Gig Review by Kirsty Hillyer with Gig Photos by Lee Allen

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The Homeless Gospel Choir opened proceedings to only handful of people. Recognising that there was more room in the pit than the stage Derek Zanetti unplugged and played in the centre of the crowd, creating an intimate political dialogue with each ‘protest song’ delivered. One could be forgiven for thinking this fellow is a lot like marmite when listened to in isolation, live he is mesmerising, funny, earnest and engaging. Derek weaves stories of American politics, the punk scene and his mental health battles. Highlights included ‘Musical Preference’, I too am not a Sublime fan, and ‘With God on Our Side’, a song never more relevant in a world where religion is used as a hall pass to forgive a world’s sins. Performing a ballet with his guitar, each song is delivered with an intensity and sincerity that beguiled. Acoustic sets can often suffer the inane chatter of an arriving crowd; he reduced the room to silence and a few glassy eyes amongst his fans. If only more Americans were like this fellow, ah hell, he’s more punk than everyone.

The Homeless Gospel ChoirThe Homeless Gospel Choir
The Homeless Gospel ChoirThe Homeless Gospel Choir

Trophy Eyes had a hard act to follow. This Australian punk rock ensemble is a band of two halves. Lead vocalist John Floreani erupts into their opener with a mass of swinging arms and windmills, showing a commitment and passion that created a solo pit on stage; whilst bassist Jeremy Winchester complimented and surprised with his vocal offerings. Sadly the drums were too standard issue to set this band apart and the guitarists looked bored and unengaged. Though one half of the band performed to convert an intently listening crowd to their side, the other half made you question why you should bother. Having previously toured the UK in support slots for Neck Deep and Knuckle Puck you can’t help but feel this wasn’t the right tour for them as they attempt to preach to old school punks with a youthful exuberance, or not depending on which half of the band you watched.

Trophy EyesTrophy Eyes
Trophy EyesTrophy Eyes

Red City Radio last performed Birmingham earlier in the year, to a sold out Flapper and Firkin, pre their current self titled release. Their slot on this tour has seen fans come out just for them. Playing an equal split between older fan classics and newer songs, opening with ‘Whatcha Got?’. The gang chorus harmonies delivered by every band member always ensure a performance that sees you want to hang out and get drunk with these fellows.

Red City RadioRed City Radio
Red City RadioRed City Radio

No man has ever pulled off a flying V and pork pie hat combo like lead vocalist Garret Dale. Garrett sings with a gruff drawl contrasting with his sassy performance style that entices. Driving the band is Dallas Tidwell on drums who delivers each beat with a grim determination and hard hit, whilst Ryan Donovan on bass and Jonathan Knight on guitar welcome you in with their impassioned gang harmonies. As a support slot there was only one song they could finish the set with and it was ‘Show Me on the Doll Where the music Touched You’ that saw the Red City fans shout at the top of their lungs. If you are new to this band then start here, listen to the whole song, a couple of times through, and let them win you over.

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Anti-Flag showed their political activism on their amps with imagery of a child holding a gun, and a drone. These stalwarts of the scene open with Turncoat to a rather lack luster crowd. A few songs in, with the delivery of fan favourite ‘Broken Bones’, and the crowd finally wake-up to it being a punk rock show. You can’t blame the crowd for an apathetic response; bassist Chris Barker offers up continual scissor kicks that feel contrived whilst the rest of the band just feel like they are going through the motions, all be it professionally delivered motions.

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With their huge back catalogue it was disappointing that they only played for an hour, when you consider peers such as Bad Religion play for nearly double that time. With this in mind only a quarter of the set provided offerings from new album ‘American Spring’ whilst the rest was a mixed bag of crowd pleasers including ‘The Press Corpse’ and their closing number ‘Die for the Government’. Last time they played Birmingham, singer, Justin Sane fell off the stage and broke his jaw, but there was no danger of a repeat of such punk rock rousing behaviour in this atmosphere void. Maybe the Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes show the night before ruined Birmingham or maybe it’s just the signs of an ageing fan base who don’t have the energy or need for pit release post a hard day at work.

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See the complete photo set from this gig here.

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