Rock 'n' roll isn't something you do of a weekend night when there's no work in the morning. For some any night is rock 'n' roll night so it's with that in mind some of us have jumped into the car and the hit the motorway looking for rock 'n' roll salvation. Tonight I'm heading to a smokey club in the shadow of Cardiff Castle to catch the hottest ticket in town, Jesse Malin & The St Marks Social. Will they be any good, I ask myself, with some major surgery to the band that recorded the last album which now includes a suited and booted Todd Youth on lead guitar.
Having been a big admirer of Jesse Malin's output since the first D Generation album, and followed him on his path through PCP Highway, Bellvue, The Finger and his solo output, I've managed to catch him live quite a few times and when he hits Europe he always has managed to show faith with us Welshies and tonight is no exception as he weaves his way across the land and a return to Clwb Ifor Bach it is.
The set kicks off with one of the new tracks off the excellent 'Love It To Life', and before 'Burning The Bowery' even finishes the opening chimes you can tell we need to fasten the seat belts for this journey as something special is a happening before our eyes. Before you could catch a breath and wipe the sweat from your brow we'd already been treated to a tight musical punch to the face as a bunch of tracks from the recent album like 'Disco Ghetto' and 'Burn The Bridge' appear sounding particularly good.
A sound more beefed up and stripped down than on the album has the audience bouncing. The mature man standing on a chair next to me is even trading riffs with Todd Youth on his 'air telecaster guitar' and we're only about five songs into the set! It's at this point when Jesse introduces 'Wendy' to the audience and after the first few chords we hit the dreaded 'technical dificulties' which hold the band up momentarily but, seamlessly, Jesse got on with it in true troubadour style and delivered 'Almost Grown' and 'Little Star' on his trusty old acoustic before the rest of the band were able to rejoin the party and we took off from where they left us as a majestic 'Wendy' was delivered to the masses as the band seemed to take it up a gear if that was possible.
Everything seems just right on stage tonight with Todd Youth stood to his right looking like he was having a ball and adding his own twist to the songs which worked perfectly and, to be honest, I'd expect nothing less. Showing a deft hand and knowing when light and shade was needed in the songs, Todd is a master of his craft and a perfect foil for Malin on tonight's evidence. Being given the freedom to cut loose on the tracks, this line up gave some of the older songs a new lease of life. It was what came next that really brought a smile to my face and was the equivalent to a riot squad entering the building and tear gassing everyone before firing rubber bullets and watching them ricochet off the walls as the gathering people ran for cover. 'Pay To Cum' by Bad Brains was unleashed note perfect, all 1:32 seconds of it. I looked around the audience from my vantage point with many faces displaying the 'what the fuck just happened' look. Of course, my good self and a few Über scribes I could see who were also reading off the same page got it but it's moments like this that make nights like this so special and memorable. A stroke of genius if you ask me, it fitted into where Jesse Malin & the St Marks Social are right now and a great big pumping punk rock heart is still at the core of what's going on on the stage, it might have been a curve ball to many but not all. Absolute maximum kudos for that. For the encore after eyes were rubbed and people waited for what was coming next, it was the mellow and awesome cover of the Replacements classic 'Bastards Of Young' before 'St Marks Sunset', 'Mona Lisa' and 'Modern World' almost wrapped up a near perfect night. It's a great feeling when you leave a gig knowing that you just witnessed something special and you have that smug grin that says 'I'm a right clever bastard me, being here right now witnessing music and a band this good'.
I'll look forward to the next time Jesse Malin & The St Marks Social roll into town and I hope this line up get some tunes nailed down, it'll be a killer record I just know it. After we are introduced to the band and they leave the stage, 'Cigarettes And Violets' winds down the night with Jesse joining the audience and sitting in the middle of the room before walking around then finally fleeing out the back as the band left the stage; a quality end to a quality set. Jesse Malin & The St. Marks Social are they all that? Honestly? You'd better believe me when I say fuckin' right they are! If you're thinking about catching a show and are not quite sure then take my advice and don't be a dummy, get that ticket before it's too late.