Anti-Nowhere League/Charred Hearts/Foreign Legion - Bristol, The Fleece - 28th April 2011 Print E-mail
Written by Matt Phelps   
Tuesday, 10 May 2011 05:00

57770603To steal lightly from Bruce Spingsteen, I learned more from a three minute record than I ever learned in school and living my life by the three P's (Punk, Profanity and a good ole' Public House) rather than the three R's has always stood me in good stead. So after being fleeced by the tax man to pay for some freeloading toffs to have a glorified knees up in London the following day I had just enough cash left in my pay packet to arrange a little pre-bank holiday trip to Bristol and a ticket to get me in to a Pub night full of Punk action with Anti-Nowhere League, Charred Hearts and Foreign Legion. Just what the doctor ordered.

Swindon's Charred Hearts were the band who had the handsome job of filling the "special guests" slot of the night's bill. Opening with 'Changing Into Something' from 'The Triumph And The Tragedy' the foursome, featuring father and son Dermot and Sam Fuller, get the Fleece fired up and show EVH and Wolfgang just how family ties can work for the positive when it's about music and not just money. 'Fucked' sees frontman Dermot jumping off the stage down into the crowd and offering his mic around for shouts of "FUCKED IN THE HEAD." It even sees him popping out of the Fleece altogether for a few quick drags on his cigarette before returning to a moment of awkwardness as he admits to being too old to get back up on the stage the way he'd come down and has to go round back up the side steps. Suitably back with his bandmates who'd carried on jamming through the impromptu fag break 'Amnesia' gets a dedicanlive200ation to everyone in Dermot's age group who are getting on a bit. After all, Charred Hearts are celebrating thirty years in the game this year and as such I guess it was fitting that another name synonymous with 1981 bade farewell to Charred Hearts' set as 'Ronald Reagan' got rolled out with Lee Fellows riffing like a peroxide topped Steve Jones. Plenty of dates around the country for these guys for the rest of the year including an appearance at the prestigious punkfest that is Rebellion. Well worth checking out if they're gonna be causing a commotion in your neighbourhood.

Previous to Charred Hearts we'd had long standing Welsh underdogs Foreign Legion plying their trade. A well balanced blend of fan favourite covers that included Ramones' 'Commando', Angelic Upstarts' 'Never 'ad Nothin' and the set closing Clash classic 'White Riot' mixed with original material such 'Sunset On Babylon' and 'Wasted' ("our heavy metal number") from 2007's 'Death Valley' album and 'Where's Johnny Gone?' from the Mick Jones produced 'What Goes Around Comes Around'. A hard hitting set of well received combat rock that kicked off my night of punk action with the force of a size ten boot to the teeth. Nice!

Police sirens herald the arrival of Anti-Nowhere League and their uncompromising blend of hard driving punk rock, charged with explosive expletives. Huge cheers and raised beers greet the foursome as they stroll onto the stage. Animal's opening growl of 'I Hate People!' kickstarts the night's aural battery as the League tear straight into said track and the punks in the pit tear into each other with the same level of friendly ferocity. 'Nowhere Man' follows and it's easy to see why with songs this good in their arsenal the League are still alive and kicking after thirty one years. Still writing them like they used to 'Skull 'N' Bones' is now just as an integral part of the League setlist as many of the old standards such as 'Let's Break The Law', 'Animal' and 'We Will Survive' and serves as a hand clapping catalyst to the sea of heaving bodies fighting for position just feet from the sticky, sweat soaked stage. Highlighting the pettiness of squabbling religious factions, temper tantrum anthem 'My God's Bigger Than Your God' picks up the pace and the anger again after the previous few minutes had been spent reflectively in the company of 'Dead Heroes', Animal having paid tribute to recently fallen punk icon Poly Styrene beforehand. Sadly there was no outing for the forthcoming new single 'This Is War' but that saidanlive200c I don't think that the 22 song strong set list we were dealt could have left many people with any complaints. Classic cuts like 'Snowman', 'Medication' and 'Streets Of London' all lapped up with enthusiastic responses from the near capacity crowd.

Latest ANWL addition Tommy H has really found his footing within the line up since he replaced the departed Johnny Skullknuckles last year and along with the long standing rhythm section of Shady and Nato provides a continual wall of fucked up noise while Animal prowls back and forth, trademark shades hiding his eyes. The lads from Tunbridge Wells really do know how to mix up the power of music, words and aggression like no other punk band out there, and there's always a few words from Animal that can ignite a crowd even if it's just a tempting lead into the next song. "I've been to Hastings, I've been to Brighton, I'm even going to a Royal Wedding tomorrow" he smirked with a tongue in cheek intro to 'So What' which brought the main set to a riotous close. Both ladies and gentlemen of the punk rock persuasion fly violently into the floor to ceiling iron support beams that are scattered throughout the Fleece making for an interesting spectacle of punk rock pinball. Bodies crash against them and bounce off disjointed back into the swirling frenzy of middled aged balding men and youngsters with mohicans. In fact it was great to see such a good turnout for the League this time around in Bristol as I'd say last year's gig at the Bierkeller was certainly less well attended. Punk certainly seems to be on the rise again, I guess we can thank a Tory Government and out of touch Royal family for that in some part.

'For You' kicked off the second half so to speak, another mighty punk singalong ensuing amidst flying beer and pumping fists before the Moterhead-esque 'Pig Iron' tore its way through the Fleece crowd like a rabid boar. Punx and Pub in unison for 'Never Drink Alone', anlive200band at times it does seem that there's more beer flying through the air in front of the stage than there is in any glasses around the Fleece. A welcome outing for 'Wet Dream' from the 'Kings And Queens' album gets down and dirty while the decadent release of 'Fucked Up And Wasted' could have been written there and then to sum up the night in three simple words and just as many chords. There had been plenty of sarcastic comments aimed at the impending nuptials of Wills and Kate by all of the previous bands but leave it to the League to bang the nail on the head with the most direct hit of the night. 'Burn 'em All' is aimed point blank at all the preachers, politicians and Royals that would be congregating in London the following day. The ever reliable ANWL guarantee you'll never be left with a dull moment during one of their incendiary live shows and the volume of the crowd that backs up the chorus of 'Burn 'em All' leaves it clear that any punk with a ANWL zippo (yours for just ten quid, are you listening Manowar?) allowed to get within striking distance of Westminster the next day would bring the posh half of London to its knees far more effectively than that failure Guy Fawkes.

A genuinely humble and sincere Animal thanked everyone for coming out and supporting real music and keeping the scene alive even when money's so tight, then it's all down to the signature anthem of 'We Are The League' to let everyone kick off the toxic waltz one last time. I left the Fleece with my ears fucked after a good few hours of solid sound abuse in a great venue with a great crowd and four great bands (Uber kudos to the night's opening act Far-Cue who unfortunately I only caught the last few minutes of) safe in the knowledge that punk is far from dead, it's positively thriving!