Last Sunday of the month equals Ska Bar at The Retro in Manchester and with the quality of bands I've seen there lately this little excursion is becoming a regular fixture in the Fungalpunk/OMD gigging diary. First time my good lady has been with me and after telling her about the good stuff I'd seen she was expecting a lot.

First impressions tonight were made by a crowd that was less in numbers than I expected. Anyway after a beer or two VFA were up and away with their own style of ska. Uniformly dressed indicated that these lot were attentive to detail and took pride in their output. First impressions and all that which sometimes work but only if backed up by good musicianship. Well VFA had an abundance of that and were supremely confident in all areas and knocked out some good tunes. The band were obviously enjoying themselves and made a nice impression on a crowd that is always obliging. My one criticism would be that certain songs were over elaborate and had occasional fussy bits that broke up the flow. A personal note but I feel worthy of a mention. The two covers namely 'Down Under' and 'Special Brew' were very good indeed and reflected the aforementioned talent. Overall not bad with a few tweaks here and there needed but for me they would be definitely worth more viewings and a gig or two with some punk bands to highlight the bands talent. Not bad at all.

Next Six.Point.Five who were more aggressive in their approach and used a harder guitar sound that was matched by some solid brass that punched its weight throughout. The crowd interaction was good and the set started well and dipped away then finished well with the avalanche of sound building to a nice crescendo. The lull in the middle may be combatted by song positioning or dropping a few of the lesser numbers. Again maybe a personal thing but my missus agreed so that will do me. It is worth pointing out that a lack of consistency can mar everything (even the good stuff) so it is always worth checking the set through and through. OK.

And now the low of the night, A shite band with a shite name. Make It Better Later hardly fires the soul and the music certainly quenched any inkling of a flame that dwelt there. By fuck what a load of bollocks. A gypsy cum Russian cum American cum Hippy hybrid that filled my head with visions of beatnicks prancing around in a half assed trance with daffodils up their jackies and daisies tied round their goolies. For me and my wife it was a dire episode in the catalogue of dross and I really didn't enjoy it one bit. Don't forget I am punk to the core and this is like a pork chop being force fed to a veggie. Just piss poor and not my bag but the crowd seemed to disagree so in this case the minority may be wrong. I'm stubborn and stupid enough to think not - so I will. Note must be made again that this is a personal opinion and the band under scrutiny actually went down well. Anyone taking this opinion as gospel is an utter moron and should see the band in question to make up their own mind, however small it may be.

Sense of Urgency bounded up next and delivered the most full-on set of the evening. Not bad at all but I know so little of this lot my judgement is a bit skew-wiff. Definitely more meat on the bone here with the singer seemingly sponsored by the followers of the anti-clockwise movement as he went round and round in circles forever spewing forth his lyrical venom. This guy thrived on the healthy backdrop of sound his allies were providing and the whole set was fairly good throughout. A couple of fast tracks whose names excape me were the pick and seem the best way forward for this more than adequate band. I suspect with more of this up-tempo delivery thay have a wider audience than they currently play too - we shall see.

Last band of the night for me and missus were Bristol-based Kenisia who delivered the set of the night with an abundance of quality moments and sounds. I found out later this lot had been around for many a year and it showed. Very polished in parts with an accomplished frontman who had a good range of vocal sounds and an alarming ability to sing whilst doing a one handed hand stand. Some people have just too many talents - bastards. This was very, very good indeed and maybe less frenetic than some other bands and less purist for the ska connoiseur this was the definitive high of the night. A quality offering that oozed that extra bit of class.

Well another night at the Retro and some more good bands. Sorry I missed Catch It Kebabs but needs must and time said not. There's a good job being done here that showcases some very fine talent and for 4 quid a chuck I am surprised there isn't a sell-out everytime. Even though my heart lies with the punk scene I recommend every punk should try out this night - well worth a peek.


review by OMD (26 March 2007)