In fiendishly depressing Manchester weather where the corrupting concrete deadens the mind with its moribund shades of idle, thoughtless grey I headed for the Star and Garter with hopes high of some musical sunshine. For a day in June the temperature was pretty low and I was in dire need of some sonic rays to warm the old punking soul - let’s have it.
Arriving in good time (as is the case with my enthusiastic nature) I chatted to a few heads about the melancholy climate (we British do this so well), the upcoming gig and the expectations therein.  A tin of Red Stripe was purchased and shock was induced at the crazed prices we poverty stricken punters have to pay.  It ain't the gaff's fault I suppose - the country is in a recession, all and sundry are getting screwed and the consumer gets the shittest end of the stick.  It's a good job I don't drink much these days!
So time ticked and 30 minutes or so later than usual he first band arrived on stage.  I am pressed for time this week and have a schedule to curl the most stubborn of toes so for once, if you will please excuse me, I am being terse, to the point and limiting each band to no more than 4 sentences.  This review will also follow a theme of a 24 track compilation CD review I am doing at the mo where each song will get 2 or 3 sentences each.  Sometimes this just has to be done and if it ain't enough then switch on your computer, shake off your idling apathy and get tapping the keys.
SPG opened the day and are a young 3-piece from the Wirral who push forth traditional punk rock puke and who are encouraged by a few old hands who know the scene inside and out.  Today what we were given was a feisty, well crafted set which was mainly charged with youthful zeal, eagerness and precocious talent in its embryonic stages.  Several blips crept in but were professionally swept under the cacophonic carpet and the band grew in confidence and did produce some good hard riffed, unified moments that can only bode well for the future.  Having reviewed their demo CD and being quite taken it was nice to see the band play songs that outstripped the familiar ditties and really push themselves and break acoustic sweat.  A solid start and with plenty more to come - keep yer eyes on the Special Patrol Group.  Shite - that's 5 sentences - best move the stick of criteria then.
Next up a band I am very keen on and one who have made a few ripples so soon in their journey.  Crack Shot have some mean, vocal numbers in their set and don't hold back and make for one honest punk rock show with frontman Harry providing the balls out, on the precipice approach very much lacking in quite a few areas of the scene.  The class songs come thick and fast with some granite highs had due to a forceful delivery and a ‘punk to the bone’ inflection.  'Class War' did indeed fall apart and the ANL cover is no longer needed as Crack Shot have enough flavours of their own to make a strong sonic soup most punkers will want to partake of.  It looks like onwards and upwards for this lot with many doors opening and I reckon after another 12 months of tightening the ship SS Crack Shot will be tearing up the waters with the best of them - here's to the followers of this brutal calling (get the hint Harry ha, ha).
A piss, a potter and a sit down (aaagghhh - me aching feet) and then back upstairs for a slice of old school, commune punk steeped in political angst and never die restlessness.  A new band (Government Death Epidemic) for me and one who harked back to the early 80's preachoid era that was reared in the Crassite Cradle and toyed in the Anarcho Cupboard of fun.  The sound was stripped down, filled with suggestion and in parts left empty due to a bit of equipment bother but with skank, reggae, jah influences thrown into the mix the outfit survived and gave many pleasurable moments. For me a gig is always a chance to mix and match styles and this was a classic example of taking advantage of that opportunity and winning in good style.  Definitely a band to see again and definitely a band to vary the sometimes too predictable outpourings.
Vermin Suicides came next and once more gave something new to the day’s proceedings and kept a decent flow going.
At this point though I just want to ask a question.  Why, on a charity event does one prefer to sit downstairs and natter rather than support the bands upstairs who are playing for a worthy cause?  Just a question and if it’s because you can't be arsed, deem all the bands shite or have lost the use of your legs it would be interesting to know why?
Back to Vermin Suicide and yes, not a bad do at all.  The opening sequence wasn't as effective as it should have been but from there on in I enjoyed what these guys offered and liked the fact that I couldn't quite pinpoint the exact area where the music should slot.  Drums were played with relish, guitars executed with neat artistry and the whole delivery held tight and given heave ho with nothing more than passion.  A few blips were noted but nothing outrageous and I found myself enjoying this very much.  'Et Tu Brute' stood out but another viewing is needed to grasp a further understanding of what these guys are knocking forth.
