Sunday, 29 June 2014

Venue Report: The Black Heart

One of my favourite venues to go see gigs in is a little place named The Black Heart in Camden Town, London. Found just five minutes from Camden Tube Station it is one of London’s best kept secrets. It’s in a strange sort of place where you would ever find it unless you were looking for it but it’s also incredibly easy to find. Even for someone with no known sense of direction. The downstairs area is just like a normal bar, with friendly staff and a fantastic atmosphere it’s a great place to hang out before the gig begins but upstairs, if you can pardon the cliché is where the magic really happens.

If you go up the narrow staircase you will find a small room with a tiny bar at one end of the room and a small stage area at the other. I took my friend Natalie there recently and she was shocked at the size of the room. It’s funny though, when the room begins to fill up and it seems so much bigger and when it is empty.

I have only been to five gigs at The Black Heart, seeing the likes of RVIVR, The Smith Street Band, The Mahones, Elway and Bangers to name a few and they have all been fantastic nights. One of the things I enjoy about The Black Heart is the bands hang out in the crowd during the other bands sets. I always think it’s great to see members of one band enjoying another bands set and it gives a great feeling of there not being a case of them and us regarding the fans and the band. It shows a brilliant spirit of community in the punk rock world where there are no stars.
From my experiences the organisation has always been top class as well. From what I’ve seen they only have one guy running the show. I assume he’s in charge of the sound and lighting and generally making sure everything runs on time. Seems like quite a big undertaking but nevertheless the five gigs I’ve attended have always run smoothly.

I like that at The Black Heart like many other smaller venues there is no barrier between the stage and the crowd. This makes for a much more fun show. It allows the band and the crowd to get up close and personal with each other. I don’t really live when there are rails at shows; people get crushed at the front with people trying to get as close to the front of possible. Granted at small shows with no rails people still get crushed, but they don’t come away with sore ribs from being squashed against a metal rail.

I don’t recall ever seeing a security guard at The Black Heart. There have been some very rambunctious crowds and I’ve seen many a body go flying through the crowd, but it’s always been in good fun and the crowd has always played security guard to itself. I can’t think of many other scenes where this would happen.

Another great thing about The Black Heart is the ticket pricing. Natalie was again shocked at the price of the tickets when we went to see The Smith Street Band. I don’t think I have ever paid more than £10 at The Black Heart. When you consider seeing One Direction cost my friend £60 you’ve got to think he was majorly ripped off! He could have gone to at least six gigs at The Black Heart for that kind of money.

So if you’re ever find yourself in Camden wanting to have a drink in a place with a fantastic atmosphere and listen to some great music, The Black Heart is definitely the place for you.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Album Review: Rented World by The Menzingers

The Menzingers are a punk rock band from Scranton, Pennsylvania who recently released their fourth album Rented World on Epitaph Records. Their previous album On The Impossible Past (released in 2012) was a huge success and great things were expected from this follow up.
Happily in does not disappoint.

Rented World opens up with the brilliant I Don’t Want To Be An Asshole Anymore. A song where lead singer Greg Barnett seemingly is apologising for his wrong doings and wanting to make himself a better person. This is a classic Menzingers sing-along anthem and is already a favourite of their live set.

The next two tracks immediately slow things down and take a darker turn. Bad Things is a song about being stuck and looking for a way to escape by any means necessary and Rodent is about being so low and not caring anymore and comparing yourself to a rat that lives in a wall.

The next track Where Your Heartache Exists is a great example of Barnetts vocal range singings smoothly until towards the middle when it becomes rough, showing desperation in the song. Following this the album picks up the pace again with the excellent My Friend Kyle. This is a song about a friends who has died and talks about him being in a better place and not forgetting about him.

The Talk comes in at track number seven is one of the punchier songs on Rented World. A song about a break up with short lined verses and finishes the angry shouting of “I’m Not Like You!” which is sure to be huge with a live crowd. Nothing Feels Good Anymore is another mid tempo passionate track about a struggling to get over a break up.

Another stand out track is In Remission. It’s a bouncy rough around the edges song with a massive chorus . The lyric “If Everyone Needs A Crutch Then I Need A Wheelchair” is classic Menzingers song writing.

Rented World closes with the acoustic When You Died. This is a bruising and emotional song about struggling with the loss of a loved one. The chorus is one of the saddest I’ve ever heard. It goes “Where Do People Go When They Die? How Dow You Keep Them Alive? How Do You Make Sure That Something Like This Won’t Ever Happen Again? Not To Any Other Friends.”

Overall Rented World is yet another strong release from The Menzingers. With every album they somehow manage to make it sound different to the last release without straying from their “sound.” This is a sign of a truly brilliant band.

