2013

In contemporary Britain, where rolling news is constantly filled with tales of austerity and warnings of economic instability as Europe crumbles around us, the public desperately needs a huge dosage of good-time, lager soaked entertainment with which the woes of modern life can be briefly drowned out in an alcoholic haze. And what better way to receive that much needed dosage than from seeing a hard partying ska band in the most English of establishments – a ruddy big pub.

The confines of the cramped upstairs room make a change from some of the relatively large clubs within which New Riot has supported big name pogo luminaries such as Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish although they seem unperturbed by the fact they’re playing to a no more than fifty students and one crusty old punk who may or may not think it is 1982. New Riot carry all the hallmarks of a band that you have to be significantly under the influence of cheap alcopops to enjoy, as suggested by their party-centric lyrics that could easily have been stolen from a One Direction B-side. “Let’s go crazy crashing parties all over town!” goes the chorus from their popular number ‘RIOT.SLEEP.REPEAT’, which receives the biggest cheer of the night. The group’s relentless efforts to animate the blurry eyed crowd are partially successful, a small gaggle of particularly enthusiastic fans react to the band’s cries of mosh pits by skanking to their hearts content, with one dreadlocked fellow head-banging to every single note without fail. ‘Feel The Burn’ and ‘Nothing To Lose’ from their debut album maintain an admirably fast paced tempo that the band manages to uphold throughout their set. As the show progresses, the crowd becomes visibly thinner, a down heartening sight for any band to play to, but their good time bouncy bouncy energy never falters, even when many of the crowd’s attention is drawn to a particularly spectacular goal on the myriad of large TV screens spread strategically around the room. The group’s insistence on playing new songs upsets the show’s rhythm somewhat, and their between song banter borders on the inane. Musically though, the band offers little in originality, peddling the generic ska sound of brass and guitar interplay with shouty vocals and speedy power chord punk sections- proving that for the most part ska is still defiantly frozen in time. After thirty years or so as a genre, the group should be looking to bands such as Sonic Boom Six who have successfully cannibalized other genres and stitched them chaotically to a ska underbelly with terrific and ground-breaking results. New Riot however, seem quite happy to keep things within the genre’s expectations and guidelines; for all their sweating and animated gesticulations, New Riot could well be any of the countless personality devoid ska bands on the oft soul destroying toilet venue circuit. For about five intoxicated and energetic people though, New Riot lived up to their namesake.