Chubby and the Gang-The Bullingdon-Oxford-25/11/2021 Live Review

Photo by Owen Harvey @ Rolling Stone

Despite being a group made up of various beloved UK Hardcore bands, West London’s Chubby and the Gang share more in common with 80’s punk rock bands like The Ramones and Peter And The Test Tube Babies. Coupled with their authentic sense of a strong working-class ethos and emphasis on anthemic songwriting rather than throwdown music, they have been a breath of fresh air in a scene that can feel one-note at times. I had seen their name around various DIY show posters online and only finally got to appreciate them during the first lockdown. Formed a few months just before COVID hit, Chubby had accomplished their first US tour and released a full-length record Speed Kills produced by Jonah Falco of Fucked Up.

After being teased with normality throughout 2020, it was announced that they’d signed to Partisan Records, escalating their success to wider audiences without any need to compromise. Their second record The Mutts Nuts saw the band progress into a much more diverse sounding band yet retaining their harder-hitting moments. When the poster for their Winter 2021 tour was announced I couldn’t believe how many different venues they were hitting up over such a long period of time. The fact that a punk show was happening in Oxford given how scarce shows, in general, are in this neck of the woods, I grabbed a ticket instantly.

Oxfordshire locals Basic Dicks set off the show with unbridled chaos. Their brand of lo-fi scrappy hardcore mixed with blunt vocal delivery changed the atmosphere of The Bullingdon from a pensive, freezing Thursday night bar into a room of transfixed punks, appreciative of every note strung out. The mantra “Life gave me lemons and I fucking hate lemonade” from Frown, sounded even more visceral and pissed off in a live setting, as well as being highly relatable.

Fuzzbrain Studio’s house band Micromoon followed shortly after. They delivered euphoric shoegaze made by hardcore kids that I could happily shove my head into an amp to because of their thick layers of unforgiving dissonance. I have a soft affinity for bands where the frontperson is also their drummer. Ben Spence’s sinister but reserved vocals contrasting his intense, technically impressive drum fills added another level of hypnotic enjoyment to their set. Think of modern gaze bands like Nothing and Cloakroom, but with a twist of deadpan, bleak disposition that only UK bands know how to do best.

Having watched a fair few videos online over the last few months, admittedly it felt jarring seeing Chubby and the Gang play with a barrier on stage, right after supporting Amyl & The Sniffers at Electric Ballroom in London. Swapping the usual never-ending stage dives and mics shoved down gob’s vibe for a more contemporary rock and or roll one, Charlie Manning and co waste absolutely no time fucking about. Zooming through cuts like ‘Coming Up Tough’ and ‘Lightning Don’t Strike Twice’, you can’t help but grin like a moron at their satisfying riffs and gang vocal chants, feeling like you’re part of something more than just the joyfully pissed off appeal of punk rock.

There’s simply no time for painfully obvious speeches about how shit the world is for anyone who isn’t a rich white straight tory, just hit after hit with an audience basking in their glory without having to lift a finger in response. That isn’t a slight on the audience either, as the focus on Chubby raw delivery rather than trying to look cool snapped in a zine 6 months from now was something I did not expect to see or find a nice change of pace. There was an overwhelming sense of optimism and pride in their performance that surpasses dull labels like ‘pub rock’, especially when you can tell they absolutely practice what they preach. The subtle influence of doo-wop and blues amongst their unrelenting momentum works immaculately, adding a distinctive touch to their balls to the wall repertoire.

And just like that, the show was over. I wasn’t quite sure how well their headline tour would go down in places where eclectic shows are less frequent, but the response tonight from everyone around me made me feel like I’d watched something dear to me. Somehow they managed to find that sweet balance between invigoration and comfort. I’ve never felt cool enough to be part of hardcore despite having gone to said shows for almost 10+ years at this point, I don’t know where they will be this time next year but I do know that at this moment, Chubby and the Gang fucking rule, ok?

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