A stone’s throw from St. Denys station and a haven for photographers who hate the rules (and who then cry when their cameras get smashed in the mosh pit), The Talking Heads is one of the best informal and independently run venues in the Hampshire area, and on Sunday the 20th of September housed the American punk rock band Against Me! And their new label mates Crazy Arm for the final part of the Southampton WTFEST.
To kick it off we had the local act Our Time Down Here who bill themselves as pop-punk and despite being unsigned have had a previous tour in France and are now totally stoked to be supporting Against Me!. Lead singer and frontman Will Gould ran to the stage from the crowd at the last minute before their first number as part of a dramatic opening, and whilst between sets you could sense some nerves it was an enjoyable and energetic set. Make you visit their facebook, bandcamp and myspace and give them your support.
Crazy Arm are difficult to define thanks to their array of influences from punk, roots-folk and gospel to Bruce Springsteen, hardcore and classic rock’n’roll, their politically charged lyrics and lead singer Darren’s pirate like vocals make a hard edged combination. The band started their set with a couple of tracks from their debut release ‘Born to Ruin’, before being joined eventually on stage by female backing vocalist Victoria Butterfield to delve into tracks from their new release ‘Union City Breath’. The unquestionable best number came from said record: ‘Song of Choice’, an updated version of Peggy Seeger’s anthem, which now damns the BNP and the new wave of facism taking ahold of our country (however small its grip may be…). The long gap between the original end of the song and the new part attacking far right wing politics was worked in beautifully, as was the following performances of first single ‘Tribes’ and other album track ‘Bandalito’.
To make the stage theirs main act Against Me! Pounded their renowned sound through the speakers, to such a level of amplitude my ears have yet to recover. Having spent the summer touring with legends Blink 182 and about to kick of their tour with Frank Turner, they held nothing back for this last leg. The band Shot off consecutive tracks from their new album ‘White Crosses’, including new single ‘Because of the Shame’ and the harking yet particularly poignant ‘I Was a Teenage Anarchist’, as well as not forgotten favourites such as ‘Pints of Guinness Make you Strong’. Doing so with rapid succession was favoured over extensive crowd interaction, which is fine, though their overblown levels, whilst playing to their punk sensibilities and wild nature, squandered the superb vocals of Tom Gabel. Then again, the guy easily has enough stage presence to match his defiant attitude, complimented with a stab at the Clash’s ‘Janie Jones’ near the end of their set.
I for one am overjoyed to see one the long time favourite champions of the emerging 99% on my favourite UK label, joining the likes of The Xcerts, Straightlines and Ben Marwood, especially if it means seeing them playing side by side with folk heroes Crazy Arm and Frank Turner. Shame as you missed it, but at least we now know there’s ample opportunity for them to roll round your way again.
Words > Graham Ashton