The Roundhouse Punk Weekender @ London, 09 – 10/07/2016

Roundhouse Punk Weekender“Punk. Isn’t. Dead.”

These are the words of the day, defiantly spluttered by a host of performers on the Saturday of The Roundhouse Punk Weekender – an evening seeking to promote new, upcoming bands from around the country.

It’s hard to not feel discontented about politics or passionate about social change right now. Britain is on the cusp of what one might describe as an 'administrative shit show' and racial hatred isn’t only reserved for American streets. The fact that punk really took off in Britain about 40 years ago and a large proportion of people are still boiling over with anger about the government is a testament to two things: nothing ever really changes and anger will drive some damn fine artistic retorts.

11 bands, audaciously cited as “the next generation of punk rock”, hit the stage for 30 – 45 minute sets. Blues-infused punk rock trio Thee Jezebels (not to be confused with Aussies The Jezabels) start things off with some finely tuned tracks reminiscent of The Black Keys. Before this, front woman Laura Anderson had just wrapped up “Stand Up And Spit” – two hours of hilarious and hard-hitting poetry performances - by leading a classic punk rock "sing-a-long".

Next are South London grunge outfit Birdsong, standing out as a genuine band to watch. Almost clichéd at times (but then it’s probably hard not to be, considering political angst is so epidemic), it's clear they’re not a band riding lazily off the hard work and creativity of previous punk bands. With Smashing Pumpkin influences, the steady originality of bassist Mateo and vein-pulsing vocals from front man Henry, they are both hugely entertaining to watch and honestly punk. "Fuck The Tories" is the title of one song, but also becomes a bit of a mantra for the evening.

Molasses, a duo from Cambridge, follow and although they sound well-rehearsed, they still have some way to go on the performance aspect of playing live, especially given the limitations that comes with being a two-person band. Alessia Lee sings strongly, but the set would be improved by more confidence from the front woman, who barely interacts with the crowd and almost never looks up from her guitar strings.

Shaggy-haired False Heads excite crowd members with some Clash-inspired rock’n’roll. Look at their Facebook page and you’ll see they’ve described their sound as “Crack Rock Punk Fuck Snot Pop”. Trying to decipher exactly what that means is probably a little futile, but their track “TwentyNothing” is enthralling and brilliant executed, probably covering at least the first 3 words of their amalgamated genre.

Things take a slight downwards turn after False Heads. They probably mean well, but with their mohawks, ripped clothing and Union Flag vests, The Antiseptics’ set comes off a little contrived as they look and sound more like a punk tribute band than the next generation of punk. Those still listening appear to enjoy the set however and even make a mosh pit in the relatively sparse crowd (not sparse because of The Antiseptics – it's just not a sold out event).

Isle of Wight boys BullyBones are the kind of band that sound superb recorded (they sort of have an Iggy Pop/The Stooges/The Hives vibe - check out “Stay Loose” on their Bandcamp page) but haven't quite got a live performance routine to match yet. Their music video for “When Sally Calls” is a dark and intriguing accompaniment to a melodically distinctive garage punk song, but in person all the thrusting and the gyrating and the crotch grabbing from frontman Charlie Pullinger might leave on-lookers feeling unnecessarily uncomfortable if performance frotteurism isn’t their thing.

Drones perform an almost stadium-ready set before headliners Youth Man grace the stage. Lead by the tiny but powerful Kaila Whyte, the Birmingham-based band are the most deserved from the line-up of the “next generation of punk rock” title. However the three-person group prove they are in no way new to this game; screaming their lyrics and drenched in sweat, Youth Man have the appearance of a band that has been playing together for at least a decade. Drummer Marcus Perks skilfully keeps the tempo and ferocity with his furious treatment of the symbols and bassist Miles Cocker misses no beats despite jumping into the crowd to get involved in the action. Even when Whyte’s strap brakes off completely the quality continues – instead of fluffing it she casually continues shredding whilst holding up her instrument with no support. Youth Man's new EP Wax is out now on vinyl - you can get it here.

So is punk dead? In a country with as dodgy a political climate as we have right now, it seems unlikely. Who knows if these bands are the next generation of punk rock – surely that’s the sort of thing we will only be able to comment on in hindsight and besides, that sounds like way too much pressure anyway.

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