Jackson United + Beat Union @ The Barfly – 20th November 2008


Here’s what I was expecting – the room filled with 14-year-old Foo Fighters fans trying to get close to their second favourite axe man.

Here’s what I got – a small room, three-quarters filled by everyone but 14-year-old Foo Fighters fans. Well… That’s cool.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in The Dragon Bar, situated on the middle floor of what was The Sanctuary, and it’s definitely the first time I’ve been there since it became a gig venue. This room was never meant to be a gig venue – the bar is far too close to the stage, and not since the “good ol’ days” of The Foundry have I been to a gig venue that has supporting pillars in the middle of the room. It’s slightly distracting, like standing behind that really tall person that always stands in front of you at a gig, but hopefully, as I come here more often, I’ll get used to it.


First up for me were local boys Beat Union. The crowd is filled with family and friends, here to see how they’re getting on – the practice is working, as song after song, I’m watching a band who are incredibly tight, know what they’re doing, and know how to get the crowd on their side.

They play pop-punk, but with a mature twist – Blink-182 they ain’t – with a little bit of 2 Tone. Their songs are short and sharp, and infectious enough to get my head moving. This band should be bigger than they are, and Kerrang Radio DJ Emma Scott is doing everything to help them. They’ve played a number of previous “Emma Scott Presents” gigs, and she’s playing them on her daytime show – she’s trying her hardest!

Their set draws heavily on their album “Disconected”, released April this year in the US, but still not released in the UK, and ends with their biggest song so far “Can’t Stop The Radio”, with a mid-section comprising of The Beat’s “Mirror In The Bathroom” and The Police’s “Message In A Bottle”.


Next up – the band that everyone’s here to see… Except they’re not. In the time it’s taken me to get a quick nicotine fix between bands, about a quarter of the crowd have gone. Obviously a large percentage of the crowd were there to see Beat Union and no-one else.

Just over five months ago, Jackson United’s Chris Schiflett played in front of approximately 165,000 people over two nights at Wembley Stadium with his “main band” Foo Fighters. Tonight, he’s singing and playing guitar to about 100 punters in a small room in Birmingham with his side project “Jackson United”. Talk about “keeping it real”.

Jackson United play rock, with an ever so slight punk edge, and the majority of tonight’s set came from their last album “Harmony And Dissidence”.

On stage, Schiflett’s wearing a Beat Union t-shirt, and the band begin blasting through their set, with barely a breath between tracks. When they do take a break, Schiflett thanks Beat Union for opening up for them on this tour – he’s obviously a fan – and enjoys conversing to the fans down the front – something that he can’t do when playing with his day job. The whole band seem to love the fact that they’re getting the chance to play the smaller, intimate venues. It’s a shame that the majority of the crowd just don’t seem to be enjoying themselves, prompting Schiflett to ask “Where’s your dancing shoes”? A lot of the crowd have left them at home…


Jackson United finish their main set with a cover of Billy Bragg’s “Help Save The Youth Of America” and leave the stage to quiet applause. Emma Scott then has to coax the crowd to cheer hard before they come back on stage for one last song.

Jackson United seemed to have a good night, but I think Beat Union stole their thunder with a home-coming support slot.

Set list:

21st Century Fight Song*
Loose Ends**
White Flag Burning*
All The Way**
Like A Bomb*
The Day That No One Smiled*
The Land Without Law*
Trigger Happy*
Here Comes Hollow**
Fell Into**
Help Save The Youth Of America*

Black Regrets*

*From “Harmony And Dissidence”
** From “Western Ballads”

Review – Tony Hackett
Photos – Dave Musson

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5 thoughts on “Jackson United + Beat Union @ The Barfly – 20th November 2008

  1. Great review, it was a brilliant night, one of their best of the week, even despite the crowd. But that’s probably because I was down the front most nights.

    Also, not to nitpick but it’s spelt Shiflett. 🙂

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