I haven’t been a fan of Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes for very long; I heard Juggernaut on TeamRock radio not two months ago and I was absolutely smitten. The album, Blossom, was reviewed on the That’s Not Metal podcast a couple of weeks later, and I bought the CD on the strength of the review. I was not disappointed.
Last week, I was looking for tickets to see them, and I noticed that they were part of the Vans Warped Tour in 7 days’ time…
I ummed and ahhed for a bit. Most of the lineup meant nothing to me… but I saw Reel Big Fish and Anti-Flag, so figured there were going to be at least 3 bands I knew that I liked. I bought a ticket after not more than a few minutes deliberation, then sent an email to myself at work to remind me to book the day after as holiday. My boss has come to realise that holiday request = another gig.
So, Sunday rolls round and I rock up at the train station, where I am confronted by two immediate concerns;
1) there are a remarkable number of buses and staff in high-vis vests outside, and
2) I forgot to pick up my earphones on the way out of the door.
As for the buses; there were planned engineering works around Northampton, meaning a replacement bus service – but only as far as Milton Keynes, and in theory it should all have been completed by 7pm, well before I was due to come home. I was sceptical, but I’d cross that particular bridge when I got to it. Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to get a taxi home from Milton Keynes because of London Midland trains.
The more pressing issue was the lack of earphones. I genuinely do not cope well with public transport, without the ability to surround myself with a shield of my own music. It called for an immediate trip to WH Smiths inside the station to buy another pair. I have an ongoing issue with poor short-term focus, one of the direct results of which being that this is the 7th pair of headphones that I currently own. Eventually, I suspect that I will have bought so many emergency pairs that my existence will be saturated with earphones. At some point it will be impossible for me to not have a pair with me at any given time.
So, equipped with new earphones, I hopped onto the bus and found a seat that was so covered in glitter that it looked like a fairy had spoffed all over it. I can’t imagine what type of person would leave that kind of detritus behind them. Well, actually I CAN, and I don’t think we could be friends.
After taking a disproportionately long time to get to Milton Keynes – given that’s it’s only 15 minutes away – I eventually got onto the train to find no spare seats. While being by no means unusual, that still surprised me for a Sunday. I got to stand by the doors with people who smelled like they had been rolling in fried onions and smoking their little hearts out all night. Both of which things were entirely possible I guess.
To London! Alexandra Palace is a pretty straightforward journey from Euston; three stops north on the Victoria line, and then the W3 bus from outside Finsbury Park station right to the front doors. I unfortunately hadn’t paid attention to the actual stop I needed, so ended out getting off as soon as I saw ‘Alexandra Palace’ and had to walk the rest of the way.
I’d never been to the ‘Ally Pally’ before, and I was really quite taken with the building. I’m a simple creature, and impressive architecture makes me go a bit squiffy. I walked up the main stairs to the Palm Court entrance… and was confronted by a sea of people queuing to get in. Doors were supposed to have been at 2pm, so I was expecting everyone to already be inside. I of course did the common sense thing – I found a bench to sit my arse down on and wait for the queue to disappear.
I’d done a bit of investigation around some of the bands I wasn’t familiar with, and had come to the conclusion that I was likely to be at least double the average age of the rest of the audience. I wasn’t wrong. The throng of people waiting appeared to be an even mix of teens and pre-teens, and their parents. It was 90% tight black jeans (with and without knees), red and black plaid shirts, and anime haircuts.
The doors eventually opened at around 14:45, and after the herd had thinned out, I finally joined the back of the queue and got in a bit after 15:00. The inside of the Palace was amazing, and looked very much like something out of Bioshock.
I had wondered how they were going to get through that many bands in one venue, but that question was answered as soon as I got the stage times listing, which had a convenient map on the back.
The two main areas had a pair of stages each, where bands would essentially tag-team in for a 30 minute set, while the next band were setting up beside them. I felt it worked really well, the venue inside was really clean and spacious, and was a thoroughly pleasant environment. It didn’t smell like piss at all, which did wrong-foot me for a while.
I marked up who I wanted to see, and as it turned out, I had no real interest in what was going on in the Great Hall, besides walking through it to get the food court. While I was establishing all this, I had a major Fail. Over the last year or so, I’ve dropped my phone so many times (including into the bath) that I’ve become complacent and kind of assumed it was indestructible. Turns out, that’s not that case, and dropping your phone face first onto concrete is really not the one.
