LIVE REVIEW: Eastfield + Andy T + Slalom D, Pop Recs, Sunderland, Friday, 28 February 2020

Eastfield frontman Jessi at Pop Recs in Sunderland. Pic: Gary Welford.

Urban rail punks Eastfield have been doing the rounds since 1996, but were one of those bands I’d somehow never managed to see. Anarcho-punk poet and artists Andy T has been round even longer – he released a single on Crass Records back in 1982 – and again I’d never seen him live.

So venturing to a venue, Sunderland record shop and community space Pop Recs, which I’d shamefully never been to before made perfect sense.

The openers for the night were a local band, Slalom D, who I only ‘discovered’ a few months ago, and I like them more every time I see them.

They decided to keep going after the tragic death of their singer Craig Macbeth last year, and I’m glad they did, as his replacement Fiona Duncan has more than filled his shoes.

Fiona Duncan of Slalom D performing at Pop Recs in Sunderland. Pic: Gary Welford.

Despite having never been in a band before, she has tremendous stage presence, and has stamped her own mark on the songs.

The good news is the band have been busy writing new songs, and they played three of them, G.L.A.M, Step Out Of Line and 588 here, among old favourites like No Pasaran, Jerusalem and Chelsea Bonfire, and they went down a storm with the hometown crowd.

The band have lots of gigs lined up in the next few months, including a headline show at the O2 Academy 2 in Newcastle on Saturday, June 20, and hope to have new material available by then. Check their Bandcamp page here for their two previous releases.

Next up was Andy T, a veteran of the anarcho-punk scene, from Todmorden in West Yorkshire, Andrew Thorley, to give him his Sunday name, shared a stage with bands like Crass, Dirt and Flux Of Pink Indians back in the early 80s, but gave it up to concentrate on work and family life.

Anarcho-punk artist Andy T performing at Pop Recs in Sunderland. Pic: Gary Welford.

Happily, he came back to performing a decade or so ago, and is now a campaigner for many worthy causes, as evidenced by the Orgreave campaign T-shirt he was wearing and the banner adorning his music stand.

Although originally a solo artist, these days he comes with a four-piece band whose players range from a young guitarist to a bassist, drummer and another guitarist who are closer in age to the frontman.

Their 45 minutes on stage was a revelation to me, as I’d never heard them before, let alone seen them. They play anarcho-punk driven by a tremendous rhythm section, and he’s still got plenty to get angry about.

The highlights of his 10-song set were Jolly Coppers, I Still Hate Thatcher and the closing Sophie Lancaster, and I left making a mental note to bring more cash next time to buy some of his merch.

The Thatcher song is available as a special 7in single to raise much-needed funds for The 1 in 12 Club in Bradford. You can get it at gigs or from Andy T’s Bandcamp page here.

Time then for the headliners, and by now the temperature was hotter than a delayed branch line service. Eastfield, from Birmingham, are a name I’d seen on gig posters and festival bills many times, but never managed to catch.

Eastfield performing at Pop Recs in Sunderland. Pic: Gary Welford.

Determinedly DIY, they describe themselves as “three-chord punk rock with a catchy tune and a smile”, and they certainly put a smile on the faces of those who packed out Pop Recs.

I believe this was their first gig of the year, as frontman Jessi (guitar + singing) recently had a hernia operation, and if this is them emerging from the sidings I’d love to see them when they’re properly up to speed.

He shares vocal duties with Trina (more singing), with fellow founding member Bambi on bass, and a new crew member in drummer Bill, a real powerhouse who fitted in like he’d been with them for years.

I don’t know their extensive back catalogue well enough to tell you what’s from where in the 45-minute set they played, but my favourite tracks included God’s Plastic Railway and Port Talbot Transport Police. Yes, some of their songs are about trains, but they also take inspiration from popular culture and rip the piss out of deserving ‘celebrities’.

In short, they’re everything a punk band should be: fast, loud and they don’t take themselves too seriously. I can’t wait to see them again, but I’ll have brushed up on their back catalogue next time. Visit their website here.

Gary Welford owner