GEL at New Cross Inn

Support: Cold Brats
March 9, 2023 at New Cross Inn
Promoter: Real Life Promotions

Real Life Promotions put together an unreal line-up in London to aid GEL in their hardcore punk takeover of the world.  As the band themselves state: THE FREAKS WILL INHERIT THE EARTH.  And so, on a drab and drenched Thursday evening in London, the New Cross Inn becomes a haven for the freaks and a beacon to a new dawn of hardcore.

Over the past few years, GEL have taken stages across the world by storm and seizing the imagination of hardcore fans across the globe online, with videos – both shakily handheld from fans caught in the fun and somewhat more professional – capturing in amber their viscerally fun, bombastic, and vital gigs. Most famous is the video from tireless underground archivist Sunny Singh (aka hate5six), a document of punk-rock passion, fervour, and the ensuing melee, that went viral and propelled the reputation of the quintet like a rocket. Where once gigs had tickets on the door well after the first support was on, now dates on tours were selling out days and even weeks in advance.

So it has proved with the band’s debut album, Only Constant, now out on Convulse Records.  If you’re hoping to snag some vinyl before people catch on, well, I’m afraid to inform you that you’re already too late, with the event the first pressing’s ‘standard’ black edition selling out weeks before release. Act fast if you’re keen on their split with Cold Brats or their incredible EP, Violent Closure. GEL are white-hot now – in terms of notoriety, vogue, and in their punk rock fury, too.

Opening up this ridiculously stacked line-up are Trading Hands, a powerviolence group consisting of members of Negative Thought Process, The Air and Chinned. The UK troupe hail from various spots around the country, including Leeds and Reading, and I have to confess I hadn’t caught them live before this, nor had I picked up that they had put out the debut release last year, the excellently titled, CLOBBERKNOCKER. The quartet rip through an incredibly tight set, that is impulsive and deeply impressive.

Instantly holding an already packed venue’s attention, even when they make a false start and joke that “all our songs sound the same, so we sometimes need to check which one we’re playing”, it’s done with humour and a sense of community pouring out. Indeed, the entire evening is steeped in this sentiment, with every band making sure to make not only their approach and music inclusive, but also the space itself; asking everyone to respect and look out for one another. The four-piece are a band to watch, as the recording released on cassette via Nuremberg’s Coxhina Records doesn’t quite capture the band at their immediate sledgehammer best. Not yet. It will no doubt come – they’re simply too good to not be more widely acclaimed very soon.

It was no mean feat following the powerviolence four-piece before them but Shooting Daggers do so with consummate ease. The queercore trio launch straight into a blindingly good set, that gets even more of the packed New Cross Inn audience bouncing than before. Insisting that “all the girls and queers” get to the front ASAP and be given space to party the set away, they play their own individual brand of visceral hardcore punk with a message, full of venom, fury and – crucially – massive hooks. With a heavy dose of thrash built into their cosmic-tinged rock, the group blast the venue at such volume, with such vim and vigour that no one present can’t help but nod along or go fully wild and mosh along.

The band have an in-your-face Riot Grrl attitude, with the artful and political angst of DC Hardcore, and they’surely have bigger releases on the way, and much larger audiences to play to in the future. The trio play their powerful material from their great 2022 EP Anthames. Dirty, grungy riffs and pure, earnest vocals have those in the audience unaware of the group converted, and older fans beaming with delight at another chance to dance along to crucially important material with direct, engaging meaning for so many in the room: UKHC full of unrepentant wrath and bereft of any vacuous posturing.

Manchester’s Going Off take to the stage next, having only days before released their album What Makes You Tick? via Church Road Records. Yet another rising force within the UKHC scene, with a more metallic sensibility than the trio who had occupied the stage moments before. Going Off’s frontman is certainly not the sole interest of the band – they have crafted a fantastic album this year and they are wonderful live – but there is a magnetism there, an innate showmanship, an instinctual, effervescent, animalistic pull that only the best hardcore frontmen possess. You can’t help but keep your eyes locked on him, as he throws himself around, only pausing to clear the profuse sweat pouring from his brow, and to introduce the next song with a short explanation of what the inspiration was behind the writing of it.

The band’s delivery is savage, a blistering speed and riff-filled barrage of sound that impresses the whole room. By the time one of the last songs is announced as “This song is about loving yourself, because you should!” after reflecting on mental health issues plaguing our scene and an entire generation beyond, particularly in the current political and social downward spiral the UK finds itself, it serves as both touching sentiment and a lit match for the end of their set, well, going off. The whole room blows up, a mass of moving bodies dancing, moshing and generally going crazy.

Cold Brats are on tour with GEL, having released a critically acclaimed 12-inch split with the US movers-and-shakers called Shock Therapy.  All the way from Romania, the band are unfortunately plagued by technical gremlins right from the start, especially for the vocals.  It’s a great shame, and one can tell how frustrated the band are to be able to lose themselves in the atmosphere the evening has built up thus far.

It’s especially frustrating because their take on hardcore is the most unorthodox of the five bands playing tonight. Their compelling approach merges a pummelling, somewhat traditional hardcore punk rhythm section with blurry, dissonant guitars that seemingly almost wander around and ignore the bass and drum flurry happening beneath them.  There is also a stream-of-consciousness vocal style that is rare in music at the best of times, and I’ve very seldom seen it in the punk scene. Cold Brats are definitely a band I’ll need to catch again, because we hardly hear this unique delivery, given the severe microphone issues that are the band and scourge of their set. That said, they are true punks, and push through nonetheless with great aplomb, still managing to – and partly due to the sonic irritations – get the entire crowd whooping and hollering their name and praising them immediately afterwards.

GEL take to the stage to a fevered response. A note hasn’t been played and I can hear ‘GEL!’ being chanted. This is what happens when even the mighty NME conclude that you’re “shaping the sound of hardcore” to come. The band clearly don’t seem to be all that fazed by all the furore, though. Vocalist Sami Kaiser picks up the mic (now restored to former glory), and nonchalantly whispers, “Oh, hey, we’re GEL. Nice to be here!”

The evening feels like a bit of a moment to freeze frame because there’s no way GEL are playing anything as small as the New Cross Inn when playing London again. I love listening to punk, hardcore on record, as well as all the myriad sub-genres that spur off them, but of all the heavy genres it is hardcore punk that truly lives and breathes in the live experience. The band’s debut album, Only Constant, has improved on capturing of the visceral nature of the five-piece, as did the split on the EP, and that on releases before. No doubt in the future GEL will have more experience and potentially more budget (if only for running time, should they choose to use it, that is) to improve upon that, too. But it doesn’t matter.Those are only documentations of the compositions they have written. Live is where the songs breathe and flourish.

Living up to the considerable hype, GEL power through an incredible set of the newest material along with recent favourite ragers such as ‘Mental Static’ and the already iconic ‘Vibefucker’. The band leave the stage heroes only to return somewhat bemused as the crowd simply will not let them end before playing ONE.LAST.SONG. They rattle through another highlight of highlights from their back catalogue, as sweat drips from the ceiling of the New Cross pub, the windows steam up further, the squeals of feedback dim and fade out from their crushing punk onslaught and everyone suddenly faces the shock of stepping outside into the frozen, soaked night.

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