Now Listening To: I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore by The Menzingers

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

My Fantasy Band

Recently I have been listening to Me First and the Gimme Gimmes new album Are We Not Men? We Are Diva! For those who don’t know Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are a punk rock supergroup consisting of Spike Slawson (formerly of the Swingin’ Utters), Fat Mike (NOFX), Christ Shiflett (Foo Fighters), Joey Cape and Dave Raun (both of Lagwagon) who only play cover songs. This has got me thinking about who I would have in my dream fantasy band.

The first thing I had to think about is what kind of band it would be. Obviously different musicans are better at a certain style, for instance if I was going for a ska punk band I might go for the Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish on vocals but if it was a street punk band I’d definitely go for Mike McColgan of the Street Dogs. I’ve decided to go with a straight up punk rock band featuring a singer, a lead and rhythm guitarist, a bass player and a drummer.

Every great band has a great drummer. In the punk rock world there are many great drummers, you have the obvious choices like Travis Barker of Blink 182 and Tre Cool of Green Day. Then you have more underground choices like Warren Oakes (formerly of Against Me!) and George Rebelo from Hot Water Music and more recently The Bouncing Souls. My choice though is Bill Stevenson from The Descendents, All, Black Flag and Only Crime. His drumming style has been a blue print for many bands and the likes of Dave Grohl and Josh Freese have cited him as an inspiration. As well as drumming for all of those incredible bands he also serves as a producer at his Blasting Room Studios in Colorado and has help make albums for the biggest names in punk rock.

If any member of a band can go unnoticed it is usually the bass player. The bass player often lays down the beat and rhythm of a song and even though they may go unnoticed by the fans they are a vital cog in any successful live band. Some of the contenders bass player in my band were Ken Casey from Dropkick Murphys, Mike Herrera from MXPX and Jay Bentley of Bad Religion. To be honest know this was a bit of a no-brainer. It had to be Matt Freeman of Rancid and Operation Ivy. For me he is not only the best bass player in punk rock but the best bass player ever. His solo in Rancids song Maxwell Murder is one of the greatest I’ve ever heard, it amazes me how anyone can play an instrument so well. He can also play in any style of band, whether it be a straight forward punk band, ska or Oi! or even psychobilly, he plays upright bass and sings in the band Devils Brigade.

I’m going for two guitarists in my band. Lead and rhythm. The job of a rhythm guitarist is to provide a pulse in time with the singer and other instrumentalists and to provide the harmony. The job of a lead guitarist is to play the melody lines and do the fills and guitar solos. My choices are both skilled enough to do both so it doesn’t really matter who does what in my band. I could have picked two of a lot of different guitar players. Notable expections are Lard Frederiksen of Rancid, El Hefe of NOFX and Pete Steinkopf of The Bouncing Souls. My choices for guitars are however James Bowman of Against Me! and Marc ‘The Kid’ Orrell formerly of Dropkick Murphys. The biggest reason I picked Orrell was for his live performances. He is one of the most energetic performers I’ve ever seen but wherever he is throwing himself he still manages to keep playing perfectly. I think that James Bowman underrated guitar players in the punk scene. Often overlooked for Against Me! front woman Laura Jane Grace I think that Bowman is the heart and soul of that band. He also has a really powerful voice and is excellent for backing vocals.

Now for the lead singer; I personally prefer a singer that doesn’t play an instrument, especially for live performances. Not having to stay behind a microphone stand enables the bands front person to interact with the crowd a lot more, which is a massive part of a good live performance. Some of my favourite singers are Roger Lima from Less Than Jake, Sweeney Todd of The Dead Pets and Wil Wagner from The Smith Street Band. My number one pick for lead singer is Jason DeVore from Arizona punk band Authority Zero. I really love his voice, its one of the most versatile around. He can sing punk and reggae styles with ease. I was so impressed when I saw Authority Zero live, it was at the end of a very long tour for them, DeVore’s voice must have been hurting but I still sung his songs exactly how they sound of record. That amazed me and made him shoot to the top of my list for great punk singers. 

Music Video: New Town Kings - Change

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Venue Report: Camden Underworld

Recently I’ve been reading a lot about various venues closing down. Recently The Peel in Kingston as closed its doors and The Boileroom in Guildford is currently under threat. One of my local venues, The Twist has opened and closed more times than I can remember. If more and more close down it’s very bad for the underground music scene whatever the genre. A venue is just as important as a band itself in keeping a scene going. Without a venue a band can’t play and without bands there is no need for the venues themselves. We have to keep as many venues open so all the bands have somewhere to play to their fans. I’m going to start writing about all the different venues I’ve been to other the years to help promote them.

