Aside from Green Day and Alkaline Trio, the Bouncing Souls are probably the biggest punk rock band I’ve ever seen live (and yes, this means I haven’t seen NOFX. I know). Together for over 20 years and with more than a handful of great records, they have become one of the genre's institutions. It is no surprise that they packed The Cockpit’s main room with a bunch of excited punks of all ages, and in all shapes and sizes.
It’s also no surprise that a band of such standing can net some pretty good support slots for even a UK tour, and Black President were the first on offer. With their list of ‘associated bands’ stretching on a ridiculously long way, they have always had a lot to live up to, even after Greg Hetson left the band. Singer Christian Martucci took this all in hand, though, striding on stage with a cheerful smile that gave way to an angry glare as appropriate. Unfazed by requests for songs by God knows who (due to the number of possible bands they could have been by, and the amount the guy shouting at them had drunk), they plowed through a blistering set of their admittedly pretty unoriginal brand of hardcore punk as Charlie Paulson threw himself about the stage. Good fun live, regardless of what you thought of the record.
P.O.S. WAS a surprise when he was first announced as support, but after a little thought, it makes perfect sense -- hip-hop and punk music have more than a little in common, held down by the popular clichés that hide a genre full of interesting and intelligent music, and P.O.S.’s music itself is more than just a little influenced by punk music. The perfect artist to start bridging the gap between the two scenes, it was almost heartwarming to hear that his cries of “Two songs in, is anyone still pissed there’s a rapper on the bill?” (or something similar, I’m paraphrasing) were met with an enthusiastic ‘NO!’ Backed by Plain ‘Ole Bill on decks, laptop, etc., P.O.S. spat out rhymes with amazing speed and flow, always trying to get the crowd involved, always trying to keep us entertained. He did nothing but succeed and reminded me that hip-hop can be amazing live and that I wish I could see more of it.
Eventually, the Bouncing Souls hit the stage and, as you’d hope -- nay, expect -- the place took off. The beer started flying and so did the people, with a steady stream of crowd-surfers, people grabbing at the mics/members and even people climbing the lighting rigs. The energy in the crowd was insane, with everyone pushing themselves to the limit. Unfortunately, though, the drunken boys club element of the punk rock crowd was out in force now and then, which meant I eventually got fed up of being headbutted by a large dude and kicked in the face by enthusiastic divers and headed over to the side of the stage for a while.
Removed from the fun and the fury of the mosh pit, I was free to pay a little more attention to the band. Although they sounded great and kept the crowd pleased with a mixture of fan favourites and the occasional new song (though I can’t tell you what they played, as I have a pretty bad memory and, to be honest, I don’t know the Souls’ back catalogue well enough), they appear to be beginning to show their age a bit. Pushing 40 years apiece, the members did not look particularly animated and failed to match the energy that they inspired in the crowd. The handful of stage invaders were also met by a combination of amusement, annoyance and aggressive movements from the crew. The crowd hardly seemed to care, though, and I guess I shouldn’t either -- after all this time, the band still put on a good, long punk rock show, treating us to well over an hour. Few frills, but great fun; may they continue to ‘up the punx’ for years to come.