After giving this years Rebellion a miss we decided that the opportunity to see T.S.O.L. and M.D.C. in the confines of Bristols Sweat box otherwise known as The Exchange was an opportunity we simply couldn’t turn down so across the border we headed. Let Johnny take you through The Split Dogs set –
In the five months since I first caught Split Dogs live, they’ve been making something of a name for themselves bombing up, down, and side to side along the South West’s motorway destroying pretty much everything in their path. They’s also gone and released a stonking ten track debut CD in conjunction with local promotors Death or Glory, so as you might expect, the (kind of hometown) crowd that greets the four-piece tonight is very handsome indeed, and I’m talking numbers here, not the fact that myself, and Nev are in attendance. Dom being his usually fashionably late self.
I’d been very impressed with Split Dogs when I’d seen them supporting Grade 2 back in March, even though it was me who was late that night, arriving just in time to catch around half of their set. Tonight, I made sure I was in early doors to guarantee I experience the full punch-drunk effect of Split Dogs live, as the song by the same name immediately lands a couple of knockout blows to my ears and brain and I’m down in round one.
Elsewhere its songs like ‘Big Fred’, ‘Feeder’, ‘Prison Bitch’ and set closer ‘Tear Down The House’ that I still clearly remember from that debut live encounter and that’s got to be a measure of just how good these tunes are, right? It’s also impossible to take your eyes off a band like Split Dogs when they have a singer as engaging as Harry delivering their missives. She’s equal parts Texas Terri, Wendy O Williams, and Hazel O’Connor and I’ll be fucked if I’d argue with her.
I wouldn’t ever want to upset man mountain bassist Jono either, however for all his tough appearance he’s just about to step away from the band to look after some serious family health matters, a decision that the rest of the Dogs have not only respected but also donated all the profits from their merch sales to, to help support their comrade in his time of need.
Look, if Amyl and the Sniffers can get to where they are today, then with a new bass player on board Split Dogs have every chance of following that path to success, because they are twice the band make no mistake. I predict a very busy 2024 for Split Dogs.
M.D.C. amble on stage and Dave Dictor takes the mic as the band continue to set up around him. Now for the uninitiated M.D.C stands for Millions Of Dead Cops and they play hardcore punk with a left wing message and have spent their entire career rallying against the far right nutjobs and easy targets with their message of love and respect for all others oh and cop bating mustn’t forget they do like to dis Governments and cops seeing as there is sooooo much material to dig into on the wrong doings of the American Governments since they formed back in 81.
Dave has fronted the band and they’ve often headed over the pond to play with the good and the greats from this side of the Atlantic but tongiht they are warming us up for T.S.O.L. and they waste no time at all in getting down to business with the track ‘Millions Of Dead Cops’ and straight from the get go this band are a tight unit. Without skipping a beat or fudging a note the band are right on the money thrashing about and attacking the music like it was the first time they’d played any of it. As tight as the snare skin that is getting a proper work out to be fair.
Now with some funny banter from Dave Erica and Barry work really well together weaving the notes around the likes of the fantastic (Born To Die) / ‘No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA’ the pit that has erupted is really going for it as Dave is working them hard as M.D.C. contort their way through a brutal 40 minute set with songs old and new. We were treated to the ‘Chicken Squawk’ as the band offered up some Cow Punk at 100 miles per hour and we got the most excellent harcore of ‘Multi Death Corporation’, ‘Patriot Asshole’, ‘Greedy And Pathetic’ and a new song I didn’t catch the name of that Dave said (if I’m correct) is part of their new record set for release later this year.
Of course, as the set drew to a close ‘John Wayne Is A Nazi’ gave the now salivating pit exactly what they wanted, the temperature of The Exchange had reached boiling point almost to the point of it being advertised as the South West largest sauna. In their short but oh-so-sweet set M.D.C. had crammed in a mightily impressive set, executed with aplomb by a band who are showing no sign of slowing down nor capable of phoning in a performance, absolutely, most excellent my friends.
Onto T.S.O.L. and I have to admit are one of my all-time favourite American punk bands who’ve always delivered captivating performances and released albums that have been some of my favourite records and managed to carry and marry the sound of early Damned and Lords Of The New Church with your faster more hardcore American punk whilst totally mesmerising me. Frontman Jack Grisham is a formidable performer and has a sharp wit as he prowls the stage like a bear ready to cut loose and devour whatever is in his way tonight as he moves across the compact stage he’s beaming and playfully engaging with the audience with some great introductions and stories. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here. No keyboards, no Ron no… wait a minute, this is Jack and a bunch of press-ganged individuals? Well no I guess that is the short answer as he explained about the band’s injury room list and backs deeming unable to fly to Europe to stay in a van and try not to kill each other as well as Ron’s shoulder needing surgery for their friendship and sanity it was best they didn’t travel so Jack not wanting to cancel recruited his youthful relative Brandon in to play Bass and at short notice his performance was flawless it has to be said and supplying the barbed guitar work was the most excellent Trevor Lucca who delivered the tone you’d associate with Ron and the likes of Brian James as he cut the chops on the likes of ‘Terrible People’ and ‘WWIII’ with consummate ease.
So where were we? Ah yes, T.S.O.L. in The Exchange. Opening the set with a Joykillers song is cool with me and the set was smattered with a few Joykillers songs that fitted in with the best of T.S.O.L. that spewed forth from the dripping Exchange PA. Jack did mention they’d been in Greece and Italy before crossing onto Shit Island for a few shows and nowhere on the planet was currently hotter than the Exchange. ‘Terrible People’, ‘Superficial Love’, and ‘Sound Of Laughter’ is a devastating trios by anyone’s standard and the pickup band sounded like they’d been playing these tunes since the band’s inception back in the early 80s! Something that wasn’t lost on Jack.
It seemed like only yesterday the band released ‘The Trigger Complex’ and it was fantastic to hear a couple had made it into the set especially when ‘I Wanted To See You’ was one of them. We needed a breather of sorts but it was only brief I can assure you. With the newer songs dispatched it go tme thinking how underrated ‘The Trigger Complex’ album is, an absolute beast of a record no argument needed it’s right up there.
‘The Triangle’, the truly epic ‘Fuck You Tough Guy’, it was during a rapid ‘Wash Away’ I caught myself daydreaming a moment where I pondered how I wish I’d been able to have seen them around the point of the debut and ‘Beneath The Shadows’ when they were fresh faced punks turning in some legendry performances but alas it wasn’t to be but I have had the pleasure of half a dozen or so performances and they’ve never failed to deliver the goods and tonight was no exception, even after my initial disappointment of no Ron Emery and his tone and style I was won over when D.I.s stand in hit the strings and Jack, well, what can you say that hasn’t already been said hes a legend and rightly so and I hope this isn’t the last time we get to see him on a stage in the UK which he alluded to. It was time to try and savour the final knockings as the band destroyed an epic ‘Dance With Me’ before slaying all with the brilliant ‘Code Blue’ and we were done. 45 minutes of brilliance in my humble opinion and it would be a shame to call time when you still have the chops and an armoury of superb tunes.
Value for money during some shocking times for both sides of the pond. Maybe give us at least one more opportunity to say goodbye properly, I’d even bake a cake and bring balloons but don’t leave us like this Jack. T.S.O.L. still rule I saw it and we all know it. Thank you.
Words: Johnny Hayward & Dom Daley