by Ben Adsett
Most people spend their Friday night relaxing at home or in the pub, instead a full room in Birmingham’s O2 institute stood waiting for an evening of the finest punk rock from both sides the pond. After a lengthy wait the evening starts with Fireball whiskey’s hottest band of twenty seventeen: Sweet Little Machine, and despite their admirable effort they just couldn’t fire the midlands crowd up.
As a band they have a lot to offer with an easily accessible brand of pop punk full of catchy hooks and sweet sing along choruses. As a live entity there is certainly some presence and they certainly handle a large stage well, unfortunately despite their best efforts the crowd remained prickly throughout the set and made the Sheffield four piece work very hard for some token participation. I think the jury is still out on whether Fireball are musical experts and maybe Sweet Little Machine will prove this review wrong over the course of twenty seventeen.
The stage is quickly invaded by three guys in balaclavas, a policeman and a slightly nervous looking guy with a guitar. Before a confused audience could stop and ask what the hell was going on Masked Intruder broke into a vintage rock and roll inspired tirade of catchy pop punk. Officer Bradford stood to the side looking unimpressed as the first few songs came to a close. The front-man Blue in a blue balaclava with glasses over the top introduces the band and apologises for the absence of usual guitarist ‘green’ who is in jail. After some encouragement from the band Officer Bradford joins the fun and within seconds is in the crowd popping up all over the venue to interact as Masked Intruder continue to deliver the finest pop punk rock cuts from the stage.
This may all sound a lot like a tacky gimmick but the wholehearted approach from this act makes it impossible not to buy into or fall in love with. As the set draws to a close the entire room erupts into rapturous applause as an audience acknowledges just how good this entire dramatic set was. As songs alone Masked Intruder are incredibly watchable there is the right amount of grit within these hook filled songs to describe them as Ramones esq, but it is in the performance that they really take a room by storm. The hilariously characterised stage patter combines perfectly with showmanship to create something unforgettable.
With the gauntlet set, Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s take the stage in matching Hawaiian shirts and have the crowd on board before a note is played. The advantage of being the best covers band in punk rock is everyone knows the words to your songs; this is of paramount importance to the atmosphere in the room and how quickly it hits a giddy boiling point. As the set progressed the hits kept on coming and possibly due to copywriting and possibly due to being punks there were a few strange song choices, the audience however were not put off at all and continued to sing, dance and have a wonderful time.
A small disadvantage with being a covers band made from members of punk bands is touring schedules this makes the live line up reasonably fluid and at times despite unquestionable musicianship creates a band that feels somewhat disjointed. As the set drew to a close the dancefloor had the feeling of the end of a wedding but everything was louder, quicker and completely drenched in sweat.
There is something surreal about leaving a venue with a strange wedding feel, and as the audience file out there is a lot of head-down sheepishness as the venue clears out.