The first venue I’m going to write about is the venue I have visited the most time, twenty-two times infact, it’s the Camden Underworld. Situated beneath The Worlds End pub (featured in the Simon Pegg film of the same name). The Underworld is often compared too much bigger venues such as the Brixton Academy despite only having a capacity of about 500 people. It’s situated just across the road from the Camden Town underground station. A big reason of why I like it is its ease to find. It has put on gigs for punk rock goliaths such as Bad Religion, Dropkick Murphys and The Offspring as well as acts such as Radiohead, The Foo Fighters, Fall Out Boy and The Smashing Pumpkins though it mostly puts on gigs from up and coming bands.

Whenever I’ve been to the Underworld, whether I’ve been with people or by myself I’ve always felt a sense of belonging. Where at some venues I’ve felt somewhat out of place I’ve never ever had that feeling at the Underworld. All of the staff are super friendly; the security team especially are among the nicest I’ve come across in my gig going adventures. They’re not really needed at the Underworld. In my twenty two gigs at the Underworld I’ve only seen trouble once, that was only a minor scuffle with an over enthusiastic stage diver and was dealt with so quickly and efficiently I think only a few people even noticed it.

The main room itself is a good size with the stage places in one corner which allows a more floor room. It’s a small stage and its quite amusing watching some of the bigger bands try and fit on it but it works. There is raised area around the stage where people not wanting to have a dance can stand and get a good view of the stage but to be honest you can get a good view of the stage from most points on the floor. The only drawback is a huge pillar in the middle of the floor which can block your view. That pillar is often used my bands to get the crowd to circle pit around it so it has a use other than holding the ceiling up.

One thing that has always impressed me with the Underworld is how well run the nights are. You would imagine that trying to organise sometimes upto nine bands in a day would be besieged with problems. Getting everyone on and off in their allotted time slots must be incredibly difficult. The soundmen have to make sure every member of the bands instrument is sounding exactly how they like it. Luckily most of the smaller bands would be easy to work with, if they come across as hard work venues will not want to work with them very often and word will spread of their difficultness. I can’t remember a single Underworld gig I’ve been to where the bands have been late on or the sound has been noticeably off. Kudos to the staff for that.
The Underworld is a fantastic venue and long may it continue to put on great gigs night after night.

Now Listening To: Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash

Friday, 20 June 2014

Introducing Off WIth Their Heads

The purpose of my “introducing” blogs is to direct people to new up and coming bands, this despite being only my second one will be slightly different. This blog is more of a spotlight on rather than an introducing. The spotlight is on Minneapolis punk rockers Off With Their Heads.
I’ve been going through a bit of a rubbish time lately and Off With Their Heads make perfect music for me to escape with, but more about that later, first a bit of background on the band.  Like I mentioned earlier Off With Their Heads formed in 2002 in Minneapolis. In that time they have released multiple albums and EPs on labels such as No Idea Records, Chunksaah Records and their current home, the mighty Epitaph Records. Since forming the band has always had a rotating cast of musicians with lead singer and guitarist Ryan Young being the only constant. Young has stated in interviews before that this has been good for the band as it has prevented touring life becoming stale and different people and personalities coming in and out has kept things fresh. Their style is often described as gruff punk rock and melodic hardcore. I also think that there is an element of pop punk in the music.

For me what make’s Off With Their Heads stand out above of their contemporaries is Ryan Young’s lyrics. For me he is the best lyricist not just in punk rock but in the whole world of music. Sure he’s lyrics can be incredibly dark but whatever the subject matter of the song they hit the nail on the head perfectly. The great thing about them is no matter how dark the lyrics may be (I Know I’m Sick and I’m Not Right, I’m So Fucking Tired Of Living This Life) the songs are incredibly uplifting. I’ve only had the pleasure of seeing them live once. The night before I had had a terrible night and was feeling so low. I nearly didn’t go to the gig but I forced myself along and it definitely sorted me out. It was like a night of therapy. I night of very loud, very sweaty therapy but I came out feeling like a tonne of weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.

Almost every single one of their songs has some amazing lyrics in them. The song Drive which is a song about being depressed and struggling to find a reason to get by (I’m Not Alive, I’m Just As Good As Dead, I Can’t Find A Reason Why I Should Even Get Outta Bed) and wanting to get away from everything (So I Just Drive, It Doesn’t Matter Where, I Put My Foot To The Floor and Let The Wind Blow Through My Hair).

The song Their Own Medicine is about being bullied and having the courage to stand up for yourself.  The verse that goes “For All The Weak and For All The Poor, For All The Tortured Who Can’t Take Anymore, Don’t Let Them Get The Best Of You, Sometimes The Only Thing You Can Do, Is Wait Until You Cross Paths Again, You’ll Be In A Position To Make It All End, You’ve Been Dreaming About It All This Time, And It Will No More Affect Your Life” will resonate with anybody that has been a victim of bullying. Being bullied can affect you for a long time and you dream of being able to get closure.

