Live: Creeper, The Marr’s Bar, 19/4/15

Worcester’s scene has never been dead, but it’s certainly been slowing down in recent years. Except for the excellent but sporadic Surprise Attacks series, a couple of stalwarts booking the odd shows at the Firefly and the annual Worcester Music Festival (or WuMu, for shits and giggles), there wasn’t really a hell of a lot to get excited about.

However, Fights and Fires sticksman Lee Jackson decided that wasn’t good enough so along with some other likeminded punx, he set up Faithful City Shows in a bid to bring bands properly back to the Wu. Ashamedly, it took me until show number four to actually pitch up in The Marr’s Bar, but the goth-punk lure of Creeper was more than enough to set the wheels in motion.

First to hit the stage were Worcester youngsters Chase The Deer (2.5/5). They’re the new kids on the block, formed just under a year ago, and it shows. They’re nervous on stage, unpracticed with crowds, and half of their set is poorly performed covers. However, there’s also some real potential shining through. Latest single ‘Bad Date’ is a great slice of pure pop with a chorus that’s pure gold, and debut single ‘Think’ is a hell of a lot of fun. If they can perform their own songs with the same confidence and conviction that they do the covers, they might be onto a winner.

It’s obvious how much we love Lanterns (4.5/5). The debut record This Is Not My Home is magnificent, and the live show equally so. Despite a few teething problems with new equipment, the band themselves were positively charming, and the songs just sounded fantastic. ‘Safe With Me’ has so much power since being reinvented as an electric anthem, and the band teased a new track that is certain to be an absolute banger. Definitely one to watch.

Vault of Eagles (4/5) are not typically the sort of band that I’d rush out to listen to. Truth be told, I was secretly hoping for a bit of riot grrl when they stepped on the stage, but rather than being disappointed, I was enthralled by their stoner grunge fusion. You can tell that all the songs have been developed with a live show in mind – everything from the bass tone to the guitar set-up was bang on perfect. Their psychedelic grooves were a welcome addition to the evening, and definitely a new addition to my iPod.

However, if there was one thing to take away from the show that night, it was that Creeper (5/5) will never play in a venue this small again. Recently hailed by Kerrang! as ‘new grave’ heroes, their goth-punk anthems sound even better live than on their outstanding self-titled EP. Their set was full of energy, incredibly tight without feeling too practiced and polished, and truly unmissable. The band have got an absolute gem of a frontman in Will Gould – equal parts Davey Havok and Gerard Way, his performance is captivating and filled with a flair for the dramatic. He’s learned well from his predecessors, not just in how to run the stage (or hold a microphone just like Davey), but in that he’s humble – genuinely thankful for the opportunity to play and the support of the scene – and it’s truly heartwarming to see.

The second thing to take away from the show was that Creeper are now the only band allowed to cover AFI, because their cover of ‘Sacrifice Theory’ was spot on, and probably the closest I’ll ever get to see AFI play anything off The Art of Drowning that isn’t ‘Days of the Phoenix’. However, even if a highlight for a Despair Faction loser like myself, their own songs stood just as tall as that classic and have the potential to become just as timeless. So pick up the EP, learn all the words and get yourself to a Creeper show before they start selling out club tours, because it’s only a matter of time before they explode.

The next Faithful City Shows coming up are:
FCS #5 – Sweet Empire/HOLY/Irish Handcuffs/Horror on the High Seas
Wednesday 20 May, Drummonds, 7.30pm
Buy tickets here

FCS #6 – Lock and Key/Boxkite/Carving a Giant/Fractures
Sunday 31 May, The Marr’s Bar, 7.30pm
Buy tickets here

FCS #7 – Funeral for a Friend + Support
Sunday 7 June, The Marr’s Bar, 7.30pm
Sold out!

FCS #8 – Off With Their Heads/Brassick + Support
Thursday 6 August, The Marr’s Bar, 7.30pm
Buy tickets here

FCS #9 – Random Hand/Fights and Fires + Support
Friday 21 August, The Marr’s Bar, 7.30pm
Buy tickets here

Live: Brody Dalle, O2 Academy Birmingham 2, 26/4/14

Brody Dalle is kind of a big deal. As the frontwoman of one of the best punk bands of the early 2000s (and ever), she gave teenage girl hellraisers everywhere a voice. She taught a lot of us how to say ‘fuck you’ in a very elegant way. And she’s back, with new album Diploid Love, which promises to be a total garage-rock thrasher. I hadn’t been so excited about a show in months.

