Tonight’s show at the Croft is a benefit for the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group and the Vegan Prisoner Support Group, with all proceeds going towards the causes. There is literature and pamphlets available in place of the usual tee shirts and records adorning merch tables. Too often these tables are snubbed in favour of buying the headliner’s latest wares, so it is rewarding to see the people manning these stalls constantly in conversation with interested or involved people – happy to discuss aims and motivations for their political activities, personal or otherwise.
First on stage are The Break Out, who deserve a larger audience than their early set-time would suggest. Comparisons to defunct Brighton band The Ghost of a Thousand do have some grounding, but The Break Out are infused with a far faster and frantic delivery, akin to Last Lights. Their general sound is punctuated with plenty of variation throughout their set, with rapid rat-a-tat vocal exchanges between vocalist Rich Thomas and guitarist Nathan Stevens, and over the top rock and roll guitar solos which hurtle along before disappearing as suddenly as they appeared.
Following this, Piss On Authority cannot quite match up. Their set starts nicely with pummelling rhythm section and sinister metallic guitar tone, yet there’s something missing. Their lyrics are primarily rooted in anarcho anti-fascist displays, but their trudging crust sound just doesn’t have enough energy tonight to properly carry itself. Drum kit problems halfway through the set did not help either, as the momentum building up through their songs came to a faltering stop. A solid act on paper – but tonight could not have been them at their best.
True Valiance bring the night to a close with their political 90s hardcore in the vein of Earth Crisis or Strife. Side-to-side stomping and mic grabs abound, as this 6-year aged band prove their position as amongst Bristol’s favourites. True Valiance have changed their sound a good deal over the years, but their latest album ‘Expect Resistance’ sees them stronger and more confident than ever, and a fitting top to the bill as longs like ‘Traditions’ (a personal favourite) cause the Croft’s main room to explode.
Amongst all this, try to remember that this show was initially put on as a WolfxDown headline show, part of their UK tour which had to be called off for personal reasons. I saw WolfxDown in March of this year, in a venue-downstairs/squat-upstairs style establishment in Holland, and I was really into it. I would have loved to have seen them again, but through their sudden cancellation something more important shone to the surface; going beyond the typical silver lining to any dark cloud:
Tonight proved that even without a European buzz-band to gather around, the Bristol punk scene could still come together and make something happen off its own back – the numbers in attendance (especially by the time True Valiance came on) indicated something more than friends and tagalongs there to see the local bands play. Commendably, The Break Out sold their CDs in return for any donations to the ALF and VPSG, whilst True Valiance spoke openly about their support for Bristol Hunt Saboteurs and a reminder of the importance of supporting local shows, local bands, and not just touring ‘mainstream’ punk bands. Bristol’s punk scene has always felt a bit choppy, rising and falling amidst poorly attended shows – but tonight’s turnout, cause and ethics reminded me of the elements of this music that first drew me in. Thank you.
Words: Matt Jordan