The songs Clear The Air and Nightlife both serve as cries for help. Clear The Air features the lyrics “I Wanted To Tell You, I Wanted To Share, Some Important Details That You’re Unaware, I Want You To Listen, I Want You To Care, I’ll Choke To Death If I Don’t Clear The Air” and Nightlife has the lyrics “Don’t Want To Be Like This, Anxious and Angry Or Hopeless and Upset All Of The Time, Unable To Get Back The Feeling I Lost Somewhere Along The Line, I Wear It On My Sleeve and Everyone Sees No Matter How Hard I Try, I’ve Never Felt Worse In My Whole Life” are both lyrics that can strike a chord with anybody who has ever felt down and alone.

Finally I want to talk about the song Shirts. This is the song that inspired me to right this blog in the first place. Very recently I have been going through a difficult patch and have been seriously down. I was at work at the song came on my iPod and the lyrics “I Don’t Feel Like Me, Whoever That’s Supposed To Be, I’m Different Person Every Time I Come Home” really made me wake up and want to get back to being the real cheerful, fun, charming man with beautiful blue eyes I am rather than the miserable, moody, grumpy idiot I had turned myself into.

I find Off With Their Heads To Be wonderfully therapeutic. Whenever times get tough I can just pick out any one of their songs, crank my speakers up to eleven and shout along. I think not only are Off With Their Heads one of the best of the current group of punk bands but also one of the most important.

Now listening to: Seek Advise Elsewhere by Off With Their Heads

Monday, 16 June 2014

Gig Review: Slam Dunk Festival 2014

On Sunday the 25th of May Slam Dunk Festival did its annual invasion of Hatfield University. Slam Dunk Festival is a punk and metal festival that happens every year on the second May bank holiday weekend. It started out just in Leeds but over the years has expanded to Hatfield and Wolverhampton. This was my second year going and after last years I was beyond excited for this year’s festival. The line up was one of the strongest I had ever seen at a UK festival. No line-up will ever be stronger than The Fest’s in Gainesville Florida. I wanted to see nineteen different acts this year. They were The All American Rejects, Motion City Soundtrack, The Skints, Less Than Jake, The Ataris, Capdown, Zebrahead, I Am The Avalanche, Gnarwolves, Jesse James, Fandangle, Real Friends, Neck Deep, A Loss For Words, Modern Baseball, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Vinnie Caruana, Chas Palmer Williams and Rob Lynch. Obviously there was no way I could see all of those fantastic acts in one day so some hard decisions would have to be made.

At the start of the day I met up with my friends Smurf, Scouse, Moles, Emily, Charlie and Marilyn before setting off to Hatfield. I was in Scouse’s car with Smurf whilst the others were in Moles car. It was great to hang out with Smurf and Scouse; they are two of my closest friends and had been easily over a year since I’d spent any proper time with them.

The first band up for me was Camberley’s recently reunited ska punk heroes Fandangle. This was one of two bands I was especially excited to see as they split up before I got to see them the first time round and never expected to get the chance to see them live. Moles, Scouse and Smurf all came with me to see them I have to say it had been a while since I had been so excited to see a band. I’m sure not a whole lot of the crowd really knew much about them but Fandangle certainly won them over in a quick fashion. This was a fantastic start to the day.

The second band of the day was the band I was the other band I was especially excited to see, it was Jesse James. Jesse James were one of the first underground bands I loved when I first began to properly get into punk and ska music and their first album Punk Soul Brothers is one of my all time favourites. When they were announced as playing the festival I actually let out a little girly scream out of excitement. I had never even contemplated Jesse James playing any shows again. The time came but sadly the crowd was a bit small. Smurf, Moles and Scouse hung about to see what I was so excited about but sadly didn’t get into it quite like I did. I started a little skank on my own at the front as soon as Jesse James started playing. Eventually the boys decided they would go and see what else is happening throughout the festival. I didn’t care too much as I was having a great time. I looked around behind me to see a dozen or so people, mostly older people were also having a good skank and had massive grins on their face. The song Shoes drew the biggest reaction from the crowd; the video for this song had received television play on the old p-rock channel. This was nostalgia at its finest, even if the rest of the day was a bust I as on cloud nine, I had just seen some of my childhood heroes.