Apparently not the end of the world though; 4 minutes and £8 later and I had a new screen coming from Amazon. I do not know what I would do without the internet.
Back to the music. All of the earliest sets seemed to be running a few minutes late, so there was a lot of trying to guess who I was actually watching at the start. I think the first set I caught was Twin Wild, but they had pretty much had finished by the time I got in and got my hands on some beer. Priorities.
There was a nice little side stage in a bar area away down some stairs, where I was able to capture a picture which I think encapsulates a large part of gig experiences for many;
I floated around between the stages for a while and caught bits of sets from Tigress (I don’t normally groove to female vocalists, but these guys were pretty good), Forever Came Calling (seemed like they could have been good, and I am curious to check them out some more), Fearless Vampire Killers (would have been considerably improved had the singer’s mic been turned up enough to hear him. Or perhaps not…), and Metro Station (sounded good, but fairly generic to me). Later on I caught some of Beautiful Bodies set, and while I don’t really like to criticise, the singer sounded like an enthusiastic dog had gotten hold of a squeaky toy. Bad noise.
Something struck me while I was pottering around; there were a lot of tiny, tiny people there. I am by no means the tallest person in the UK, and there’s a fair chance that a lot of the kids there still hadn’t done their GCSE’s, but still. I stood in the queue for the ladies, and I felt like a giant. I had to resist the urge to fist-bump anyone who I could actually look in the eye.
The first band on my list that I really wanted to check out from a recommendation were Roam, but I couldn’t stay for the set because of the fucking lights. Seriously, lighting techs, will you knock this shit the fuck off?
Instead, I went back downstairs where I think Boy Jumps Ship were playing. They had been warming up since after Tigress finished, which suggests that Allusondrugs didn’t actually play their set, though I’m just guessing.
I headed back up later for Chunk! No Captain Chunk! who I’d caught before at Download, and I actually quite like. This was the second time they’d played somewhere I was already at, and they’re bright and cheerful and seem to be having a lot of fun. Also, their cover of Smashmouth’s Allstar is just infectiously happy.
Next on my ‘to see’ list; back downstairs again to see Creeper. I’d recently bought an E.P., also on the recommendation of That’s Not Metal, and was particularly looking forward to hearing them playing a track called Novena. It was a great set, but punctuated by a very drunk ‘friend of the band’ – who’d already collared me once upstairs – who decided to make close acquaintance with a guy stood in front of me… and then subsequently with the floor, taking the guy’s pint with him.
Once more upstairs to catch a bit of Moose Blood while hovering excitedly by the stage where Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes were going to be up next. I have to be honest, Moose Blood left no impression on me whatsoever. They can’t have been bad because I would have remembered, but clearly my fizzing anticipation overruled any interest in what they were playing.
While we were waiting, I spotted this dude who is clearly in the running for Dad of the Year.
And then Frank Carter happened. I cannot say enough great things – I have a far better vocabulary for things that are awful – but this is definitely in the running for my favourite gig of the year so far. Frank’s energy, and venom, and getting properly stuck in with the crowd… I was fucking delighted when I found the following picture on my phone;
If you’ve been here a while, you will know the usual lamentable quality of the photos that come out of my phone, so this was an absolute joy. Also, check out the majestic sweep of the mohawk on the bottom right.
That was right before he kicked off a massive circle pit, which he stood right in the middle of, inciting his willing minions into the fray like an angry God.
Absolutely buzzing. If you could harness rage as an energy source, Frank Carter would be a fucking generator. The Rattlesnakes ended the set with “I Hate You” which is a beautifully angry, hateful, sweary ode to loathsome idiots. Glorious. Brought an absolute swell of delight to my heart.
There was no way that anyone was going top that for me, and I wandered off in a bit of a haze. Obviously the other stages were still running a bit behind schedule, because I was able to catch the end of Reel Big Fish, who should have finished before Frank Carter.
Anti-Flag were due to be on at 21:15 but I decided that given that my evening had already peaked, plus potential rail problems, I’d rather make sure I got back to Euston and make my way home a bit earlier. I got out the front of the building and realised that this was probably where I should have gotten off of the bus on the way here…
Straightforward trip back to Euston, where I bagged a couple of ciders for the trip home – which was remarkably smooth, with none of the delays I had been anticipating. On the journey back, there was a notification on Twitter that Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes are playing at Dingwalls, Camden, in November… tickets go on sale Wednesday morning at 10am…
Well, it would be rude not to!