The Vandals – Nottingham Rock City

By paul

Tonight it is cold, wet and foggy – none of the ingredients needed for a punk rock show with three Californian bands. But still, it’s not everyday the Kung Fu tour visits – and more specifically our buddies in Audio Karate. So I fill the car with fuel and drive for nigh on three hours to Nottingham, barely getting above 50mph the whole way there because of the weather. Dedication huh? Anyway, enough of my meterological murmerings – there are far more pressing matters to deal with. Tsunami Bomb and Audio Karate have produced impressive albums this year and The Vandals are, well, The Vandals. Although ‘Internet Dating Superstuds’ is more suited as a drinks coaster than a musical tool, you know you are getting value for money at a Vandals show. And value for money was what Rock City got.

First up were Agent M’s crew TSUNAMI BOMB who left me really disappointed with their performance. Their ‘The Ultimate Escape’ record is really, really good, but tonight Rock City is not treated to this female fronted foursome’s best. The band’s not unattractive frontwoman Agent M looks like a rabbit caught in headlights most of the time and it takes four or five songs for the band to get warmed up. ‘Take The Reins’ is performed with gusto and ‘Russian Roulette’ is a pounding slice of punk rock, but there’s absolutely no audience feedback whatsoever with more people at the bar or outside the venue than at the front. Bassist Dominic Davi is clearly pissed off, vehemently demanding the fifth-full venue gets dancing – but to be fair there’s very little to dance to. With little energy to feed off the crowd are stagnate and likewise the band aren’t really in the mood for an unappreciative audience either. The awesome ’20 Going On…’ is by far Tsunami Bomb‘s best song and there’s no doubt Agent M has a fantastic voice, but Tsunami Bomb didn’t win over too many fans on tonight’s performance. A pity, because the album is well worthy of a listen. (6)

However, riding on the crest of Tsunami Bomb‘s wave (geddit??) are AUDIO KARATE. This Rosemead mob are making their first visit to the UK and are winning over fans left, right and centre – and rightly so. The merch stand isn’t doing any trade whatsoever before their set (thumbs up to Mark Punktastic for the first purchase of the evening) but by the end of the night items are selling quicker than in Harrod’s sale. Audio Karate are fantastic tonight, even better than the mighty ‘Space Camp’ record which in my book is one of the best records to have come out this year. Kicking off with ‘Rosemead’, AK are well up for it tonight, with Art and Jason eagerly trading riffs and Justo and Gabriel keeping the ship steady. There’s not one bad song on show tonight, and whether it be the awesome ‘Nintendo 89’ single which had quite a few people singing along, ‘Halfway Decent’ or the magnificient ‘Car Ride Home’ Audio Karate are spot on. Art plays up to the crowd and in terms of technical guitar playing Jason Camacho is something of a star – solo’s are pulled off with consummate ease and they add a layer to the songs in perfect style. Closing with one of my favourite tracks, the darker song ‘Jason’, Audio Karate left me wanting much more. I’d travelled specifically to see them and I was left wowed – ‘Space Camp’ was even played in the car cd player all the way home. We even managed to squeeze in a 20-minute chat with Jason and Justo at the end of the set and these guys are just as amazing as their stage show. Stickers were swapped, beer was drunk and mouse mats were bought – come back soon guys, we miss you already. (9)

Never a band to disappoint live, THE VANDALS are as predictable as they come. Having caught them last year their live show left me in stitches, but their choice of songs sometimes left me a little bewildered – and to an extent it is the same tonight. Airing the fantastic ‘Pizza Tran’, ‘Behind The Music’ and ‘My Girlfriend’s Dead’, the band can do no wrong but ultimately the newer songs including the dire ‘Disproportioned Head’ are shockingly bad. The crowd loves it though and an almost full Rock City happily goes through seven shades of mental. Fun is had by all and the amazing Josh Freese is easily one of the most talented musicians you will ever see, but it’s all very stale if you’ve seen it before. Warren’s hilarious version of ‘I Have A Date’ still raises a laugh, but there can only be so long before even the most die-hard of fans gets bored of his chucklesome routine. Thumbs up though to his laugh-a-minute run through the ‘Cheeky Boy/Girl’ song that some UK dance/pop act is currently in the charts with. Still it’s all entertaining enough, but I believe Audio Karate were the best band on show tonight with the young pups edging out the old dogs. (8)

The Kung Fu tour runs for a couple more dates before it heads on into Europe and you could do a lot worse than catch it if it visits a venue near you. But if Audio Karate come to town make sure you catch these four young Mexicans while you can. Because if there’s any justice AK will be back on their own headlining tour sooner rather than later.