Wonk Unit/Madhouse/The Nilz/Suckin’ Diesel – Belfast, Voodoo – 2 February 2018 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby   
Friday, 09 February 2018 04:20

Wonk Unit Belfast posterSometimes, in this reviewing game, you find yourself rocking up to a gig not knowing quite what to expect. Yes, the vast majority of the time, you’re a fan of one or more of the bands on the bill, or your interest has been piqued by a recent album, or whatever. But, now and again, you find yourself going, “you know what, I’ve heard a lot about these guys, and it hasn’t been all bad, so why the feck not?”. So, that’s how my path crosses with the lunatics from Wonk Unit, when they made their debut appearance on this side of the Oirish Sea… And, with DQ laid low with a crippling migraine, it’s a solo experience (although I did buy her a T-shirt to try and cheer her up – but she didn’t like it!).


Local punks Suckin’ Diesel are the one band on the bill I was already familiar with, having seen them supporting the likes of The Defects in the past. And they get the night off to a suitably rambunctious start with their set of full-blooded old-school punk, with plenty of bounce in its step and in-your-face party attitude. They throw in the extra bonus of delivering the best song title of the night, in the shape of the gloriously inane ‘TV Licensing Men Of The Apocalypse’: terrific stuff which really sets the mood for what is to come.


Next up, Dublin nutcases The Nilz bring a welcome does of anarchy to the evening’s proceedings, and especially singer Gary Nilz, who clearly models himself on PiL-era John Lydon and performs with a stocking over his head and a giant dildo protruding from his jeans, which contrast with his pristine white jacket (which, admittedly, doesn’t last long). Their traditional, no-holds-barred punk sound is loud, brassy and abrasive, with plenty of middle-finger attitude: it’s a beautifully anarchic noise which has the spirit of ’76 coursing through its veins, yet also sounds fresh and vibrant. So far, the night is going well (although having to pay over the odds for a can of cider isn’t).


Madhouse bring a psychobilly theme to proceedings, and really get the dancers going, with Billy Riot – winning the award for the best-dressed frontman (at least at the start of the set) I’ve seen so far this year – down and grooving with them on the floor. It’s a sort of snafu set (well, it’s almost inevitable that something will go wrong at a punk gig) as guitarist Aidan has to quit the stage to replace not only his guitar, but also his amp… However, the band carry on with both humour and professionalism as he rejoins two songs later. Like Suckin’ Diesel before them, they also have a nifty line in song titles, such as ‘I’d Rather Do Fuck All’, a country-tinged rocker allegedly written only the previous night, and the superb closer ‘Too Drunk To Fuck’, which finishes with Riot rolling around the floor in best Iggy tradition.


As intimated above, outside of a few rave reviews here on UR – including Nev Brooks’ verdict on their most recent album. ‘Mr Splashy’ – and a couple of YouTube live videos, I knew sweet FA about Wonk Unit before it was announced they were playing one of my favourite back street venues – although I knew enough to expect a night of lunacy incarnate! And so it proves to be – once they get over the technical issues that means their set starts 20 minutes behind schedule.


Delivering fast punk song after fast pop song, from the ska-fuelled ludicrousness of ‘Horses’ through to the madcap mayhem of ‘Lewisham’, it soon proves too much for the sol pogoing Mohawk stage front – but then, there ain’t no way these rock ‘n’ roll buffoons were going to ‘Go Easy’ on us, was there? It’s ludicrous, insane and brilliant in equal measure: entertainment at its most basic level. Lyrics like “you’re my bird and I’m your geezer” aren’t going to win them any Pulitzer Prizes, but they perfectly match the fun and frivolity which the Wonkers produce – and I guarantee that there’s not a face in the room that doesn’t have an ear-to-ear smile across it!


Behind the fun, of course, there are serious messages lurking, as they address issues such as dementia in their typically manic fashion. And there’s a potentially even more serious moment when Alex has to stare down a stage invader who tries to make his own ludicrous political point at the start of ‘We Are The England’: get a life, dude, it’s only a fucking song! And he’s obviously not a fan, if he doesn’t understand it’s underlying premise, unlike former By Any Means frontman CC, who briefly takes over the mike for an anarchic ‘Honk If You Wonk. As I said, brilliantly madcap stuff: I loved every minute of it (and I love my nice warm beanie hat acquired from the merch table afterwards – pity herself wasn’t so enamoured with the sarcastic T-shirt…).


Wonk Unit April tour poster


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