“Hooray Hooray it’s Dirtbox day.”
It feels like a mighty long time since I had that melody line spinning around in my head in the run-up to a Welsh Dirt Box Disco gig, and correct me if I’m wrong, but this must be the first time the streamlined version of the band has ever played a show in the valleys.
So, with this in mind nothing was going to stop me from making the trip up to Aberdare to catch the band’s return to a Welsh stage, not the torrential rain, and given that the gig has a 2 pm start, not even my nephew’s ninth birthday celebrations. The latter does mean I’m about an hour late getting to the venue (my apologies to openers Jaws Of Life who I missed as a result), but leaving just as the birthday cake sugar rush starts to kick in also means I am fully in the mood for a party, and thankfully Split Dogs are on hand to provide the soundtrack.
This is my fourth time of seeing Split Dogs this year and each time it’s been with a different line-up, this time around it’s my first time catching them with new bassist Suez, and the next time I catch them they’ll have a new drummer as this afternoon is also one of the band’s last shows with current drummer Rich. Not that any of this seems to phase singer Harry and guitarist Mil in the slightest, and it’s their belief in the dozen or so songs the band have behind them to date that burns brightest, and the moment these tunes explode on stage is a joy to behold, yet again. The likes of ‘Prison Bitch’, ‘Feeder’ or ‘Punch Drunk’ live (or on CD) just leave you breathless, and in ‘Tear Down The House’ the guys might just have written the natural successor to ‘Sunday Morning Nightmare’ by Sham 69. A Sunday afternoon nightmare (of a gig) though, this most certainly was not.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I predict big things for Split Dogs in 2024.
These days there are not many things that can get me to do the Showaddywaddy swagger dance but the sounds of ‘Under The Moon Of Love’ blasting out of the PA as Dirt Box Disco take to the stage is enough for me to don my imaginary crapes and drapes and “waddle” my way to the front of the stage with a huge grin on my face, and it’s not just me either, as everyone around me is doing the same (smiling that is, not waddling) just as Spunk Volcano leads his gang of misfits into the opening a cappella of ‘I Just Want To Be A Girl’ and off we go on a rollercoaster ride of a set packed full of punk rock bangers at every twist and turn.
With the exception of two new tracks (these being the title track and the Finbarr Saunders approved ‘Up The Dirtbox’) drawn from the band’s 2023 record ‘Rokapokalips’ and ‘Unstoppable’ from their 2020 album ‘TV Sex Show’ the rest of this afternoon’s hour-long soirée focusses on the band’s first three albums and debut EP, and who can blame the lads when they have the likes of ‘Peepshow’, ‘Burning’, ‘Standing In The Queue’ and ‘My Girlfriends Bestfriends Sister’ just waiting to be screamed along to. What makes it even more perfect though is the fact that there’s a young lad in the crowd (wearing an ace battle jacket complete with a Twisted Sister back patch) singing along to these songs like they were written yesterday not a decade or so ago when he would have still been a baby.
It’s proper sunshine indoors stuff when ‘I Don’t Wanna Go Out With You’ gets us finishing off whatever is left of our voices, and not even a misjudged stage dive by one over excited punter during ‘Let’s Get Wasted!’ can’t spoil the atmosphere as ‘My Life Is Shit’ calls last orders on this most glorious of matinee shows.
Forget Whamageddon or whatever they call it, the Dirt Box Disco Armageddon is not about avoiding great music, it’s about celebrating it. I swear the guys could have played for 3 hours this afternoon and not a single person would have complained, not in the slightest. It’s just a shame they didn’t find time to slot in ‘I Don’t Want Anything For Christmas’, as I think deep cut gem would have been the real icing on the cake of one the most feelgood gigs I’ve ever been to.
Remember folks, Dirt Box Disco is for life, not just Rebellion, so get out there and support them in 2024, and let’s make every day a Dirtbox day.
Author: Johnny Hayward