Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
When the boss shouts you up and says he’s got a special little something for you, you right to be wary. Having been asked to cover a few extreme metal gigs in the past, it’s always intriguing to see what he has up his sleeve for Brothers Waldorf and Statler.
Sadly, yet again Waldorf is sitting this one out as it came in after plans had been made to visit his daughter in York, Statler must face this one alone! Again! Oh, and it’s a doozie. A band called ANTI-FLAG are playing Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms and he’s asking me to cover it. I can’t help myself and say ok!
The drive too Nottingham is an eventful one, at a notorious crossroads, a car, having been stationary decides to follow his/her mate across the junction narrowly missing the car in front of me, a couple of 100 metres up the road whilst going down a twisty hill, Johnny Mercedes comes around the corner behind me almost on two wheels, he somehow manages to pull up short of me giving his kids, in the back seat a wine gum each. He settles back with a startled look on his face.
Once in Nottingham Evel Knievel tries to kill himself in-front of me by launching his hired EV Scooter off the kerb and into the path of on-coming traffic, late for his drug delivery round no doubt, as he weaves through the traffic and out the other side. He must be eating through his 9lives with stunts like that.
Having safely reached the haven of the car park, it’s only a couple of minutes’ walk to the venue. Arriving just before the proposed doors time, it’s great to see a healthy queue of fans, already eagerly waiting to see this American Political band. I duly stand my place in the crowd and then wait as the band’s finish their sound check inside.
The doors eventually open and we are allowed in. The security say hi as I’ve now become one of the know faces around some of Nottingham’s more frequented venues. A quick fist bump and I’m inside, A pint of Diet Coke purchased and then I’m off to set up my kit.
The Rescue Rooms has the narrowest of pits, and I mean its narrow to the point that the security rail base plate is butted hard against the central access step which juts out about 20cm from the stage upright. Hopefully there will only be a few togs in here as it could get a tad tight.
I notice the wedges are hard up to the edge of the stage, removing what extra hand support there might have been. But it’s the Rescue Rooms and we all know what to expect.
The night kicks off with a 5piece Hardcore band from Birmingham called LAST HOUNDS. They formed back in 2013. Like so many bands, the miserable pandemic put a halt to things just as they were gathering momentum.
Their first album being close to being finished from which the band released two singles, both of them will get an airing tonight, set opener ‘Handmade’ and ‘They Say’. This is on top of their previous two EP releases 2016’s Last Hounds and 2017’s Old Dreams. Kerrang, played the later release’s two singles ‘DOA’ and ‘Lay Me Down’ extensively, but, neither of which have made the cut on to nights set list. The new album was eventually released late in 2021 and named ‘Burden’. Tonight’s setlist is made up from it in its entirety.
The set opens with ‘Handmade’ a fast and furious start to proceedings. Full of angry drums and melodic distorted guitar riffs from both Tom White and James Valentino. Mike Skelcher roams the stage like a manic robot in orange joggers and bucket hat, his staccato movements in time to the furious beats being laid down, I quickly check for a nosebleed as I feel I’ve been bludgeoned with a few cricket bats!
The onslaught continues with ‘Extraordinary’ and ‘Slow Burn’ which is anything but. Staccato guitars and an equally deliberate vocal delivery push this song along, Chris Collins is working hard delivering a violent back line with Ben Taylor on bass. As the song stops and starts, the vocal harmony’s emphasising words and passages. The laughter and ‘fuck off’ make an interesting end to the track.
‘Bleed’ see’s Skelcher in amongst the crowd with his own circle pit, he is surrounded by raised fists as the crowd get behind this moment. There are no security so the fans help him back over the barrier, he remarks that the stage is high as he climbs back and continues with the second single ‘They Say’. Both have that gritty hard extruded violent sound to them. The high-speed delivery has fists pumping again in the crowd.
