Review: Gimp Fist, Riverside, Newcastle

Gimp Fist singer Jonny Robson performing at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.
Gimp Fist singer Jonny Robson performing at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

County Durham trio Gimp Fist have spent the last 12 years building a reputation as one of the UK’s top streetpunk bands.

And last night’s gig - switched from the original intended venue, The Cluny - saw them demonstrate exactly why people flock to see them from far and wide.

Gimp Fist playing at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Gimp Fist playing at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Jonny Robson (vocals and guitar), Chris Wright (bass) and Michael Robson (drums) are a tight, energetic outfit with a catalogue of singalong tunes to their name.

After a decade together, they called it a day a couple of years ago due to singer Jonny’s family commitments, and that seemed to be the end of one of the best punk bands the North East has produced.

Happily they reconvened a few months later, are busy writing and recording a new album, and are sounding better than ever.

Make no mistake, back in the days when punk used to get played on the radio, they would have been huge.

County Durham streetpunk band Gimp Fist playing at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

County Durham streetpunk band Gimp Fist playing at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Instead, they largely play to those who enjoy their working-class anthems in pub and club-sized venues at home and abroad.

Festivals aside, this was a bigger stage and better sound system than they’re used to, and their show was all the better for it.

Although room was maybe only half-full, they were preaching to the converted from the moment Jonny strapped on his guitar and yelled: “We’re Gimp Fist from Bishop Auckland.”

Theirs is music from the heart, played with passion, about the working man’s struggle to survive, and being proud of who you are and where you’re from.

Gimp Fist playing at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Gimp Fist playing at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Opening with an unfamiliar song can be risky, but Fists In The Air - one of a handful of new tunes aired during an 80-minute set - held no such perils for Gimp Fist, and it went down well.

Most of their most popular songs were present and correct, though with a back catalogue stretching over five full-length albums and a split, they’ve got plenty to choose from.

War On The Streets, A Country Divided, On The Beach, Just Another Country and my personal favourite, Here I Stand, were all greeted like the old friends they are.

Most of their songs are originals, but one of their well-chosen covers, Perkele’s Heart Full Of Pride, has long been a staple of their set, and they’ve practically made it their own.

Al from In Evil Hour joins Gimp Fist on stage at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Al from In Evil Hour joins Gimp Fist on stage at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Towards the end of the gig, they dispensed with the setlist and gave the fans what they wanted to hear as encores - ending with a rousing rendition of Which Side Are You On?

Joined on vocals for a couple of songs by Al from Darlington band In Evil Hour, and by old friend Dougie, they showed why they’re such a band of the people, and this was possibly the best I’ve seen them.

If you’re put off by the slightly dodgy name, or the fact lots of skinheads follow the band, take on board the words of one of their most popular songs.

Skinhead Not Bonehead sets out their stance in no uncertain terms: “Because you’re wearing braces, doesn’t mean you’re gunning for the right, just because your hair’s cut short, doesn’t mean you want to fight...I’m a skinhead, not a bonehead, a punk rocker, not a tosser...”

A mention too for support band United Bottles, who travelled all the way from Belfast.

Three of their members were members of Runnin’ Riot, whose career came to an abrupt halt three years ago following the sudden death of singer Colin McQuillan.

Gimp Fist playing at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Gimp Fist playing at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

It was the first time I’d heard their brand of singalong streetpunk, but as an appetiser it slipped down a treat and I’ll certainly be checking them out again.