After the previous nights disaster at The Dog and Partridge in Bolton I decided to get down to The Retro Bar early and treat myself to a few scoops before the bands got underway.  Big Daz soon arrived and then Tim Davies complete with a bottle of the bronze delight.  A good chat with 4 nomadic punkers about their own scenes and what we had all seen lately put me in good spirits so more beer was downed and a chirpy countenance adorned.  I even sold 9 Split Bits CD’s which all helps the punky cause and my Dead Kennedy’s ticket which I bought in a moment of tedium induced madness whilst at work and regretted ever since.  The guy who bought it was delighted and despite losing £8 on the sale I was happy to pass it on to someone who would appreciate them better than this old fussy fucker.  What a result!
Down into the main gigging arena and numbers were few but I had no doubts that top promoter Slit Boy Dean would do fairly well with this one due to his hard promotional campaign, the nice diversity of bands and the location of the gaff.

A few chicken butties, more ale and The Autonomads kicked the show into gear to what was a decent crowd for an opening act.  This crusty dub cum reggae rebel outfit put out another good performance and the mix of several styles and the sharp alteration of pace and rhythm works well here and has enough vitality and range to keep everyone interested.  They seem to have a few ‘erberts following them too which is always helpful when trying to make an impression at gigs.  There should be plenty of gigs coming to this lot which I suspect will be on the squat and protest circuit however I do hope they don’t pigeonhole themselves as I feel they have a lot to offer a wider range of gigs.

The class and precocious pedigree of The John Player Special came forth next and yet again we had a spellbinding performance that just oozed with quality tunes.  I really rate this outfit and hope they can fulfil their potential by applying a hunger and drive to their overall make-up.  The trombonist is getting better and so they are becoming a tighter unit although there was the odd slip in timing but that was primarily a minor quirk that didn’t hinder the enjoyment of another enthralling set.  ‘Small Town Melodies’ and ‘Identification’ shone from the expected great show and more of the same will do quite nicely.

Officer Down blasted through the hardcore set next and did it quite excellently although my main criticism would be that it seemed to familiar to a load of stuff I have seen before.  Is that a bad thing?  I don’t know as I am sure that if we all scrutinised bands and their output too analytically we would all realise that originality is quite a rare commodity.  During this onslaught I dipped into a beer fuelled trough and emerged with a second boozing breeze which resulted in the quenching bronze being poured down the receptive throat and the rest of the set being thoroughly appreciated.  A second viewing is needed though to make a decision as to how I rate this band.

Chinwags and idiocy followed and then the much anticipated Fast Cars pinged into their stride and peppered the crowd with a full on blast of melodic power pop punk that really caught my lugs and held their attention throughout.  This was fuckin’ great stuff that fizzed and frothed with sharp snappy chords and meaty riffs.  I love this kind of bubbling punk and the airy, feel good vibe that runs deeply through the entire marrow of this high octane noise is a true delight.  You can’t beat this style of play and when it’s done this well I can only stand back and appreciate.  This is a band I have wanted to see a long time and in no way whatsoever was I disappointed.  Let’s hope this is the start of a major renaissance and the Fast Cars have a good run on the current circuit.

And so with tired legs and a raging thirst it was the turn of the headlining act – The Cute Lepers.  Despite being familiar with the name I knew little of their music but the vibes were good and with the North brothers involved in the tour I suspected another special punk secret was about to be displayed to the unknowing local punkers.  With drums, bass, 2 guitars and 3 backing singers the noise was mighty and the free and easy style was a sure fire winner with its complete lack of danger and politic.  As with the Fast Cars this was simple pick-up tuneage that was a joy to listen to and admire.  I think it rounded off the night quite nicely and the crowd lapped it up with gleeful faces as the melodic waterfall washed forward and drowned the venue in a cascading wave of sound.  Obviously worth several more viewings and the only error I made was by not picking up a CD and T-shirt but that’s the hazard of liking a drink.

A few more beers upstairs after the gig and a chat to a few faces (Mick Pike’s daughter in fact) and off we all toddled happy with a debut Slit Records gig at The Retro Bar.

review by OMD (26 May 2008)