The Ritz, Manchester, UK
11th October 2017
Tonight is the opening night of the second annual Fireball – Fuelling The Fire Tour, I rarely encounter sponsored tours but everytime I do it seems to be by a whisky of some description, tonight’s Fireball Whisky sponsored tour boasts an impressive five band line up featuring Anti-Flag, Mad Caddies and Reel Big Fish with support from Sweet Little Machine, ‘Fireball’s Hottest Band 2017‘, and finally the winner of the open call to local bands, Everyone And Anyone, with a different act opening each night of the tour. What’s almost impressive as tonight’s line up is the fact that tickets for tonight’s show were a mere £10, which is a bargain by anyone’s standards.
Welsh five piece Everyone and Anyone
are the first band up, despite the early start for the local opening act there’s still a healthy crowd present in The Ritz
which steadily grows as people work their way through the stringent but friendly security. Everyone and Anyone
are an eclectic looking quintet who deliver an frantic and all too brief set of pop punk, which includes a Blink-182
cover to confirm their pop punk credentials. Everyone And Anyone
don’t look or sound out of place opening the Fireball – Fuelling The Fire Tour,
and from their short but sweet set you can see why they won the place as the local support on the first night of the tour.
Early into the evening I’m already regretting the decision to drive tonight as the Fireball Whisky
is quite literally flowing freely tonight. There’s a short break as there’s a swift changeover to Fireball’s Hottest Band of 2017
, Sweet Little Machine.
They are touring in support of their freshly released Monsters
EP, and their set contains almost every track from their impressive sophomore release. Sweet Little Machine
take the stage and treat tonight’s set like they’re headlining, and the doors that being Fireball’s Hottest Band of 2017
has opened for them has resulted in a band whose confidence and following has increased dramatically.
Sweet little Machine
carry elements of Green Day
in their sound and their frontman, Alex Lantrua
, has more than a touch of the hyperactive stage personae of Billy Joe Armstrong
about him, and they close their impressive set with the anthemic title track of their latest release. Sweet Little Machine
‘s material and stage presence is something that is all their own, the leg up afforded them by being Fireball’s Hottest Band 2017
would seem to have only speeded up the inevitable based on their new EP and tonight’s show, and I get the feeling that Sweet Little Machine
are a band that we’ll be hearing a lot more off in the coming years.
Next up is the Mad Caddies
with a long overdue return to the UK, despite the lack of new material, it’s been three long years since the Dirty Rice
album was released, they remain as effervescent as ever. They channel the roots of two tone and ska and blend it with dub, punk, moments of hardcore and touches of ragtime jazz to create something that is unique and rather special in the overcrowded world of ska punk, and from the first song in its clear its been too long since they paid a visit to our shores. Their set is heavily reliant on their recent albums at the expense of their earlier and more frantic material, meaning that this a more laid back set than the times I’ve previously encountered them.
The Mad Caddies
haven’t completely abandoned their early days though, their set gains a degree of momentum and the inclusion of Leavin
‘ and Monkeys
, from their classic sophomore album Duck And Cover
, brings a party atmosphere to The Ritz
, but for the most part the Mad Caddies
deliver a ska and reggae heavy set that keeps the crowd happy, although the exclusion of tracks such as Road Rash
leaves me feeling that an encore was warranted. The Fireball- Fuelling The Fire Tour
has been well named as it’s the sold out crowd is warming the venue up to melting point ahead of the next act, the highly anticipated return of Anti-Flag
By now The Ritz
is at capacity and the floor is awash with discarded beer and whisky glasses, from the start of Anti-Flag
‘s set wherever you were that’s where you’re staying as almost everyone is rammed into the downstairs of the venue for their set. Their rabble rousing set of course carries their signature fuck you to the right to right wing, and to say that Anti-Flag
were stunning tonight is an understatement. Mid set they are joined on stage by the Reel Big Fish
horn section and each song they launch into really does make you think that things can be changed for the better when they call for equality and unity, and of course a hefty dose of their venom is reserved for Donald Trump.
If an Anti-Flag
show indicates anything it’s that the resistance is alive and well and has a strident and eloquent voice, and it is also having a fucking good time. We need bands like Anti-Flag
more than ever now, and they’ve stepped up to the plate as tonight they delivered a perfect set of resistance fuelled punk rock. Anti-fascist, anti-sexist, anti-racist, Anti-Flag
walk the walk and their 45 minute set is as good as anyone I’ve seen live this year. They throw a frantic rendition of The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go
into the set, a band that had a huge influence on them both politically and musically, and this is accompanied by a delerious circle pit and they end the set with half the band, including drummer Pat Thetic
, in the middle of the pit.
Over the course of the set tonight’s DJ has steadily transformed into Pennywise the clown, or at least a close facsimile, and the transformation is complete prior to the appearance of Reel Big Fish
. They kick the party up a notch with their brass heavy ska, tracks like Everyone Else Is Asshole
gets a rousing singalong from the crowd and it’s clear that this is a band that know how to deliver a set of feel good ska. The relentless upbeat party doesn’t stop, and neither does the sold out crowd that are crammed onto the dance floor. Monkey Man
returns things to the roots of ska with The Maytals
classic causing a unified front to back bounce
From my vantage point there literally no one who isn’t skanking, bouncing or dancing anywhere in the venue. This continues throughout Reel Big Fish
‘s set, inflatables are batted about, and the atmosphere is about as good as you get, with something to suit everyone who is of a punk mentality and they deliver a set of crowd pleasers and covers that is their hallmark. Tonight’s opening date of the Fireball – Fuelling The Fire Tour
has contained five very different bands, everything from the pop punk of the local openers, through, the slick punk rock of Sweet Little Machine
, the hybrid ska of Mad Caddies
and the politically sussed punk of Anti-Flag,
that was all topped off with the party ska of Reel Big Fish
Anti-Flag‘s website is here
Mad Caddies website can be found here
Reel Big Fish‘s web presence is here
Sweet Little Machine‘s Facebook page is here
Everyone And Anyone‘s Facebook presence is here
Live 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