Live Review: Lightyear, New Town Kings with Above Them – Moho Live, Manchester – 26/06/2012

Ska punk. It was a big thing in the late 90s/early 00s. Remember? It captured the imagination of all the kids who didn’t want to have to listen to Korn to be alternative, until the majority of its fans moved onto pastures altogether more emo. I know, because I was one of them. Ska and it’s off-shoots are now relegated to an altogether more refined fanbase, with SLit Promotions being one of the final two Manchester-based promoters catering to the fans predilection for skank-dancing.

I wasn’t if sure enough people would be comfortable enough to confront their ska punk past and actually come out to this show, in the rather large (and awkwardly shaped) Moho Live. Sure enough, while it was slow to fill up, and it was a million miles away from capacity, there were plenty of bodies. Definitely enough to cultivate the wild skanking party atmosphere necessary for a proper Lightyear gig.

First up was Pontefract gruff-rockers, Above Them. Despite being a paltry four members on a bill of septets and octets, Above Them managed to own the stage by creating a a wall of mid-tempo punk rock that filled the gaps. Some of the shifts from the more mid-tempo dour moments to the sunnier outlook on the latest record were handled poorly, but they managed to convert some of the more ska-orientated punters. What was an empty floor at the start became a crescent of nodding heads.

While not traversing new or gallant frontiers of the genre, Essex eight-piece The New Town Kings still managed to eke out a set of toe-tapping infectious ska grooves ripped straight from the old school. Sometimes you just don’t need to mess with the formula, The New Town Kings clearly don’t think so. In the end, they just sounded like one of the nameless bands you would have found loitering at the back end of Moon Ska sampler, all upstrokes and no innovation. There set was much like the boundaries of the music they play; Rigid. People were definitely enjoying, as evidenced by the skanking but I just wish the band were having a touch more fun.

While the support bands carved an admirable attempt at wooing the crowd, it was clearly everyone really just wanted to see Lightyear. A heady mix, the crowd was filled with a few fresh-faced teens grabbing their first glimpse of classic ska-core, but mostly it was people much like me; Late 20s, wishing to grab a bit of the youth that had been snatched away by the jaws of time. Chas and the rest of the Lightyear crew were only happy to oblige.

It was as if they had never been away; Playing all the hits, missing all the same notes, cracking all the same jokes, while just having the most amount of fun you can imagine a band having. Prior to the start of the set, chatter around the smoking area suggested two things… That the Derby Ska-core legends had practiced for a mere thirty minutes before embarking on this tour, and that vocalist Chas had lost his voice. Whether the latter point was related to the former was just wild speculation, but the set was so tightly sprung that it’s hard to imagine what magic could have been accomplished with a full hour’s practice. Sure, the morris dancing gag has seen better days, but Lightyear played as if they were on top of their game.

Words by Jamie Carruthers. Photo by James ‘J’ Leadbetter. View more photos here.

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