THE GRIT - SKA-PA, The Swan, Ipswich, UK - 25th March 2010
I only found out about this the very day of the gig and, I have to say, questioned whether THE GRIT concerned was indeed the rockin’ band of Geordies that released the ‘Straight Out The Alley’ album on People Like You Records a year or two ago. The Swan isn’t somewhere that has ever been high on the list of venues for seeing Punk bands, let alone out-of-town travelling Punk bands. On arrival, the huge double bass, assorted tattoos and Newcastle accents did - thankfully - confirm that this was the Rock ‘n’ Roll machine known as THE GRIT. Free entry too - good work fellas! “Pint of Guinness please barman!”
A large crowd had gathered by the time Ipswich locals SKA-PA arrived on stage. Given the band’s name, you don’t have to be a Mensa member to work out its sound! All three band members were new faces to me - but that’s not surprising after being in New Zealand for the last six plus years. Vocalist/ guitarist Kyle sported the most impressive mohawk I can remember seeing in Ipswich for many years and, after a slightly shakey start, the band’s brand of Ska-infused Punk mixed with wit got the audience bopping. The set consisted of mainly original songs, besides an odd and rather hit-and-miss version of THE UNDERTONES’ classic, ‘Teenage Kicks’. Highlight of the set was probably the up-tempo Ska beat of ‘Shattered Young Girl’. There was definitely a hint of CULTURE SHOCK about the band’s sound, but mixed with the raw sound of ISOCRACY. After the performance, Kyle was walking round giving out CD demos too.
A few more “tasty, tasty very very tasty” pints of Guinness were put away before THE GRIT arrived in a flurry of quiffs and tattoos. On record, he band’s mix of Punk, Rockabilly and Roots Ska isn’t 100% my thing - although I did rate the aforementioned album. Live though, the band is a rip-snorting carnival of all that live music should be - energetic, tight, demonstrative and, best of all, fun!! Many of the songs sounded familiar, but my favourite, ‘This World’, appeared early on in the set with ‘12th Floor’ making an appearance also.
Given there is a double bass, three guitarists, drummer and full backline, I’m not sure how the band made the show quite so visual, but there was a lot of movement on the stage. Something that really set THE GRIT apart from the many bands that do this kinda thing is the use of an acoustic guitar quite high in the mix. It certainly adds a crisper dynamic to the slower parts while contributing an almost percussive crack to the many rocking parts. The TIGER ARMY comparison is still well evident but I kept hearing comparisons with that great, underrated British band, THE MEN THEY COULDN’T HANG, both in composition and energy.
According to vocalist Lou, this was the band’s first show of the year which could suggest the band attacked it with additional, show-starved vigour. It could also suggest the band was not as tight as it might have been had the show been part of a tour. Either way, they blew the roof off The Swan, got the punters dancing and left me with some seriously ringing ears for the next couple of days. On the strength of this hootenanny of a knees-up, I’m going to have to check out that ‘....Alley’ album again - maybe after a few pints of Guinness at that!