Brighton’s Barstool Preachers play in one of Bristol’s newest venues, Rough Trade Records.
Heading over the Severn Bridge the radio was filled with doom and gloom. We are all about to die and the apes are going to take over. Apparently.
If the end of the world is nigh we dont have time to listen to shitty music. The Barstool Preachers ain’t a bad choice for last band to see before the apocalypse.
Unexpectedly, driving into Bristle during Friday rush hour is a doddle. Seems like everyone is queueing to get out of the city, rather than in. Perhaps they are all heading out of town in search of hand sanitizer and bog roll.
The sat nav guides us efficiently into a cheap car park just around the corner from the venue. This is all going rather smoothly.
Until this gig was announced I didn’t even know there was a Rough Trade Records in Bristol, let alone that they have gigs there. An early arrival to check out the shop was compulsory.
First thing I noticed was that they have one of the best selection of books I’ve seen in a shop for a very long time. I browse like a bookworm on heat, before remembering it’s a record shop, then browse like a vinyl junkie on heat. (OK, I was mostly looking at CDs, I’m a bit old skool like that, but CD junkie doesn’t have the same ring to it.)
Before I had even left the house I knew Rough Trade would be a goldmine. It’s the daddy of them all when it comes to independent / non mainstream releases.
After a while The Preachers come out to meet me for a chat. We sit, appropriately, on a barstool and I press record. Watch this space for a transcript of the interview (nag me if I dont sort it soon).
Once the shop closes a partician is drawn and merch stalls are set up, segregating the cafe/bar from the emporium of sonic delights.
Yes, music, books, and a bar. That would be enough to make it one of best record shops in the world. But you have to add a nice grassroots gig venue out back. I love this place already.
The venue is to the back of the shop. I would guess it was originally intended as a large store room. It’s rectangular, completely painted black and probably has a capacity of around two hundred. My kind of venue.
The room fills up nicely before Bottle Kids hit the stage, meaning no awkward moments when the first band play to an empty room.
Prior to Christmas I had not heard of the Bottle Kids, yet two and a bit months into the new decade they grab an early lead in the race to be the band I have seen the most this year.
This Chepstow based three peice are a no nonsense high energy stripped down punk rock unit. Typical Gwent boys.
With low slung guitars and a nonchalant swagger they casually belt out an intense frill free sound as if this is what they were born to do. No pretences, just bosh, ‘ave that. They dont even get phased by a mic stand with a mind of it’s own, they just slog away to deliver the goods, like working class lads do.
Once their shift is done the room empties as beers are refilled and tabs are smoked, but by the time I Destroy hit the stage the room is packed and ready for them.
On home turf, I Destroy are probably what’s known as ‘Riot Grrl’. If not, they should be. Young, energetic and feisty, they cover every inch of the stage with hair and attitude flying in all directions.
Again they are full on and, as the Dead Boys might have said, ‘young, loud and snotty’. They make a noise that breaks down barriers and defies preconceptions. They remind us old gits what it was like to be young and fearless, carving out your own path.
They already have two EPs under their belt and are working on their debut album (thanks internet). There is also a European tour in the pipeline (pandemic permitting) and we have no doubt we are witnessing the start of something interesting here.
After a short refreshment and comfort break the crowd get into position ready for the main attraction.
Before The Barstool Preachers have even hit the stage they are encouraging the crowd to get their hands in the air and party.
They set their stall out straight away, debunking the idea of ‘Trickle ‘Down’ theory, calling on the crowd to rise up and generally ‘sticking it to the man’.
This is anarcho punk with a difference. It’s actually got some decent rhythms, you can dance to it and it makes you smile.
It makes the band smile aswell, from ear to ear. This is a band of brothers happy in their work. And averaging one hundred and fifty gigs a year over their five years together, they have their craft perfected.
They certainly lean more towards the punk end of the skapunk spectrum, but there is enough ska there to get the crowd skanking throughout the set. We also get a mosh pit develop organically and with a little bit of encouragement we get a glimpse of a Bristle circle pit.
Despite being a relatively young, fresh faced band, there is a broad cross section of ages in the crowd. Postcard punks and skins mix freely with general music lovers. The way things should be.
The band hop skip and jump through their two album back catalogue. Apparently they dont do set lists, they improvise and decide from song to song whilst watching the mood of the crowd.
‘Clock out, tools down’, ‘Don’t let the door hit you on the way out’, ‘Choose my friends’ and ‘Drive’ are just a few of the tunes that they deem the crowd want tonight.
I dont recall the single ‘Grazzie Governo’ getting an airing but the anthem ‘Barstool Preachers’ inevitably roused the rabble to fever pitch when it is dusted off for the encore.
By the time they finally leave the stage they look like they’ve just had a shower with their clothes on. Shirts soaked with sweat, exhausted but huge grins on their faces. Like a team that has just put their all into doing what they do best and been rewarded by winning the cup final.
There are no trophies for them to lift, but they dont need one. They know they done good and they know they have been appreciated. It’s called job satisfaction. The best kind of reward for down to earth working class lads.