Live review

Fat Tour Europe 2003
Northumbria University, Newcastle : 28.4.2003

Fat Wreck Chords is considered to be a fine label and host to some quality punk rock bands. Tonight at Newcastle's Northumbria University, four of those bands were on show.
    As we walked past the merchandise table we noticed a familiar face: Sascha Lazor, guitarist for Mad Caddies. Sascha was decent enough to have a long chat with us and answer questions while being completely down-to-earth. After that, Ed [Eduardo Hernandez, Caddies trombonist] was sat at our table having a drink with my friends. It really says something about the punk bands who play smaller venues like Northumbria Uni - they are not the rock superstars in the mainstream who may find it too demanding to take some time out to sign an autograph.

Kicking the whole thing off were The Flipsides, bouncy and energetic power pop actually signed to Fat's sister label, Pink And Black Records. The female-fronted trio blasted through a half hour set, but sadly failed to liven the audience, who simply stood watching and nodding their head to the rhythm on the odd occasion.
    Next up were The Lawrence Arms, another trio, hailing from Chicago. Good old simple punk rock was played with excellent technical precision and this time the crowd were more energetic; responding to the songs with plenty of cheering and dancing.
    Rise Against were outstanding - it's that simple. As soon as the band came onstage and belted through the first song, the kids were slam dancing and the whole place exploded in a frenzy. After playing through Generation Lost with the force of a speeding juggernaut, vocalist Tim McRaith proceeded to make a speech that thanked all the bands and fans that had made punk rock what it is today, to which the fans thrust their fists in the air in a pledge of allegiance. Rise Against left the stage to rapturous applause. Then it was time . . .

The lights dimmed down as a sign with two words lit up over the stage: Mad Caddies. As the lights came up slowly and five young men walked onto the stage, the crowd went wild. The Mad Caddies wasted no time introducing themselves as they launched straight into The Gentleman, trumpets scorching. It was astonishing to see a lot of the fans singing along to the words; Mad Caddies are not even especially famous even in their native California! Nonetheless, the fans loved the ska-ridden and swing-infested punk rock shenanigans.
    The thing that set the Caddies apart from every live band I have seen was the spontaneity of the songs - although the set list was roughly created before the show, they slotted in songs that the fans shouted out as well, such as 10 West and Leavin'. This truly won the crowd over as it showed the Caddies only wanted to play what the fans wanted to hear.
    After pounding through a mixture of old and new songs (including Goleta, Preppie Girl, Macho Nachos and Spare Change) and engaging onstage frolics - such as larger-than-life singer Chuck Robertson performing one press up and throwing lettuce at other band members - Mad Caddies brought the set to a close with their final song, All American Badass.

Overall, a first-rate gig; each band's sound varying from the last - which is something unusual when all the bands play some form of punk rock and are signed to the same label. Fat Mike should be swollen with pride.

:: Graham Drummond

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