The rise of Californian ska punk band The Interrupters has been a steady one, yet it only seems 5 minutes since I was reviewing and excitingly raving about the debut album from these (as of then) unknown upstarts on Hellcat Records back in 2014. Now, Amy Interrupter and the Bivona bros are four albums into a glowing career and teetering on the edge of mega stardom.
Brand new long player ‘In The Wild’ has been out a matter of weeks and is already a triumph. Not only does it see vocalist Amy open up and confront the demons of her past, it also seems to be the perfect combination of anthemic punk pop and ska heavy dancefloor crashers. Produced in their home studio by guitarist Kevin Bivona, it is their most commercial, most well-rounded and surely their strongest album to date.
They have already been out on the road in the US promoting it with London dub reggae band The Skints, now it is time for The Interrupters to get hot and sweaty in Europe and the UK.
The Bar Stool Preachers are well into their set by the time we’ve got through the long queue and security to get into the Academy, and it’s nice to see the room is already pretty full for the opening band. The Brighton street punks go down well with the crowd and they seem to have bought some fans with them tonight, as there are plenty around me singing every word and loving it.
Their brand of ska-infused punk rock is high energy, hedonistic and a right good larf! I could lie and tell you I’ve seen them before and what songs they played, I haven’t and I ain’t got a clue! But I did make out last tune ‘Bar Stool Preacher’, and it was skankin’ goodness that hit the spot. Highly entertaining and I will certainly be checking them out after tonight.
It’s been a few years since I last saw The Skints, and it was at a much more intimate venue. The one thing I remember was how crystal clear the sound was on that night, and it’s pretty damn good tonight too. The Skints are a more mellow proposition than both the openers and the headliners but it does not detract from how good they are live. They’ve been treading the boards for 15 years now and it is no real surprise that The Interrupters have taken them under their wings. Their fusion of dub reggae, ska and punk is a very ‘London’ sound, and they sure lay down some powerful grooves.
With full use of the stage and a couple of risers at the front, the four-piece band enthralls the packed room with their 30-minute set. With vocals shared between guitarist Josh, drummer Jamie, and keyboard player Marcia, it is an eclectic set that covers their whole career.
What stands out most is how tight the band is and how effortless it all seems. While guitarist Josh is the chief crowd negotiator, with a bank of keyboards stage front, it is Marcia who is the focal point. Dressed all in black, her pink dreads flailing around as she smiles and sings while playing a variety of instruments throughout the set and triggering all sorts of percussive noises as she does it. Behind her, the rhythm section drives the whole thing perfectly. Hypnotic bass groove and solid drums keep the crowd moving.
‘Rubadub (Done Know)’ and ‘Rat-a-Tat’ are the perfect upbeat, summer sun-soaked opening one-two. With tongue twister raps that defy a sing-a-long and sweet vocals that flow on even sweeter melodies. ‘This Town’ is a live favourite and set closer ‘Learning To Swim’ rocks it up with some distortion. They even throw in a choice cover of Capdown’s ‘Cousin Cleotis’ that has Marcia earning her coin running between the two platforms for sax solos. Great stuff.
It seems like an age before the lights dim to huge cheers and the intro tape of The Specials ‘Ghost Town’ booms around the room. The anthemic ‘Take Back The Power’ sets the room alight, and down at the front it is a mass of ecstatic faces singing along with Amy Interrupter, who is right at the front singing for all she is worth. She is flanked by guitarist Kevin and bassist Justin, the livewire pair making the most of the space they have. We bounce as one and its over in a flash, straight into ‘Title Holder, and if that ain’t the perfect anthemic one-two to get a crowd excited, then I don’t know what is!
Ok, let’s get one thing straight, if you have come to an Interrupters show and expect to stand with your arms folded watching them play, then you better stand at the back because there is no chance of standing still, the band and the fans will not allow it. It is a time to lose your inhibitions, leave your phone in your pocket and dance like no one’s watching, and that is exactly what I, and everyone around me did. If you are not skankin’ along by third song ‘Judge Not’, then are you even awake in the Academy tonight?
The Interrupters preach family and togetherness in their lyrics and their live shows, and there is a sense of camaraderie all around me tonight, as middle-aged punks and seasoned gig-goers mingle with wild-eyed teens at their first gig and students of all shapes and sizes.
With a telecaster swinging from his knees, Kevin Bivona is the band leader and does most of the between-song crowd interaction. His twin brothers Justin and Jesse are arguably the tightest rhythm section around and keep the whole thing together, while Amy delivers raspy vocals that sit somewhere between Joan Jett and Brody Dalle. We dance, we sweat and we punch the air to a high-energy set of new and old from a band who are a well-oiled touring machine, and now have a very fine greatest hits in their arsenal to choose from.
Live favourite ‘She Got Arrested’ is bookended with newbie singles ‘Raised By Wolves’ and ‘In The Mirror’. In that moment, it’s the best trio of songs ever and to be honest, if the show had ended there and then, I could’ve gone home a happy man, but The Interrupters are just getting started!
There are crowd surfers galore, Amy encourages circle pits to form and who are we to deny her? I must say, there is no aggro, everyone is just having the time of their lives, and the band sincerely looked like they are enjoying it as much as we are.
The singer was clearly struggling emotionally introducing ‘Afterthought’ and had to take moment to compose herself by addressing the crowd; “when you write a truly personal song, you don’t think about actually having to perform it in front of a crowd”, she tells us. We all shared an intimate moment tonight and if you didn’t have goosebumps when she hollered that final note of the last chorus to the whole room, then you simply weren’t really there. Stunning stuff indeed, from one of the album highlights.
Other highlights of the set included killer versions of ‘By My Side’ and ‘A Friend Like Me’. The only time we get a real breather is when Kevin takes the mic and teases us with snippets of punk rock classics. He plays a riff, the band kick in and the crowd goes mental. ‘Ruby Soho’ was a given, right?
It ends with the majority of the crowd engulfed in a mass of pink and white confetti during set closer ‘She’s Kerosene’. And that’s it, job done, a killer 18-song set, no need for an encore, the band literally gave everything they had.
Tonight was a lesson in how to deliver an old-school, high-energy rock n’ roll show. The Interrupters are now seasoned pros, the band is tight and their live show is slick. The 2 support bands were a testament as to why you should always turn up early doors. 3 quality bands for £30, I’ll take that any day of the week, if you missed ‘em, you missed out.
Author: Ben Hughes