Picture a bunch of blokes with beer bellies and battered instruments, murdering a selection of your favourite songs in the back of a pub. That, my friends, is a typical covers band; there’s probably one playing just down the road from you tonight. Me First And The Gimme Gimmes, however, are something of an anomaly; a Californian covers band that not only feature NOFX leader Fat Mike amongst their ranks, but have also sold out two nights at the London Astoria – all thanks to their speedy punk rock covers of classic radio and show tunes. Bizarre? Tell me about it.
Canadian quintet The Sainte Catherines get the party started with some raw, unpolished hardcore, reminiscent of Hot Water Music if they’d gargled whisky from an early age. The venue’s not even half full yet, but the band’s three-guitar attack sounds bold and brash enough to win them some new fans amongst the sparse crowd.
“We’ve finished our new record’, declares live-wire Capdown frontman Jake “it only took us five years!” Five years in which the popularity of the UK’s ska-punk scene has waned considerably; but tonight Capdown look and sound more vital than ever before, as they launch aural smart-hombs like ‘Cousin Cleotis’ and ‘Ska Wars’ into a grateful pit. The new songs sound excellent, especially the aptly titled ‘Surviving The Death Of A Genre’, and could well gain them the recognition they’ve deserved for so long. Make no mistake; these guys aren’t finished yet.
Mind you, Capdown’s scathing political commentary and Me First’s unashamedly silly sense of humour make for odd bedfellows, to say the least. “A punk cover of Stairway To Heaven!” laughs Me First singer Spike, after his cowboy-clothed band have butchered Led Zeppelin’s signature anthem. “It can only go downhill from here!” Indeed, punk rock covers of songs like ‘Seasons In The Sun’ and R Kelly’s ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ may be well beyond the boundaries of good taste, but certainly not of good fun. When nearly every song is introduced with a shout of “This next one’s a cover!” and a circle pit is spinning to a warp-speed rendition of ‘Over The Rainbow’, surely only the most churlish punter would leave without a smile on their face.
Me First will not change your life; but that was never the plan. All they can promise is a good night out, and some truly tacky Hawaiian shirts – and tonight they easily make the grade on both counts. Gimme more!
[Photo by Graham Grieve]