A trio of awesomeness descended onto the Southampton music scene last Friday, and what better way to start the weekend then some hard rock and metal mixed with drum and bass and reggae at the O2 Guildhall.
Skindred have been kicking the scene since the late 90’s and are still as lively and animated as they were when they performed at their first Download in 2006. Touring their new album “Big Tings”, landing this month, the masters of mixed rock where graced with the support of Canadian rockers Danko Jones and the outrageous CKY. The latter being well known for providing the soundtracks to Jackass.
Danko Jones’s three-piece consists of Danko Jones, Vocals/Guitar; John Calabrese, Bass and Rich Knox, Drums. Their hard rock style, well received by the crowd, helps to kick-start the action and get those horns flying.
Another stalwart on the rock scene, having formed back in 1996, the band have been mostly a support act for a vast array of talent. Musically this band are strong with Danko and John both giving Mary hell to their tools of choice, but the lyrics fall slightly flat compared to the riffing rhythm they both created. You can clearly hear that they’ve been together (Danko and John) for over two decades as they are tight and have great stage energy, especially Mr. Calabrese.
Next up the Pennsylvanian rockers CKY. Upon entering the stage the band, met with a reception for hero’s, install the fact that these guys are loved and have been since way back in 98.
With a family connection of Jess Margera, Drums, and his the infamous brother, Bam from Jackass, assisting fame from the early 00’s, this band actually hold their own. (Newish) Lead singer and all-around entertainer Chad I Ginsburg, Guitar, is electric to watch and has some serious skills on the axe. His vocals may sometimes get lost in the crashing sound they originate, but the band, including Matt Deis, Bass, providing top-heavy riffs, are a three-piece to nostalgically enjoy. Keep an eye out for these over the summer…could be the last chance.
The main event…
Led onto the stage to the sound of Darth Vader’s Death March, Mikey Demus, Guitarist, followed by Drummer Arya Goggin and, local lad Daniel Pugsley, Bassist, take to the stage to greet the fanatical crowd of metalheads. The noise gets louder as Benji, dressed in an outrageous get up of leather studded jacket flying Jamaican colours, studded/spiked sun glasses and union jack in hand, jumps into the spotlight.
Benji Webbe, a frontman worthy of rivaling that of the great late Freddy Mercury for showmanship, is clearly the life and soul of this ragga rock party. His Welsh accent and his massive dreadlocks provide somewhat of a juxtaposition, but only adds to the intrigue this band’s offers. The crowd power alone shows the love the fans have, jumping, crouching and undressing.
His infectious performance runs deep in the veins of the crowd who scream like their baying for blood at an ancient Roman gladiatorial tournament. Vocals on point, and dress code even pointer, Benji is clearly the engine behind this Machine. Local lad Pugsley welcomed warmly back to his hometown, and guitarist Mikey Demus led the way with their incredibly tight mash up of metal, rock, and ragga. Goggin on Drums adds that oh so important thunder as he crashes his way across that massive kit high above the stage overlooking the erratic fans. This is a party of sorts, a rock rehash of all good things in music, and done so well.
The “Big Tings” tour features a mix of old and new. Their new music could easily be branded commercial compared to the old, and this is apparent when you see the reactions of the crowd. Opening with the new tracks “Big Tings” and “Start the Machine”, the band offers the fanatic horde a nostalgic dip.
After the promotion of their new work, the mood soon changes as they delve into older tracks and an encore from their Roots Rock Riot album from ten years previous. The gig ends with insanity as they play their famous track Warning from the album, Union Black. This sets the trend for the bands signature “Newport Helicopter”, a move where the crowd basically take their tops off and whip them around their heads at high speed. Awesome to watch but when you’re in the mix shield your face!
The set isn’t all about the hard and heavy as halfway through Benji pays a heartfelt and truly heart-breaking tribute to his mate Shaun who sadly passed away due to a cancer-related illness. This held the message that “there’s never a good time to see someone, so just go bloody see them” (add thick welsh accent for full effect). It’s a side not often seen by this hard-hitting band but one welcomed by their fans and listen too with absorption.
It’s fair to say that the last 20 years have been good to Skindred, with seven albums, the seventh being Big Tings due to hit the digital shelves on April 27th, and the numerous number of Festivals and Gigs, helping to cement a gathering horde of horn baring, t-shirt wielding, pit moshing, loyal fans. Southampton was a sell-out which is no surprise as the bands are an awesome act. Skindred are easily one of the UK’s best live bands… a title they’ve won before and should again!