Gig Review by Pete Williams with Photography by Helen Williams

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

Tonight’s gig at the Birmingham Academy had a varied lineup, and it was unclear whether this would be a good or bad thing. All three bands had punk leanings, but each pushed at the boundaries of the genre in different ways. It promised to be an intriguing night – would we be treated to an interesting mix of musical styles, or would the bands be too different to keep the crowd happy?

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

The venue filled up early, thanks to Me First and the Gimme Gimmes’ wide-ranging appeal. Most cover bands struggle to gather much of a fanbase, but they’ve managed to build beyond this barrier and attract a large audience wherever they play.

Dead Frequency

First to the stage were Dead Frequency, filling the obligatory local-support-band slot. The glam punk foursome cite influences such as Green Day, Van Halen and The Darkness, and their sounds are clearly heard throughout the band’s compelling songs. Moving between heavy, head-banging tunes and poppier, jump-around numbers, their energy soon lit up the room and filled the mosh pit. It’s rare to see such a response to a support band, so Dead Frequency were clearly pushing the right buttons.

Dead FrequencyDead Frequency

Lead singer Matti Fantasi’s boundless energy is infectious, and all but the most jaded members of the crowd couldn’t help but crack a smile as he jumped around the stage. The mosh pit eagerly followed his commands, singing and dancing on cue, led by a few of the band’s die-hard fans who had turned up to support them. It was a great way to open the night and raised the anticipation for the rest of the night.

Dead Frequency

The musical style swung quite dramatically with the second band, a bluegrass-punk seven-piece called Old Man Markley. Founded in 2007 in Los Angeles, they were quickly signed by Fat Wreck Chords, the label owned by NOFX singer and Gimmes bassist Fat Mike.

Old Man Markley

It’s not hard to see why they’ve been such a rapid hit – their mixture of quirky instruments (washboard, fiddle and tin-bath bass to name a few) and incredible energy instantly endeared them to the crowd. Of course, instruments and energy aren’t enough to make a good band, but thankfully they have some belting tunes to back it up.

Old Man Markley

Old Man Markley

Highlights included For Better For Worse, Come Around Here and Blindfold. The whole set involved so much jumping around and instrument spinning that you half expected a stray banjo in the face, but impressively the band didn’t miss a note. Later in the set they even threw in a cover of The Feel Good Song of the Year by No Use for a Name, another Fat Wreck Chords band. The song was dedicated to Tony Sly, NUFAN’s front man who sadly died in 2012, which was a nice touch.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

Another change of musical direction brought us to the headline act of the night, the Gimmes. From the moment they took the stage dressed in their traditional hawaiian shirts it was clear that these were experienced musicians. The self-styled supergroup is made up of members from various Fat Wreck Chords bands including NOFX, Lagwagon and No Use for a Name, and it’s obvious that these are all seasoned performers who are more than comfortable in front of a crowd of any size. Fat Mike wasn’t present on this tour but was ably replaced by Bad Religion’s Jay Bentley.

Me First and the Gimme GimmesMe First and the Gimme Gimmes

Despite being a cover band (hence lead singer Spike Slawson’s tongue-in-cheek catchphrase, “This next song’s a cover”), the Gimmes bring their own unique style to every single song they perform. The tunes range from classics (All My Loving by the Beatles) to rocked-up covers of pop songs (Olivia Newton John’s Have You Never Been Mellow) to downright bizarre (Somewhere Over the Rainbow). Particular crowd favourites were I Believe I Can Fly by R. Kelly and Rocket Man by Elton John.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

One of the great things about the Gimmes is the sheer rate they get through songs, so if one isn’t quite to your fancy you won’t have long to wait until another comes along to blow you away. Thankfully this doesn’t happen very often, as they manage to turn even the most mundane tune into a catchy pop-punk classic. Spike Slawson and the other members did an excellent job of engaging the crowd with their banter, adding another element to the band’s over-the-top personality.

Me First and the Gimme GimmesMe First and the Gimme Gimmes

Despite playing 23 songs, the set was over all too soon, bringing a fantastic night to an end. The different styles of the three bands worked brilliantly together – they provided something for everyone while keeping an energetic punk core running throughout, and you’d do well to find a single member of the audience who left without a big grin on their face.

Me First and the Gimme GimmesMe First and the Gimme Gimmes

(See the complete photo set on our Flick page)

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