Random Hand, Popes of Chillitown, The Ready 5 and Blood Uncle (live review)

With the sense of panic that can only be caused by imminent snow in the air, a line-up of acts that promise to radiate heat inside a barn with an ever-raising temperature are the perfect tonic. Fortunately that’s what the Frog and Fiddle have on offer tonight!

The furious Blood Uncle open the show and begin the temperature rise with a set of powerful brash hardcore. It’s early in the evening but the audience either through a need to warm up or more likely enjoyment of an impassioned set the audience are instantly on board. The room is packed with smiling faces and within the barn there is an ever warming atmosphere.

The Ready 5 are the perfect support for this line up, on most bills this would be a band who stood out with their ska and reggae influences. Tonight these influences allow them to create the perfect balance between the sounds of the next two acts. The audience after warming up with Blood Uncle are ready to move around a bit to the Ready 5’s infectious pop ska sound. As their set develops nods towards the Skacore of Capdown and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the vocal flow of Madness, Imperial Leisure and King Prawn combine to create a rousing set.

With the room warmed up The Popes of Chillitown almost explode onto the stage, their set starts with ferocity and as song follows song there are some breathless audience members. Its almost like with every song change they find another gear and continue to whip the audience into a frenzy. There is a historical collection influences presented throughout the set from the originators of ska to modern takes on punk and reggae, with this the Popes have an instantly accessible sound which paired with an abundance of stage presence gives this show a headline quality support act.

Before there is even time to question if Random Hand can surpass the supports they are off. Within the first few songs the band have covered every album and the hits do not look like they will be slowing down. The word unique is often used to describe bands that are anything but, in Random Hand there could not be a more fitting description. With heavy riffs, rolling drums and vocals that switch between shouting and infectious hooks on a knife edge this is a band that will not be pigeon-holed. The biggest point to note is the trombone, unlike in a more traditional set up this brass sound is not used to pep up a chorus instead it’s integral to the song-writing. Somehow this is reflected in the audience reactions, every time the trombone part hits the crowd goes wild. This slowly becomes every time a note is played the crowd goes wild and before long the set is flowing at an alarming rate.

With room well and truly warmed Random Hand finish with even more hits, it is incredible a band can take a hiatus for years and still have a strong enough back-catalogue to forget about songs until they are played. As the band return for an encore there is one more excuse for the room to move around and as a result increase the temperature yet again.

The interesting thing about tonight is for a line-up that is broadly ska, there is not a grey hair in sight. Unlike the same five or six bands that play Slamdunk festival every year tonight has proved there is still life in ska music and in fact there are still bands pushing the envelope further.

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