After Jesse James finished and briefly chatting to one of the other Jesse James skankees (may have made that word up) I went to find Moles and get some food. I tried for a while to ring him but was hard to get through, when I did eventually get hold of him and try and arrange a meeting place I bumped into my friend Sam. I say bumped into what actually happened was I walked straight past her and stopped when I heard someone shout Colin. In my defence this was my first ever time meeting her in person. After briefly saying hello I eventually found Moles and along with Charlie, Emily and Marilyn we got some food.
After some not very well cooked chicken Moles, Charlie and I wondered over to the main stage to see some of The Skints set. The Skints were a late but very welcome addition to the main stage. Their ska reggae style is the perfect soundtrack to a beautiful summer’s day and today, like everyone other time I’ve seen them they did not disappoint. Today they treated the crowd at the main stage with a selection of brand new songs mixed in with some old classics. The latest single “The Cost Of Living Is Killing Me” especially sounded fantastic in a live setting.

Sadly Moles and I had to cut seeing The Skints short to go and see Gnarwolves. If you have read by blog where I talk about Gnarwolves you’ll know how much love I have for this band. This would be my first time seeing them in a little while. I was supposed to once already this year but couldn’t get there because trains were all messed up. When Moles and I got back into the room they were playing in we were amazed by the size of the crowd; Gnarwolves have become so incredibly popular in the past eighteen months since I first saw them. Gnarwolves began their set and the crowd went absolutely crazy. This was definitely the rowdiest crowd of the day so far. Like The Skints before them their set was mixed with new songs and fan favourites. I don’t like to say classics because they are not really old songs. The new songs sounded fantastic and they give me very high hopes for their debut album. Hopefully it will be out very soon!

Gnarwolves finished and Moles and I went out to one of the smaller outside stages where we met up with Marilyn and Charlie to watch MC Lars. MC Lars is a veteran of Slam Dunk and was playing his fourth one in a row. I was surprised he was on such a small stage as the previous year he had had a pretty sizeable crowd on one of the bigger stages. This didn’t affect his performance though and gave a highly entertaining show featuring all of his laptop rap hits. The biggest highlight for me was his ode to ska punk This Gigantic Robot Kills.

After MC Lars we went back indoors for Orange County’s finest Zebrahead. Scouse and Smurf were due to meet us there but we couldn’t find them and couldn’t get through on our phones due to bad signal. I knew they were in the room somewhere so made sure I kept an eye out for them. As per normal Zebrahead came out to the Team American theme – American Fuck Yeah which drew a massive sing along from the room before launching into Sirens and then one of my favourites Hell Yeah! Something seemed off with Zebrahead today though; due to illness lead singer Matty’s voice wasn’t its best. This didn’t matter to us though, as the energy and enthusiasm Zebrahead are known for was oozing out of them in abundance. For the song Postcards From Hell they got the crowd to sit down ready to jump up when the song kicks in. Due to the lack of room I ended up sitting on a friendly mans lap. Only at a punk show would this be acceptable behaviour. Soon Zebrahead opened up the biggest circle pit of the day. I’m not really one for circle pits; I don’t really see the fun of running round in a circle. I stood back as the people ran past me, Moles had gotten very excited and jumped in and was running round, then all of a sudden I saw Smurf and Scouse go charging past me. Without a second thought I jumped in to say hello. Finding two of your best friends in the middle of a circle pit is officially the best way to meet people. I found the circle pit itself good fun as well and I sort of understand why people do now, you get quite a buzz from it. The rest of Zebraheads set flew by as I skanked, moshed and sung as loud as I possibly could with my boys. Zebrahead finished like they always do with Anthem, by this time Moles had made his way back to Charlie and Marilyn. As an outro I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston, without thought Scouse, Smurf and I had a big hug together. This was my highlight of the whole day, the only way it would have been better would have been if Moles was there with us.

Up next was another blast from the past from the UK ska punk scene, the kings of skacore – Capdown. Capdown were another band I never expected to see again after seeing them at was supposed to be their last ever show at Koko In 2011. Marilyn and Charlie wondered off to see someone else whilst the rest of us stayed to see Capdown. Capdown played through a couple of songs and I was thinking how much more aggressive they seemed tonight than they did a couple of years ago. Scouse and Smurf decided to go see another band so it was just Moles and I left. Capdown ripped through another set filled with nostalgia for the ska kids of Hatfield. I had spent the set watching from the sidelines as I was exhausted from Zebraheads set. Then as soon as my favourite Capdown song Ska Wars came on I found myself skanking along in the pit. This wasn’t the best set of the day but it was pretty damn good.

