Tag Archives: Punk Rock

Ten Tips To Tempt You Away From The Main Stage At Download 2018

wo weeks today I will be making my annual pilgrimage to the home of Rock, Donington Park for the 2018 version of Download Festival.  As always Download has plenty on offer for those who like their music loud and heavy.  We will see Rock, Metal, Hardcore, Metalcore, and Punk bands from around the globe.

At large festivals like Download, there is always a temptation to camp out by the main stage to watch a seemingly never-ending lineup of big-name acts.  This year sees headline slots form Avenged Sevenfold, Guns N’ Roses and Ozzy Osborne.  Marilyn Manson, Bullet for my Valentine and Blackstone Cherry head up the main stage undercast.

Download Artists Saturday-50

Marilyn Manson

I will, of course, be checking out Avenged Sevenfold and Guns N’ Roses, but Ozzy will get a body swerve.  I dread to think how Ozzy will cope, after all, when he headlined with Sabbath two years ago I was amazed that he had even managed to walk onto the stage.  No matter!  As with any festival, it is my firm belief that the real joy takes place away from the main stage.

Over the years Download’s Avalanche stage has become my personal favourite. It’s at this stage where you can be sure of a quality lineup of punk and Hardcore bands, and this year is no exception.  For me, at least, Friday evening at the Avalanche stage provides rich plunder for fans of Punk, Metalcore and Hardcore.

It is there that two of my top 10 picks for the weekend away from the main stage can be found.  Even better, Stray From The Path and Stick To Your Guns are playing back to back, and in this old punk’s estimation, both are unmissable, the Mosh Pit will be brutal and both bands are more than capable of getting you right in the mood for the rest of the weekend.

To be fair, with Cancer Bats, The Bronx and Bad Religion all on the Avalanche stage on Friday, you would be forgiven if you staked out a spot and stayed put all evening.  That won’t be the case for me though. If the timings work out as they should I will be checking out Zippo Stage Friday Headliners, You Me At Six.

I must admit, I caught You Me At Six a couple of years back and remember being totally underwhelmed.   I thought they were a bit lost on the big Reading stage, but since then they have become something of a guilty pleasure.

OK now, I accept that YMAS may not be the diehard metalhead’s idea of Download music, but these boys will rock the stage, and I must confess an affinity with the young pop-punk bands around at the moment.  The scene is flourishing and YMAS will draw a huge crowd of mostly younger fans.

With WSTR, Neckdeep and Mayday Parade on the Avalanche stage on Saturday, I could be tempted back.  However, the Zippo stage is where my top tips for Saturday are playing.  The stage has a quality lineup all day, but L7, Lawnmower Deth, and Asking Alexandria are where I shall be pointing my camera.

L7 played a blinding set on the same stage on 2015 (?) and as the only (almost) all-female lineup at this year’s Download, they certainly deserve our support.  Asking Alexandria are arguably the strongest British Metalcore outfit around, and they get better and better.  I certainly won’t be missing this one.  Anyone who has ever seen Lawnmower Deth knows that their stage shows are not to be missed.  Their 2016 set on the Avalanche stage was the highlight of a very wet festival for me.  FFS they even brought along one of my boyhood crushes, Kim Wilde to perform “Kids in America.”  Seriously what’s not to like 🙂

Sunday’s highlight for me is undoubtedly Rise Against headlining the Zippo stage.  The Chicago based punk outfit was sublime at Download in 2015, and I can’t wait to see them again.  Arguably the most underrated punk outfit of this millennium.

I will also be checking out Milk Teeth and The Hives over on the Avalanche stage.  I have seen Milk Teeth numerous times and have always been impressed by Becky Blomfield.  The bass player and singer has a great stage presence, and it is great to see a female fronted pop-punk outfit get another slot at Download.

I managed to catch some of The Hives set at Reading in 2016.  They were fabulous.  I must admit that was my first exposure to the Swedish punk outfit, but I was impressed and am looking forward to hearing more.

So there you have it, 9 bands to check out away from Download’s main stage.  But Wait!  Didn’t I promise 10?  Of course, I did, and my 10th is BabyMetal!  I know, I know – but here’s the thing, festivals are supposed to be fun, and no one can deny that BabyMetal are fun.  Check them out and see what all the fuss is about, you might even enjoy it 🙂

Download Artists Friday-35

Download Artists Friday

See ya there Downloaders, I’m ready to rock!!


Stiff Little Fingers – Portsmouth

Once again it has been a busy weekend of concert going.  Friday night (February 26) saw me make the one-hour trip along the motorway to see my all-time favourite band.  It is no exaggeration to say that Stiff Little Fingers changed my life.

The Belfast punk-rock movement of the mid-late 1970’s gave me the courage to get the hell out of Northern Ireland at the height of the “troubles” and I never looked back.  As a result songs like “Alternative Ulster” and “Suspect Device” have always been dear to my heart and so have the Stiff Little Fingers.

