Alas another Ska Bar and they come round faster than Ernie the milkman after a high dosage of crack and whizz.  By fuck time flies when you are having fun and tonight’s 6 band showcase would have to be cut short as myself and good lady had regrettably purchased tickets for Gogol Bordello at The Manchester Academy.  I say regrettably has the more we listened to a recently required album the more we suspected that the pigeonhole labelled ‘Shit’ would have another posting soon enough.  You never know though!

And so my missus dropped me off in Manchester after seeing a wandering mate (Big Daz) heading towards the Retro Bar.  Another victim of the Gogol Bordello propaganda machine and so another person cutting short tonight’s skank fest.

Arriving at the venue the first band was delayed by 20 or so minutes but after a group huddle they kicked into action and delivered a good opening account to start the night off in decent style.  Kickback are a band of players who sound similar to several other bands on this scene but are still worth a watch as their stage performance is noteworthy and the band do crack out a decent enough set.  I feel they are a ska sapling still branching out, putting out their roots trying to find their true foothold within the scene and attempting to finalise their ‘own’ sound.   Not a bad start at all though!

Next Sense of Urgency, a band I am growing fonder of with each viewing particularly the last pissed-up parade at a recent Fungalskapunka gig which went down an absolute storm with the crowd of onlookers.  Tonight’s was a more sober offering but still an up-front affair as frontman Joe interacted with the audience and screamed his venomous vocals forth against the heavier sounding ska backdrop.  The set seemed shorter tonight but was totally enjoyable and a few chats later resulted in them being a late addition to the forthcoming SAS weekender – lucky man me!

Fulibulbus came forth and this was a new band to me and yet again the curiosity of my musical mind was rewarded with the uncovering of a cracking outfit who obviously were relishing the chance to dish out their punky dub reggae-skank sound to the Manchester crowd.  Very active and full of solid vocal moments and thumping riffs that caught the punters attention and never let go.  A definite quality band this and one which I am sure will be getting a few gig offers from yours truly.  It was a nice spice to throw into tonight’s melting pot and the flavour was savoured by the majority in attendance.

Last band of the night for me was Dirty Revolution an outfit whose initial song seemed a little cagey but who just got better and better by the minute.  What a fuckin’ enjoyable band this was and again another different taste to the night’s soundscape.  Simplistic and effective is, as I have mentioned on several occasions, a winning yet elusive combination but I personally thought Dirty Revolution captured this musical mode and dished out a quite pleasing set.  ‘I Love Reggae’ was the winning song and turned a few heads with its crystal clear message and tinkling melody.   Another band I would love to have on a Fungalskapunka gig – just a pity I am booked solid for a few months.

So with 4 good bands under the belt myself and Daz left The Fractions and Grown at Home to finish the nights entertainment.  Outside we were picked up by my missus and headed for the Academy in wait for the night’s finale.  With all local parking slots taken we found ourselves quite a way from the venue but strolled on down unperturbed.  Obviously a good crowd was in attendance and upon arrival this was confirmed as surely a few thousand awaited the presence of Gogol Bordello.  Having missed the support band I was a trifle miffed but the wait was still a short one before the expected headliners hit the stage.

The room seemed to take on a life of its own as soon as Gogol Bordello kicked into action with almost immediately 70% of the crowd dancing along to the gypsy punk noise.  The first few songs weren’t bad but the more the set progressed the more similar everything seemed to sound and paradoxically the more the crowd came alive.  At one point almost every head in the venue was part of a bobbing ocean and the GB machine were definitely winning the day.  I say almost every head because by this point myself and my good lady were becoming more and more unimpressed and failed to see what the attraction was.  A distinct lack of power, a void of pace variation and an on-stage performance that was far from anything special but yet the crowd loved it.  A definite case of each to their own and a real no, no for us.  Big Daz tried his utmost to get into the vibe but despite fuelling himself up on overpriced ale he was failing miserably.

The encore was lowly with the first two songs an acoustic affair and after one more ditty we left the building unmoved by the masses hysteria.

Each of us agreed that we had witnessed a fair band but one viewing would be enough and it was definitely not our thing.  The Ska Bar for £4 had far outweighed this £15 apiece circus and that is where my musical heart lies.  Rather than the big band, big stage, big propaganda I would prefer hanging around some back street bar watching good earthy bands strut their stuff on a smaller stage just for the love of it.  I attend the Academy gigs only now and again and always come away deflated and unconvinced, in fact only the smaller Academy has left me with anything impressive to mull over.

Not a bad night nonetheless and a few different bands viewed which is always a bonus.  Now where’s that pigeonhole ha, ha…


review by OMD (3 April 2008)