02/04/2022 - Leeds
09/04/2022 - London
Support from Millie Mander & the Shut-up, The Toasters & Skinny Lister
First London gig this year and what a gig it was! Always something a bit different about London gigs, feels a bit more like an exclusive meeting of kindred spirits than gigs in any other city do. London can be so unfriendly and everyone for themselves but gigs seem to be a nice common ground where you feel part of something in what can otherwise seem like a very lonely city.
The Kentish Town Forum and I have an interesting relationship too, for years I'd avoid any gig at it because I'd heard it was rife with pickpockets and crime. It wasn't until a band I was desperate to see played there that I went. I then realised the venue was fine. I've never had any issues all the times I've been. It's well laid out, lights and sound are great and it looks very regal with its balcony and decorative ceilings.
Anyway, the gig! I hardly know where to start, there was so much going on on stage!
Kicking things off was Millie Manders and the Shut-Up who bounced out on stage and within a minute Millie had fallen over in a very dramatic style and injured one of her fingers so she couldn't play her sax! I must admit she did momentarily look very embarrassed and like she wanted the floor to swallow her up but she soon composed herself and got on with it like a pro.
I've championed local Norwich girl Millie ever since I realised just how amazing the Norwich music scene is at present. I've been listening to the band a lot on Spotify and had high expectations, and they didn't disappoint! Millie's voice is incredible and the blend of ska, punk and pop punk is really unique and fun. The band tackle challenging subjects such as mental health in songs such as I'm Not Okay and talk openly about their own struggles which is really great. Then there's song’s like my personal favourite Your Story which really got the crowd buzzing.
The energy was incredible (in fact the same can be said for all the bands but we'll get to that) and the band all seem like such genuinely nice people. Bass player Georgina smiled for the whole set like she was having the best time and Millie came across as very humble and grateful, it was heartwarming. Millie Manders and the Shut-up are definitely one of my favourite rising stars and I highly recommend seeing them if you get a chance.
Moving on from a fledgling band to one who formed in 1981. The Toasters who totally confused me by announcing they were all the way from New York City in an accent that was as British as mine. I tried to resist the urge to Google but couldn't rest until I knew. Seems singer Robert "Bucket" Hingley roots lie in Devon but he moved to the States with his father who was in the military. It also appeared Bucket was the only permanent band member with everyone else being session musicians. With that cleared up I could enjoy their set!
To be honest The Toasters were the band I listened to least. I knew to expect old school ska/2-tone but didn't expect the show they put on! Bucket seemed like such a character talking to the crowd at every opportunity telling us stories about Radio Caroline and various other things. While the lead guitarist jumped about the whole set, however for me it was the keyboard player who stole the show. I've never seen anything like it! I'm not convinced he was actually playing as he was jumping around whilst bashing and karate chopping the keys but it was so entertaining I couldn't take my eyes off him.
The band bounced their way through their set playing songs I didn't know but enjoyed nonetheless finishing with one I'd listened to about three times on my way to London, Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down which I love and had come to know well enough to sing along to.
I can't remember the last time I went to a gig with three support bands each very different but still very fitting.
Next up we had Skinny Lister. Their blend of punk and folk reminds me so much of the Dropkick Murphys. It’s real good time, good fun, grab a beer and be merry kinda music with lots of chanting choruses and stamp your feet moments. The band is eccentric which is why I loved them. The double bass player was captivating watching him wave a massive instrument about the way he did was rather impressive. Likewise the accordion player who kept jumping off the stage and standing on the barrier was lots of fun.
The whole band addressed the crowd between songs and came across as very interesting enigmatic people but the star of the show was second vocalist Lorna. She bounced, danced and strutted round the stage the whole set really geeing the crowd up and having lots of fun. Moreover where Millie had fallen over wearing trainers Lorna danced the entire time in some fair size heels which is no mean feet!
I was familiar with their sound but not with song lyrics or titles but I bounced along with them all and really enjoyed it. They ended with Trouble on Oxford Street. The one song I did know well, the "ba da bap bap ba da da" (or something like that) was particularly pleasing live and the song was a great end to a great set!
I've talked so much and we're only just getting on to the main event. If you ever see me at a party, don't talk to me. I literally don't shut up once I start!
Finally, Less Than Jake! There's a story to go with this (isn't there always!) I first encountered Less Than Jake live at Reading 2012. My mate insisted we watch Foo Fighters, who I can't say I particularly enjoyed on that occasion, after they finished I went to one of the tents and caught about a song and a half Less Than Jake and absolutely loved it. I've spent 10 years regretting not watching them instead of the Foo's and always missed them when they toured so they really were a bucket list band of mine and they didn't let me down. As a side note in light of what happened a few weeks back, in retrospect I’m glad I watched the Foo's in 2012, RIP Taylor.
The band came out and blasted straight into Last One Of Liberty City the crowd approved and went mad. They played a good mix of old and new stuff although they did shun both my favourite albums, which I knew they would, In With the Out Crowd and GNV FLA to be honest its the latter that propelled me from casual listener to fan.
The set moved along at a hundred miles an hour, there were toilet paper guns, inflatable LTJ mascots either side of the drums that made appearances at various points so much stage diving and at one point a massive circle pit, it was chaos! They played Motown Never Sounded So Good which Roger confessed they rarely play but he enjoys singing. That's something I was surprised about just how shared the vocals are. On record I don't think Roger and Chris sound all that noticeably different so I was a little taken aback. I’m interested to relisten now that I’m aware and see if I can tell.
They played various songs off Silver Linings stating each time how great they thought the record was and how it was, in their opinion, one of the band's proudest moments and I have to agree.
During Fat Mike's On Drugs, a song about the singer of NOFX, one of the crew walked on stage dressed as a boxing skeleton holding a sign saying “DRUGS” which raised both a cheer and a smile. They really were entertaining to watch and as the show went on you learnt to expect anything.
During Look What Happened the band brought Millie Manders on stage, something I knew they'd been doing most nights from following the tour on Instagram. I think this is so wonderful the fact that a well established band who are famous all over the world took a "little fish" (as Millie put on her Facebook) under their wing and really looked after her and made her feel important and not just some little support band was almost enough to make me tear up a bit. But that seemed to be the theme with the band; they're just bloody nice people. They thanked absolutely everyone during the gig including each member of their crew by name. It doesn't sound like much but little things like this really matter and make a difference to me.
Set powered on through Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts, Science of Selling Yourself Short and Plastic Cup Politics amid more toilet paper guns and big red balloons being thrown into the crowd, the latter really seems to annoy security who really didn't like having to bash them back into the crowd.
All too soon the gig was "over" we all knew it wasn't and I’m really starting to question the whole encore thing because no one shouts anymore as it's so obvious it's not over!
Back on stage the band played a couple more before finishing on All My Friends are Metalheads, it had to be! I loved it, the crowd loved it and the band definitely seemed to love playing it! By the end all the crew were out on stage along with all of Millie Manders and the Shut-up. It was great fun to watch, a massive party on stage and ended the tour and what had been one of my favourite gigs in style.
It took ten years to finally see them live and it was more than worth it, here's hoping I'm not waiting another ten to see them again!