Skelcher is jumping around like a possessed demon. Distortion flies from the stage as the band grind out hard hitting riffs after distorted licks and thundering drums, the crowd are loving this band as they bounce up and down.
The guitar on stage left fizzes and fuzzes as the song builds until he suddenly launches into the air, a great leap only surpassed by Skelcher’s Wide legged leap from the kick drum, and the song continues on to a furious ending.
‘Running with The Dead’ hits hard, solid drums allow the rest of the band to weave around with the melody. This is clever punk rock, musical and full of melodic riffs. The bass of Taylor is thunderous as it impacts your chest, as the distorted, string bending licks fly from the guitars. ‘Balaclava’ has a great guitar intro with an off-pitch snarl repeated throughout. The angry vocal kicks in as the drums gallop in the background, well they would be if they weren’t in your face.
The tempo changes as the chorus? is battered out by all. Skelcher raps as the band joins in once again and we, are once again, treated to an extreme hardcore tune that has more to it than a bludgeoning of noise. ‘Incinerate’ and set closer, ‘Snakeskin’ finishes the night off with a rocky riff driven intro straight from a 70’s glam rock band, before a screamed vocal joins in as the band sing about ‘Just Fukin’ up Again’.
Stop Start guitar and bass guitar bludgeon about as the tempo changes and the drums go into overdrive on this hard-hitting finale. A tasty little guitar solo breaks the song up before grinding on and finishing with a final “Fucked it Up Again”.
Checking for any visible signs of being violated, I retire to my notes and write down ‘Hard hitting, melodic punk rock delivered with the finesse of a sledgehammer at runaway freight train speeds” simple and enjoyable deliveries about everyday social events that all can relate too. A great opening set.
LAST HOUNDS are: Mike Skelcher – Vox, Tom White – Guitar, James Valentino – Guitar, Ben Taylor – Bass, Chris Collins – Drums.
SET LIST: 1. Handmade, 2. Extraordinary, 3. Slow Burn, 4. Bleed, 5. They Say, 6. Running with The Dead, 7. Balaclava, 8. Incinerate, 9. Snakeskin. All tracks from the new long player ‘BURDEN’.
TIGRESS are up next. This, another 5piece is fronted by the diminutive Katy Jackson. It’s a band I covered recently as they supported the mighty Billy Talent. As previously seen, the boys all walk on stage and get themselves sorted, drummer Coombes sets about abusing his drum kit as he kicks into a thunderous assault to be quickly joined by a single picked guitar note, the intro to ‘Powerlines’ from their 2017 EP ‘like it is’.
Katy Jackson somehow magically appears on stage in blue shorts and loose blue tee, a large white character embellished on the front a bit ‘Moomin’ like, this time she is sporting a bi-coloured beanie over her red hair. It’s going to be a hot one! Pacing the set, she gets on with her job, smiling as she delivers as the stage is full of thundering drums and distorted guitars.
The stage is a lot narrower that the one at KK’s Steel Mill were I last saw them, Jackson’s constant pacing around is just like that of a caged wild animal as the band go into ‘A Letter To Death’, “get your hands up” screams Jackson as Bishop on stage left, rips out a filthy lick on his Cort guitar. This 2021 release from the album Pura Vida shows how the band has grown since there overnight change of name.
‘Choke’, from the same album follows, this one I remembered as it has a lot of Matt Bellamy from Muse similarities, pitch shifting badness and synthesized sonic craziness fly from the Bellamy signature guitar, Bellamy now owns Cort and has a big hand in how they sound. ‘Feel It’ carries on with the Muse inspired sound which sees the band enjoying themselves rocking out hard, Divey on Bass is a dynamo of energy as he rocks out delivering an evil bassline, the front row had better check their teeth are still firmly in their gums.
