The Underground – the best Bradford venue that you may not have yet been to

Up until fairly recent times, I had been involved in some capacity in the Bradford live music scene other than as a member of a band or punter. For years I was anything from a DJ to venue promoter to events officer and even did a little live sound engineering. I was passionate about everything I did and I tried my level best to make a decent contribution, occasionally to the detriment of my state of mind or health. Nevertheless I soldiered on until I became disillusioned and simply felt I had no more steam left in me for it. It’s a disheartening path to take at times and very difficult to stay positive in the face of doubters and occasionally people who are downright nasty. Anyway, my lifestyle and priorities altered with age and I found myself wanting to concentrate more on making music at my own pace.

I have utmost respect for anyone who is involved in any way in making live music happen and take a keen interest in what’s going on, even though I don’t manage to come along to events as often as I used to.

There have been many ventures in the Bradford area worthy of mention over the years, featuring people with varying intentions and outlooks.

However, I must say that one particularly notable venture in the last year has been The Underground. The Underground is located on Duke Street towards the top end of Bradford and it opened in March 2016. It appeared on the scene at a time when there were lots of other events going on and consequently uptake on the place was not instant.

The building itself housed a music venue and nightclub about 10 years ago, which was fairly successful at the time but the tenant moved premises and left the building in a severely dilapidated condition. It was left empty for years. Nigel and Matthew Booth rebuilt much of the venue from scratch, pouring their hearts and souls into something which they self-admittedly did not know much about at the time. Their intentions are amongst the most genuine and pure I have ever come across.

This attitude and passion was very much synonymous with local sound engineer, promoter and superstar Jim Mitcham, known to us all as JimDog. It was a perfect match then when he hooked up with the guys and since then has worked tirelessly to make it the very best venue it can possibly be. Constantly brainstorming ideas, constantly looking for ways to do things better and all for the love of the music. Although I am not involved, I have done my best to make people aware of the place and point bands, DJs etc. in their direction. I love the versatility of ideas and the fact that the stage is open to any forms of music. From a band point of view, we played there last August and everything was perfect from the hospitality to the sound engineering and the professionalism in which the event was executed by promoter Steve Hamilton.

I would urge everyone to please give this place support and spread awareness as much as you practically can. It’s not very often a team of this caliber come along and give the live music scene at large an opportunity like this, which very much warrants grabbing firmly with both hands. However, don’t just take my word for it. I would welcome everyone to pop along and see for themselves. There are some great events coming up and they are always up for new ideas.

Bradford nightlife is currently enjoying somewhat of a resurgence with new bars opening up at an increasing rate. This is great and there are many different things on offer. However none are quite like the Underground. It’s physically larger, can house touring bands comfortably and the team behind it are very inclusive, going above and beyond to not only accommodate customers but also work with other businesses in the area to improve the wider scene. It deserves you and you deserve it 😉

Somebody Else’s Problem – a review by Stephen Malley

8 o’clock and the venue was starting to fill up. The sound check took time but by half past we were on our way with Sheffield’s EVERY BLACK DAY. The trio opened with a slow melodic number. Folk and goth influence was apparent but they were certainly crafting a sound of their own with moody violin, heavy bass that you could feel as well as hear and a vocal style to match. As the set progressed the tempo increased, feet were tapping, people were starting to move and balloon football had kicked off. The set closed with a folkieboogie that lifted the spirit all the way to the back. Every Black Day were great openers that let the 1in12 nicely set up for a great and lively evening.

Next up were Bradford Goths DAWN OF ELYSIUM. The slow instrumental into soon kicked in to a wave of dark melody. A band with a growing reputation were now adding to that with a lot of new faces. Alec’s growling vocals, Emma’s flange bass and Charles’ 80’s synth sound carried across a solid set of six gothic tracks ending with a Quo number. Say What? Pictures of Matchstick Men was very well executed and concluded an excellent set. Balloon football continued throughout.

Leeds Industrial Punks ACTION DIRECTE kicked off with 60 Million Guns. High tempo, heavy guitar, pumping bass, emotional heavy impacting vocals backed up by a drum machine. Frontman Joel took up many an opportunity to leave the stage to join the crowd at the front for a balloon kick about whilst still maintaining his passionate lyrics. The set concluded with the anthemic “We can rebuild us”. Energetic throughout and moments of intensity drove the act through a red riot of thirty minute brilliance.

Last up were ANTI-SYSTEM, West Yorkshire punk rock. The pack a punch energy of this band reached out from the start with Dean’s vocals of angst over a twin guitar attack. The first few rows of the now packed venue were not an ideal place for someone holding a couple of pints of Sam Smiths or not for balloon football. (the balloons were now part of history). Every song gracefully smashed out to a wave of punters who were fully engaged with what was (and should be) a punk gig (or any other gig for that matter). Pure energy throughout and another perfect band for the 1in12.

