Live Music + Gig Reviews

Deconstruction Festival @ Brixton Academy, London

6 June 2004

The day kicked off with Plymouth’s female fronted ska-core crew No Comply. Blending some of the best parts of Five Knuckle and Capdown they played their hearts out. Having only seen these guys at the Verge, I was concerned that they would be swallowed up by the Brixton stage, but instead they seemed to revel in the space they had. Playing like they owned the place, they really represented the UK, which will hopefully cause the organisers to be more generous regarding homegrown talent playing next time.

Next up was The Movement. Completely new to me and judging by the crowd’s initial reaction, new to them too. They wasted little time winning us over though. Combining some great rockabilly riffs with Clash-inspired vocals they belted out some great anthems. They looked good doing it too, wearing sharp mod suits – definitely one of the most individual bands of the day. Concentrating mainly on issues of fascism, racism and loyalty to friends they really seemed to enjoy their time on stage. I can safely say if they came back to play their own show I for one would be in attendance.

I can see the attraction of 1208. To some their melodic rocky punk could be great, but personally I was bored after about three songs. Yet they seemed to have a bit of a following in attendance who enjoyed it. I was surprised to find out they’ve signed to Epitaph and have toured already toured Europe supporting Guttermouth, so they must be doing something right. A guest appearance from Strung Out‘s drummer proves they have friends in high places.

One of the most highly anticipated bands of the day, Virginia’s Strike Anywhere took to the stage to rapturous applause. Their politically fuelled, fist pumping, melodic hardcore went down an absolute treat. Miniature frontman Thomas Burnett and friends played with an energy that defied logic and, just as it looked like it couldn’t get any better, Anti Flag front man Justin Sane joined them for a song raising the energy levels even higher. Strike Anywhere were quite definitely one of the highlights of the day, and if this was anything to go by, their current album Exit English will start flying off the shelves.

Skate punk stalwarts Pulley were up next and to be honest anyone would have had a tough job following Strike Anywhere. However, having been around this long, they certainly deserve some respect. They are great at what they do and I’m sure on their day can be a thoroughly entertaining live band. Today however they seemed jaded after a long tour and their only real interaction with the crowd was to complain about the indifferent reaction. Having recorded their new album with Slayer producer Matt Hyde their new stuff seemed a lot heavier, and I’m sure the new album Matters is worth a listen.

Germany’s The Beatsteaks seemed to encounter much the same problems as Pulley. They were tired after a long tour and were met by a crowd impatient to see their favourite bands who had yet to appear. Still, their melodic pop punk was a good time filler and they held their own. The crowd seemed to warm to them eventually and eventually The Beatsteaks livened up a bit.

Ska-punk legends The Slackers from New York City had the whole place dancing along to their political, reggae-influenced tunes. The word “legends” is often overused in the punk scene but The Slackers truly deserve it. Putting on a great show is all part of their charm and they even pulled out some amazing dance moves that would have put Justin Timberlake to shame. Keep It Simple was a real highlight of their set. Brilliant.

Anti Flag are easily one of the best punk rock bands around at the moment and the surge to the front of the stage when they arrived seemed to prove that a lot of people agree. The most politically minded band I’ve seen in a while, their message is one of, if not the, most important parts of their show. My only problem is that it seems a bit empty.

We all know there are a lot of problems in government at the moment and Anti Flag highlight these problems but seem to offer no solutions. Having said that, I suppose that’s not their job – their job is to play awesome, heartfelt punk rock songs that mean something, and they do that job a lot better than most.

The almighty, amazing, awesome MxPx were my personal highlight of the day. I’ve waited four years to see these guys again after their support slot with Less Than Jake back in 2000 and it was most definitely worth it. Playing fast-paced punk rock with a healthy dash of rock’n’roll, they showcased a perfect set.

MxPx mixed some old classics with newer stuff from their current album Before Everything And After. They pleased a lot of old fans and I’m sure made a whole bunch of new ones. My only complaint was that they were only on for half an hour – bring on a headline tour!

I’ve always found skate punk pioneers Lagwagon a bit of a boring live band, Last time I saw them they seemed to be going through the motions, and didn’t offer anything particularly special. Today they lay to bed a few of my doubts. Their set was energetic and very well received by a large majority of the crowd who were there just to see them.

My biggest beef with them today was their reaction to the crowd who, having been there all day, were understandably a bit tired. So, the band taunting us with tales of a better crowd reaction in Germany didn’t do really them any favours.

And so to the mighty Pennywise headlining Deconstruction for what seemed like the 100th time (it was actually the third). They were greeted by a throng of eager fans who’d been waiting all day, and I’m sure no one came away disappointed.

Pennywise never fail to put on a good show, and even someone who wouldn’t call themselves a big fan of the four-piece can appreciate their dedication and work rate. For guys who must be pushing 40 now they played with energy that a lot of younger bands could really use a dose of. Highlights were Society, Same Old Story and a more than satisfactory cover of the Ramones‘ Blitzkrieg Bop. They also attempted a Black Flag tune but made the mistake of plucking a fan from the crowd to provide vocal who, despite having a Black Flag tattoo, ironically didn’t know the words. They also managed to sneak in a punked up cover of Outkast’s Hey Ya.

Like most of the bands today they had some unsavoury comments about Messrs Bush and Blair but managed to confuse matters by claiming that although the war was wrong, the soldiers fighting were protecting our liberty, which didn’t make much sense to me. Nevertheless, all in all it was a great performance, finishing off a great day.

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