It’s time for my first gig of the “roaring twenties”, but tonight is sadly also the last one to be put on by Drew and the Cardiff Punk Rock Bowling team as they are seemingly disbanding after tonight’s event. From my experience, it’s always a mixture of joy and pain (well it is the next morning) when you see Wonk Unit live so they as returning headliners for this PRB Awards night feels like the perfect choice to see out this vibrant and close-knit community of Kingpins.
Kicking things off tonight at a time when most people are seemingly still enjoying their first (much cheaper) pint in one of the nearby watering holes are Chepstow’s Bottlekids. It’s six months since I last saw the trio live downstairs in this very same venue and inbetween they’ve released a debut self-titled EP to widespread critical acclaim, and here with the benefit of Ifor Bach’s main room sound system the likes of ’25 Days’ sound like stadium filling anthems for the next generation. With a string of German tour dates already ahead of them these are busy times for Bottlekids make sure you check them out.
If Bottlekids see the stadium punk of Green Day as their musical peers then Manchester’s Aerial Salad must look up to DJ Rubble from Paw Patrol. They look so young I can’t help but wonder if they are actually legally supposed in the venue at all. Don’t let their child like appearance fool you though, as once these boys get into their stride, they’ll rip your throat out. I should perhaps admit that the last time our paths crossed I really didn’t “get” all the fuss that was being generated around the band at the time, and they just kind of felt like a harder pop/punk version of Arctic Monkeys to me. A year and a half on though and tonight I have to say Aerial Salad are nothing short of phenomenal, and I can now see the trio’s immediate appeal plastered across the smiling faces all around me. It’s kind of reassuring to know that the future of punk rock is very much safe in the hands of Jamie, Matt and Mike. Fantastic stuff!
It only feels like a few weeks ago that I was last penning a live review of Wonk Unit for RPM Online, and that’s because it was. Yet as the Wonk faithful know all too well you’ll never get tired of seeing the greatest band ever to come out of Croydon simply because there’s never two Wonk gigs alike, and with the insanity (and nudity) of their valleys shows of old missing from proceedings tonight it really is time for the music to do the talking. So, with added Véronique on keyboards coupled with the aforementioned Clwb Ifor rig I’m pleased to report that Wonk Unit really have never sounded more amazing than they do tonight in the 20 plus times I must have now seen them live.
As always Daddy Wonk’s ability to mix deep cuts with “the hits” is always a delight to behold as the Unit are kept well and truly on their toes with the likes of ‘Girlfriend Is A Lunatic’ (from the band’s debut ‘Flying The Japanese Flag’) and ‘Judus Betrayers’ (from the far more recent ‘Terror’) thrown into the set seemingly on a whim, but it is their upmost credit that they never once fail to rise to the challenge.
Likewise it’s great to hear curveballs like ‘Old Trains’ and ‘We Are The England’ sandwiched in alongside the ferocious ‘Depressed?’ and the pogo-tastic ‘Go Easy’ plus there’s the chaos of returning set closer ‘Johnny Rambo’, and I’ll say it again the eclectic influences at the very core of Wonk Unit is what makes them such an essential live band.
Clwb Ifor was packed out tonight just 24 hours after Subhumans had done just the same, remind me who was it that said punk rock was dead?
Well tonight it’s never been more alive, exciting, or essential… FACT!
Author: Johnny Hayward
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