Static Shock is London’s sort of mini-festival celebrating and promoting a range of punk-orientated bands from the Western world. It’s organised by the same people who run the label of the same name. This year’s happened over four different venues – two small ones, DIY Space For London and New River Studios, and two larger ones, The Dome and The Unicorn.
Day One: A Thursday night at DSFL kicked things off with a very impressive line-up, illustrating the diversity of sound that would carry through to the rest of the weekend. Two bands I didn’t know, BODY BUTTER, a solid post-punk band, and MISC., who had a more gothic hard rock vibe opened the night. Third band ANXIETY (Glasgow) were something else. I’ve been aware of this band for a while and their frontman is actually solo electronic artist APOSTILLE (the headline act for Saturday’s evening show) who I saw last May and was wonderfully weird as hell. Anxiety were equally as eccentric, the singer using two microphones, with paint on his face, wearing shorts (very surprising attire for a hardcore band) and plunging himself into the crowd during virtually every song. Things calmed down with TV CRIME (Nottingham) who offered a delightful garage-pop-infused type of punk. BELGRADO (Barcelona) unfortunately couldn’t play due to passport issues so THE LOVE TRIANGLE (London) ended the night. I didn’t really get the fuss about this band. Much of the crowd was losing their minds to this trio but I they seemed pretty unexciting to me.
Day Two (Matinee): Two different shows! The matinee took place at New River Studios in a relatively tiny room under a harsh red light. I unfortunately missed first band SCORE because travelling in London is virtually rocket science. Luckily I caught Leeds’ NO FORM and I’m bloody glad I did. True to their name, this band seemed to be generally directionless. There were about 10 people on ‘stage’ for their set. There was the basic set up of singer-guitarist-bassist-drummer but there was also a clarinet player, a trumpet play plus the singer somehow convinced three members of the crowd to hit separate tom-tom drums. As you can probably imagine, all of this created madness on another level. It was hard to tell how much of their set was improvised as their recorded material is just as erratic. At some point about two-thirds of the way through their set, someone appears out of nowhere with a chainsaw, lugging it around somehow managing to make audible clanging sound over the ensuing chaos.It was by far the most unpredictable set I witnessed at the whole fest. Local favourites WOOLF took to the stage next. I’d already been in contact with singer Colette after she stumbled across my review of her other band FRAU in one of my zines. She was kind enough to give me a free LP of Woolf’s latest record Posing/Improvising as I’d reviewed it in my most recent zine. Their set was raw and powerful and their drummer interestingly played standing up. CHAIN OF FLOWERS (Cardiff), fresh from their US tour, closed the matinee show with their signature dreamy but aggressive post-punk.
Day Two (Evening): The evening show was at The Dome, a much bigger venue. For some bizarre reason, the venue had a no readmission policy that night which was super annoying. I mainly went for SIEVEHEAD (Shieffield) and DIÄT (Berlin). Sievehead’s album last year was one of punk’s most hyped releases. Their stage presence was quite understated but their sound was much more harsh than it is on record. Diät are dark yet captivating and have that sort of too-cool unfriendly vibe but played a wicked set nevertheless. I also caught RIXE (Paris) and ARMS RACE (London) but they were macho hardcore bands who I couldn’t have cared less about. There was also an aftershow at midnight at The Unicorn but none of the bands particularly interested me and I value sleep far too much for that shit. Plus by this point I was already feeling like I’d seen enough bands for a lifetime.
Day Three (Evening): I skipped the matinee show on Saturday but caught the evening one. This was the biggest line-up of the fest, taking place across both The Dome and its downstairs room Boston Music Rooms. First band ES (London) kicked things off with some irresistible synth-punk, followed by the almighty BAD BREEDING (Stevenage). Bad Breeding were probably the band I was most stoked about seeing along with Woolf. Their self-titled album has to be one of my favourites of 2016 but I’d unfortunately missed them on their recent tour. It’s unusual to find such an abrasive punk band with a proper intellectual thing going on and a desire to move things forward. Onstage, they’re as uncompromising as I presumed. They made politicised demands of “burn this flag” and “why should I accept no progress?”. At one point the singer goes into the crowd and stands with us watching the rest of the band playing tumbling lightning-speed songs. Back upstairs again, SARCASM were a breath of fresh air, making intriguing yet abstract social commentaries in line with a band like NATION OF ULYSSES. However they didn’t sound a thing like NOU and were probably the lightest-sounding band I saw the whole weekend (you could actually make out the singer’s words and everything). URANIUM CLUB had strangely Devo-vibes. Imagine Devo with less weird and more garage. I was slightly underwhelmed by SAUNA YOUTH (London). There’s a lot of hype around this band and I think my expectations were probably too high.
That’s the last band I care to mention. I’ve linked all bands to their music so check them out if you’re intrigued by my one-sentence descriptions of them. I’d highly recommend Static Shock if you want a showcase of all kinds of punk bands who also happen to be some of best. It also reminded me of the sheer range of sounds that come under the catch-all term that is ‘punk’.
Written by Madeleine.