Wonk Unit

support Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man + Faintest Idea + The Roughneck Riot
author MAK date 25/02/17 venue Underworld, London, UK

TNS Records have become one of the most important labels in the DIY punk scene in the United Kingdom, as has been showcased by the label’s putting on one of the most exciting tour line-ups of UK punk bands in recent years. The TNS tour pulls in a range of styles, including ska, folk, hardcore, and straight-up fun and immature antics, and as such, this was always going to an entertaining range of shows. My pitstop comes in on the second night of this tour, at the Camden Underworld in London, following what was a sold-out show in Cambridge. And if this wasn’t a sold-out show, it certainly felt like it — the venue was packed to the brim.

The Roughneck Riot

One way to entice the people to get down early was to not reveal the running order of the show and on each date, the running order would change. In Cambridge, it was Revenge of the Psychotronic Man opened the night and this time it was The Roughneck Riot. The Manchester-based folk-punks kicked the night off in fine form with their gritty attitude and fun-fuelled nature. It was great to see a fairly full crowd for an opening act, and one that was quite enthusiastic at the front. The set started shortly after the doors had opened so I wasn’t expecting the wildest of responses, but songs like the highly energetic “Parasites” and the popular track “Pissin’ in the wind” were great for warming everyone up. A few people were even dancing along and singing right back at the stage.

The Roughneck Riot

Musically, the Manchester punks were on fire. With the intricate, plucky sound of the mandolin and banjo combination layered on top of hard hitting riffs, it was the perfect mixture of aggressive and melodic atmospheres. You couldn’t help but bang your foot against the floor to the dominating beat, either. The highlight of the set came towards the end, as The Roughneck Riot performed their regular cover of “You” by Bad Religion. It was a slow, folksy rendition in the first verse and chorus and it had everyone singing along. As soon as the second verse kicked in though, it was a fast, punky hit that created a bit more energy in the room. Roughneck’ closed the set off with their popular banger, “This is Our Day”, which has one of the most captivating mandolin intros in folk-punk. That catchy song had the crowd singing and clapping along throughout and concluded one of the best opening sets I’ve seen in a while. What a great start to the night!

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Faintest Idea

Ska punks Faintest Idea were up next. Considering their latest album, “Increasing the Minimum Rage”, was my favourite album of 2016, I had no doubt that the Norwich-born band would follow up with a similarly energetic drive. Faintest Idea opened with their usual instrumental segment in “…Back to the Asylum”. It had all the brass players wandering through the crowd performing their teasing melodies, but it wasn’t long before everyone was on stage and the six-piece launched right into “Circling the Drain” — the opening track to their latest album. From then on, the infectious melodies had a good portion of the crowd dancing the night away with a smile on their face.

Faintest Idea

Throughout the set, Faintest Idea threw out plenty of fan-favourites and bouncy rhythms in flawless fashion. “Down Pressure” and “Cocktails” had the right energy to keep the crowd moving, and certain tracks witnessed great sing-alongs — especially during “Youth”, with the singing bassist, Dani, having everyone chanting “ONE YOUTH DOWN!” during the bridge. Even the sample segment that leads into “36 Barrels” had the crowd enthusiastically shouting “THE FUCKING TORIES!” along with the spoken words. “House of Cards” was once again a highlight of the set, with the brass trio on stage showing off their own choreographed dance routine during the slow start to the song. Then, right before the tempo picked up a bit, Dani stopped for a few seconds to build the tension. He shouted the words “YOU’RE IN THE HOUSE OF CARDS!”, sending the crowd into chaos. Skanking, moshing… These were fantastic scenes that only got wilder for fun anthems such as “Corporation” and the usual closer “Bull in a China Shop”. It was a highly enjoyable and sweaty set, and further proof that Faintest Idea never disappoint.

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Revenge of the Psychotronic Man

Manchester’s hardcore punk trio, Revenge of the Psychotronic Man then changed the tone of the evening with their slightly more aggressive, thrashier approach. ROTPM are known for their short songs and their fast and shouty nature. This triggered less dancing and more hard moshing very early on into their set. The trio unleashed some tracks from their latest release, “Colossal Velocity”, featuring my personal favourites “Niall Quinn” and “Small-Minded NIMBY Prick”. It wasn’t long before bassist Andy Davies requested that everyone should run around the iconic Underworld pole that’s right in the middle of the floor, to which a good portion of the crowd obliged during “Booze Time”.

Revenge of the Psychotronic Man

ROTPM delivered plenty of fast, crunchy riffs with a hard-hitting attitude, and this nature was mimicked by the crowd in a much more involved way than I was expecting. I’d seen crazy sets from this band before, but all expectations were blown out of the water this night. A new track, “Planet Earth 2”, had some great grooves, and was by all counts closer to a headbanger than a thrasher, with fans relentlessly rocking out like they had done all set. One of the funniest moments came when a fan lifted his drunk mate up onto his shoulders and ran right into the pit. Pints were spilt and thrown around; it was messy, it was relentless energy the whole way through, and it was the best kind of reaction that ROTPM could have hoped for. The band seemed very humbled by it all too.

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Wonk Unit

Headliners Wonk Unit released a rather good album in “Mr. Splashy” last year, but as fine as that and their other releases might be, they simply do not compare to the brilliant live experience from the London-based punks. Wonk Unit have a unique way of entertaining the crowd with silly antics during songs and interesting stories between them. This show was no different, as Wonk Unit unleashed crowd favourite after crowd favourite and had fans rocking out hard to the likes of “Lewisham” and “Elbows”, where frontman Alex Wonk joked that fans should do some “thrasher moshes”. These sandwiched the popular slower track “Horses”.

My personal favourite, “Nan” was as hilariously funny as it always is, with Alex Wonk singing about his nan that pissed with the door open. The best reactions though, came from the likes of faster hits “Go Easy” and “She Cut Her Finger”, during which the pits grew and fans took the opportunity to stage dive, spilling more pints in their wake. “Silly Voices” followed a brief monologue about domestic bliss and Alex Wonk explained that the song is about the cute behaviour he and his wife now have, revealing she now calls him “Daddy Owl” — a concept that had the whole venue in hysterics. This was all before breaking into “I Love My Nagging Wife”, another humorous track supposedly describing his marriage.

Wonk showed his disdain for guest-lists, slagging off anyone that attempts to get one off him before breaking into “Je M’Appelle Alex”. Occasionally, the band took requests, including “Los Angeles” and “Awful Jeans”, which had everyone singing the infectiously catchy “BABABA!” section at the beginning. “Rambo” and one of the better sing-along moments of the evening came as everyone sang “Johnny Rambo” repeatedly, and rather epically in the outro, too. When Wonk Unit finished their set and went off stage, mass chants of “ONE MORE SONG!” flooded the room. And naturally, the band came back on stage to a huge roar and played one last song, which I think was “We are the England”.

This was an incredible show that highlighted DIY punk in the United Kingdom at its best, and TNS Records can be proud of what they have achieved here. I was a great evening and it set a standard for shows to follow. I expected great things when this tour was originally announced, but what I saw blew away all expectations and everyone seemed shocked at how packed out the venue was. This is just a teaser for how great the Manchester Punk Festival could be in just a couple of months’ time, with some of the same bands and organisers involved.

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