It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Newport City Centre, with shoppers going about their business and the nights revellers getting that first drink in, but amongst all this humanity, there is gathering of around 70 or 80 people, most of which share a few particular traits. This is evident by the Dr Marten boots, the shaved heads and the meticulously laundered checked shirts. These are the SHARP skinheads (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) and they are all descending on THE CAB for the Welsh leg of SHARP Fest.
About 25 people are on hand for the early kick off, with cans in hand as POSITIVE REACTION take to the stage. Breaking in a new guitarist, the South Wales 4-piece hammered through an angry set influenced by the likes of Negative Approach and Agnostic Front, which seemed to go over well with the assembled crowd, but it was Abertillery punks SYSTEM RESET that really kicked this shindig off. With singer Stan admitting that he may have taken a few too many hallucinogens, they bring the party, like they always do, with their brand of high energy punk rock, whilst reminding us of why we are there and uniting the room in a “Fuck The Tories” Well played guys. Brisbane “Oi” crew PERMANENT REVOLUTION took to the stage next with a roaring set of tunes, mainly in support of the working class “Class Traitor” and the LGBTQI community “Gender Blind.” A great set which really gets the skins moving.
Set of the day goes to London’s CLOBBER. These guys never fail. A rip-roaring set that sees the room open into a massive pit orchestrated by singer Charlie, who’s passionate rants supporting working class rights and his massive takedown of big companies and Tories, really come straight from the heart and are backed by a level of activity that really has to be seen to be believed. The combination of raging hardcore punk and beer showers really set a precedence for the rest of the day. It’s not an understatement to say that Clobber are probably the best band on the UK scene right now, so playing after that was always going to be a test but South Wales skins FATAL BLOW were more than up to the challenge, as the former Oppressed guys blasted through their anti-nazi football inspired anthems with Roddy Moreno even joining them for a guest spot. The pride of Lion City-Singapore are next to step up to the plate as THE BOIS make their entrance. 20+ years in the game has not tamed the passion in these guys as a rousing set gets the entire room busting a move and shouting into the mic as tracks like “Adelphi” and “Sharp Anthem” are belted out.
But then it’s time for one of the reasons that everybody is in this room tonight and bonfide living legends as Cardiff’s original anti-fascist Oi band THE OPRESSED take to the stage. Bass player Ross, wields his bass like he’s going batter you with it, while Ducky locks in the those cutting guitar hooks and as for Roddy Moreno, well his rasping shout shows no sign of losing its’ strength or passion. As the band blast through classics like “Ultra Violence” and “Fuck Fascism” every single word is sung straight back to them. Rounding out the night are New York’s THE PRESS who like The Oppressed can be traced back to the early 1980’s. With most of the days crowd now nicely inebriated, they provide the perfect soundtrack to the end of the night as sing alongs to “Shut Your Fuck’n Mouth” “It’s Not What I Want” and “21 Guitar Salute”, all the while vocalist Scotti does his level best to join the collective state of mind, by constantly chugging on a bottle of Buckfast.Beautiful.
Once again, The Cab has proved itself to be the perfect venue for punk rock and SHARP Fest 23 delivered in every way it was meant to be, with the music and the message all being enjoyed in good spirits among good people….Chris Andrews