‘Headaches’ is up next and again this one is from the 2017 EP ‘like it is’. A solid drum beat and riffing distorted guitars giving a melody for Jacksons lyrical delivery to entwine around, at one point Jackson says to the crowd “When I count to 4 I want to see you all jumping, is that all right?”, followed quickly with “ You won’t make me feel stupid will you?” The faithful join in right on cue as Bishop and Divey spin around whilst shredding the end of the song. It’s a hard-hitting number that goes down well with the growing crowd.
The 2018 EP ‘who cares’ is up next with ‘Bring Me Down’. “Are you guys still with me?” asks Jackson as the guitars scream to life and a thundering drum line slams out, it has a nod to ‘Pretty Fly (for a White guy)’by the Offspring, momentarily. The song builds as the crowd nod in appreciation. It finishes with a cataclysmic fly around the cymbals from drummer Coombes.
A solid, room rattling, kick drum sparks the intro to 2015’s ‘Alive’, again the crowd is asked “are you feeling Alive?”, her finger pointing at the crowd as she bounces along to the melodic riff from Harrison and Bishop. The crowd are waving hands and bouncing along to this, one of their older tracks. “Alright We Have One Song Left” shouts Jackson, “Disconnect”.
The destructive drums strike up as we get a round of “oooh’s and aah’s”. Bishop on guitar, the sweat dripping off his nose grits his teeth as he rips through this set closer. “get your hands up in the air, don’t be shy” screams Jackson as she leads them into a round of clapping. The song finishes with a crowd answer and call, the music stops apart from a pitched howl and the band exit the stage. The Ooohs and Aaahs continue from a backing track of the pitched guitar howl and muffled vocals.
A great set from this young band, although almost identical to my previous encounter with them back in the middle of June, they seem to have become tighter, more than likely down to getting more stage time as a band, now we have live music back in our lives.
TIGRESS are: Katy Jackson – Vocals, Josh Coombes – Drums, Tom Harrison – Guitar, Sean Bishop – Guitar, Jack Divey – Bass.
SET LIST: 1. Powerlines, 2. A Letter to Death, 3. Choke, 4. Feel It, 5. Headaches, 6. Bring Me Down, 7. Alive, 8. Disconnect
ANTI – FLAG, An America Punk Rock band from Pittsburgh, have be wowing the American punk scene since they originally formed back in 1988 by Singer/ Guitarist, Justin Sane and Drummer Pat Thetic. Over the coming years various different line ups formed and fell apart until they finally settled with a workable band of Justin Sane on Guitar and vocals, Chris Head on Guitar, Chris No2 on Bass and Vocals, and Pat Thetic on Drums. Tonight, we’re joined by touring member Erik Pitluga on Guitar and hidden at the back, Mark Code providing Backing Vocals.
Over the years the band have championed, through their songs, anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-capitalism, anti-transphobia, anti-fascism, anti-war, anti-political corruption and police brutality amongst others. At times this has made them unpopular with mainstream America who misunderstand their agenda. At one point they had to ‘spell out’ their mission statement.
ANTI-FLAG DOES NOT MEAN ANTI-AMERICA, ANTI-FLAG MEANS ANTI-WAR, ANTI-FLAG MEANS UNITY
The band walk on to air raid sirens. Kicking off with ‘The Press Corpse’ from 2006’s ‘For Blood and Empire’ album, it has the crowd on their toes from the first note. A night of sonic assault ensues as a well-polished high energy set slams out. The American take on punk with its distinctive ‘60’s garage rock’ style, powers forward with its hard-edged melody, faster paced delivery and the shouted lyrics dripping with anti-establishment content. The lyrics speak volumes about the way the press manipulate the content to fit what the agenda says, we’ve seen plenty of this over the last couple of years. Chris No2 leads the crowd in chanting ”we don’t want to talk about it” as it’s brought to an explosive end.
Sane shouts out “we are ANTI-FLAG from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, My friends there’s been a lot of ugliness in this world over the past couple of years, the fact we’re all here together, tonight, it’s a fucking beautiful thing, it’s a god damn miracle, lets celebrate it, lets take care of one another, and tonight we believe in this, your gonna die gonna die gonna die for you government ”.
