Thursday, 17 March 2011

Live: A Boy Named Girl, My Third Leg & Captain Bastard and the Scallywags - Crush, Dartford 16/3/11

Dartford. Hardly a hotbed of ace punk rock gigs, is it? Or indeed, a hotbed of much at all, except for shopping centres and old biddies who use their shopping trolleys and mobility scooters as offensive weapons against anything that looks at them funny (which is generally everyone else). But tonight is a spirited attempt to change that, with a lineup of three strong bands from the Kent scene ready to bring rock 'n' roll to the dancefloor of the Crush bar tonight, instead of dubstep and perhaps chlamydia.

After the usual bout of confused looks from the bewildered soundman, a few shrugs of shoulders and shouts of 'fuck it, let's just play', Captain Bastard and the Scallywags (76%) kick off proceedings on the neon-pink dancefloor. Tonight is the start of three dates for the ascending folk-punk crew, and they set down a strong marker for the rest of the tour. It's the usual mix of fun and piratey shenanigans from the gang, with singer Andrew Keech leading his merry men on a romp through the pages of folk-punk tradition, ably accompanied by his vocal lieutenants, mandolinist Jordan Harris and acoustic guitarist Tom Garderner. Actually, that's a bit of a misnomer, as this is folk-punk we're talking about, so you could legitimately claim that everyone in the band and in the crowd are backing vocalists for those big choruses. Speaking of which, they have plenty of those in store for you, and some of them are attached to great songs too. Standard opener 'Along Came A Spider''s stomping beats and hard-edged riffs never cease to entertain, as do the wonderfully uplifting backing vox and catchy hooks that permeate 'Getting Out Of This Town'. Drummer 'Miami' Keith Sargent drives everything forward with the usual frenzied, foaming-at-the-mouth drumming, and whilst the execution still isn't always perfect, the group as a whole are definitely growing in stature with each show. A solid and heartily enjoyable performance to kick-start proceedings, then - a job well done, me hearties. Or something.

Next up in the triumvirate comes the band who seem to crop up more regularly on this website than bags of white powder at Charlie Sheen's house, My Third Leg (78%). I've honestly lost count of the amount of times I've seen Gravesend's finest in the last few months, but the fact that it's never gotten boring must mean that they're doing something right. And in fact, there is something a little different about them tonight, and I'm not just talking about guitarist Mike Smith's new guitar and hairstyle either. In fact, this new guitar has brought about a few changes in Smith's playing, and while it sometimes gets clogged in the sound mix, it's notable that there's a bit more meat around the bones of his riffs and rhythm chords. Some things never change, though - elder brother Paul is still as lovably chaotic behind the kit as ever, pulling the usual mix of gurning facial expressions and desperate attempts at drums rolls, and bassist Dave Ja Vu is still forgetting to take his Ritalin medication before each show, bouncing around and grinning like an idiot throughout. Their songs are slowly growing in stature along with the band, and anthems like '3470 Miles', 'Balls Deep' and the timelessly excellent 'Going for A Drive' are unleashed to the enjoyment of the crowd. Reliably enjoyable as always, then - you know exactly what you're going to get with these blokes, and no matter how many times you see it, it'll always be damn good fun.

Wait, is that the time already? The evening feels like it's flown by, but we have an appropriate headliner to bring things to a catchy and hook-laden conclusion - it's the hometown heroes themselves, A Boy Named Girl (84%). It's not that big a secret that, for a while, I wasn't the biggest fan of this group, but since my Lazarus-style reversal of opinion last October in Deal, I've been struggling to work out why it took me so long to realise what a genuinely great group these fellas are. Songs like 'Ill Be Fine (When I Forget You)', 'Night Life Story' and 'My Best Mistake' are outrageously catchy slices of pop-punk, and not only do the five-piece have an armoury of such tunes already built up, but they also have a live show that nails them to a T - relentlessly tight execution allied to the requisite amounts of energy and youthful bluster. All the above is on display tonight, as well as their usual tongue-in-cheek cover of Sisqo's 'Thong Song', which is nothing short of impishly fun. What's interesting, though, are the few new songs on display, which show that the band are maturing and taking a new direction into slower, ballad-driven radio rock...had you going for a second, didn't I? No, the newer tracks' only concession to progress is to ramp up the hooks and melodies even more so, if that was even possible, and there's one song in particular that I've yet to learn the name of who's riffs still refuse to leave my head even now, and probably won't until I conduct experimental brain surgery with a pair of tweezers. Great fun.

A lineup strong enough to survive the late departure of one of the bands and still be a classic is truly a night that doesn't fuck around in terms of enjoyment levels, and tonight was probably the most amount of fun I've had in Dartford for bloody ages. A good variety of bands, all with various prefixes you could attach to the word 'punk', and all with unique charm and character that when combined together on nights like this results in a entertaining and sweaty Wednesday night out.

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