Back in March last year I made the 1000 mile round trip from Poole to Glasgow for what should have been an epic two nights of entertainment in Glasgow’s Barrowlands.  St Patricks Day saw Stiff Little Fingers play the venue and the following evening Drop Kick Murphy’s and The Mahone’s brought the Celtic Punk Invasion Tour to Glasgow.  Sadly Barrowlands lived up to it’s reputation for awful sound quality and over the two nights you could barely tell one band from the other much less distinguish between songs.  Without question these gigs were the worst sound quality I have ever heard.

Slf portsmouth-3

By contrast the sound at Portsmouth’s Pyramid centre is never less that perfect and so it proved on Friday.  Ricky Warwick’s band played a lengthy opening set which was full of energy and high-quality rock music.  Whilst I am aware of Ricky’s work with Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders this was the first time I had seen him with his own band.  I was impressed, it was good old-fashioned power rock and I enjoyed it immensely.

I was a little concerned to hear that Stiff Little Fingers Jake Burns had taken ill after the opening night of the tour the previous evening so it was with some trepidation that we awaited Stiff Little Fingers appearance. Jake did allude to the fact that he had spent most of the day throwing up so that probably explains why we had a lightly shorter than normal set.

Slf portsmouth-2

In total we had about 75 minutes and 19-songs but what we did get was awesome.  Jake may not have been as animated as usual but Ali McMordie and Ian McCallum more than made up for that.  As you would expect the bulk of the set featured the bands most popular songs from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s heyday and it was an excellent set.

It is perhaps dispiriting to find that many of Stiff Little Fingers songs are just as relevant now as when they were written over 30 years ago.  We live in a different era, an era where we should perhaps be even more angry, about the state of the country and the state of the world, than we were when the punk movement exploded.  We need to recharge our activism and direct our anger.  A visit to a Stiff Little Fingers gig is a great reminder of the injustices we face.  It is always amazing to see people from all walks of life united under the banner of punk rock.

If Stiff Little Fingers are playing anywhere near you make an effort to get out and see them.  You won’t regret it


The Clash London Calling

75 Essential Albums – #6 – The Clash – London Calling

After over six weeks of providing a rundown of 65 albums that I believe everyone should own we come to the final 10.  In the days between now and Xmas I will give a run down of my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  Hopefully I have given you some thoughts as to new albums to check out and I hope that the final 10 will have you rewriting your Christmas lists and picking up a few of these brilliant albums.

The Clash – London Calling

1979’s London Calling is the third studio album The Clash. As with the Clash’s eponymous debut album It incorporates a range of styles, including punk, reggae, rockabilly, ska, rocksteady and rock.  It may be the case that ‘The Ramones‘ defined punk rock but there can be no argument that London Calling redefined the the genre.

As with the Clash’s previous album’s the subject matter included social displacement, unemployment, racial conflict and drug use.  The album was a top 10 hit in the UK and received almost universal acclaim.  It has sold over five million copies worldwide and was certified platinum in the United States.

Sputnik Music says that London calling was “where punk truly transcends its limits and a masterpiece is born.”  Mark Sutherland writing a review for the BBC said:

“If music-loving aliens land and you find yourself, at laser-point, searching for one single example of how rock is supposed to be rolled, then you are strongly advised to recommend London Calling. Because this epic double album, from its iconic sleeve to its wildly eclectic mash-up of styles, is surely the quintessential rock album.”

Now its fair to say that you might not categorise London Calling as a punk record as it is such a blend of disparate musical styles.  The mix of genres reflects the eclectic and cosmopolitan feel of the late 1970’s London music scene.  That said it still has a fiery punk spirit undercutting each and every track, and through its adaptation of foreign musical styles, the sound becomes more political and revolutionary than any punk band has sounded before.

Sputnik music finish their review of the album in a fashion that really says everything I would about this truly brilliant album and it is so perfectly summed up there is no point in my trying to better the reviewer who says:

“There’s virtually an iconic song every other track or so – the nightmarish, post-apocalyptic tension of ‘London Calling’; the sense of urgency and suffocated anger on ‘The Guns of Brixton’; the guitar pop meets political ramblings of ‘Spanish Bombs’; not to mention the delights of other grade A tracks such as the jerky ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’, the consumerist attack of ‘Lost in the Supermarket’, the metallic ‘Clampdown’, and the anthemic ‘Death or Glory’. There’s quality, vibrancy, urgency, thrills and hooks consistent throughout the entire track-list, ultimately, and when you strip away deep analysis or historical importance, this is what truly matters, and here, The Clash did nothing but nail making an enduring, influential and truly classic album – pile on top the aforementioned deeper levels present and the historic musical importance of this double LP, and we finally arrive at my humble declaration of just why all those inclusions in the upper echelons of ‘greatest ever albums’ lists make complete and utter sense. London Calling is a musical revolution, and simply one of the most stunning rock albums of all time.”

Well said sir, this encapsulates perfectly the soundtrack of many a music fan who, like me, was born in the early to mid 60’s and who claimed the punk revolution as their own.  You could sum the album up in a single word: Stunning!

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75 Essential Albums – Day #60 – X-Ray Spex

Here goes with day 60 of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection.  They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions.  Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).

