Crazy Arm @ Exchange, Bristol, 30/05/2014

Crazy ArmI don't know about you, but sitting at home in front of terrible television isn't my cup of tea, and certainly not my idea of a great Friday night. Neither is standing crammed into a club, ‘listening’ to thumping dance music while drinking awful lager. No, in my eyes, Friday nights and quite possibly any damn night of the week, were made for underground independent punk shows in intimate venues. This is where I find myself tonight, and Crazy Arm are the perfect band to have a great time with.

First to the stage is  label mate and Bristolian hero Oxygen Thief, solo tonight but no less compelling. Mr Thief thrashes through a short but energetic set, showcasing old favourites and even some new tracks from his upcoming, full band album The Half-Life of Facts.

Next to the stage are Leeds-based quartet Jake & The Jellyfish, who bring some punk to the show with their opening track, before wandering through reggae and polka sections, eventually ending their set with an acoustic sing-a-long in an opening down on the floor, amongst the crowd. The ska tracks are their strongest weapon, and it would've been nice to hear a bit more of that. However, the fiddle-lead polka that dominated the set is foot stomping nonetheless, and a good way to warm up the crowd for the main event.

Crazy Arm are by far one of the finest punk bands to come out of this country in many-a year. They take to the stage tonight with an a-capella track from their recent acoustic and country album The Southern Wild, before launching into punk banger after punk banger. They sound absolutely massive, and egging the crowd to come closer brings the atmosphere up dramatically. Drawing from all three of their Xtra Mile released albums; they only slow down slightly mid-way to bring us an updated version of anti-fascist Peggy Seeger cover “Song of Choice”, which features on their sophomore record Union City Breath. Editing the lyrics slightly to state phrases such as, “well UKIP are standing up for England, but not an England that I want to see,” and, “neo-Nazi Nigel Farage takes the front seat”, these changes are greeted with great cheers. Anyone familiar with this band will know their views on such politics.

Front man Darren Johns is a mesmerising guitarist, and the rest of the band equals him in both musicianship and energy. Drummer Matt Colwell continuously interacts with the crowd from behind the kit, and fiddle player Luke Yates is a rare talent.

Tonight is a reminder that there is real talent out there, right on our doorstep. This is by far the best of the seven times I've seen this band, and despite the absence of female vocalist Vicky Butterfield the band are on top, top form. If you've never seen this band, you're missing out. I leave the venue with a brand new t-shirt, a 7" single, slight tinnitus and a feeling that I've been part of something extremely special at Exchange tonight. Not that this was a 'special' gig as such, but that this is surely the best way to spend any evening, be it Friday or not.

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