LIVE: Lagwagon, The Flatliners @ Islington Academy, London

By Joshua Wroath

All too often these days veteran punk bands get a bad rap for their output of material and efforts to stay relevant (eyes squarely at The Offspring right now). Some of these bands have simply not been able to stay relevant as a new generation of punks comes bundling through the door. But it’s bands like Lagwagon and performances like tonight at the Islington Academy that remind us of the charm and joy of punk, no matter time or place.

Long term members of the punk scene, with a loyal fan base to boot, Lagwagon are a concrete staple of the 90s scene who never stuck to just one sound; from skater punk to ska-ey jams to metal elements. There’s no need for a lengthy introduction then, but what should be noted is that this is the first time the band have played their 2014 release ‘Hang’ on British shores after a 9 year album hiatus.

Getting down to business first though is Canada’s finest, The Flatliners. Playing a 2013 ‘Dead Language’ heavy set, knowing they have no time to waste on stage, the band perform without any uncertainty. Chris Cresswell and Co manage to bash out their songs with class and style from the start to finish. It’s hard to name anyone on the current scene (perhaps maybe The Menzingers) whose song writing continues to get better, especially when you consider the songs dropped from this short but excellent support slot. Getting their own mosh, it’s heartening to see the Flatliners’ efforts appreciated, which brings hope that they’ll quickly return to these shores sooner rather then later.

Tonight is clearly all about Lagwagon though – which is evident the second the band takes stage. With three out of the five members sporting dyed hair (blue, blue and fluorescent yellow) it’s easy to say tonight is not going to be too serious an affair, which is just fine with everyone in attendance – it’s Lagwagon after all!

Opening with ‘After You My Friend’, the crowd’s adrenaline instantly kicks in and has the place in raptures. Bursting out of the blocks with early favourites ‘Island of Shame’ and ‘Violins’, LW show no sign of slowing until ‘Obsolete Absolute’, the first from ‘Hang’ on the night. Over 6 minutes of interplay between punk, metal and punishing riffs, it is truly something to behold. For the rest of the night, all of the songs from ‘Hang’ deliver a new sound highlighting a distinctly, almost metal sound, a vast change from most of their earlier work. These moments allow the audience to catch a breath/get a beer, while for some they learn to dig them as much as the big hits. Regardless, it’s safe to say, all the songs are received well.

Although almost laughing their way throughout the whole set, the band do take time to highlight their loses. ‘Heartbreaking Music’ is played in honour of Derrick Plourde (lost in 2005) and encore cover ‘International You Day’ is performed acoustically in honour of No Use For A Name’s late Tony Sly. Both are met with great cheers and even a few lighters are raised to celebrate the two; a fitting touch.

With all this, including other classics such as ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’, ‘Mr Coffee’ (and of course) ‘May 16th’, Lagwagon are exuberant and are clearly having a great time, which in turn sees the audience thoroughly appreciate a band still able to put on a gem of a show. Set closer ‘Razor Burn’ is one of the highlights of the night, with the academy set for one last sing, jump, and all round jolly. It’s obvious and safe to say then that Lagwagon still know how to remain fresh and as relevant as they ever were.