First up were The Beaches. This all-girl quartet from Toronto, Canada play punk rock and roll with a huge smattering of synths thrown over the top. Think Kill Hannah meets Bikini Kill and you’re about halfway there. And it’s awesome. On stage, they’re effortlessly cool – at least, until it gets to the banter, and then they’re kind of awkward and adorable. But they’re noisy, with some killer hooks under their belts and unforgettable synth lines. Definitely one to watch out for.

And then Brody. With the impending release of the new record and a bunch of Spinnerette stuff to choose from, I figured there’d be a couple of token Distillers songs and that would be it. The first couple of songs were taken from Diploid Love, but then they launched into ‘I Am A Revenant’ and I genuinely thought I might cry with sheer joy. All of that punk rock fury is still there, and Brody is utterly captivating. She’s the reason I play my guitar down low, almost resting on my knees. She’s the reason I picked up a guitar in the first place instead of a bass. And to see her, with a full band playing Distillers songs, kind of brought me back to those days when I was vulnerable and quiet, and reminded me exactly why I’m not any more. It was an absolutely storming set – mostly Sing Sing Death House, with smatterings of Coral Fang and even ‘The Blackest Years’ from the self-titled got a sneaky play. One glorious highlight was their cover of ‘Hybrid Moments’, which Brody dedicated to a cute 10 year old girl at the front who is no doubt going to grow up to be a rad little monster. But above anything else, it was a whole bunch of fun, and that’s how punk rock should be.

5 out of 5 high fives!

Whatever happened to tickets on the door? AKA why is my bank balance so sad?

I have a bit of a music habit. I think that’s become evident across the five years (!) that this website’s been running. A very big part of this is going to see bands live. I do at least one festival a year, I go to as many local shows as I can and I probably go to at least two ‘big’ shows a month in one of the cities nearby. There’s nothing better than seeing one of your favourite bands tear it up on the stage, or to discover a great new band in a dingy little shithole of a venue. That being said, local shows aside, it’s an expensive hobby. You can expect to pay anywhere between £13 and £28 per ticket for a gig at the Birmingham O2 Academy, and that’s without booking fees on top. And these days, they’re not even giving us a chance.

Last week, the Pop Punk’s Not Dead tour got announced. And a few days after it got announced, tickets went on sale for that tour. Admittedly, you’re getting a lot of bands for your buck, with New Found Glory, The Story So Far, Candy Hearts and Only Rivals, with more acts to be confirmed. The gig’s over eight months away, in bloody November, but is likely to sell out quickly due to the hype generated by Kerrang, Rock Sound et al. Did I feel pressured into buying tickets now? Yes. And I’m not sure we should be operating like that any more.

The first time I went to see New Found Glory, it only cost me £13 and my dignity, as I went batshit crazy to Hit or Miss.

It’s totally not fair to announce a tour like this and put tickets on sale so soon after. The festivals have already started taking note, announcing their line-ups nice and early before tickets go on sale, and other gig promoters need to do the same. I’m lucky in that I’m an adult with a full-time job, and I usually have a bit of cash set aside, but this tour is exactly the kind of tour that the teens are going to go gaga for. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t generate demand, but it means that there’s a lot of people going to miss out, and not just that, but it means you can’t just stroll in on chance any more.

I miss door tickets, and I’m sad that most of the young music fans these days are going to miss out on the experience of heading into a ‘big’ show on a whim and discovering something incredible. But after all, when record sales are falling, the labels have got to make that cash somehow – pre-ordered tickets are a guaranteed way of doing so. There is one thing that we can do though. Get down to your local and support your scene. There’s plenty of fantastic music popping up, even in middle England. In Worcester, we’ve got the excellent Surprise Attacks series, amongst others, and it’s not even hosted in a seedy venue! If you ignore the folk epidemic in Cheltenham, there’s a swiftly growing punk scene and plenty of ace bands coming through on a regular basis. Just listen for the whispers, click the ‘attending’ buttons on Facebook, pay your three quid on the door and put your middle finger up to the big guys. Unless, of course, AFI tour again any time soon.

Live: Crucial Section/Geriatric Unit/King of Pigs, The Firefly Worcester, 25/9/13

Old. It’s the new young (some say). Like some deranged sequel to the 80’s classic Cocoon, this collective paroxysm of undimmed rage from a couple of bands who really should know better by now was something to behold. And that was just the undercard… The main event (Crucial Section) had travelled halfway around the globe to play above this pub in Worcestershire. And deserve their own special attention. More on that later.

