Live Review: Grade 2 / Wolf Bites Boy – The Star And Garter, Manchester, UK, 20th December 2019

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Grade 2 / Wolf Bites Boy

The Star And Garter, Manchester, UK - 20th December 2019

It’s our final gig of 2019 and I can’t think of a better place to end a monumental year of live shows and festivals than at The Star And Garter, Manchester’s longest standing DIY venue and the home of the Manchester institution that is the STP Records live shows, add to this that tonight sees Wolf Bites Boy accompany Grade 2, a band who have had a whirlwind year that has seen them tour on two continents, sign to Hellcat Records and release their impressive “Graveyard Island” full length, and you have a potentially great end to 2019’s live shows . As it’s the last Friday before Christmas Manchester is of course in a state of absolute chaos due to festive shopping and drinking on the day that has become known as ‘Mad Friday’ as many have finished work for Christmas and are understandably celebrating the start of the Christmas break in earnest.

Unusually there are only two bands on, as we’ve arrived early we get to hear both bands noisily sound checking and rattling the window frames of The Star & Garter. Before we get to Grade 2 we get Wolf Bites Boy making one of their sporadic appearances to open tonight’s show, there is no preamble other than a brief “good evening Manchester” before they launch into ‘Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down‘, this is brutal in your face vintage street punk that warms up the crowd on a cold Manchester evening. The old school punk and Oi! outfit are in many ways the perfect opening act for tonight, bands like Wolf Bites Boy paved the way for the likes of Grade 2 and the past should always come before the future. Despite being the elder statesmen on tonight’s bill Wolf Bites Boy are not content to just relive past glories, new material is dropped into their set indicating there is still life in the old Wolf.

During Wolf Bites Boy’s set many of the younger attendees were lurking downstairs near the bar indicating that there is a generation gap still in evidence and that they were here for one reason and one reason only, to see Grade 2. The soundtrack shifts into dub and a certain herbal odour becomes more prevalent which is contrast to when Grade 2 finally hit the stage. The energy levels are upped are The Star & Garter comes alive for one of the best new street punk bands from the UK. Those who were lurking in the bar downstairs are now front and centre for a set that brings street punk kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

There has never been a better breeding ground for dissent than the stultifying confines of suburbia and I can only imagine the Isle Of Wight is this on steroids, and this what is reflected in tonight’s show, a reaction against boredom and inequality, this is street punk but done as it oughta be and on the band’s own terms, not derivative or resembling the horde of bands that populate the genre, Grade 2 stand alone in attitude, style and energy from the majority of hands of the scene, familiar yet refreshing, inclusive and original, and as they’ve signed to Hellcat Records it would seem that Grade 2 have the world at their feet, and based on tonight’s show they’ll take it with ease.

Previously my only experience or knowledge of the Isle Of Wight consisted of one family holiday, the only time I broke a bone, and that it’s the home of my favourite chilli sauce, Bloody Hell Hot Sauce if you’re interested, but tonight Grade 2 put the tiny island well and truly on the map. Their set spanned their first two albums as well as their Hellcat Records debut. Despite their latest full length being fresh out of the traps they slip brand  new material into their set indicating that despite 2019 being their best year to date they aren’t anywhere near done yet and we can expect a lot more new material to be released in the future.

Their debut album “Mainstream Brew” was released three short years ago, two further full lengths and garnering the support of Rancid’s Lars Frederikson and Tim Armstrong, indicates that 2020 looks bright for the Isle Of Wight’s most famous sons, this might not be much of a boast right now but pretty soon you will know their name and in my opinion you should, Grade 2 represent the next wave of UK street punk, although they aren’t afraid to recognise their roots with a cover of The Jam’s ‘In The City‘. Tonight everything was permanently in the red, the atmosphere was positive and inclusive and the crowd was ‘refreshed’ and friendly, the perfect recipe for my final concert of 2019.

A call for who have seen Grade 2 before splits the audience and shows that they are not just preaching to the converted, and they launch into “Groundhog Day”, a movie that like many of the influences predates the band members birth, but whilst they acknowledge the past they aren’t embedded in it. The penultimate encore of ‘Dover Street‘ sees a raucous seasonal singalong from everyone present, with exception of the incredibly drunk guy who just stood on my feet repeatedly instead, but as it’s Christmas I’ll let him off. Grade 2 finish off with ‘All I Know‘ to mark the end to fine year of gigs and festivals for The Punk Site in 2019, just wait until you see what we’ve got lined up for 2020, but right now I’m off home to try and get rid of a stinking cold, recuperate and hibernate with my cats until January, we’ll be back down the front in 2020.

Live photography is by Gary Hough, his Instagram account is located here and you can click on any of Gary’s photos to view a slide show of the images