It all started a few months ago. Mick and I were talking about hosting another charity all-dayer at The Zuu bar. We had not done one in a long while and we love having a bunch of bands on and raising money for worthy causes.
Mick chose “Help for Heroes” as the cause, being an ex-serviceman who has been directly affected by war, its psychological impacts and the lack of funding to help soldiers and their families.
I have to admit, at first it was not my first choice of charity. I have never been one for the military and I am pretty much anti-war in my beliefs. However, I quickly realised that H4H is not about politics. It is very much about people. You can say till you are blue in the face that “the government should be looking after soldiers who have been affected” but the fact remains that they are not and so isn’t it a nice thing to do to help out in any way you can? Anyway, we received mixed opinions about it but thankfully a lot of support.
I decided to make it a punk thing and call it “Punx 4 Heroes”. That was my personal choice as I love live punk and know a few who punks who happen to be big advocates of Help for Heroes. The bill was very quickly filled for this first one with as many bands who did not get to play. I stuck with 7 bands which seems to be about the right number for everybody to get through the day comfortably. It was a good mix of local and out of town bands. Shatterhand came all the way from Dundee as they kicked off their latest tour, Keyside Strike and The Zombie Head Hunters made the trip from the north east and Threshold Shift, Suicide By Cop, The Drastics and Hospital Food were all locals.
I arrived at around 1.30pm to an empty venue with just Scouse our sound engineer, who had been doing some maintenance on his gear. He had already engineered 7 bands that weekend, so needed to make some repairs to mic leads etc. The backline and drums were supposed to be arriving at around 2pm with the first band (which happened to be Suicide By Cop) on at 3pm. So, after half an hour of me flapping, all of the gear arrived at about the same time and we proceeded to get it all set up and sound checked. Although we were almost ready to play at around 3pm, we decided to leave it until 3.15 just to let people have chance to arrive. It was worth doing because just 10 minutes later, the venue started to fill up. I was very pleased and surprised that so many would manage to make the effort for the first part of the day. Mark arrived and set up shop in the kitchen, preparing an array of hot food (which was very much appreciated a few hours later!).
Suicide By Cop took to the stage at 3.15 and we set about playing our set. For some reason, I was pretty nervous which is unusual after some years gigging experience but we cracked on and played through our set as rehearsed. Overall, I think we played pretty well. Kaz had some breathing difficulties part way through but these thankfully subsided towards the end and there were a small number of minor bum notes and beat misses, which is normal. Opening up an all dayer can be a bit of a chore as it is early and people have generally not got into the swing of the day. However, since Mick and I needed to oversee the event for the rest of the day it made sense to us to go on first. We got a good response anyway, even though people were still coming round from the rest of their weekend a bit. We all enjoyed playing, especially our new song which we did second to last.
Next up were The Zombie Head Hunters from Durham. I have booked these guys a number of times before at the Mannville and then The Black Swan, often as support to someone else. I had forgotten that they had actually played The Zuu before until they mentioned it. Anyway, they let out a rip-roaring performance. Alice is an excellent frontlady with a powerful set of lungs on her and the entire band was really animated on stage. There were some technical issues with the lead microphone but these were dealt with swiftly and managed not to impair the performance too much. Scouse had done a grand job with the front of house sound and everything was well balanced. I love watching this band and I am always glad of the opportunity to get them playing. It was also nice to chat with them all afterwards.
After a half hour or so break, Hospital Food took to the stage. Kev Grainger plays drums for this band. Kev and I used to be in Wild Trash together with him singing but I had not seen him drum for a band for about 13 years when he played with The Motorvators. This was my first time watching Hospital Food and I thoroughly enjoyed them. It was the singer’s first gig with the band and he had only been with them for a month or so. It didn’t show as he blasted his way through the set. The guitar had a piercing top end sound which really cut through and really suited the music, despite not having a great deal of distortion. Hospital Food are a bit heavier than many of Kev’s old bands and they have a style which is tending slightly towards the hardcore but is just melodic enough to have rousing choruses. Huge thanks to Kev who kindly let all of the bands use his kit, despite it being a bit old, worn and delicate in parts. Their set was slightly shorter than their allocated time and they actually left the stage slightly early, making up our lost time from earlier.
This was then added to when Keyside Strike took to the stage 10 minutes before their originally planned time, bringing the whole event around 15 minutes in front of schedule. Stoney and his band’s no-nonsense approach saw them arrive in good time, set up in no time at all and crack on with their set. Now this is what made the day that bit more special. Stoney informed me about a week prior to the gig that the bassist and drummer could not make the date but rather than cancel, he recruited a couple of members from a band called Gimp Fist and threw a couple of rehearsals together. To the audience on the day, this was not noticeable at all and when I told Mick he was amazed and immediately enquired about booking Gimp Fist. They played an expertly delivered set, sounding like they had been together for years. A massive thank you to Stoney and co. for going that extra mile, I would have perfectly understood if you needed to cancel. This was UK Hardcore at its best and we are very much looking forward to seeing more of Keyside Strike in the future.
Local stalwarts The Drastics took to the stage after a lengthy mid event break (I always like to give people chance to give their ears a rest and grab something to eat before the evening bands). Despite Jennie, the bassist being under the weather, they played what was probably the best I have seen them play yet. I have booked this band many times, often putting them on an early slot in the past but this time they were placed further up the bill. They sounded great and Dean has well and truly settled in as singer. They sound like more of a unit than they have ever done and really look together on stage. Tony’s guitar playing has come on leaps and bounds in the last year or so and he no longer looks nervous each time he gets on stage. Overall, there were many comments from people I spoke with about how much they have improved. A very strong performance.
Next up were Shatterhand all the way from Dundee. They kindly offered to play for us as part of their tour and I have to say, what a great bunch of guys. They are not only a fantastic band but are really nice lads to talk to. They even offered the profits from their merch up as donations to Help For Heroes, which considering they had travelled the furthest was very kind indeed. Many thanks to Tom Marshall for liaising with the band as well as putting them up for the night. Tom also took lots of photographs throughout the day, which I am sure will turn up on the web sometime soon (if they haven’t already). Shatterhand played a brilliant set of high energy melodic punk and the lead singer was dancing about all over the place. Once again, a brilliant band and once again we are already talking about rebooking them.
Last up were Threshold Shift. I had been waiting all day to see them play. For those of you who don’t know them, Threshold Shift are probably the longest running and best punk band to hail from Bradford. They play a perfect blend of pop-punk, ska and cite a whole bunch of other influences. Highlight of the set for me is my current favourite Shift track “Ward 54”, which has been stuck in my head since I saw them play recently at Rio’s. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole set and although the crowd had depleted by that point, they managed to get the most people dancing. A huge, huge thank you guys for bringing the backline down and being patient enough to go on last. Thankfully, we weren’t running too far behind time and the gig was wrapped up in good time for people to get their busses or have one last school night drink.
Personally, I couldn’t have asked for a better day. Every single band was great, the atmosphere was good and we managed to raise a few bob in the process. For those who took the political stance and criticised what we were doing – well, sucks to be you, you missed out on a great day which was about good music and good people doing good things, no more no less. We are definitely going to be doing it again next year!
Thanks to all of the bands, in particular Threshold Shift for the backline, Kev for bringing the drums and Stoney for going the extra mile and getting replacement members at a moments notice. Thanks to Tom Marshall for doing the photography and sorting out Shatterhand. Thanks to Mark for the food and raffle. Thanks to all the staff at The Zuu bar. But most of all thanks to the people who turned up and supported the day.