£225 was raised that evening for PAFRAS. I’m sure the awareness of the cause was realised by all that attended that evening, the punters, the organisers, the musicians, as much of the importance of the money raised. All good fun and a sterling effort coming from a small club in Bradford.

Love and Peace,

Stephen Malley.

Punx 4 Heroes – a review

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.

SAS punk gig @ The Mannville Arms 1st August, 2009

It was a quiet summer Saturday afternoon, the 1st of August 2009 (Yorkshire Day). We turned up at around 4pm to ready the venue for the evening. Mick Dunn, Stevie Ward and myself were wearing two hats that day, namely the venue landlord, sound engineer and promoter respectively and also members of our band “Suicide By Cop”. The gig was one of Fungalpunk Dave’s Spit and Sawdust events and he had offered us a slot on the bill. SBC were the only band on the bill that lived within 200-300 miles of the venue, which is not unusual for one of Dave’s gigs. Anyway, we set the venue up, had a quick practice and awaited the arrival of the rest of the bands. Dave was sadly unable to get across for this one due to car trouble but we knew the arrangements were in safe hands. “The Hijacks” arrived around 6, all the way from Aberdeen and they stepped up for a quick sound check. Musically, they were fairly punky ska with some pretty screechy vocals and we could tell that their set was going to be enjoyable. We waited around for a while, whilst Mick spun some tunes DJing, nervously wondering where the other two bands were. Time was cracking on and we were wondering if they were going to turn up or not. Anyway, at what seemed like the eleventh hour, a minibus turned up containing a Nuneaton band called “None Of Your Fucking Business” and a band all the way from sunny Spain called “Von Danikens”. After the introductions and final details of sets etc, The Hijacks took to the stage.

The audience size was comparable to the last Mannville Fungalpunk gig (an fair to average turnout for the place), which was a reasonable achievement considering the time of year, what with a lot of the local punks saving themselves for Rebellion the week after. More importantly though, they were attentive and enjoying the tunes. I think most people in the house were at least tapping a foot along to the bouncy sounds of The Hijacks. Kenny Armitage and Mick Barrett from Threshold Shift were throwing themselves around on the dance floor lapping up every minute and as usual showing their full support for the scene. Various merch was purchased by the pub staff and a CD obtained for inclusion on the jukebox and we all agreed that we would like to see them return to the Mannville in the future for a headlining slot. Great band, with a great attitude. Nice one Dave.

We were next up (Suicide By Cop) for what was only our 4th gig. Of course I would be biased by reviewing my own band but I think we put on a reasonably strong performance and we got some good feedback afterwards. Most of us have played in bands before so we have been around the block a few times but Kaz is a relative newcomer to the world of bands, although she has done various singing in shows and karaoke type performances before. Consequently, she is still a little stage shy but she did deliver a strong performance, singing the songs. Most of our songs are fairly upbeat and bouncy with the exception of the ballad (for want of a better expression) “Divide and Conquer”, which is a favourite of ours to perform but we were unsure of how a slow song would go down in front of a punk audience. Thankfully, punks being punks were open minded and enjoyed it for what it was. It was one of our best gigs yet and we thoroughly enjoyed playing, especially to a bunch of out of town bands and punters.

After a quick pack away and drink, we returned to see None Of Your Fucking Business, who played a kind of ANWL noisy but catchy sort of punk – the sort of thing I usually enjoy. I must confess to not paying a huge amount of attention at this point as I got chatting and drinking as we finally got chance to relax a bit. My only gripe with this band was their particularly rude attitude to northerners, which was uncalled for and all he succeeded in doing is making himself about as welcome as a fart in an astronaut suit. Some might argue that it’s a punk thing to piss people off (I am in the “being nice to each other” corner myself) but this guy couldn’t carry it off and just made himself look like an idiot. He was lucky that he didn’t come a cropper with someone that night but in the spirit of things, people didn’t really want to sink to his level. Attitude aside, they were a pretty good band and on music merit alone, I would have them on again but the attitude let them down. Speaking with the singer afterwards though, he seemed alright off stage and was appreciative of the chance to play. It is a shame that the attitude will be what they are remembered for here and not their music.

After a considerable gap between bands where local punk/Rockabilly DJ Paul Goodison spun a set, the music went quiet and what looked like the most drunken man in the world approached the stage. It looked like it was all going to go pear shaped as the rest of Von Danikens set their gear up in a time consuming fashion. All of a sudden from out of nowhere, we were treated to a blistering set of really well crafted and executed melodic punk. It was worth the wait and I think everybody was unanimously impressed. It was a rare opportunity to have a band on all the way from Spain and one which we would very much welcome again. Dave, you surpassed yourself on this one our kid. I just wished you could have been there to witness it!

All in all, a brilliant night. The contribution to punk made by people like Dave and Leon Punkined can’t be understated and I sorely wish that more people would turn out for their gigs. Punk is very much NOT dead and it is great to be a part of it!