Academy In The UK @ Birmingham Academy – 4th May 2008


Kicking off at 12:30pm, Academy in the UK didn’t seem as busy as usual this year, but seeing as it finished at 2am, it was still very early on this drizzly Sunday.

Steve E Nix and The Cute Lepers kicked off the show; unfortunately not everyone had made it in before the set finished, the rest preferring to browse the merch stores, meant they didn’t draw a huge crowd.

Female fronted Dragster were up second. Hailing from Coventry, the local boys and girl managed to pull in a few more punters with their hotrod style. Lead singer Fi, strutted around the stage in a tiny red dress (looking a little like Bettie Page), and seemed to entice people away from the bar with her banshee-esque vocals.


New York Alcoholic Anxiety Attack a 3 piece from Bradford appeared next. Standing shirtless with a giant crucifix around his neck, lead singer Mik Davis looked more Jim Morrisson than Jonny Rotten. The majority of people had gone outside for a cigarette during their set, and after the lack of applause (and a small rant from Mik), NYAAA prompted more people to go and join the smokers. They played an ok set but after Dragster, didn’t really seem to fit in on the bill.


Fourth band on Deadline took to the stage next. Sounding like a punk rock Paramore, their too flame haired singer Liz, could really hold her own in a room full of fed up punks. With catchy songs and a brilliant stage presence, they were by far the best of the early bands, and even had the previously bored looking punks, pogoing around the academy.

That was until Drongos for Europe came on. It’s difficult to describe how brilliant these local boys were, but 5 minutes in to their first song, it began to feel like a punk gig. Tommy Drongo took to the stage like a man possessed. Adorned in a Contempt t-shirt, he paused to dedicate the set to Trog (bassist for Contempt and Police Bastard), who is sadly loosing his battle with cancer as I write this. Met with cheers from the ever growing crowd, it became clear that this wasn’t just any normal Academy in the UK; it was a tribute to Trog. Drongos lit up the room and injected the crowd with some much needed energy. Even with a few technical mishaps, it was Birmingham punk at its best. They certainly showed the previous bands how it should be done.


64 year old Charlie Harper, front man of UK Subs proved age is definitely no object when it comes to punk rock, as the Subs took their place on the stage. With his boundless energy, he could have easily been mistaken for a man half his age. It was punk sung by an original punk, and as he pogoed around the stage it was obvious why they were adored by so many.


Probably one of the most unlikely bands of the day were Spunge. They have been knocking around the Birmingham music scene for many years now and seemed a hit with the younger members of the crowd. Their ska punk sound wasn’t as well received by the majority, but their most popular single to date ‘Kicking Pigeons’ did draw some reminisant smiles amongst the slightly older audience members. Still, they haven’t really done anything spectacular since their hay day of a few years ago, and there were many loud comments of how they’d managed to get a higher spot on the bill than Drongos For Europe and UK Subs.


The Buzzcocks and The Damned headlined today’s event, and even though these punk classics played blinding sets, they were all out done by far by local boys GBH. As they set up on stage, cigarettes dangling from their lips, the Academy seemed fuller than it had done all day and than it would be for the rest of the night. As they began their first song, the stage was pelted with pint glasses, not out of disgust but appreciation. They tore through the set and the circle pit down the front was only for the brave. It was as if the whole day had solely been building towards them. Lead singer Colin dedicated a song to Trog, and for a moment there was a poignant pause amongst the madness, before the erupted fast and furiously into the next classic song. A mass of moshing Mohawks was all that was visible of the crowd, as Colin wound them up further by asking ‘Is this fucking punk rock or I’d do anything?’.
Anyone who believes that true punk gigs can only be held in dingy back rooms of pubs should have been here tonight. In true punk fashion, Colin’s announcement that they ‘would keep playing until they were kicked off’ was met with thunderous cheers that seemed to shake the academy walls. I did feel sorry for the bands to follow, including Mad Sin, who put on an amazing rockabilly show complete with light up double bass, as it was obvious most were here for GBH.
As they drew to a close, Colin invited everyone for a beer down to their Digbeth local, and to then set fire to the police station. As they exited the stage, so did a large portion of the crowd, suggesting maybe the organisers had picked the wrong bands to headline in Birmingham? Whether they did set fire to the police station I’m not sure, but one thing for certain was the day belonged to GBH.


It was a really poignant day for Birmingham punks and all those who love the band Contempt and Police Bastard, with the sad news of Trog. I really believe everyone who played, especially the local bands did him proud today, it was just a shame he couldn’t be there to see it for himself. My thoughts go out to all his friends and family.

Review & Photos – Lucy Pryor

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