It might be Bonfire night but the only fireworks I’m interested in seeing tonight are those being generated by this stellar three band bill. It’s a line-up that has more than a hint of Slugfest about it too seeing as all the bands have shared the floor/stages at the (now thankfully, once again) annual event. There’s also more than a whiff of the UK’s number one free festival within the crowd tonight too with the X15 bus seemingly standing room only to ensure that Blaenau Gwent is very well represented early doors. And who can blame them for picking up a rover ticket?
Fresh from recent support slots with the likes of Discharge, Raw Brigade and a whole host of other bands, System Reset have certainly come a long way in there still relatively short time together (as a five piece) with their back catalogue of songs maturing with them. Songs like ‘Anxiety’, ‘Fail Safe’ (my fave song by the band) and ‘Big Business’ all sound huge played through Le Pub’s impressive sound system, and there’s an immediate smile on my face when they kick in with the “woah oh” gang backing vocals and an even bigger one when there’s a nod to James Williamson’s time with The Stooges creeping into the riffage at one point too. System Reset’s soon to be released new single ‘Gas Light’ is a cracker, which alongside a handful of additional live shows brings to a close a very impressive 2023 for the melodic punk rockers. A slot at Rebellion 2024 awaits methinks.
The Pleasures are not as you might first expect, being an avid reader of RPM, the German glam rockers of the same name. Nah, this four piece are from the Gwent valleys and are a world away from anything even remotely glamourous. These four lads hail from one of the most deprived areas in south Wales and as you might expect have the anger and attitude by the bucketload that comes with such a dubious claim to fame. There’s also something that I cannot quite put my finger on about this gang, something that I last felt when I witnessed IDLES open a three band bill in Bristol’s Exchange just a few years back and before that when The Guns first broke on the south Wales scene. Not that they necessarily sound anything like either of the bands you understand, it’s just they have that special ingredient some band’s simply don’t have… charisma.
Singer Caethan Tucker is literally all over Le Pub’s stage and dance floor, he’s also shirtless and dripping sweat after just one song, such is the intensity of the band’s performance, and then when it comes to songs, popping up mid-set they have this monster of a tune called ‘Grandfather’s Bones’ complete with a mantra of ‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds’ that literally sounds like it’s ready made for when the boys get their chance to wow a Glastonbury/Reading type of crowd. They have the same kind of breakthrough potential that I witnessed in HotWax when they played just a few yards up the road in McCanns cellar bar and are now touring enormodomes in the US with Royal Blood.
Go give the band’s single ‘Lies’ a listen on YouTube (with coincidently the video being directed by Alex from the aforementioned Guns) and turn the fucker up loud. Oh, and before I forget, any band that can cover the mighty LCD Soundsystem and make the song (‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’ in case you are wondering) sound like their own tune, really does deserve your attention. “Woo!”
Croydon’s Wonk Unit have always had a reputation for having great support bands on the bill with them, it’s almost like their singer Alex welcomes the challenge this poses his band, but when it comes to the current six piece band he has carefully assembled he’s more than capable of batting off any young shavers looking to steal the band’s crown as undisputed champions of the UK DIY punk rock scene.
I’ve seriously never heard Wonk Unit sounding as essential as they do here tonight, be it the classics like ‘Guts’, ‘Go Easy’ or ‘Lewisham’ that first introduced me to the band, or the tunes that immediately followed these like ‘Je M’appelle Alex’, ‘Awful Jeans’ and ‘Day Job Wanker’, tonight’s set has more bangers than the rain-soaked pyrotechnic display just over the river at Rodney Parade.
I also get to hear my first Christmas song of the year tonight, but when it comes all wrapped up in the shape of ‘Christmas In A Crackhouse’ you certainly won’t hear any complaints from myself or anyone else packed in down the front.
As always with a Wonk Unit their show is as much about Alex’s between song chats and tonight he’s on tip top form, sharing the hilarious back stories regarding tunes such as ‘She Cut Her Finger’ and ‘Horses’ whilst also displaying his more sensitive and private side ahead of new tune ‘Overwhelming’ (the first of two played) a song that keyboardist Vezzy insists could even have chart potential.
Of course, Wonk Unit live are anything but sensitive and the chaos that ensures once (Johnny) ‘Rambo’ enters Le Pub for the band’s finale is all you’ll ever need in your camouflage jacket pocket if you ever had to give evidence of this fact in a court of law.
I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll say it again, Wonk Unit really are something special, there’s no one else quite like them out there, and in fact they fast becoming something of a national treasure when it comes to DIY punk rock bands. They are no heritage band though, the new songs really sounded great tonight, and the current, settled, line up of Alex and bassist Pwoison, alongside Vezzy, drummer Max and guitarists AJ and Ryan really look like they are relishing every second of being in a band together.
Don’t forget to honk if you Wonk.
Author: Johnny Hayward