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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Here’s a question for you, what do singers do when their band is between albums? Well if you are the singer of punkabilly trio the Graveyard Johnnys and go by the name of Joe Grogan then you’ll be found writing shit hot pop-punk anthems with your other band the Bottlekids.

Having existed for a little over 3 years now this the band’s debut four-track EP which is available now on vinyl and download via the Bandcamp link below and it’s one white-hot collectible if you know anything about Joe’s other band and how fast their records sell and with this 12” single limited to only 300 copies it’s bound to sell out in double-quick time.

Kicking off the EP with the anthemic ’25 Days’ a song the band also previewed as their debut video back in May, the immediate thing that hits me is that aside from Joe’s unmistakable vocals this band are nothing like his other band. Okay maybe there’s a little bit of the rockier side of The Living End that connects both bands, but apart from that this is more like the kind of music that had bands like Green Day topping the charts worldwide just a decade or so ago.

Oddly enough it’s actually one of Billie Joe Armstrong’s side projects, the awesome Foxboro Hot Tubs that Bottlekids remind me of most, especially on the amazing ‘Dark Times’ which kickstarts side 2 of this EP with some of the best powerpop you’ll hear anywhere in 2019. Part Joe Jackson part Head Automatica with even a hint of The Wildhearts in the instrumentation ‘Dark Times’ literally explodes in your head and stays there for days after.

With ‘Smokes Lets Go’ and ‘The Wayside’ completing the four tracks on offer here there’s certainly no room for any excess musical baggage and this is in part thanks to the expert production from Romesh Dodangoda something that leaves me with that immediate sense of “wanting more” once each side of the EP finishes.

So, let’s have some more of the same please Bottlekids via a full-length album packed with songs as fantastic as the four on this tip top slice of punk rock. In the meantime the though the Bottlekids EP is available via the Bandcamp link below…be lucky now!

 

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Author: Johnny Hayward

 

Two venues? Two gigs? at the same time! No I didn’t split myself in two it’s the thing I love about Womanby Street in Cardiff, now the pressures off and developers have been sent packing it really has become a vibrant hub of the Underground music scene, catering for all musical tastes and the atmosphere. Sense of belonging and camaraderie in the crowds lurking outside three venues, all within 50 feet of each other, on both sides of the road, shows what happens when you get things right.

Walking towards Clwb Ifor Bach for another superb offering from our friends at Pity my Brain (you really should keep up to speed with their offerings, they never disappoint and always put on gigs with integrity) I picked up the sound of a band starting up in the Moon Club, I know that voice! So took a quick detour to be confronted with Red Light Syndrome, now you might well ask who? But take it from me these guys are a band that are really coming together. I’ve caught them twice over the last month and what is starting to come together is a sound grounded in Husker Du, tipping a nod towards Jawbreaker but all the time showing a Lemonheads grasp on pop sensibilities. Craigy Rees is starting to build in confidence as a front-man and Dean on Guitar is bringing the noise with a gorgeous punk rock edge to the sound. The too short set to an ever-increasing crowd drawn in from the outside is met with a more than appreciative response.

 

 

Nipping back across the road to Clwb Ifor Bach and we catch the start of Tribeless , its always a pleasure to catch a young band on the up but bringing their own sound into what could be classed as classic rock, with a leaning towards the alternative. (Listening to the single post the night there’s a definite hint towards prime time Evanescence) and in front-woman Lydia McDonald they have a genuine star in the making.

 

Next up we have Bottlekids and a band I’ve been looking to check out for a while Joe Grogan, front -man of the mighty Graveyard Johnnys side project and right from the start that un-mistakable vocal hits you and your off that punk rock underpinned sound drags you out of your seat and draws you right in to the moment. With a new EP due, available to pre-order on the nite, or here (https://bottlekids.bigcartel.com) and a touring schedule that is rapidly filling up they’re in the exchange in Bristol alongside Riskee and the ridicule and the Mighty King Prawn, (what a triple header) October 18th. I would suggest you jump on board pretty quickly! These guys aren’t hanging around.

 

Time is absolutely flying by tonight, and with an early curfew, we’re into the headliners Hands off Gretel before we fully have time to cool down from Bottlekids onslaught.

The music-press I have to say are for once right in tune with a band and a rapidly growing following and everything is in place for Hands off Gretel to explode out of the alternative underground and hit those bigger arena’s. They have the image and with the addition of Becky Baldwin on Bass we have a twin focus a counterpoint to frontwoman Lauren Tate, people in the know might have caught her with Triaxis? If not why not?

 

From the opening chords the crowd are up for it and worth noting tonight, in what is usually a heavy male-oriented audience I would have put the ratio at almost 50/50 great to see and with none of the behaviors that have crept into some of the larger venues and audiences. With Hands off Gretel, you can’t help but make comparisons to some of the bands that exploded out of Seattle at the peak of grunge, but it’s tighter, been brought up to date and not just sung but presented by Lauren and the band. I think the image, the attention to detail, the sound and most importantly the potential for crossover into the mainstream is huge. I’d love to see them on a stage with the likes of Garbage.

 

As the set moved on you could feel the band picking up on the crowd’s energy and shifting through the gears, in turn driving the crowd on, the Mosh pit got bigger and bigger and by three tracks from the end had spilled onto the stage!!

Tracks like SASS, My Toy, Kiss me Girl and Punk Rock leveled the place and again way too quickly they were gone. But on finishing the set the band joined the crowd, taking photo’s, chatting and spending time with the fans, nothing was too much trouble, remember this was a sell out crowd too!!

 

Now the last time I though a band was on the verge of hitting the big time was a band called Estrons, and they blwdi split up. So this time I’ll hold my thoughts, but catch Hands off Gretel now, before they move from the smaller more intimate surroundings, everything’s in place for world domination.

Author: Nev Brooks