Review by Cath Holland, Photos by Tony Gaskin
It’s a sharp, crisp night in Nottingham and Talbot Street resembles Oxford Street circa 1977, with a queue of massed leather, studs and ‘hawks waiting to get into Rock City for one of the highlights of the year. American punk legends Rancid are celebrating 20 years and tonight are joined by Charlie Harpers U.K. Subs (36 years) and Birmingham stalwarts Drongos for Europe (33 years). Who said Punk was dead?
So up first are Drongos, with a set full of angry, anthemic and politically driven songs that are as relevant as ever in todays troubled world. Tommy Drongo paces the stage looking full of pent up rage, egging the crowd on, but the mask slips occasionally with the odd wink and smile has he points to familar faces in the crowd. “Wake-up Call”, “Freakazoid”, “Hope and Glory” recieve huge cheers and frenzied moshing, but when the set ends all you see is huge grins on everyones faces. Punks may be angry with the system but they have a fun time letting out that anger.
A man who is part of punk rock folk lore was up next. Charlie Harper is U.K. Subs. The band roster over the years has changed consistently, but Harper keeps going. He is adored, admired and respected by his legion of fans and peers, and tonight in a sold out Rock City, they play a stormer of a set, rolling back the years as they bang out classic street punk anthems such as “Stranglehold” and “Warhead”, current guitarist Jet Storm has added a level of consistency and stability to the bands and with Alvin Gibbs back in his role of Harpers bass player this is probably the best line-up they’ve had for a long time. UK Hardcore punk is having a bit of a renaissence lately and it’s great to see U.K. Subs at the forefront and as strong as ever.
Tonight though is all about celebrating 20 years of street punk Califronian style. Often citing bands like U.K.Subs, GBH, Discharge etc as influences, Rancid combined a hardcore punk style and ethic with their love of Ska and Roots Reggae, creating a style unique to them.
20 years on then and a whole plethora of studio albums, compilations, collaborations behind them they regale us tonight with a set that reflects that colourful history.
Lars Frederiksen marches on to huge cheers as he aknowledges the crowd, then as the opening chords to Roots Radicals penetrate our senses, Tim Armstrong bounces onto stage, resplendent in his Marxist beard and old faithful, battered Gretsch guitar. What follows is no less than 29 songs which enthrall us, excite us and engage us.
Highlights are the powerful and emotive “Olympia” and the simply sublime “Ruby Soho”. Every song is met by a huge cheer, every song is greeted with the crowd singing along, it’s hot and sweaty, the crowd is heaving, swaying, bouncing. The only other band I know who gets almost complete audience participation is Slipknot, it makes for an electric atmosphere, almost narcotic like with the adrenaline buzz.
Gig of the year? Quite possibly. Audience of the year, most definitely.
More of Tony’s photos from the gig below