Here are my top ten gigs of 2014.
10. Imperial Leisure/Anti Vigilante – Camden Underworld
This gig was my first one of the year and turned into a bit of a bitter/sweet evening for me. The sweetness was that Imperial Leisure and Anti Vigilante were both brilliant on that nice. Anti Vigilantes skacore thunder got the Underworld moving before Imperial Leisures brand of altska took the party to a whole new level that only they can. The bitterness of the evening was that this turned out to be the last time I ever got to see Anti Vigilante as they decided to call it a day. A massive loss to the UK’s underground ska scene.
9. Masked Intruder – Fighting Cocks
The Fighting Cocks in Kingston played host to one of the funniest gigs of the year. Being supported by the excellent folk punk Sam Russo and hardcore punks Throwing Stuff those pop punk criminals Masked Intruder entertained a packed crowd. With Officer Bradford in tow they entertained the room with their songs about breaking the law and girls. Playing a mixture of songs from both of their full length albums as well as an excellent Linoleum cover they had the room singing and dancing with massive grins on their face the whole way through their set.
8. Ducking Punches - Brixton Windmill
This turned out to be one of the best surprises of the year. Norwich’s Ducking Punches being supported by River Jumpers, Wank For Peace and Other Half. This was my first time at the Windmill in Brixton, whenever I go to a new place I always get a bit wary about what it would it be like, what’s the atmosphere going to be like? All was well as all four bands put on a great night of brilliant and varied punk rock. It really won’t be long until both Ducking Punches and River Jumpers are playing shows at much bigger venues, incredible talents.
7. Less Than Jake/Reel Big Fish – Shepherds Bush Empire
Ska punk colossuses Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish on tour together? With Zebrahead? This of course was going to be one hell of a show. I’m a massive fan of all three bands so when tickets went on sale I got mine as quickly as possible. I’ve seen all three bands multiple times over the past few years and never get bored of watching them play. Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish have been going for over twenty years now and it’s a testament to them that people still keep going back and having the best nights at their gigs.
6. The Smith Street Band – Our Black Heart
It wouldn’t be a top ten of 2014 list without The Smith Street band making an appearance. At the end of a long European tour with Restorations and Astpai they decided to play one last headline show at Our Black Heart in Camden before heading home to Australia. Being supported by their friends in Caves and Great Cynics this was one of the hottest tickets in town. Caves started the show of great and Great Cynics continued with some great indie punk but The Smith Street Band blew the roof of the place. Everyone was covered in sweat as we sung along as loud as we could throughout the set. The biggest sing along was of course saved for the closer Young Drunk, where Wil Wagner gave his microphone as they sung so loudly.
5. Jesse James – The Borderline
This was a gig I never ever expected to happen, Jesse James back together playing a headline gig. The ball got started after it was announced they would be playing at Slam Dunk Festival and after their set they announced a single headline show at The Borderline, I couldn’t get my ticket quick enough! Being supported by the excellent Vanilla Pod (who celebrate twenty years as a band next year) it was a night full of nostalgia as I danced and sang along to one of the my all time favourite bands. That was a night I know that I’ll remember for a long long time.
4. ONSIND – Urban Bar
ONSIND are without a doubt the best band in the UK for me. Being supported by The Fairweather Band, Losing Sleep and the amazing Erica Freas of RVIVR, ONSIND had a whole room of sweaty punks in the palm of their hands singing along to their political anthems with them. I’m not sure that there are many better songwriters than this two Pity Me gentlemen, they can write some great hooks with some seriously catchy lyrics that will also make you think. Whether the song is about the government, mental health or gender equality ONSIND always have something important to say. An extra special moment for me was when Erica joined Nathan and Daniel on stage to sing their cover of Starships by Nicky Minaj. This was the song that got me into both ONSIND and RVIVR and never expected to get the chance to see it live, so that was a fantastic treat.
3. Against Me! – Electric Ballroom
Against Me are without a doubt the best punk band in the world right now. This gig was always going to be a special night but I was still in awe of just how special the night would become. After the fantastic Billy The Kid opened the show with a little help from Frank Turner Against Me took to the stage and the energy levels of the whole room went right up to eleven. Tearing through songs from their entire discography they had the crowd in the palm of their hands for the entire set. Before the encore a massive sing along of Sink Florida Sink gave me goose bumps. I said when I reviewed the gig that this night made me so proud to be a part of the punk scene in the UK. By now we all know that Against Me are a band with a difference, in most music scenes there would be a bit of attention and the words acceptance would be thrown about a lot. In our punk scene there never was any need to accept the difference, it was what it was – they are still the best band in the world.
2. Slam Dunk Festival – Hatfield University
When the organisers of Slam Dunk festival began to start announcing the bands that would be gracing the stages I was blown away. By the time they finished announcing everyone I counted seventeen that I wanted to see. Among the highlights were Less Than Jake, The Skints, Gnarwolves, a rare appearance from Capdown, the returning Fandangle and of course a reunited Jesse James. I’ve never fan girled more at a line up. Fandangle opened the day up the best way possible, getting a huge skank pit going (not bad for a early opener), I was then sent down memory lane by Jesse James and continued to be entertained by The Skints, MC Lars, Gnarwolves, Zebrahead, The Ataris and of course the legendary Less Than Jake. There were so many great moments throughout the day but the one that always sticks out most to me came and the end of Zebraheads set. I’d gone to the festival with a few friends, two of which were my great friends Smurf and Scouse. I hadn’t seen them much all year so was great to see them regardless of what we were doing. After finding them in the middle of the mosh pit we danced through the set of a band we had bonded over when we first met. When Zebrahead finished their set they played Whitney Houstons I Will Always Love You, the three of us just had a massive hug together. Moments like that confirmed that I will be friends with those boys for a very long time.
1. The Menzingers – Electric Ballroom
Those close to me know that I’ve not had the easiest of years and the result of that has been some mental health issues, one of which being anxiety. On the day of what already promised to be one of the gigs of year, The Menzingers at the Electric Ballroom with The Smith Street Band and The Holy Mess I was really struggling with my anxieties, so much so that I nearly stayed at home that night. I forced myself to go though and was treated to an amazing night. The show was opened by one of my finds of the year – The Holy Mess. This trio play some great fists in the air punk rock and should be on everyone’s radars. Up next was a band I can’t seem to shut up about – The Smith Street Band. This would be my first time seeing them on a stage of this size and they easily surpassed all of my already high expectations. During the set Wil made a comment about how being on stage is the only time of the day when he really feels right. This really resonated with me, as soon as I had arrived at the Electric Ballroom that night all my feeling of anxiousness had disappeared, I knew that this was a place where I felt right. Up next came The Menzingers, one of the most popular punk bands on the planet. Every single time I see The Menzingers I know it’s going to be an epic performance, and this was no different. I’ve said in the past the crowd are as big a part of a Menzingers set as the band themselves. On this night the crowd were phenomenal. Shouting along to songs from all four of their albums, the crowd danced, moshed, surfed and fist pumped all night long. It won’t be long until The Menzingers are rubbing shoulders with the biggest bands in music, not just our little world of punk.