OPM + Mr Shiraz + Thin Vision + Awesome Zombie Ants @ The Ironworks, Oswestry — 5th September 2012

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Review by Will Harris

Nostalgia’s a funny thing, and trying to relive something from the past can either be an intensely pleasurable experience or an excruciatingly embarrassing one. It’s not the year 2000 anymore, but nevertheless here are Californian rap-rock-reggae skater punks OPM, kicking off their UK tour, and in case you didn’t know, they’ve released three more albums since 2000’s hit record Menace to Sobriety.

Opening tonight we’re presented with something entirely different however (the start of the night’s hard-soft-hard-soft lineup), as toggle-switched stuttering guitar feedback leads into the heavily industrial techno beat of Awesome Zombie Ants’ opener. From the outset a glorious wall of noise surrounds the early-bird 20-odd audience members, combining Ministry-esque thudding loops, chuggy riffage and weaving, swirling synthesizer sounds beneath singer Neil Phillips’ plaintive croon. While the repetitive trance of the six tracks doesn’t convert everyone, few leave the room and more join, and those remaining know they’ve just seen something markedly different.

Next act, young Bishop’s Castle band Thin Vision, provide more of a flavour of what’s to come later, with some ska-tinged indie rock. The response by the growing audience is increasingly enthusiastic, and though the material’s scarce of any real hooks, the tunes (and the band) are lively and convincingly written. A flattening crescendo of a finale does the trick of showing all that this young group are destined to go on to do more.

Supporting OPM on their UK tour are Huddersfield’s Mr Shiraz, who begin by proffering a classic thrash metal number that sees their three foremost members throwing themselves around the stage like popcorn in a saucepan. Good show. Following this is some considerably more accessible hard rock for the remainder of the set; some of it might sound a little too trite to really energise the audience, but between the animated execution and the lead vocalist’s stand-up rapport with the crowd, the hyperactive headbangers leave no one unsatisfied.

The headliners take the volume down again: a chilled beat get some shoulders moving and a few more songs of much of the same loosen most of the others up. Though on record the fusion of rap, rock and reggae might sound a little dated, live it proves to be nothing but good fun. Their 5th song, ‘Trucha’ from the first LP, adds a welcome Latin vibe to a set that nears repetitiveness, followed by another reggae number with a pop-punk chorus. After ‘Dealerman’, another fan favourite (yes, you guessed it, from the debut), the audience is in OPM’s hands. From here on in, the entire room is shaking.

The party anthem of ‘El Capitan’ has everyone moving — there isn’t a static body in sight — and a seriously funky rendition of Gorillaz’ ‘Clint Eastwood’ is a sure-fire crowd pleaser, which makes the proceeding handful of reggae tracks just great dancing songs. Later, ‘Dirty White’, an upbeat ska ode to cocaine, has everyone bouncing. OPM’s laid-back styling never made for especially intellectually challenging material, but was never supposed to be — indeed, their mission has always been to get everyone to kick back and party, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.

A heavy mash-up of their fan favourite ‘Stash Up’ combines Fugazi’s ‘Waiting Room’ and the Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ for one spectacular medley, and an encore of ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’, and, of course, ‘Heaven Is A Halfpipe’ is exhilarating. As the band leaves the stage and the applause continues, a friend turns to me and says, “Those 13 years I unknowingly waited for this, they were worth it.” And what’s a better review than that?