When the first wave of bands were announced for Slam Dunk one of the stand out bands was 90’s ska punk legends Goldfinger. I was super excited to see Goldfinger because I had never had the chance before. Sadly a few weeks before the festival they had to pull out due to one of their members needing an operation. I was gutted. The Ataris were announced as a replacement and despite being an Ataris fan I was left feeling slightly underwhelmed. Despite feeling underwhelmed by their announcement I still went along to see them, mostly because they were the only band I wanted to see at that time of the day. I talked Charlie into coming to see them as well as I thought he would like them. We took out place in the crowd and I noticed by friend Sam who I had bumped into briefly earlier in the day stood next to us, I quickly said hello as the music started. To my delight The Ataris played a set mostly comprised of songs from fan favourite album So Long Astoria. They played well and I was surprised at just how well I remembered the words to most of the songs. For me it was an enjoyable set but not really a stand out one.

Now it was time for the headline act, my favourite band on the planet – Less Than Jake! Everyone had left me at this point to go and see the other headline acts on the other stages. I wasn’t too worried by this though; I’m too used to seeing bands by myself. I was absolutely shattered by this point of the day; I had been standing and dancing for close to ten hour. I decided to stay back and just watch the show rather than get too involved with the crowd. This lasted for about five songs when they started playing All My Best Friends Are Metalheads and the next thing I knew I was skanking in the middle of the pit. I stayed here for the rest of their set (which lasted another hour, another fantastic hour) and did not care just how knackered I was. I was having the best time, dancing with random strangers, hugging and high fiving everyone and singing along to every word. There is no other way to finish a festival but to go and party with Less Than Jake.

The festival was finished and I was a sweaty mess. It had been a great day, I had seen some of my favourite bands but my biggest memories of the day will definitely be the time spent with some of my best friends.

Now listenting to: Radio #2 by The Ataris

Friday, 13 June 2014

Sharing is Caring

It sounds a little sad but one of the biggest highs I get in life is when I can introduce someone to a band that they have never heard of before and enjoy it, whether it’s on CD or at a gig.

I like it so much for a multitude of reasons. Firstly it’s always a great help to the smaller bands in the world to spread the word. There are thousands of bands out there and unfortunately only a few get proper mainstream exposure.  Sure these days can use social media but there are only so many hours during the day. Most musicians in smaller bands have to work to afford to go on tour and record music so don’t have much time left to promote the band. Advertising itself also costs money. So anyone who will go out of their way to promote a band is helping out a great deal. Word of mouth is always the most powerful form of advertising.

Secondly and most importantly to me is seeing people’s reactions to realising they like something new that is because of me. My good friend Dan has come to countless gigs with me to see bands I’ve suggested to him. I’ve reconnected with my friend Jon who I hadn’t seen since school because he’s listened and liked some bands I had suggested on Facebook and has come to a couple of gigs with me. Recently I made friends with a lovely girl named Natalie. I suggested that she listens to The Smith Street Band; she loved them and came to see them with me. The joy I’ve seen on all their faces but a big grin on my face and made me enjoy the gig more.

The person who has given me the most joy from going to a gig though is my friend Charlie. I convinced Charlie to come along to Slam Dunk Festival with a group of us in May. Slam Dunk is a punk and metal festival whereas Charlie generally listens to pop and dance music so musically he was very much out of his comfort zone. He only actually knew one band that were playing that day – The All American Rejects. I was slightly worried that Charlie wouldn’t really enjoy that much of the day but he absolutely loved it. I took him to see a couple of bands I thought that he would like and he was having a great time. In particular he really loved The Ataris and I was so so happy to see him nodding his head and singing along to their cover of Boys of Summer. I’ve now suggested he come see some other bands with me and he is very keen. This makes me very proud.

Now listening to: Faces by Meanwhile

Thursday, 12 June 2014

My Favourite Songs: Don't Fuck With Our Dreams

One of my favourite songs at the moment is Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams by The Smith Street Band. Taken from the five track EP from the same name released in 2013 on Australia’s Poison City Records.

The song itself was inspired by a band called The Bennies. Both bands were playing a show together in Australia when a violent man turned up to the show with the attention of hurting someone. Unfortunately that someone turned out to be a friend of The Smith Street Band and while he was bleeding out of his head he turned to the violent guy and just said “Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams.”

The song itself starts with some gentle guitar strokes whilst lead singer Wil Wagner opens the hugely singable song with the lyrics “Living in living rooms and it’s true that I haven’t gone to bed since the last time that I saw you. ‘Cause going to couch or going to floor, well it doesn’t quite provide the eight hours that my body is screaming for” before the rest of the band joins in playing a punchy tune for the rest of the first verse before really giving it some rock and roll beans for the first chorus.  

The chorus tells a tale of life on tour, how every night is a massive party but the mornings are a drag (“’Cause every night’s a Saturday night, and every day’s a Monday morning”). It talks about how on tour things happen at the spur of a moment and how they’ve picked the right people to go on tour with.  They then finish with the statement “Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams!” I think that this line is just a great statement for sticking up for what you believe in despite what other people might think about it or to the people who try and mess with them. It also receives a massive sing along when it is played live.