X-Ray Specs – Germ Free Adolescents

Germfree Adolescents is the debut album of English punk rock band X-Ray Spex. It contained the UK hit singles: “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo”,  “Identity” and “Germ Free Adolescence” which reached No. 18 in November 1978.  The album received wide acclaim upon its release but sadly the album did not include the huge hit ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours’, though this was included on the 2005 reissue.

Punk rock in the United Kingdom was well established by 1978 with bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash cutting a trail for others to follow.  With their overt political viewpoints and anti-establishment stance these bands and bands like X-Ray Spex represented a serious ‘call to arms’  and a rallying point for disaffected youth across the UK and beyond.  The only negative thing you could say about X-Ray Spex is that their star burned for much to short a time, but boy did it burn brightly.

X-ray Spex lead singer Poly Styrene was in many ways the antithesis of punk rocks other big female star, Blondie’s Debbie Harry.  Where Harry was often low key and smouldering in her delivery and in her sexuality Poly Styrene was a walking, screaming tornado of unrepressed sexuality, anti-consumerism, and political determination. She was in your face, aggressive and would make a difference, come hell or high water.

The opening lines of the album, “I know I’m artificial/ But don’t put the blame on me/ I was reared with appliances in a consumer society” sets the tone for the album, it lays the groundwork for the album with its screaming guitars and when Poly’s vocal comes in you damn well better sit up and listen.  The title track is slower tempo and more reflective but no less engaging for that.  “Identity” races along with its swirling guitar duelling with Lora Logic’s saxophone.  Yes Saxophone, in a punk band and that saxophone is one of the most raucous, invigorating things you’ll ever hear.  Rocker “Obsessed With You” hits the ball out of the park, with squealing sax and driving guitar.

Closing track “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo,” with its saxophone riffs and scorching vocals, is perhaps the bands most memorable track. The rest of the record is a whirlwind of sardonic anthems (“I Am A Poseur,” “I Live Off You”) and punk aphorisms (“Let’s Submerge,” “I Can’t Do Anything”) concerning the difficulties of attaining and maintaining your own unique personality.

It is probably fair to say that the impact of this album is easier to see in retrospect and with the benefit of hindsight.  Their honest intensity and rebellion against conformity and consumerism undoubtably left its mark and set the standard for many of the bands who followed in their wake.  Whilst the band had a pitifully short shelf life, sadly their message, even today, is  all too relevant.  If you do not know the album check it out, it is very well worth the effort.

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75 Essential Albums – Day #54 – The Clash

Here goes with day 54 of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection.  They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions.  Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).

The Clash – The Clash

The Clash is the eponymous debut studio album by English punk rock band The Clash. It was released in April 1977, it shook the UK music industry to the core and after that everything changed.  Most of the album was conceived on the 18th floor of a council high rise in London in a flat that was rented by Mick Jones’ grandmother.  The album was recorded in just 3 weekend sessions and by the third of these sessions the album was recorded and mixed to completion. Fast work for something that was to change the music world.

As you might expect for something put together so quickly in a council flat the mix isn’y perfect, the sound isn’t flawless, it is raw and with all its imperfections it is as close as you can get nowadays to hearing the Clash play live.  At the time of release the 16 year old me simply categorised the album as punk rock.  The much older and more musically educated me now recognises the diversity of influences that combined to make this album an essential cut.  It is one of those rare albums that doesn’t have a bad track on it.  Only the sound quality and the lack of variety of mood stop it from being one of my top 10.

As a 16 year old this album really spoke to my heart.  It was raw and angry, anger at the class system, anger at politicians and the political elite, anger at inequality, anger at unemployment, anger at racial problems, anger at teenage alienation, anger for anger’s sake, even (“Hate And War”). The fact that these young guys were standing up and shouting about this stuff spoke to a whole generation and gave birth to a generation of youths and indeed bands who cared about the world and were not prepared to sit back and take everything at face value just because that was how it had always been!

The 1977 version of the album was seen as too raw for the American market and a new version was launched in 1979 which had a few of the weaker tracks cut and some of the clashes best ever songs added, “Clash City Rockers”,  “I Fought The Law” and “White Man In Hammersmith Palais” were amongst the newly added track.  The latter is one of my all time favourite songs by anyone and a remarkably astute social commentary it most definitely is.

Frontman Joe Strummer’ lyrics were often hard to understand as he growls and snarls his way through the songs,  you had to listen over and over if you wanted to sing along and this no doubt added to the allure of the record, especially when you parents were yell from downstairs “turn down that bloody racket”.  You don’t have to understand the words to feel the anger and the vibe though.  The bass lines resonate deep down in your gut and Jones wields his axe like a demented lumberjack on speed.    The album is a treasure trove of great track with Janie jones, I’m so bored with the USA’, White Riot, Hate and War, Police & Thieves, Garageland and Career Opportunities all being classics.  If you don’t already own this album then shame on you.  Go buy it today!

As always thanks for dropping by my blog.  if you like what you read please hit the like button or leave a comment.  If you don’t like what you read then please leave a comment explaining why 🙂