Was never sure I would get this review done so many bands played and I apolgise in advance if I start giving the wrong review to a band which I've got mixed up! anyway Wonkfest last year was my final night at the Grosvenor so this year it gets a lot bigger using both the Dome & Boston Music Room where there is a scheduled 27 bands. I arrive early before doors and not wanting to be the first in the queue I stood at the bottom of the road infront of the pub waiting til it's time to go in. Soon after I am greeted with the man behind all this Alex Wonk who is an absolute top bloke. He shakes my hand and gives me a hug then looks at the stage times and says "Mayhem!" the task ahead and all the organisation so far is so vast but for one of the most hardworking and passionate men in the punk scene right now it just had to be done. Soon after I enter the building and get my wonkfest wristband and await the first band.
Brigantes get the honour of kicking things off dead on 11:35 as scheduled I like this!! I've not heard of this lot before but notice the singer is a regular at Wonk Unit gigs. I get a good feel of classic metal from this lot such as early Iron Maiden but with some proper angry punk rock vocals. really powerful stuff and really kicking the day off in style. The room begins to fill slowly during the set but the singer says I am still his favourite as I get into the music down the front. . So now downstairs to the music room for The Dissociates. Melodic punk rock nice and raw round the edges again really enjoyable stuff.
So back up for Black Volvo. I have a watchful eye on the buffet as I see the table filling up and am eager to taste the non flesh delights as they look so good! this was a regular stop off point between heading between stages to be honest and some lovely grub on offer especially that provided by buffet monitors Clare and Alastair! I'm not gonna start reviewing food though as the demands for a tv career will be too much! Anyway Black Volvo from Holland. Some more powerful rocking stuff fueled with some hardcore energy fast paced and tight as fuck. The front now starts to get lively as one of the band gets the first human pyramid of the day formed! Anyone who hasn't had the cobwebs blown away by now with 3 excellent bands has no hope!
Back down again for The Fur Coats a band I'd not seen before but have heard good things about and a top set from this lot. Hailing from new york this lot play powerful punk rock instantly hitting the spot with their distinctive sound and such well crafted songs, Melodic but a bit quirky in places loved this band a definite to see and listen to again well any of the bands so far would be welcome in my gig agenda but these especially.
Tosserlad next upstairs and the buffet by now is in full swing and I have already claimed my bag of sherbert and vegan honey! Tosserlad I'd not heard of before but more powerful stuff as they belted out some fast but dirty hardcore/punk rock 2 bassists during the set(not as the same time) again really enjoyable what I love about this fest is Alex brings together lots of bands I wouldn't normally get a chance to see and introducing me to some fine music.
So I head down to see Bosco Rogers only to find they aint down there! shame! so it's back up to wait for 7 Day Conspiracy providing some fast paced powerful melodic punk rock another great set. Thing is these sets are all around 20 mins and full of such energy one after the other so was buzzing fully with this wonderful music on display.
Back down again for a bit of Meansteed and even though the punk on display was a good cross section of stuff it was good to take a break from it with some classic metal and this lot do it so well. Always get the crowd going with their powerful delivery of rock with people singing along and so much energy onstage and off it as the one of the guitarists is carried on the singer's back around the room. Full on entertainment from this lot and even if you don't like metal this lot may change your mind for at least 20 minutes or so!
Back up for a band who I have seen before and love The Reverends! good to see them back at Wonkfest. Certainly one of the highlights wherever they play and putting in a great set today. Singer Frank Strident putting in another powerful display of gurning and angry vocals to the backdrop of punk with a hint of rock n roll played in such hypnotic powerful style. Incredible band they really are and what a performance this was,
Back to the Music Room for Sheepy have a bit of an indiepop feel about them full of melody but not afraid to rock out. Bouncey and fun bringing to mind early Weezer or Fountains of Wayne or even The Monkees.
