The second Shred Yr Face tour boasts a line-up so fierce that we’re not simply getting our faces shredded, we’re having our ribcage reorganised and our nipples ripped clean off. No speaker will be left intact as this unapologetic, three-part musical killer robot lumbers into action and inspirationally denies that the word ‘control’ even exists. Better still, these bands are about to make something really important happen; they’re going to prove that punk in 2009 has been resuscitated so thoroughly that it’s now got the healthiest heartbeat in music.
There’s also a real sense of community behind the scenes and The Bronx’s frontman Matt Caughthran is beaming with pride. “This is one of the best punk tours to come through the UK in a long while,” he enthuses. “We hand-picked Fucked Up, we’ve wanted to play with them for a long time, and when we figured out what Rolo Tomassi are all about, we were super-excited to have them on board.” He’s not the only one – the gig has sold out and at 7.30pm there’s not a single inch of floor left to stand on. As Rolo Tomassi – Sheffield’s brilliantly befuddling synth-screamers – rip into the double-vocal assaults of ‘Film Noir’ and the brand-new ‘Jealous Bones’, they demonstrate a beautiful bloodbath of angelic melodies and terrifying roars. ‘I Like Turbulence’, meanwhile, lets their split personalities fight it out to the death.
They might confuse the crap out of all your senses at once but they do it so well you’re inevitably sucked in. An onlooking Caughthran is a definite goner. “It takes time for the caveman in me to evolve with new sounds, but I’m ready to evolve for this band; Eva’s got a great voice,” he declares. Just as we’re pondering if cavemen would have liked punk, Toronto’s all-mayhem crew Fucked Up appear and it quickly begins to look and sound like the earth is collapsing in on itself. The Cockpit may well resemble a bomb shelter, but that’s little help if Fucked Up tear it down from the inside out. Their anthem of rebellion ‘Crusades’ is preceded by a short, sharp old-school shock on ‘Baiting The Public’ before we literally lose their frontman in a pit of excitement during the raw ravage of ‘Police’.
If what we’re witnessing is the chemistry of common life, we’re ready to enrol in a science degree and give Jarvis Cocker’s people a run for their money. The fact we’re even watching them, 3,500 miles away from their hometown, is accidental, as vinyl-fanatic leader Father Damian explains. “Fucked Up was never designed to be our job. Commercial success was never even thought about, but we’ve stumbled into these amazing opportunities… punk was perfected in England, so for me, playing here isn’t like playing anywhere else in the world.” The brutal and genuine love keeps flowing even as, two songs into The Bronx’s set, the possibility that half of Leeds will have to fork out for new organs becomes very real. Yet somehow we’ve never felt more alive. It’s that very feeling, that effortless realisation, which is written on the face of every teen in Yorkshire tonight. A sea of feet are raised to the sweat-drenched ceiling as a smiling Caughthran declares, “The UK just keeps opening its arms wider and wider for The Bronx… thank you so fucking much.”
Clearly, the pleasure is all ours, but if you could please spare a kidney…The melodic offering of ‘Young Bloods’ is dedicated to Rolo Tomassi and ‘False Alarm’ does whatever the opposite of restoring order is. The dirty air of ‘White Guilt’ feels like waking up in the wet patch after you’ve passed out; it’s all kinds of wrong but you’re blatantly going back for more. ‘Knifeman’, meanwhile, is an LA beast that cannot be tamed, neutered or sedated. It’s an episode of unrivalled destruction that’s telling us punk rock is back in a big way and there’s little chance we can ignore its presence. There is no compromise, only attitude, and it probably just saved our lives. Considering they’re welcoming us to a ‘Shitty Future’, The Bronx are taking on the serious job of giving hope to every punk kid in Britain.