For the second of my weekend double-gig-athon (read the review of the first one here), I was back in Manchester once more, this time with tingling anticipation bubbling up inside me. After some appropriately spicy chips, myself and Josh found ourselves under the railway arches of Gorilla, ready for an evening of offbeat fun.
I’m not going to bang on again about how much I love Bedouin Soundclash. For that, just read my unnecessarily biographical review of their new album, “MASS”. Suffice it to say that I was pretty wired about seeing them again.
They did not disappoint. From the first thunderous bass resonances that walked out of Eon’s fingers and into my ears, I was hooked. BC have never sounded better. Jay’s guitar tone, his plaintive cries, and the crazy tight drumming from… [I’m not quite sure who. A new guy? Someone let me know and I’ll update this]. Everything was there, and it was mixed together exactly right. Crisp, pitch perfect, but also raw and breathless at the same time.
Always worth giving credit-where-credit-is-due – the sound in Gorilla was pitch perfect last night, someone please buy that sound guy a beer on me. I meant to, but got distracted taking photos. Speaking of which – they came out pretty bloomin’ great: (Click for bigger ones)
In the years I’ve seen them, Jay has steadily become an expert in drenching things with just the right amount of delay, and tonight was a demonstration of this; otherworldly waves of guitar built and faded away. He never overstretched into echo chamber land either. I was just captivated really, singing along and dancing.
What did they play? Most of the songs you’d expect, such as “St. Andrews” and “Walls Fall Down“. There was a focus on Street Gospels – not a huge surprise, given that I think that’s definitely their strongest album. Overall though, there was a broad selection across their back catalogue. “Shelter” was a nice inclusion from Sounding a Mosaic, and both “A Chance of Rain” & “Rolling Stone” were welcome inclusions from Light the Horizon.
Would have been nice to have “Rebel Rouser” from Root Fire to round things off, but there’s only so you can fit into a 45 minute set. I kept shouting for the acapella “Hush“, but Jay just laughed at me. Or didn’t hear me, but let’s pretend he thought I was a comedy genius instead.
They played a few tracks off MASS, starting the set off with “Salt Water“, and throwing a couple of others in. Happily, aside from a brief backing track on that first song, there were no chimes (see our album review for context on that one) in their show, keeping things stripped down and elemental.
Good times have to end (perhaps especially for those of us “Born Into Bad Times”? #poorcontextualjoke), and they pulled it to a close with a cover of “Stand By Me“, leading inexorably into “When The Night Feels My Song“, at which point, predictably, everyone went mental.
Honestly, it was a 10 out of 10 set for me, and I cannot wait to see them back here in May. Watch this space, we may even tempt them to come play Warrington!
I’ve gotta be honest here. And it’s pretty shameful really, as the main man behind a website championing the best of UK ska and punk, but… I’ve basically never really listened to the Skints.
Don’t ask me why – I mean, I’m a man who knows the basically-just-adequate Less Than Jake Greased cover album off by heart. Even have it in vinyl. Yet I’ve never listened to the four (FOUR!) albums by London’s probably biggest ska sensations? For that, I apologise.
In the run up to the gig, I spent a pleasurable hour or so listening to Part & Parcel on bandcamp. Whilst mowing the lawn. Rock and roll. I enjoyed it, at points reminding me of similar acts like Sonic Boom Six, King Blues and, indeed, even Bedouin Soundclash. Of course, most of you won’t be surprised by that, since they’ve done multiple tours with all of those guys. But I didn’t know, because I’m an idiot, and I missed them all.
Given my status as a Bedouin fanboy, seeing BC was the reason I came tonight. I thought, “Ah I’m sure the Skints will be fine. They’ll be a nice nightcap after the main act”. Boy, was I wrong.
The Skints took to their foliage decorated stage like they owned the world. For the next hour or so? They pretty much did.
With an endless stream of soulful melodies like the intoxicating “Lay You Down Girl“, the place descended into undulating bodies and arms waving syncopatedly. (‘Syncopatedly’ is, of course, a real word).
With silky multi-layered vocals mostly led by drummer Jamie, a lot of the time there’s a borderline hypnotic aspect to their harmonies. Whilst many of their songs lean more towards that soul-ey end of the spectrum, they aren’t a one trick pony: there were lots of nods to reggae roots, in songs like “Forest for the Trees“. Others, such as “This Town” or “Rat-at-Tat” have the kind of rapid-fire machine gun lyricisms that would fit happily in the UK hiphop scene. Hints of punk-rock even surface, such as the end of “What Did I Learn Today?“, which crashed out in a euphoric firestorm of screamin’ guitar.
These guys have two things that immediately endeared them to me.
The first was an absolutely banging musical skill. From the insanely tight drums (with unbelievably perfect reverb on the toms), to the frankly ridiculous number of instruments Marcia plays – I think, alongside her sultry vocals, I saw her banging out flute, sax, melodica, keys & guitar, not to mention a huge bucket of digital samples.
Joshua gave a shout out to the musicos in the crowd at one point; “Big up everyone out there who plays the flute for real, for real…“. Joshua’s guitar punches through just right too, fitting neatly between the thunderous spatterings of bass, being energetically churned out by Jonathan. Who pours it out all night with a grin and apparently no effort whatsoever.
The second reason the Skints were superb? Their sense of fun. Fine, they aren’t Gloryhammer – who are basically just amateur drama nerds (check our review from their show night before…) – but they know how to get everyone grinning. At multiple points bubble machines splattered the crowd in millions of glowing spheres, all-fun-and-games until Joshua mock-apologises “Sorry, I’m afraid the bubbles are extremely toxic, so this might be your last 90 minutes“. Then he grinned, and proceeded to attempt to catch one in his mouth. Towards the end, he even got into the crowd, guitar and all, and carried on playing and skanking away.
Next to the Slackers and Westbound Train, I can’t remember experiencing such an immediate dancing atmosphere at a gig. Once again the sound was ridiculously spot on. I owe the sound guy two beers now, but again, running round the crowd snapping photos took priority…
“Rise Up” was a bit of a highlight, the lyrics came across solidly, and along with “This Town” declares how the Skints are such a we-love-our-home band. With mentions of the places I grew up around – Walthamstow, Leytonstone, Ilford (Although, where’s the shout out for my home crew reppin Epping?!) – they brought me straight back to attending DIY gigs at The Standard on Blackhorse Road, or my Uni years putting on gigs in Sheffield… I think there’s something there that resonates with all of us who are invested in our local scene. Like, I dunno, dodgy north-western town ska-punk scenes?
I said culture vulture I am ah
Im just tryin’a have a good time
Culture vulture I am ah.
Im just tryin’a feel da good vibrations
Eventually, inevitably, the night had to end, so they drew things to a close with a smashing singalong to “Culture Vulture“. I looked over, as Joshua danced in the crowd. All around him, people sang, and gyrated and laughed. This was a very good time.