An important part of the line up now in the form of Revenge of the Psychotronic Man. Well the fact the one of them is the man who is behind Wonk Unit's current record label. Such a well connected festival. This was one of the angrier dirtier sets of the day playing raging punk rock almost crust in places. So powerful and brilliant. However it could have done without those bloody circle pits!! arggggghhhh!!! the wall of death looked fun mind even though I didn't join in!
Billy Liar couldn't make it which was a shame as I was looking forward to his set. someone said later he shat himself on the train whilst wearing white jeans so couldn't do the gig! If only this was the real reason! so another band in the dome to follow in the form of Petrol Girls. A female fronted band as the name would suggest but they wasn't all girls. A good mix of punk and grunge. Quite tuneful in places but it erupts into sheer power. The singer is lively all over the stage and in the crowd an excellent performance from this lot who like many others I'd heard for the first time and was well impressed.
Simon Wells/Southport was an acoustic set from the ex Snuff man. I've seen Duncan perform recently but not Simon not since back in the 90s so was good to see. His set was just as much talking telling us a bit about how the song came about as it was music just performing 4 songs in his 20 mins including a couple of Snuff songs. Really loved seeing him in this way and I do miss his contribution to Snuff so felt quite emotional during this fine set and yes the stories worked really well again. I've never seen Southport but going by this I would like to.
Kimberley Steaks back upstairs are a band i saw for the first time at last year's wonkfest. Fantastic pop songs with that punk edge to them like a rawer teenage fanclub brilliant stuff,
Maid of Ace next downstairs and as I got there the room was already rammed. Yes I do bang on about how brilliant this lot are and a lot of people realise this too as they are constantly gigging and have been on tv for their glastonbury performance so it was inevitable they were gonna pack out the smaller room and not only that teat the place apart with their aggressive brand of rocking punk. The pit was wild and they gave it all. It flew by far too quickly. definitely one of the highlights of the day and I suspect I'm not the only person saying that. This band are pretty amazing.
Vanilla Pod upstairs next. They've been around for a while but this is my first time seeing them. More catchy pop punk from this lot and lots of energy throughout. the singer quite lively jumps down off stage and goes behind this secret door infront of the stage and for a while people hold it shut! I head downstairs when I thought they announced the last song as I wanted a good spot for 2 Sick Monkeys as the place was filling up now but since I waited for a while I think I may have misheard and missed more than a song! my only fuck up of the day ok they were good but there was bands I'd be more gutted missing any of.
2 Sick Monkeys then one of the best bands around at the moment and another who are constantly on tour. unleashing a powerful set which has the backbone of Pete's fast bass playing which sounds like a guitar. Dirty and raw and raw with melody finding it's way in there here and there to be torn to bits. Ending with their crowd pleaser where we get to shout out Fuck Off! another of the highlights of the day superb band.
Ming City Rockers play dirty rock in roll kinda new york dolls style. I'm sceptical sometimes of these kinda bands as when not done well it can be testing but really did like these some really catchy riffs which drew me in oh and they had such big hair!!
Beat the Red Light I'd not heard of before and they announced this was to be one of their final gigs. A set up of lots of brass instruments but fuck me did they rock! A mix of metal and brass on paper sounds like it wont work but they made sure it did. Again the crowd went bonkers as did the singer leaping out and crowd surfin and numerous occasions. Pretty mindblowing stuff!!
The Dead Class I saw at Rebellion once but then recently they split but are now back as Alex wanted them to do this beyond that I don't know but I really liked this set. A bit TSOL also Dead Kennedys sprang to mind quite dark in places a bit of a weird sound and especially loved the vocal style hopefully they're back to stay now as I'd like to see a longer set by them at somepoint.
Waco who opened last year's wonkfest are favourites amongst wonk fans and rightfully so. These catchy but noisy punk songs are a treat for the ears although there were a lot of guitar problems for the start of the set which made me fear the worst that the set wasn't gonna go to plan but they sorted it and managed to get to the end thankfully. A great crowd reaction as people danced away down the front. Wonkfest would not be the same without Waco!
