Fastlane – Leeds Packhorse

By paul

There’s a lot to be said for idiots who happily travel 80 miles on a Monday evening for a gig, then to go to bed at 12.30am, get up at 5.50am and drive the 80 miles back to get to work on time. I’m not sure if it’s desperation or showing my commitment to the punk rock cause, but either way, I’m the idiot. Having said that a bill featuring five top quality bands, in a room more akin to a living room than a venue, is easily worthy of a 90-minute drive and an early morning start – even if I am absolutely knackered right now.

For those who haven’t visited The Cardigan Arms before it’s a quaint pub in the Kirkstall area of Leeds, usually frequented by an ‘older’ class of gentlemen who like to sup pints of John Smiths while they fiddle with their pipe, flat cap and slippers. I shit you not. Above the pub is a room which doubles up as a venue. It’s small-ish in size, probably struggling to break the 100 mark, with two large mirrors at either end. This makes for an amusing sight because the bands can see themselves in one mirror, while the crowd can preen their hair and add additional strands of Brylcreem in the other.

The PA system isn’t all that hot either and local heroes CATCH IT KEBABS have the worst of it. Signed to Do The Dog Music they have a really electic sound that takes in brass, keyboards and all kinds of stuff in between. The band remind me of a more manic Rx Bandits and their friends in the crowd lap it up as limbs flail all over the shop. The dual vocals sound pretty poor mind, but with the sound man doing his best with a last-minute patched up system, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Ska isn’t really my bag any more, but CIK, on first glance, appear to be very good at what they do. (8)

With a beer calling my name, I missed out on THAT’S CALLED STEALING, but the Ponte boys sounded a lot like The Ataris from downstairs. Looking back, maybe I should have watched them after all. But after a long drive I really did need a beer to quench the thirst. With three-quarters of ROUTE 215 not present in the venue, it’s up to guitarist Ryan to hold the fort with an acoustic set. Now RYAN 215 (as he will be affectionately known), freely admits to being a little nervous on stage (“I’m fucking shitting it,” was closer to the truth) and the first two songs show that. But by the time ‘Jesus Was Sexy’ and ‘I Am What I Am’ come round, Ryan’s on form. Lazily you could make Dashboard references, but in sound there’s more of a Goo Goo Dolls tone in the guitars. For a last minute thing, Ryan did super well to pull this out of the bag. (7.5)

I haven’t seen SONIC BOOM SIX for a few months and in this time they’ve not only tightened themselves up, but they appear to be playing everything harder, faster and harder still. At times SB6 sound like the ‘new’ NoComply, with harder drums, squallier guitars and faster vocals. It’s not hardcore by any means, but it’s a lot darker and heavier than their ‘Turbo’ debut. For 30 minutes the kids go apeshit and SB6 lovingly participate and throw in a bunch of set pleasers, including ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ and ‘Blood For Oil’ from their Moon Ska debut. SB6, in style and influence, aren’t usually a band that I’d listen to, and I can sympathise with some of the lazy ‘Miss Dynamite on crack’ references I’ve seen before, but you cannot fault the energy, exuberance and enthusiasm that the quintet omit. (8.5)

FASTLANE‘S forthcoming album is the best record you haven’t heard yet. Simple as that. I was primarily at this gig to see the boys in action, I won’t lie, having heard so many positive comments. And despite the shitty PA and Ben’s fucked up voice, Fastlane show exactly why they are so highly rated. ‘Summer Falls’, ‘Elevator’ and the fantastic ‘Dreaming’ are all highlights, and it helps no end that there are a handful of people who sing along from the crowd. But what sets the band apart from the thousands upon thousands of pop-punk bands with good songs, is that Fastlane also look and act the part. There’s guitar swinging, star jumping and metal solo preening, while Ben owns the small stage like any good frontman should. The simple fact is that in 6 months time they will be your new favourite melodic punk band. (9)