Gallows/Lethal Bizzle; The Junction, Cambridge, Sunday September 23

Gallows/Lethal Bizzle; The Junction, Cambridge, Sunday September 23

Frank Carter fires up the university city and earns himself a PhD in punk

Cambridge: a tree-strewn wonderland of imposing colleges and intellectuals, a city responsible for spawning politicians and Monty Python. But hey, it’s not all bad. Tonight Gallows and Lethal Bizzle are attacking, and a millennium of tradition doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell.

Lethal Bizzle is a nimble grime Optimus Prime, whose guitar band-sourced loops can pummel any crowd into submission. And during ‘Pow (Forward)’, ‘Babylon’s Burning The Ghetto’ and a mighty segue into House Of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’, this could almost be his show. Except of course , from the shrieking ‘Abandon Ship’ to a precision-tooled ‘Kill The Rhythm’, Gallows’ Frank Carter is clearly the ringmaster of this intoxicating freakshow, proving a split head can’t dampen his enthusiasm. He leads the band in a “shirts-off party”, leaps with abandon into the crowd and charges to the back of the hall to testify from atop the sound desk. There’s a problem, though. When any band with honesty and passion at its core start getting attention, they face the sudden terrible realisation that this juggernaut that was fun to joyride is out of their control. And in Cambridge, the curious, the fair-weather fans and the sceptical old punks have assembled at the foot of the Gallows to have a gawp.“It’s a fucking pleasure to be here,” bellows Frank. “Yeah!” some sheep cheer. “Are you going to cheer everything I say?” “Yeah!” “You’re all shit cunts!” “Yeah!” Fortunately, this depressing scene is all but erased by the forthcoming single, a blazing cover of The Ruts’ ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’. Bizzle takes equal billing onstage, providing a mesmerising vocal duel of swaggering musculature as Gallows whack out an infectious clockwork rhythm beneath.

The abiding image of the night is Frank Carter – eloquent, passionate and wirey, almost punk’s Travis Bickle – teetering on the edge of the speaker stack, peering into the pit below. It’s Gallows’ dilemma: leap into danger or retreat. Tonight they don’t simply jump into chaos, they grab it by the throat.

Anthony Thornton