So quickly upstairs as due to the delay in waco's set time had caught up and The Roughneck Riot had just started. With their wild folky punk rock these are guaranteed to whip up a storm wherever they go. I know I've already pointed out a few highlights of the night and crowd pleasers but this bunch really know how to make a crowd dance. Certainly one of the best deliveries of this style of music I've seen. This was amazing to watch.
The Murderburgers back downstairs then playing really fast paced enegetic punk songs but with that pop sound throughout. A real blast of perfect pop energy and Alex Wonk even joins them to do vocals one song so anyone who missed this missed an absolute treat even if he wasn't there infact.
Slavinko Warriors upstairs had a huge crowd ready and eager for them to start. So why such a buzz about this band? Well obvious to anyone it was Slaves! Although I know a few who wasn't quite sure!! They're now selling out huge venues so was great they wanted to be a part of this festival and wont forget what Wonk Unit have done for them saying they wouldn't be where they are now if it wasn't for them and the punk rock crowd. They were fucking mindblowing to say the least a simple set up of a basic drumkit and guitar but it was enough to create a powerful noise sending the crowd bonkers. Yes they are more than worth the hype and great to see here as I may not get many chances to see them with them selling out bigger venues quickly. The Hunger being my favourite of the set which really was played with passion and incredible power. The set ended with both members diving into the crowd who were clearly blown away and spoilt rotten with such an amazing bill!
So now for the hosts Wonk Unit. a full set up of keyboards and brass tonight providing us with a fantastic set and after such amazing bands they were still by far the highlight for me. A crowd going crazy everywhere in this large room and singing along to these amazing songs, I keep saying the world will realise how important this band are and a bigger crowd than usual showing that this is happening and will continue to happen as Wonk Unit are fucking amazing. Alex as charismatic as ever saying that he we should all mindfuck him as he demonstrated some sexy moves. Great introductions to the songs throughout and sang with brilliance. Anthems such as Horses and Donkey of the Damned and Elbows going down as they deserve to be utter classics! people diving off the stage constantly the place was going utterly crazy newer song Je Ma'pelle Alex already a crowd favourite as this band have the ability to churn out so amazing songs consistently, Alex overwhelmed with emotion on the eve of his birthday thanking everyone who was involved in such an amazing day so much hard work he put into it and another sucesss. Final song Johnny Rambo got a the singalong Alex asked for as it was played with sheer passion and energy. They're gonna be kicking off the Saturday at rebellion in a couple of weeks going by today it's gonna be one of the craziest opening sets ever.
The night wasn't yet done as Culture Shock were to end things downstairs in the music room. Culture Shock to follow all these amazing bands really we were spoilt. Upstairs had over run a bit so Culture Shock started a bit later than planned but still waited for more people to come into the room. I think they should have just started though as even though not full as people had to catch trains etc as it was gone 11 they were cutting into their set by doing this. So it got going finally as did the crowd to these classic ska punk songs and for me the best band out there doing this kinda stuff 10% Off, Pressure etc mixed with a good few new songs which is more indication there is gonna be one hell of an amazing Culture Shock album to come. Just as things were going to well a minute before midnight they were told to stop! Dick was furious about this saying that why wasn't they told there was a curfew before they started the set and demanded the were allowed to keep playing which they were for another minute although that minute lasted a lot longer than a minute! Civilisation Street was meant to be the final song then but determined to make the most of it they threw in another new one Sky Hi. They really had to stop after this so resulting in just 4 songs being dropped which was a shame but considering most bands did 20 mins there was a lot more Culture Shock than anything else so was pleased to get an almost full set and a fantastic one at that.
So walking off to the bus stop buzzing from a great day I was greeted by a couple of members of Waco saying they saw me down the front all day one of them calling me a legend and getting a hug from their friends. Almost missing my bus doing this! I jumped on and headed home with a massive grin. What a day!!!