King of Pigs are as simple and as direct a proposition as their name implies. “We’ve got three songs left, so reckon that’ll be about five minutes” says the vocalist as the set claw-hammered towards a close. And that’s about the length of it – fast, nuts-tight gobbets of saw-edged noise that left nothing at the door. Get in, do the thing, get out. Having just got back from playing across Europe with some truly horrific Croatian Hard / Grind core outfits, this was probably a quiet day at the office for these boys. But a gig’s a gig – and they played hard.

Geriatric Unit have a combined age greater than the occupants of a GP’s waiting room on a wet Thursday morning. But the intensity of their collective and individual existential fury belies the fact that they have been plying this trade in various bands – not least Heresy and X-Rays – for well over quarter of a century. “Fookin hell…” goaded their grizzled front guy after the second track or so, “back in the day we’d be four bars in and people would be going fookin mental…” This challenge was naturally enthusiastically taken up. Surprising it is how much heat and bodily fluids a relatively small number of people can generate in a relatively small space.

There was even a bit of politics. Railing in between songs against societal corrosion by social media, rentier capitalist PR and mass delusion – this lot gave out everything you’d kind of want from old school H-core. Remember Napalm Death’s Scum era? Or anything from the good god almighty Dead Kennedys (remember them too, people?) This scene was always about counterculture, thinking for yourself and speaking out – and these boys haven’t forgotten that. Power to your thick, arthritic elbows, gents. Rage on.

And while all this was kicking off, a crew of unassuming and extremely polite Japanese dudes in bandanas and skate wear were quietly limbering up in the background… Crucial Section take this seriously – and purvey some of the finest, sharpest and most spirited skatecore punk you will ever hear. Being of around the right age to be doing this daft sort of thing in the first place, the sheer wall of energy these guys threw out could knock out the power grid in a medium-sized city. There was a whole lot of leaping into mid-air. The lead guitarist repeatedly charged the punters, axe first. The drummer played hard and angry. The line between band and audience pretty much blurred away to nothing, and most people in the room had a bit of a dance. Neither audience nor the band fully understood what was going on – cue flurries of sign language between the band and the promoters on basic things like set start times and the encore. But the music – razor sharp edged, and struck through with an honesty and a poke that makes many current UK bands – young or old – look slovenly and insincere by comparison – blasted clear across any language or cultural barriers… and unified the whole damn room in a sweaty mass of rough love.

Or something. Domo Arigato, lads. I hope you smashed Bristol as thoroughly as you did this one.

Live: Layers, O2 Academy Birmingham 3, 20/9/13

Birmingham, the grey, gargantuan pulsing heart of the country. It’s not really our cultural heart, nor does it pull in a vast amount of tourists, and once you get out of the city centre, it’s kind of a dead zone, slap bang in the middle of the country. But once you get past its need for regeneration and the sense that ‘this isn’t quite London’, you might discover that there’s a passionate and unrivalled music scene that refuses to give up the ghost. Bands like Layers, who are uncompromising, innovative and incomparable, are the kind of bands that grow from these Midlands scenes and in this case, are going to take the UK by storm.

Traffic mishaps and misadventures meant that we walked in halfway through Dead Sea Skulls’ (3.5/5) set, but the half that we caught was good fun. Indie rock and roll but with a neat twist in that the drummer is the frontman and he plays his drums standing up. It’s an endearing and charismatic move, even if it means that on occasion, the songs end up becoming a bit simplistic in their structure. Nevertheless, their showmanship and cheeky hooks more than made up for it.

There is nothing at all lacklustre about Layers (5/5). From the very first bars of their set, it was clear that something special was about to happen. Frontman Lance Joseph is entirely captivating as he dives from stage to floor, running the length of the room with pure childlike glee, all while maintaining the perfectly soulful vocals that make Layers stand out from the rest. That’s not to say that the rest of the band aren’t equally as involving or brilliant – the harmonies that make the new EP so exciting sound just as incredible live, there’s a great bit of slap bass and Layers take their musicianship extremely seriously while still retaining that passion for live performance. For the encore, the band play epic Gradually in its entirety, complete with string section and their ambition is entirely refreshing and joyful to behold. It’s a set filled with crowd favourites as well as the stunning new tracks though, and the packed out Academy 3 is filled with grinning faces and sweaty bodies by the end of the night. After all, this is a hometown crowd at an EP launch, who knew exactly what to expect, but there’s no doubt that in a different venue in a different city, Layers would have just the same effect. For any who thought that the Midlands wasn’t capable of producing anything as innovative as Layers any more, who play a weird but compelling combo of soul, pop and hardcore, they need to get down to a show. Mindblowing.