In Evil Hour next (ex-Zombie Headhunters) and a fantastic feisty showing led by a miniscule lass with a mammoth gob.  A busy show, loads of energy and - as a bonus - many a good song to boot.  This is a tight, well drilled unit who are playing here, there and everywhere and building up a somewhat decent following.  Despite a dodgy start due to vocal gear playing up the set boomed and grew in stature with all components building up the spirit factor and releasing fired up perspiration.  I like this lot and enjoyed the set today with the only advice I would offer is to go the full hog and present the show as the name suggests.  Create that 'evil' ambience, splash on a bit of accursed horror make-up, make a grandiose entrance to the clang of the haunted church bell and play it mean, dark and consistent.  Go on, go for it!  But if ya don't, you still get my vote OI OI!
Senseless pounced next and have what was a very brief set it seemed.  Or was that because I was so absorbed by the efficiency of the crew?  For a three-piece this lot don't half make a racket and for me this was the crew’s best showing to date.  Ok the six-string beast had a problem early on (a knob gone wrong or a wire) but this was a stunner.  Gristled, delivered from the soul, swift, precise, slightly fouled and with some powerful moments to get totally immersed in.  The string dudes ply their trade with accuracy and the stickman is as solid as a rock and for me, although brief, this was nicely timed and just did enough.  I do need to get something on CD by these dudes so maybe watch this space for a review.
Was it at this stage a stunning Angle Shades moth appeared in the ladies bogs or do I lose track of time?  Either way the said gem was taken outside and placed in some nearby vegetation and left to lead his lepidopteron life.  Yippee!  Up the moths!
Back in and the Mardi Gras Bombers splattered out a searing set that was injected with extra pace and was all the better for it.  Being a fan of this lot (a fact I shouldn't confess to as my name brings trouble and bands are held back - sorry dudes) I was glad to see them get a good slot and do their reputation full justice.   They are not going short of gigs at the mo so the 'live' practice is there to be had and this good gig schedule and ability to write full-on songs that are more than just throw-away punk rock tunes of an orthodox style help keep things on the upward curve.  Damo is an impeccable frontman backed by two solid string dudes (who are moving all the more) and sexual deviant drummer who, when not banging his bell on door handles, is hammering away at the twigs of tuneage.  Best song - a new one they did tell me the name of but I forgot - bah!
A cultured moment next and Leather Zoo opened their acoustic cages and let out a familiar set that has me maintaining my adoration of this lovely crew.  Articulate, delivered with care and with 4 grand artistes doing the business but somehow getting overlooked in the festering pit of apathy.  For me all the ingredients are there for success but alas not in this punk circle.  Potential to play the bigger stage is obvious and although my heart is with the murky underdog shithole I can't help but wonder again why people stayed downstairs rather than be up and at it and supporting a band who had travelled from Sheffield, supplied the backline, watched every band thus far and played a solid set.  For me the high is consistent with the only low the tribute to that masturbating mail man 'Postman Pat'.  The advice, keep doing what you do but move away from this tragic arena and seek out the rockier path where greater adventure can be found.  Love it and so should you!
Billyclub next and what can I say - shit, boring, lazy, lifeless, ugly.  Ok 4 ugly bastards is pretty accurate but the rest is bang out.  This unit throb with professionalism and burst through their set with an assassin’s skill.   Heavy laden with strong drum work, beefed up with sturdy bassism, adorned with muscled stringwork and iced over with taut, throat ripping vocals this is a complete package and you better believe it.  The old faves lined up one after the other and some less familiar songs were chucked in to keep it natural.  'Smash It Up' is of course powerful but can you point out a song that isn't?  It has been a long while since I first saw these 'erberts and was blown away (Bolton Town Hall was it) but it does just get better.  Always a strong band, always guaranteed to wake up a crowd and always a pleasure - move it on faster.
And lastly - One Man Stand.  A replacement drummer and an added guitarist - what would this bring then?  Well I had a lift at 10.30pm and I only managed to squeeze in the first 5 numbers.  This is about the 39th time I have seen this crew and if I said it was the best outing to date I reckon I'd be fair on the mark.  Extra power, more room for each player to breath, surging with a hidden relish and somehow played with a new found belief OMS have always been a reliable outfit but over the last few years have become something more.   Interest in the local area is still at a minimum but they carry on regardless.  On this evidence so they should and more gigs further afield is a must.  'Break Down The Walls' rocked but it always does but this time so did every other song.  A shame to leave prematurely but it isn't as though the band have been starved of reviews from my Fungal self over the years.
So there you have it, an unsatisfactory show of support but still £385 raised for the Tsunami Benefit.  Not bad and lets hope for a bit more next time.  Bolton I believe, all ages, Saturday, July 9 at 12:00pm - July 10 at 1:00am.  If you can make it please do, if you can't be arsed - piss off!

review by OMD (13 June 2011)