My favourite part of the song is the break down that happens after the second chorus. The song really mellows out and Wagner begins to sing about leaving a lasting legacy and will help give strength at the lowest points and not backing down or giving in. The bridge then goes on to say “So call me what you will, I don’t care, I know what happened I was there, We Know what happened we were there” meaning that people can say what they want about things that happen in life, as long as the person who was at an incident knows the truth that’s all that matters. This bridge works fantastically well live with the crowd screaming the “We know what happened we were there” line.

Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams then finishes off with another foot stomping final chorus that really brings a brilliant song round full circle. 

Now Listening to: Ducks Fly Together by The Smith Street Band

Monday, 9 June 2014

Punk Rock Dad

My first childhood memory was my mum and step dad getting married when I was four years old. I don’t have any memories of my “real” dad before this time. All I knew was that he wasn’t around and I had a new dad. This was supposed to be great, my family was now complete and I had a dad!

Fast forward ten years and my mum and step dad were getting a divorce. From what I understand of parents getting divorced I should have been upset about this. I mean sure I was devastated for my mum and my sisters but I really wasn’t upset that he was gone. You see me and step daddy never had any form of close relationship. He was always working or when he wasn’t working he was at the pub drinking away the money he had made. We never bonded over things that most father and sons bond over such as football or playing with Lego or even going to the hairdressers. Just recently I made my first visit to an actual hair dresser in twenty years. I always was put down for being shy and quiet and gosh forbid I ever get upset about something, that definitely wasn’t allowed. I’m no psychologist but I imagine putting down a kid for being a bit shy and quiet will only make them shyer and quieter? That is what happened with me. By the time I was fourteen I had absolutely no confidence. My social group basically consisted of the same three friends I had had since primary school a couple of others.

I absolutely hated secondary school, because of my shyness I struggled to get involved in lessons. I could do the work (for the most part) but I really couldn’t interact with the class. I used to hate when a teacher would make me speak in front of the class. Not because I didn’t know the answer but because kids can be horrible. You see my voice seemed to take a lot longer to break than most other lads I knew. Whenever I spoke up in class there would always be some idiot who thought it would be funny to make fun of my high pitched voice. This drove me into my shell even more. I like many other kids was a victim of bullying. Most lads would go to their dads for support in this matter but I couldn’t, he either wasn’t there or just told me not to be a little girl. I remember one time where I did try and speak to him and he suggested that I go and put on one of my sisters dresses.  This was probably the lowest point in my life. I’m tearing up writing about it.
So when he walked out on my mum it turned out to be one of the best days of my life. For sure it was difficult; my mum really struggled to cope with things and all three sisters really had a hard time. Some really really dark times happened in the Clark household, things that I’ve never told anyone and probably never will. Shy little Colin was now the man of the house and really had to step up and be the man of the house. Only problem was Colin had never had a proper male role model to look up to.

This was around the time I first discovered punk rock music. Besides my best friends Craig, David and Anthony this was the only thing that kept me sane and gave me an escape from all the rubbish that was going on in my life. This was when I first discovered it was okay not to be the same as everyone else, it wasn’t a bad thing that my voice was different to other people or I had different views on things. I began to stand up for myself more and have a lot more confidence with people, I wasn’t scared of everyone. I don’t think I knew it at the time but music of punk rock was becoming my father figure.

I gather most fathers shape what kind of man their sons eventually become. They teach them about the right and wrong way to treat people, they give them support and advice on careers, cars and girls and generally give them proper values to live their lives by. The majority of my values come from the lessons learnt from short two and a half minute songs, the people who play them and the people who listen to them. I’ve learnt about how it’s fantastic to be different from the crowd. To quote the King Blues I learnt to “take pride in being whoever the fuck you want to be.” I now spend my life going to gigs and meeting some amazing people. Sure they look completely different to what is deemed “cool” or “normal” but they are some of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I’ve learnt I can live my life in my own way and that I don’t have to do listen to what other people think I should do. If I don’t want to drink alcohol and I want to grow a beard I can do that. If people don’t understand then it doesn’t matter, that’s not my problem. I’ve learnt about how important friendship and community is. Now at 28 I am blessed to have an amazing and quite large group of friends. Without all these people I wouldn’t be who I am today, old friends and new.  I’ve learnt you don’t have to do what people tell you to do, if you don’t like something say something. Don’t just roll other. In all honesty I’ve talked myself into trouble lots of times because I’ve not agreed with something. I wouldn’t change that though, I’m proud to be able to stand up and speak out if I’m not happy with something. Though I do sometimes regret how I word things. Telling a manager she’s “ramming you up the bum” is not constructive.

