Smoke or Fire – Brixton Academy, London

By paul

Smoke or Fire ? Brixton Windmill
Tues 25th November

The Windmill has become a much more prominent venue on the Punktastic radar since Lil from Household Name began his campaign to bring punk rock to the Sarf London massif. I wasn?t surprized, then, to find the place already pretty damn busy by the time we arrived. We were being treated to a night of a whole host of fine bands, headlined by Fat Wreck?s Smoke or Fire. People in the know knew that this was always going to be a fine show ? 2 American acts and 2 UK supports squashed into the dingy but endearing surroundings of this dilapidated little venue.

Openers were Swansea?s The Arteries, one of Household Name?s, er, newer Names. They turned up just in time to go on stage, but this didn?t stop them playing as ferociously tight a set as I?ve seen by anyone for a fair while. This lot are a 5 piece playing some solid, riff-based stuff that?s kind of like a cross between Strike Anywhere, Descendents and Rocket From The Crypt. They didn?t all quite fit on the stage, so vocal duties were conducted down on the floor, but with the crowd still short of a beer or two, there was space. In fact, it looked to me like a lot of people were slightly stunned at how good this lot are. I reckon we?ll all be hearing a lot from them. You don?t get openers much better than this. (9/10)

Stalwarts You, Me and The Atom Bomb had the dubious honour of following up, playing more melodic stuff, Lawrence Arms style. I?ve caught them a few times before, last time clearly on the way to being well drunk. Tonight, they were sipping the water, but seemed a little bit like they were going through the motions after the athletic approach of the Arteries. The crowd was split between people who knew most of the words and those looking on, eyes slowly glazing over. I was somewhere between the two camps. (6/10)

Half way through, and time for the trans-Atlantic substitutions. On come the incredibly sharply-dressed Fake Problems, over from Florida and tour support for Smoke or Fire. It is not often that you see a drummer parading around in a 3-piece suit, and a guitarist with a tie and school-style jumper, but nice to see. Especially in a venue like the Windmill, where they still haven?t taken down the Halloween decorations, which may or may not be from this year, and where the ceilings were painted, hippie style when Jim Morrison was still strutting his stuff. Dress code aside, this lot are pretty unique sounding ? easily likened to Against Me!, but in reality a lot more ?easy? sounding and folky than them. At the best points of the set, this lot entertain me massively, providing an upbeat and funky sounding punk rock sound track. Other moments they seem to drift a bit, but they seem to have diehard fans down the front who suggest that once you?ve heard the album, they will hook you. I?m sure they are gonna be back over as headliners before too long. (7/10)

So, everyone squeezes forward and waits for the imminent arrival of Smoke or Fire. They start without a word, a theme of Laconic speech and silence that they maintain for almost the whole set, letting the tunes do the talking. There are clearly some big, big SoF fans in tonight ? even a crowd surfer half way through. A lot of people seem to know every word. They don?t disappoint either. It?s a brutally tight set, barely a note out of place or string out of tune. They are big lads, and they keep up appearances with a wide sounding 40 minutes of Consumed/Quicksand-esque tunes that sound every bit as fat as they do on a decent stereo. If I have any criticism, it?s that it?s almost too perfect, and the silence between tunes made me yearn for a bit more spontaneity, but if this is all I have to complain about, then I really shouldn?t complain. (8.5/10)

I doubt anyone left disappointed, except for the thought that the Windmill is a serious walk from Brixton tube when it?s so fucking cold.