Ball of Destruction – Manchester, Star & Garter – 13.12.16


In another odd concert line up New York hardcore veterans Madball are over in the UK for a bunch of arena shows opening up for Limp Bizkit and Korn. I like Madball but I’m not keen on arena ticket prices – especially when you’re attending for half an hour of the opening band then heading off home into the Manchester gloom. 

About a month ago Ball of Destruction – a tribute band named after Madball’s debut 7″ released in 1989 – were announced to play the Star and Garter in Manchester the day after the Korn show. Three of Manchester’s current crop of hardcore bands were named as support, so as I was off work for a week and I really like Broken Teeth it was an excuse to head into Lancashire. 

We missed Restrict as we were sampling ales in a few other drinking establishments before hand. The first band I got to see was Guilt Trip who were performing to a near capacity room. Their Slayer infused beat down hardcore was very good, they might have spent a bit too much time trying to get the crowd to move about and step forward, but they are a band I’ll check out again. 

After a brief 15 minute change over I tunnelled my way to the back of the room to catch one of Nuclear Blast’s most recent recruits. I’ve seen these guys a few times before and their big label break is more than deserved and especially now with the calibre of hardcore bands that they can now call label mates. Not as many flailing bodies down the front as I’d expected, but everyone seemed to have fun. Surely the venue was an oversold sell out because Broken Teeth were playing their last home town show of 2016?

Walking into the venue a few hours earlier it was odd seeing a tribute band with so much merch and a blatant rip off of the current Madball designs. We slightly over estimated our return home and didn’t have a car arriving until 11:45pm (and that ended up being thirty minutes late) we decided to check out the cover band and if we didn’t like it there’s a bar downstairs. 

As 10pm approached people were still trying to find a square inch of space to gain a vantage point of tonight’s headliners. For a tribute band looks seem to be a big part of the appeal as much as their sound, and as the three musicians were waiting awkwardly on stage for the frontman to appear they did look remarkably like Hoya and Mitts – so bonus points were awarded there for attention to detail. 

A few of those points though were taken away when their version of Freddie Cricien bounded onto the stage. There was some resemblance there, but those long locks looked out of place. They did get the sound spot on though and Set It Off early in the set did get things bouncing. They introduced themselves as “New York’s newest band” and they took everything in good humour and there seemed to be a lack of a rigid set list and they just belted out whatever they could hear the crowd shouting out. At one point there was even an impromptu rendition of Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight. Just another bizarre moment in an evening of weirdness tonight. 

Almost an hour later when they left the stage the room was still almost at capacity, and as someone who doesn’t really do tribute bands I have to say those four guys really did get their doppelgängers down to a tee and for of those of us too tight to shell out £50 to see them the night before it was a cheaper alternative. 

Hopefully though the original band will hit these shores for another British tour to celebrate twenty eight years as one of New York’s finest. Just for comparison, the video for Pride (Times Are Changing) is below and is taken from Madball’s second album Demonstrating My Style. 


Rather Be Dead

Yesterday afternoon I was in London. Last night Swedish hardcore punk band Refused played London. Well I messed that one up didn’t I!

I must have been listening to the Umeå band since 1994 (Umeå – now that was a great little hardcore scene – Final Exit, Doughnuts, Abhinanda amongst others and Desperate Fight Records). It was another appearance by a band on a compilation CD that piqued my interest in yet more musical highlights. Not exactly sure what compilation it was, maybe a fanzine maybe a label – We Bite, Burning Heart? After hearing them I tracked down what I could through the numerous distro’s that I used at the time. The era where all CD singles used to come packaged in card sleeves. I have several boxes of card sleeved CD’s!

Roll on to August 26th 1996, New York hardcore mob were doing a few select UK dates and one of those was at The Wheatsheaf in Stoke. I’d seen Madball for the first (and second) time earlier in the year, so playing a 15 minute drive away from home was a given, even more so when France’s Kickback and Refused were supporting.

The first gig on UK soil definitely lives on in the mind of vocalist Dennis Lyxzén, and not in a good way! A lot of the local hardcore “kids” didn’t show up as NYHC wasn’t their thing – and Refused are far removed from that. Those who were in attendance had not heard Refused, (give it a couple more years to the release of The Shape of Punk to Come and that venue would have been heaving) so a shirt and trouser clad hardcore band with smart haircuts was light years ahead of what the narrow minded locals were used to at the time. The majority of the sparse crowd continued their conversations and turned their backs on a band that would later become such a massive influence on the transforming post hardcore scene.

How do I know that night in Staffordshire is still burned into Dennis’ brain? During their set on the second stage at the 2012 Download Festival he brought up the appalling crowd response at their first UK show in Stoke. I enjoyed the band that night and looked forward to them more than the headliners. Spin on 24 hours and you would also find me at their second British gig at Jilly’s Rockworkd in Manchester, with the addition of UKHC godfathers Stampin’ Ground and local heroes Area Effect. I reckon the closest the band have got to returning to the county is speeding through it on the M6 as fast as they can.

Rather Be Dead is taken from 1996’s Songs to Fan The Flames of Discontent album.