Tuesday, March 15, 2011


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12 March - Borderline, Soho

It's amazing what lies around the corner in London. I walk past Manette Street all the time and I had no idea a quick right at the "fully licensed sex shop" would lead me to Borderline. Not until I
TFLed it on Saturday night! Devil's Brigade was the reason. A chance to see Rancid's Matt Freeman (and potentially Tim Armstrong) in the flesh...

The air smells like sweat when I get in.
The Exposed must have just finished the earliest set in punk rock! The next band, London/Newcastle punk rockers The Grit, is on stage setting up. Looking around, I see way more Rancid shirts (and flatcaps) than Devil's Brigade merch. And the look in people's eyes is hopeful, like they're also half expecting Tim Armstrong to walk in at any moment.

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The Grit kick off like Mike Tyson at an airport. Borderline's tiny but the sound's amazing. And The Grit are tighter than a nun's handshake! Their sound's a rousing, sing-along combination of bands like Street Dogs, Face to Face and Bouncing Souls. There's Northern, working class pride. A dash of psychobilly. A pinch of ska. A double bass-hopping mad slapper. And a guy called Charlie Boy on acoustic guitar - that you can only really hear when no one else is playing.

"Alright London, this one's for the working man," says guitarist Louis Ville in a thick Geordie accent. "But you don't know much about that round here," he adds, spitting into the crowd for punctuation. Thankfully, I'm still at the bar. "Are you ready for a love song Underworld? Is this Underworld?" asks frontman Big Lou, rubbing his eyes in confusion. "Fuck me it's early... I just woke up! Okay, this is a love song, so grab your lady by the cunt like you mean it."

Despite their working class, hard-as-nails, punk-rock-spitting demeanour, The Grit's got a lot of soul.
There's a folky sweetness to Big Lou's vocals. And Louis Ville and bassist Little Man Kurt (you've gotta love Geordie nicknames) back him up like a chain gang. Even the odd bum note can't ruin the intensity.

Why is this, like, the only photo of Matt Freeman on the Internet?

A few minutes after The Grit, when Devil's Brigade take the stage to set up, it becomes painfully clear that tonight will not include Mr. Tim Armstrong. Even though he co-wrote the album with Matt Freeman, it's Freeman's baby. He's the singer this time. The frontman. The centre of attention. And if Armstrong was there, you know people would be shouting for Rancid songs all night.

Still, that doesn't stop Freeman from name-dropping like he's writing a blog (sardonic). At one point he asks the crowd, "Do you know who Lars Frederiksen is?" Which gets the second loudest cheer of the night (after Armstrong's numerous mentions). Freeman does throw out a few Rancid bones though, treating the crowd to "Tenderloin" and "L.A River."

In the end, Devil's Brigade get the job done. Freeman's touring band backs him up like straight-shooting hired guns - even though his drummer looks like a gum-chewing, New York personal trainer. Truth is, The Grit stole the show with their first three songs. Matt Freeman seems like a nice guy though - damn that dude can slap the bass! But he still sounds like Cookie Monster - which suits Devil's Brigade better than Rancid...

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