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  • Writer's pictureLeon Riccio

Bristol punk gig raises funds for wildlife hunt saboteurs

Updated: Dec 24, 2022

Outside an unassuming pub to the east of Bristol city centre, a young punk - bleached jeans, studded jacket, towering black mohawk - stood outside and smoked a cigarette in the bitter cold, acting as a living advertisement for the chaos that was to unfurl in the following hours.

On December 2, activist gig-promoters Rebel 4 Animals held a punk/rave night at The Red Lion in a bid to raise funds to support the Bristol Hunt Saboteurs (Bristol Sabs) - an organisation dedicated to ensuring every wildlife hunt in the area and beyond fails spectacularly.

The set up was straightforward - four bands were to play the event, with rave DJs manning the sound system in-between and then after the bands ended, playing speedcore, junglecore, and hardcore rave tunes into the early hours.

Stalls sporting merch and infostall tables for the Bristol Sabs, alongside a radical bookstall for the BASE social centre (an anarchist co-op community centre in the city) lined the edges of the pub bar area.

The rest of the rooms were packed to the brim with punters of all ages. It seemed like somebody was bumping into somebody they knew throughout the whole night, and I was struck by the brazen sense of community with everyone attending.

This was the heart of Bristol’s underground punk scene, something notoriously tricky to find, even though the city is now well-renowned for it.

The night started with Exaction, an anarcho-punk/doom-metal instrumental band fresh to the Bristol hardcore scene. Despite not having a vocalist, a bloke with a stunning moustache grabbed the mic and improvised guttural death-metal vocals over the band’s gritty D-beat riffs.

It turns out the impromptu vocalist was Botond Dezső, Hungarian guitarist for Mutilated State, of which was next on the lineup. By the end of the night, Botond had come in clutch for three of the four bands on the lineup, playing harmonica for Boom Boom Racoon, the last band to perform.

“If you are going through a stroll in the woods and you see a hunt, you can call a number and a bunch of liberal Gestapo will arrive or summin,” Mutilated State drummer Sid Townsend told the crowd. The band's frontman, Bill Gardiner, donned a bright red balaclava as he stormed around the room.

Applause for this erupted between fits of some of the best UK hardcore I have heard since Slaves’ early releases. Incessant drumming, heavy yet still dynamic guitars, and vicious Oi!-era vocal delivery made for a breakneck show in the best way.

Wearing a Chaotic Dischord t-shirt (a fellow hardcore punk band in Bristol), 28-year-old Gardiner told me after their set: “The band started last November. We managed to get seven songs by April and played our first gig in The Louisiana.

“Living here since I was 12 years old, I have always been musically involved and started building a 150k sound system in the dub scene, while being a jungle/drum and bass DJ. Only from ‘93 to ‘98, anything after that I don’t f*ck with.

“When I stopped doing that during lockdown, I decided I wanted to start a punk band. I had no means of doing it, but when lockdown was lifted I went to see Anti-Nowhere League with the Verrucas and I was like, ‘F*ck me, that’s where I want to be.’ While I delve into different genres, hardcore punk is where it’s at for me.

“After that I went to a Discharge gig and I met our guitarist Botond There. He had moved to Bristol from Hungary and I told him to come to Dean Lane Fun Day. We went and I told Botond I wanted to start a punk band - he said he was classically trained and felt a bit lame, but let’s do it.”

The daytime carpenter added: “This is my first band - if I had done this when I was 21 or 18 years old, I would've been sh*t because you don’t really know what to expect, but now I’ve dwelled on this for so long I’ve got ideas on what to expect.

“Jess has been watching us since April, and she described us as ‘frenetic punk’ - I thought that was rad! She approached us and told us she wanted us to play at the hunt sabs gig and that meant so much to us.”

Although penultimate on the four-band bill, Split Dogs were undoubtedly the highlight of the night. On aesthetics alone, the band stood out - the singer donned a matching set of azure Gucci sweats, the guitarist head-to stood-toe in eye-catching tats and a baseball cap, and the bassist towering at least seven foot tall, made a formidable appearance before the band even started playing.

Harry Martinez, vocals, showed expert stage presence - not just because she took her top off and later poured water all over herself halfway through the set. Her bombastic displays and feral delivery churned the crowd into one wall-to-wall moshpit on “Punch Drunk,” “Prison B*tch,” and “Tear Down The House.” Her husband, guitarist Mil Martinez, sounded out scorching guitar tones with bassist Johnny Mathers following suit.

“Harry and I opened a tattoo shop in Weston-Super-Mare about four years ago, and we met the drummer when he came in to get tattooed, and he was good friends with our bass player,” Mil explained, sitting in the pub smoking area beside his wife and vocalist Harry.

The 34-year-old vocalist added: “Then we moved here six years ago and just loved it here.”

Mil: “Harry and I recorded a lot of stuff in our home. I’m a guitarist but I used to play bass in the band, then we got some friends in on it and started playing together so I went back on guitar.”

Harry: “That was around 2020, and then lockdown happened and we couldn't play anywhere until November last year. That was our last gig for a while though, because I was three months pregnant at the time. We got back to it again in July this year, and since then we’ve been playing every week pretty much.”

Mil: “We recorded our first album in May, and we’re releasing it in three parts for now.”

Discussing the event, Harry said: “This was our first time playing the Red Lion - we are familiar with the Bristol Hunt Saboteurs through punk promoters Bristol Skum Collective and we played a few gigs with them through the summer, so we recognised a few faces tonight.

“Hunts are f*cking horrible and cruel and unnecessary. It annoys me so much that it’s illegal, but these people are so obnoxious that they will carry on in broad daylight and hold their heads up while they do it. It’s vile.”

Last on the bill was queer-friendly acoustic-punk outfit Boom Boom Racoon, a last-minute replacement for original lineup band Spanner. The twee three-piece on acoustic bass, guitar, and trumpet played mostly bouncy ska-punk tunes (bar an aggressive rendition of “National Health Simpsons”), contrasting the heavier sounds of the night.

That being said, the breezier-sounding tracks were undoubtably the most politically conscious, taking on topics such as capitalism, the prison system and policing, and the environment - and there was even a cover of ‘Boom Boom Boom’ by Vengaboys. Overall, the trio’s set put an upbeat close to the evening of guitar-music carnage.

After the bands finished playing, vegan DJs Uncle Grinder, Discoredia, and Ambisinister (referred to as Veegj’s) took over and played speedcore tunes for the rest of the night, playing into the very early hours.

Jess Wrong, member of the Rebel 4 Animals Collective, has been putting on shows since she was 16-years-old. In a bid to pull together her love of politics, punk, and rave music, the now 34-year-old activist launched the first rave/punk night for the new collective.

"The collective is brand new and was created to get people to come together for punk and rave music and to donate money for animal rights and animal liberation.

“Punk and rave nights have been long established, and Bristol is a melting pot of promoters and creatives and musicians and people doing things. There’s so much going on here, it's just down to jumping in and getting involved.

“We wanted to combine our mutual loves for underground punk music, which Bristol is popping off for, and rave music to make a platform for connections. It’s about like-minded people coming together.”

The next Rebel 4 Animals gig is scheduled for February 3. To find out more, visit the collective's Facebook page here.

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