LIVE: WonkFest

By Samarth Kanal
Alex Wonk Unit outside The Grosvenor Pub | Photo Credit: Mark Richards

WonkFest was a resounding success. The organisation that went into it can only be described as pain-staking, backed up by an all-round effort from the bands, the bar staff, the film crew and the sound technician. Not only did the whole event run smoothly, it was reassuringly sold out. Reassuring in that a line-up of thirteen great punk bands deservedly had a sizeable crowd in front of them – in turn resilient themselves as the heat of the venue induced all kinds of sweat. And it was diverse – with all ages present within the crowd, a great variation within the line-up, and a solid array of food at the buffet  (which didn’t stick around for long). The vegan scotch eggs definitely had a large fanbase by the first few minutes of their existence. Most importantly of course, it was the bands who were the centre of attention, so here are the definitive highlights from the day. DSC_0011 Waco started the day and the people who had trekked down to Stockwell for the 1.30 start were justly rewarded. The London-based punks managed to add so much more to their studio recordings, sounding fuller and heavier and keeping up that all important speed that punk rock thrives on. An hour after they finished, Maid of Ace gave the gradually growing crowd some blistering all-female noise, and it was brilliant. Although the microphone wasn’t working for a few songs, there was absolutely no faffing about – its replacement was used to the fullest. The Maids killed it.

Maid of Ace | Photo Credit: Mark Richards

The sole acoustic act was Billy Liar, but he proved to be far from a token part of the line-up. His set-list told a number of stories and his voice, brimming with punk rock energy, was dynamic to match them. Plus, audience participation is always welcome, with ‘All I’ve Got’ getting a healthy amount of backing vocals from the enthusiastic crowd. Billy will be gracing the stage at Rebellion Festival and at FEST 13 in Gainesville, which is great to see. The drinks were flowing at this point, and after Jakal gave us their frenetic ska-punk, The Kimberly Steaks were all set to play. Bear in mind that the venue was swelteringly hot at this point, and they don’t exactly play slow jams. The Glaswegian pop-punk trio gave it their all though – it was a relentless, fast-paced barrage with breaks between songs kept at a minimum. The Steaks were excellent, and though there’s no picking favourites here they were at the top of their game, aptly finishing with a cover of Green Day’s ‘Going to Pasalacqua’.

Billy Liar | Photo Credit: Mark Richards

The Restarts were untamed and frenzied; pints were being poured and things were getting rowdy just in time for the Hackney hardcore-punks. In fact it was a fitting atmosphere for Revenge of The Psychotronic Man – their sheer noise and thrashing punk was deservedly well-received. Meansteed gave us our daily dose of metal, shredding, soloing and screaming to the status of metal godliness, at least within the confines of The Grovesnor.

The Voodoo Binmen | Photo Credit: Mark Richards The Voodoo Binmen | Photo Credit: Mark Richards

It was reassuring to see a strong representation of Scottish DIY punk at WonkFest, what with the endless rambling that is the North of The Border series of columns (which will resume shortly!). The Murderburgers are one of the flag-bearers of Scottish punk music and they’ve earned it. The three of them donned some odd choices of clothing and ripped through the fastest of their songs with the most infectious choruses. They were of course, nothing short of excellent. Surprise headliners Hard Skin were an inspired addition, and the crowd was on board too. They were outspoken, in-your-face and of course, blaring out Oi!-inspired tunes to the packed venue.

The Murderburgers | Photo Credit: Mark Richards The Murderburgers | Photo Credit: Mark Richards

Of course, WonkFest would be nothing without Wonk Unit. Not only because it’s an eponymous festival but because of the amazing organisation that went into it. There were no clear hiccups or issues and the sound was impeccable (all credit goes to the sound guy). The Grosvenor provided a solid venue for the all-dayer and its impending closure will be a sore one for many. Yet, Wonk Unit sent the venue off with the set that it deserved. The pub was rammed with fans from every kind of punk scene and the headliners did not disappoint. They were raw, bursting with energy but also brimming with humour and adding so much onto their already great studio recordings.

Photo Credit: Mark Richards Photo Credit: Mark Richards

WonkFest delivered then, not just with a bubbling atmosphere and a pretty damn good buffet, but an excellent line-up of DIY punk bands, all of them delivering.  Hopefully WonkFest continues to draw even bigger sell-out crowds over the years to come, even though The Grosvenor pub will soon be no more – it’s a great sign that DIY punk is very much alive and active. DSC_0104

Thanks to Mark Richards for all of the photographs: