Club Academy, Manchester, UK19th July 2016
By AJ Phink
Summer has made it’s belated arrival in Manchester as Lagwagon, Useless ID and Versus The World roll into town, it’s hitting boiling point in the city and everyone has spilled outside the pubs and bars that populate the area, regardless of this temptation we are headed into Club Academy. Thankfully the venue lies in the basement of the University, which at least offers some respite from the heat. The music being played prior to the first band seems to be an odd choice, we get a selection of 70s and 80s disco, but to hear a, slightly drunk, member of the early evening crowd hollering It’s Raining Men almost makes it tolerable… almost.
Versus The World, the only band on tonight’s bill who aren’t signed to Fat Wreck Chords, open tonight’s proceedings, sadly they open to a sparse crowd. Versus The World, whose line up includes members of Lagwagon, The Ataris and Antifreeze, play their set regardless and they start to bring in a few stragglers. The Californian five piece play their hard edged variety of pop punk to those who have forsaken the early evening sunshine. Versus The World play an energetic set that is a fine opening to tonight’s show, whilst their sound may not be original concept it is delivered with an admirable level of commitment and enthusiasm.
Prior to Useless ID taking the stage the random selection of music continues, for some reason we get treated to Lynard Skynard‘s Freebird before Useless ID take the stage. Useless ID are touring in support of their impressive, and in my opinion their best album to date, State Is Burning. The Israeli quartet wake up the venue with their intense brand of melodic hardcore, they play a set that, whilst mainly culled from their latest release, is interspersed with a selection of songs from their past glories. Apparently Manchester is as “hot as Haifa” tonight, despite this Useless ID play a energetic set in the now oppressive heat.
The harmonies that inhabit their material are present live, and everything about this band just screams commitment, impressively they sound even better live, and believe me I loved State Is Burning. Useless ID leave the stage and you can see the sweat dripping from the microphone which underlines just how much they’ve put into tonight’s short set. The only issue I have with Useless ID tonight is that their set just isn’t long enough, a band of this calibre deserve more than half an hour, and their set is over in an impressive, but all too short instant. On the basis of tonight I would recommend catching Useless ID live if you get the chance.
The crowd has swelled during Useless ID‘s set, whilst by no means sold out the Club Academy now has a healthy and enthusiastic crowd that are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Lagwagon. The Bonanza theme tune rings out from the PA and this signals that their arrival is imminent, tonight they are playing their classic Hoss album in full. A small but enthusiastic mosh pit immediately forms, and more impressively remains in place throughout the set. Even the Californian’s are struggling with tonight’s unrelenting heat, Joey Cape informs us that this is the hottest stage that Lagwagon have ever encountered in the UK.
Whilst the crowd tonight is smaller than Lagwagon are used to playing to, I doubt they’ll encounter a more dedicated crowd on this tour, the mosh pit expands throughout the set until it occupies most of the floor, with sweaty die hard fans throwing themselves around with admirable abandon. Once Hoss has been played in full we get a crowd pleasing encore or two including two of my favourite Lagwagon songs, May 16, and Falling Apart. What really comes across during Lagwagon‘s set is that they clearly love what they’re doing, this is just as well as they have now been around for more than a quarter of a century.
On the hottest day of the year in Manchester, in a venue that resembles a building site, where the main bar was shut and despite the truly awful selection of songs inbetween the bands, a respectable crowd still attended on what was a very close, sweaty and humid night. For those who opted for an evening outside the pub and a few cold beers instead of attending tonight’s show, I understand your reasoning, but you made the wrong choice. There’s nowhere I would have rather been in Manchester tonight, although I will admit that some air conditioning would have been a welcome addition.
Photography is by Dean Unsworth, he will be launching his website soon, you can visit his Instagram account here