Working class heroes Gimp Fist show their street style in first Sunderland gig in 10 years

Although they've gigged all over the UK and Europe, it's 10 years since working class heroes Gimp Fist last played in Sunderland.

By Gary Welford
Sunday, 05 May, 2019, 16:05
Jonny Robson of Gimp Fist, who were playing their first Sunderland gig in 10 years. Pic: Gary Welford.

That show was at The Borough, when they were much less well-known in the thriving underground punk scene than they are today.

So this gig at Independent on Saturday night was a welcome return to the city for the three-piece from Bishop Auckland, County Durham, who win new fans wherever they go.

Chris Wright of Gimp Fist, who playing at Independent in their first Sunderland gig in 10 years. Pic: Gary Welford.

Support came from local heroes Red London, who are back together after a 16-year break, and it was like they'd never been away.

Original singer Patty Smith and bassist Gaz Stoker are still involved, and the band - now a five-piece, with an extra guitar for added oomph - rolled back the years with a 45-minute set which took us all the way back to their early days.

They started a little tentatively with Days Like These, the title track from their fifth album, and followed with Calling Out The Cavalry, a deep cut from a 1986 compilation album.

Things picked up a notch when they wheeled out Kings Of The Streets, the lead song from their new four-track EP, released on German label Mad Butcher Records.

Mike Robson of Gimp Fist, who were playing their first Sunderland gig in 10 years. Pic: Gary Welford.

The other three songs also got an airing, and slipped into the set nicely, alongside tunes the old punks in attendance were more familiar with, like Soul Train, To Kill A King and No War, No Hate.

Of course they left the best until last, closing in style with This Is England, from their debut EP Sten Guns In Sunderland, which also gave their first album its title.

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They're back at the same venue on July 13, when the bill also includes Red Alert and the Angelic Upstarts, which promises to be a night not to be missed.

Time then for the main attraction, and Jonny on guitar and vocals, Chris on bass and Mike on drums seemed keen to make up for lost time, launching into a blistering Fists In The Air which got those at the front of the healthy crowd moshing right from the off.

Reformed Sunderland punk band Red London opened for Gimp Fist at Independent. Pic: Gary Welford.

You get no half measures from Gimp Fist. Whether they're well up the bill and playing to 3,000 people, or in a small venue in front of a couple of hundred, as was the case here, they give it all they've got.

They smashed through more than 20 songs with barely a pause for breath, including many that their fans have come to regard as classics: On And On, War On The Streets, A Country Divided and their cover of Perkele's Heart Full Of Pride.

They've never been afraid to try out new songs on their live audience before they've recorded them, hence we got four from the in-progress new album, which they hope to release at the Rebellion festival in Blackpool in August.

There were shout-outs to some of the loyal fans who follow the band wherever they play, and to ambulance driver Jonny's NHS workmates ("I know it's not your thing really, but thank you for showing up.").

Gimp Fist playing at Independent - their first Sunderland gig in 10 years. Pic: Sue Welford.

A rousing one-two of Top Dog and traditional set closer Here I Stand ended the evening in style, and there was just about time for an encore of Skinhead Not Bonehead, the song which perfectly sums up the band and everything they believe in.