Gullivers, Manchester, UK23rd February 2017
By AJ Phink
A hectic journey into Manchester amidst the chaos of Storm Doris, yes it really was called that, sees us arrive in the nick of time for the Role Models, a band I’ve wanted to see since I first heard last years triumphant Forest Lawn LP, an album that for me was one of the best releases of 2016. In true rock ‘n roll style there is a quick tune up followed by a swig from a hip flask and we’re away. Due to the aforementioned Storm Doris hitting the UK I’m not the only one who’s had trouble getting here, frontman Rags starts to explain the travel problems, but cuts himself short with “you don’t give a shit about that” and they launch into Life Of Today, from this point on it’s clear Role Models are even better live than their album promised.
The Role Models play a combination of sleazy glam and punk that is borne of the New York Dolls and the Dead Boys, it’s played with a commitment and attitude that really deserves more than an early opening slot on a Thursday night, they are even better live than they are on record and given how good Forest Lawn was that is no mean feat. New Reason, a track recorded just after the turn of the decade, sounds sharper than ever, this has Cyndi Lauper‘s True Colours segued into it, Rags adds “hey don’t be embarrassed its a good song” to address the bemusement of the crowd, before he takes a hefty gulp from his hip flask and acknowledges the turnout for their early set “maybe this is a town that gives a shit about music”
Rags self deprecating humour “I thought I’d be way cooler when I came to the home of Joy Division, ah shut the fuck up man” peppers the set and they play a career spanning snap shot of their own brand of high energy punk rock ‘n roll that closes with a triumphant This Eventually Leads Nowhere, which ends a perfect but all too brief opening set, the reception from the crowd indicates the Role Models will return to Manchester, and if I’m honest I’m already counting the days. Role Models have a pledge campaign for their new album, Dance Moves, that hit its total in a few days, they are one of the most impressive bands out there, and on the basis of tonight, and their last album, the Role Models are an example of how things should be done.
Next up are The Empty Page, they were an unknown quantity to me prior to tonight, something that I’m glad has been remedied, they are trio that deliver a chaotic noisy storm that contains elements of riot grrrlll, grunge, eighties indie and punk in their sound, these components are blended randomly together to create a fine discordant set. The members of The Empty Page reflect the seemingly random elements of their sound, from the man mountain of a drummer and their wiry demonic looking guitarist to their vocalist, who embodies the attitude and delivery of the defiant side of the alternative scene. Their sound is bass heavy with more than a nod to the finest, and noisier, moments of the Pixies.
The Empty Page embody the attitude of punk with elements of early grunge along with their own idiosyncratic style that gives them a cross genre that will appeal to those who appreciate the darker side of the alternative scene. The Empty Page carry their own dissonant dark energy and this is something that I hope to experience again, they are another band that epitomises the diversity of Manchester’s music scene. In the face of the problems many small venues are facing in the UK, the majority of these in Manchester remain open and defiantly busy, and impressively It doesn’t matter how many concerts I attend in my home town, it seems there’s always another band to be discovered.
Finally we get Scott Sorry, he has returned to recording and live shows after a five year hiatus, their set channels equal parts of early Dropkick Murphys, Rancid and Social Distortion. They make a defiant and impressive start to their set with material from his first solo release, the impressive When We Were Kings album. and tonight’s show is one that embodies high energy punk ‘n roll, a fact underlined by Scott Sorry‘s Johnny Cash T shirt, with its iconic middle finger salute. Scott Sorry revisits their past mid set, with a few songs from the days of Sorry & The Sinatra’s, this has more of an anthemic Street punk feel about it, but the early material blends perfectly into the set.
Of course there is no visit from to the UK from an American artist without a reference to Donald Trump, Scott Sorry declares that “Trump is a Cheeto puff motherfucker” and they launch into a furious rendition of the Stiff Little Fingers classic, Suspect Device , in defiance to the policies of the current President, he admits they have chosen this as it isn’t possible to write a better political protest song, and to be honest he has a point as there are few better than this classic from Belfast’s finest. Scott Sorry marks the end to a diverse triple bill of bands that not only bridges the Atlantic, but also marks a union of everything that’s worth a damn in rock n roll, this was another great show at Gullivers that demonstrated that the spirt of rebellion and originality that personifies punk is still alive and well
Tonight has been a triumphant triple bill, whether it’s the amazing opening set by the Role Models, that carried the sleaze and attitude of early punk rock, through to the local contribution from The Empty Pages who personifed the independence and creativity of the UK alternative scene, through to the full tilt punk ‘n roll of Scott Sorry, this was an amazing tour and I’m hoping i can catch all three of the bands who played tonight again. As a footnote the end of tonight’s show ended up involving shots of Jagermeister with the Role Models, who insisted I have a drink with them despite the fact I’d just ordered a fresh pint, after that it gets hazy, but that’s a story for another day.
On a serious note it’s worth mentioning that two of the bands frontmen, Rags of the Role Models and Scott Sorry, have children that are on the autistic spectrum, the honesty around the level of personal disclosure that was on display tonight was very touching, both bands played songs regarding their children’s struggle with communication, and its admirable that two bands are publicly highlighting an issue that is all too often ignored. The Role Models are also supporting the Haringey Autism branch of the National Autistic Society through their current Pledge Music campaign, a campaign that is well worth supporting on every level.
The National Autistic Society website, where you can access information and donate, is here
The Pledge Music campaign for the new Role Models album, Dance Moves, can be found here
Photography is by Dean Unsworth, his Instagram account is located here,
You can click on any of Dean’s photos to view a slide show of the images