Not surprisingly, ‘Die for the Government’ is next, as it gets a huge cheer from the crowd. Bathed in red light the lyric is screamed out, the crowd are bouncing as Sane gets his leg up on a wedge, thrusts his groin to the crowd and let’s loose a filthy lick on the guitar, before jumping back to the mic as he tells the government to fuck you! Again, he stands at the front this time his guitar is held overhead as the song winds up to a huge round of cheers and fist pumping.
‘Brandenburg Gate’ has the crowd chanting and clapping along as, again Sane brandishes his guitar above his head, as the chanting continues. ‘Trouble Follows Me’ is up next followed by, ‘Hate Conquers All’ which starts off with a thank you to all, be it you identify as a man, woman, or non-binary, or non-gender specific, thank you for coming out tonight as they continue the fast-paced onslaught.
Pat Thetic’s percussive playing thunders along like a stampede of buffalo, relentless and crushing. The bouncing guitars of Sane and Pitluga fill in the gaps as Barker(ChrisNo2)’s bass provides a stomping melodic line, at times he reminds me of Black Star Riders guitarist, Christian Martucci, as he trades shouted lyrics with Mark Code tucked away at the back, the lyrics coming faster than you can hear them.
‘Laugh. Cry. Smile. Die.’ The latest single gets an airing, Chris No2, again calls for a circle pit, the bouncing that’s been frantically going on opens in to said circle pit, just like Jupiter’s swirling giant red spot, those inside fight against those on the edges, bouncing, bumping and spinning them along. Chris No2 demands that the crowd sing, almost touching the crowd as he leans into them.
A huge leap from Chris No2 marks the start to ‘The Criminals’ from American Fall, the 2017 release. Relentless double bass thunders from Pat Thetics feet, his teeth gritted beneath his bleached blond hair as he keeps time like a swiss watch. The band are lost to me as I have zoned in on this feat of timekeeping coming to, just as the lyrics finish with ‘happy when fascists are six feet deep’.
2003’s ‘Turncoat’ is up next, the lights continue to swirl around the stage as Chris No2 again leaps into the air. “turncoat, killer, liar, thief” is sung by the crowd along with the hands being thrust in the air as demanded by the band who go into overdrive on the stage. “most people , they will never know, we’re tired of lies, we want the truth” sings the crowd. We have a crowd of true fans as they seemingly know every word to every song.
‘Broken Bones’ is up next. The stage is again bathed in red light as Pat Thetic joins the romping bass with an equally teutonic round of cymbal crashes. His galloping snare is joined by an equally frenetic guitar solo as this song powers onwards, an almost Big Country feel has the song bouncing along as the lyric joins in. The steady delivery has a thumping bass melody which, again, has the crowd singing out loud as they jump about.
Chris No2 takes the opportunity to repeat what Sane has already mentioned, only this time he asks us, if we are happy to, to turn to the person next to us and give them a Hi-5. The venue echoes with the clapping of multiple Hi-5’s as almost everyone joins in. He and Sane go on to say that times are changing and that the UK is governed by an idiot in Boris Johnson, in fact the day he decided to step down was the day ANTI-FLAG landed in the U.K. They both shrug their shoulders, “just saying” the crowd cheer wildly at the thought that old BoJo was frightened by the Left-Wing Extremist ANTI-FLAG.
This segues nicely into ‘$1,000,000,000,000’ an anti-war song about the money spent on delivering death and destruction. This song from 2006’s For Blood and Empire tells us of what One Trillion Dollars could be better spent on. A serious song delivered at breakneck speed straight into ‘Christian Nationalist’ a heavy drum beat starts the song. The tune is delivered at full speed, the crowd clap and arm punch along as the driving bass slaughter all in front of it. This rolls into crowd favourite ‘Fuck Police’.