Punk rock music has shaped me into the man I have become,  a man who I don’t mind saying I’m quite proud of and a man I really hope that my friends, my sisters and most importantly my mum can be proud of. Punk rock has been my figure when there was nobody else to do it. It’s a massive cheese cliché but punk rock music probably saved my life and changed it for the better forever. 

Now listening to: The King Blues - The Schemers, The Scroungers,And The Rats

Friday, 6 June 2014

Introducing Gnarwolves

Today (5/6/14) the punk rock world had some bad news. BBC Radio 1 announced that they were cancelling the long running show hosted by Mike Davies – The Lock Up.

This news sucks for many reasons. Firstly because he plays some fantastic music from both sides of the Atlantic, secondly because that probably spells the end of the Lock Up stage at Reading and Leeds Festival. That stage has consistently been the strongest stage at those festivals for years. The final and most important reason the news sucks is because Mike was always championing new up and coming UK punk bands. Some of the most successful UK underground acts such as Random Hand, The Skints and probably the most successful The King Blues all got lots of air time because of this radio show. It worries me where all the new up and coming punk bands will get some mainstream exposure. The scene itself is the strongest it’s been for a long time so it would be incredibly disappointing if some of the exposure they have received goes away. I’m going to start championing some of the best and brightest of this next generation of UK bands. The first will be the band that is currently shining brightest in the scene, Brighton punks – Gnarwolves.

The trio known as Gnarwolves formed in 2011. In that time they have released three EPs (Fun Club, Cru and Funemployed) which have also been combined to make The Chronicles of Gnaria album. This name alone should be reason enough to love this band.

I first became aware of Gnarwolves in 2012 after watching them support Joyce Manor, Apologies I Have None and Bangers at a pub in London named The Old Blue Last. They were far from terrible that night but they didn’t quite click with me that night. A few days later however I did pick up their (at the time) latest EP Cru. I thought it was good but again didn’t really get it.

In 2013 I was going to a Broadway Calls gig at the Camden Underworld. They were being supported by Great Cynics, Moose Blood and Gnarwolves. I can honestly say this night Gnarwolves stole the show. Every single song clicked with me and I finally understood why they are so loved. The songs were played with such passion and energy and were incredibly well written. Gnarwolves themselves really connect with the crowd, always encouraging them to join them on stage and dive off back into the crowd.

I have now seen them five times and they have established themselves as not just one of the brightest punk bands but one of the brightest and most exciting bands in the UK. This year they have received their biggest break yet after being announced as opening the main stage at Reading Festival and later in the year they will be heading over to Florida to play The Fest, probably the biggest punk festival in the world. It’s been an absolute pleasure watching them progress and I really look forward in the very not too distant future when I can say I saw them playing at tiny pubs in London.

Thursday, 5 June 2014


The first punk album I ever heard was The Offspring’s Americana album which came out on Columbia Records in 1998. I got it as a Christmas present from my mum after hearing the singles Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) and Why Don’t You Get A Job? At the time I didn’t really realise this is what punk music was now. I naively thought that punk music was angry kids with mohawks screaming incoherently down a microphone whilst the rest of the band would play loud, fast, out of time and out of tune. This music wasn’t like that at all, sure it was loud and fast but the music whilst still very simple was well played and the lyrics were fun and catchy. This was a genre of music I could finally get on board with after years of listening to all types without ever getting passionate about any.

Around that same time I began listening to bands like Green Day and blink-182 and from then the likes of New Found Glory, Less Than Jake and Sum 41. However I wouldn’t really say I started my obsession with punk rock until I began college in 2002. I was listening to Steve Lamaqs Radio 1 evening show and he played a song (funny that!). This was one of the greatest songs I had ever heard. The music was upbeat and catchy and the lyrics really hit home with what was going on in my life and were delivered in a style which I loved. This song was Roots by the long running UK ska punk band [Spunge]. Around that time I got my first job and the very thing I did when I got paid was go out and buy their album The Story So Far from Virgin Megastores.

Since then I’ve gone on to collect a massive collection of other 1500 CDs and have many more digital albums.

In November 2010 I finally attended my first punk show. Less Than Jake and Zebrahead were playing in Oxford. I went along with four of my closest friends and instantly fell in love. All my life I’ve felt somewhat like i didn’t belong in certain social scenes. Places like bars and clubs made me feel incredibly uncomfortable but at a punk show I felt instantly at home. Since this gig I have now been to 102 gigs (52 in one year) and it’s safe to say it has gone past a passion and become a bit of an obsession.

The purpose of this blog is for me to give my views on opinions on how punk rock has affected my life as well as reviews on gigs and CDs.

Now listening to: The Menzingers - I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore