Fastlane – Leeds Packhorse

By paul

After this year’s summer Bash and all the things that went wrong (the lights, the men ‘upstairs’ switching around set times, the reaction from certain people to things out of our control), I’d really had enough of putting on gigs. The sparkle of the previous events had gone and, to be honest, for me it was about as much fun as sitting in a bath of cold baked beans. Those who met me in August saw me stressing and moping and for all the effort and work everyone involved put in, it simply wasn’t worth the hassle. PT Bash – fin.

Then I got a second wind when someone close to me suggested something a little smaller. So, the idea of POW was born and, maybe as a one-off, the idea of a weekend in small venues, intertwined with Punktastic’s first ever bowling tournament, began. For me it was more an experiment to see if I had the apetite to want to continue to do these kind of things, hence why not one single poster or flyer was handed out in Leeds. It could have backfired spectacularly, thankfully it didn’t. The 70-capacity Packhorse was full to the rafters, with around 140 people turning up during the evening. The atmosphere was fantastic too, so many smiling people having a great time – just how PT events should be. Not to mention just how good all five bands were on the night.

Local lads PENKNIFELOVELIFE open things up at 7.15pm with a short and sharp 20 minute set. One look at their skinny frames and dyed black side partings suggests they sound like the offspring of Poison The Well and Atreyu – so it’s no surprise that when they start playing the music is as aggressive as I thought it would be. Pete @ PT had copied me five songs of PKLL’s to prepare me for the gig and I thought they were really, really bland, but live these youngsters are so much better. The drummer double-kicks his way through a riot of guitars, while the frontman prowls the stage like the son of M Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold. For teenagers, and young ones at that, PenKnife are very, very tight and while their music currently sounds a little too much like their peers, there’s enough talent on show to suggest a very bright future ahead. They look and act the part, all they need to do now is nail the sound. (8)

I am biased, I know, but THE MAPLE STATE are so damn good it’s startling. They’re as tight a unit as any UK band I’ve seen all year and while their keyboard-fused indie-rock isn’t technically new, they are doing something very bright and very fresh. It makes tracks like ‘Mightiest Monster…’ and ‘…Martial Law’ (I’m not putting the full names, I’m too lazy and they’re too long!) instant singalongs and destined to grab the attention of thousands of unsuspecting music fans next year. TMS arguably get the biggest crowd of the night – people are standing on chairs at the back so they can see and hardly anyone leaves the room whilst they play. The drumming is excellent, the keyboards and samples clever and inventive and Greg’s vocals are spot on too. I won’t forget Christian’s guitar-work either, even if during one song he was a little out of tune (kidding fella…) If there’s anything to work on it’s holding a stage and working the crowd, but that comes with practice and experience. Their mini-album, due out on Punktastic Recordings in January, will blow people away. (8.5)

CHE came up all the way from Worcester and were probably the surprise package of the evening. It’s fair to say that not many people had heard of them before tonight, but they certainly left with a lot of new admirers. The five-piece are fronted by 16-year-old Lydia who has a fantastic voice and on record this really sets the band alight from the pack. But in a live environment it’s the band themselves, not the singer, which take centre stage. Che are insanely tight, there’s hardly a missed note and if there are any they are very well covered up. The two guitars very rarely stick to the same old predictable riffs, instead opting for lead riffs which they bounce off each other. While Lydia certainly has a voice that many would die for, her on-stage persona perhaps isn’t as sassy or showy as it could be. There’s one line I noticed “I can make you shiver, I can make you shake” (I think…) which should probably be delieverd with more sex appeal than Cupid’s arrow, yet it doesn’t quite hit the mark. There are also times when it appears she’s singing to the front row rather than the full room, but these are minor points that come with experience. She’s still got a belter of a voice mind and that’s one weapon that will certainly serve Che well. If they can seal the cohesion – and by this I mean the way they look and act on stage – then big things will happen. (8)

I missed about half of A DESTRUCTIVE ISSUE for various reasons, but they’re a band that I know will go far. They’re still learning and finding their feet, but older songs like ‘Stopgap’ and ‘This Could Kill’ sound great even if they are finally forging their own sound. They have a good, solid fanbase in Leeds and it’s only a matter of time before bigger gigs start coming their way. If they keep working hard, expect big strides forward during 2005. (n/a)

By Jove, are FASTLANE good! Having owned their as-yet-unreleased album for nigh on three months, I already knew just how good this band were, but until you’ve seen them live you really haven’t seen the real band. Mixing high-energy, pop hooks and a metallic edge, the Guildford quintet are arguably the best band in the country at what they do. Frontman Ben is a bundle of energy, while the twin guitar attack throw themselves around the stage with gusto. ‘Elevator’ and ‘Dreaming’ go down exceedingly well, but tracks like ‘Summer Falls’ showcase just how good this band really are. They were so good, and so loud, that the ringing in my ears only stopped on Monday morning. This time next year they’ll be one of the biggest bands in the UK – mark my words. (9.5)

There are too many people to thank really – Pete@PT was a legend throughout the day, Aza for doing doorman duties and not actually seeing the bands, all the bands for their gear-sharing and everyone who came for being fantastic. There were people from Scotland, Newcastle, Birmingham, London… it astounds me how much people will travel to have a good time. And boy, did everyone have a good time.