For this one it would seem the beats per minute have gone through the roof. It’s got an almost early Motörhead feel to it with its heavy drum artillery, mixed in with a Stiff Little Fingers lyrical delivery. Short and sweet. A grinding guitar starts, distorted and twisted as a heavy kick drum thumps in giving the jumping crowd something to lock into as the shouted lyric flows fast and harsh “we are the disease” and Chris No2 screams something over the top distorted and infectious.
Red lights swirl and change colour as a marching snare cracks out as we bounce into ‘Smartest Bomb. Chris No2 tells us “there have been so many failed attempts at a circle pit, so, for this one the entire floor is a circle pit”, ”What do we do if some one falls?” as one the room reply’s “we pick them up”. The drums are getting a good massage as the song temporarily slows to a marching snare.
The driving voice of Chris No2 now leads us again “we sing 1,2.. you sing 1,2,3,4” we’re told to sing it so all the haters from the Tories to Washington knows we’re coming for them. ‘This Is the End’ is screamed out by Chris No2, followed by “12..1234”,and we’re into this anthemic banger,” this is the end for you my friend”.
It finishes with Chris No2, again stating “ 160 days of fighting in the Ukraine, bloodshed, upheaval, death, misery, for what?”, “This song is a big ‘Fuck You’ to Putin and all the other ‘Masters of War, Past, Present and future”, ”A better way is possible for the world”.
As we go into ‘American Attraction’ we’re told to take care of each other and to blow the bloody roof Nottingham! Full of political verve, the message is simple if at break neck speed. Half way through the lights are killed, when they return the band are standing, heads bowed. A single guitar riffs out, the prehistoric bass thunders in as the song lifts off again to a breakneck finish.
Things kick up another gear as we get a fast and furious collection of Punk Anthems, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’, ‘God Save The Queen’, ‘Rise Above’, ‘Fall Back Down’, ‘If The Kids Are United’, ‘She’, and finishes with a round of ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, are all thrust at the crowd, tight and furious, the crowd respond by jumping and singing along to each song.
“Get you fucking hands up in the sky, everybody sing Wooooah”,shouts Chris No2, “Jesus that was shit” he retorts, “we’ve been ready for 2 years”, “I believe in redemption” shouts Sane “let try again, Wooooah” and the crowd reply, the band lets rip with a bit more from ‘Should I Stay Or Should I go Now’. Chris No2 shouts “thanks a lot friends we will see you when we see you” as they crack into the final song of the night ‘ Cities Burn’ again from 2006’s, For Blood and Empire . The crowd join in as this epic tune finishes the night off, the crowd are bouncing along as the “whoa” “whoa” “whoas” sound out and a circle pit is shouted for, for one last time.
The band are introduced, they are Erik Pitluga on guitar, Pat Thetic on Drums, the man with the body of a Greek Goddess, Justin Sane, on Guitar and vocals. Hiding in the back on vocals Mark Code and on Bass Chris (Barker) No2. The whoas continue as Chris No2 tells the room “Don’t fight, feel it”. He then launches his Bass across the stage to be caught by Mark Code.
That concludes the night. The band are generous in sharing guitar picks, setlists and drumsticks with the crowd before leaving the stage. It’s an early curfew of 10am and its now 20 past so there is an urgency in getting the venue emptied ready for the youth to party the night away.
1. The Press Corpse, 2. Die For The Government, 3. Brandenburg Gate, 4. Trouble, 5. Hate Conquers All, 6. Laugh.Cry.Smile.Die, 7. The Criminals, 8. Turncoat, 9. Broken Bones, 10. $1,000,000,000,000, 11. Christian Nationalist, 12. Fuck Police, 13. The Disease, 14. Smartest Bomb, 15. This Is The End, 16. American Attraction, 17. Punk Medley, 18. Cities Burn
It’s been a great night of high octane American political punk rock, one that many have travelled from afar to be apart of. I can see why, what a stunning night!
Damn it, the Boss was right .. again! Loved It!