Spann Report: The King Blues at Central Station
Friday night in Central station, it’s 7:15 pm, and the room is already warming up.
Tonight’s show is a sellout, and as such opening band Random Hand have a bigger crowd than many bands on a headline show in Central. Are they making the most of it? Of course they bloody well are.
Random Hand are a Northern Bomblast with twice the bombast. They’re as punk as tattooing your nuckles with a sewing needle and a biro, as ska as pork-pie hats, and as Northern as whippets and gravel. They’re four dudes playing tunes, and they want you to come along for their ride.
They’re also bloody brilliant. Their newest album, Seething is Believing, marks the band’s transformation from a decent UK ska band to one of the scene’s forerunners, and their live show reflects that. The energy coming from the stage isn’t reflected in the crowd yet though unfortunately; most people don’t know who these guys are and as such Random Hand’s rambunctious brand of 2-Tone influenced hardcore is potentially a bit of a shock.
The crowd are happy to comply with the band’s requests for a circle pit however, and this move by the band is a good icebreaker that sees a good chunk of the crowd moshing away to the bands hammer-hard trombone lines, metal-infused riffs and curiously pitched yelling from a frontman who can seemingly produce a trombone from anywhere, and makes leaping around a stage like a bloke with a frog in his underpants then bashing a out a stonker of a brassline look easy. He must have the lung capacity of Wembley. An excellent start to the evening.
Next up: Sonic Boom Six. The Boom. Manchester’s best-kept secret. Whatever you call them, SB6 are a powerhouse of a band; a juggernaut of good times and good vibes. They’re like that ball of dust Andy Capp and his wife would turn into when they fought except with dubstep drops, hip-hop hooks and pure uncondensed punk rock attitude leaking from every pore. Laila is a tiny incendiary, spending a good chunk of the set stood on the monitors and surveying the crowd. Bassist/Other vocalist Barney is engaging and skilled as a rapper, wrenching stomping basslines from his instrument whilst dropping bars that most MCs in the UK wouldn’t have the flow to go anywhere near, and the rest of the band provide a stone-solid base for this six person party to happen on.
And party is the right word. Their (too short) set is a celebration of multiculturalism, of music, of political ideas – and when these amalgamate in new track “Kids of the Multiculture”, the crowd are eager to show their support by not only cheering Barney’s explanation that without multiculturalism, the gig we were watchign tonight simply wouln’t have happened, but by also going absolutely ape once the music started up. Sonic Boom Six are another band who are starting to sound like they’re finally coming into their own – Their first five albums are all favourites of mine, but the new songs sound like a band comfortable with themsleves, and dear God, I can’t wait for the new album.
The temptation is just to copy and paste my last Sonic Boom Six review into this space, as everything written then applies now. sonic Boom Six are one of the best live acts in the country today, and every time I see Oasis billed as representing Manchester I cry huge salt tears for a band who I have not only loved for the last six years, but a band who deserve the limelight far more than they get. In a perfect world, New Style Rocka would be a number one record, SB6 would be filling venues many times bigger than Central Station, and I’d have a book of rude pictures of Sophie Ellis Bextor.
We can but dream.
…Sorry, where was I?
Ah, the headliners: London’s King Blues, a band who for the sold out Central crowd, needs no introduction. They have one though, and it’s the very embodiment of punk, depsite it being paino based. The band are built on fire, on resistance, on the spirit of the protester, and all that energy feels like it’s been balled up on the stage, the fuse lit, and the explosion imminent.
And then it exploded.
The King Blues are likely one of the most important bands in the UK at the moment. Singer Itch paces the stage like a caged big cat, his raspy voice sanding the tops of the crowd’s head off as he does so. He climbs speaker stacks and preaches to his crowd, his voice eminentely listenable.
It helps that the words that come from Itches mouth are so expertly crafted as well – satire sits next to blunt but beautiful metaphors for love, the pair of them flitting around political invective, social unrest and a desire to make the whole world a better place. The band played songs from across their whole career, from the rootsy acoustic reggae of debut “Under the Fog”, through the focused rage of “Save the World, Get the Girl” and into new material from “Set the World on Fire”, which at times has a real Clash Vibe if they’d listened to more Hip-Hop (I’d probably call it Clash-hop if I were predisposed to make up ridiculous, non-sensical terms for genres).
There were two moments in the king Blues’ set which stood out to me, however: Towards the end of the night, a small scuffle broke out in the crowd, alerting two six-foot, orange clad security. The moment could have got very ugly if it hadn’t been for Itches presence – asking security what they thought they were doing, askign them not to kick anybody out, then questioning their authority in a moment that left them powerless and resurrected the inner punk in my heart for a minute.
The second was far more special though, and it was a rendition of Itches poem “Five Different Bottles of Shampoo”, a feminist tribute to women, as well as an apology for the behaviour of men towards the fairer sex. It was a phenomenal moment, as Itch struggled to be heard over the crowd’s whoops of agreement: Beautiful sentiment, met with an even more beautiful reaction from those in attendence.
…And that was the end of that. An amazing night that I will confess I didn’t make too many notes on as I was enjoying myself too damn much, and a great sign for live music, punk rock and punk spirit in the UK today. If you weren’t there, you missed out and I feel dreadfully sorry for you.