Mancunian five-piece Sonic Boom Six opened their “Do What You Wanna Do” tour last night (20th March 17) in Birmingham. Laila Khan on vocals, Paul Barnes (a.k.a. Barney Boom) on vocals/guitar/bass, Nick Horne on guitar/trombone, James Routh on guitar/synth and Luke Hesketh on drums. They released their latest album, “The F-Bomb”, in May 2016, their fifth across a fifteen-year career.
The band themselves mix many different genres, including (but not limited to) punk, ska, reggae, metal and dubstep. Their upbeat, feel-good music is laced with activism, featuring lyrics interrogating gender politics, racism and British society. “For the Kids of the Multiculture” is prefaced at the show with a short speech from Barney discussing Brexit, to which the song is very relevant.
The video for their song “No Man No Right” reverses the gender roles of a live show and features a female band, a majority female audience, and a female groping a male audience member. Laila herself is very vocal about the need for the inclusion of women, particularly women of colour, in these environments usually dominated by white men. It is unfortunate then, that the room is dominated by white men, bowling around the middle of the room in a mosh pit.
Tonight they were playing the O2 Academy 3, the smallest room in the venue. I was never under the impression that this was a stadium-filling band, but the performance they gave certainly deserved a bigger room. That being said, I had also expected this show to be crammed full of bodies; the room so hot, the walls would be sweating. In reality, the 250-capacity room was maybe half full. I am still unsure as to whether this is a crying shame or a blessing: perhaps the energy and interaction of a band like this would be lost in a bigger crowd.
The band moved from song to song without much interruption, with the older material, such as “Sound of a Revolution” getting a much better response. Towards the end of the set, however, the show had to be stopped due to a female audience member experiencing a fit. The band themselves were very attentive, offering her their dressing room to recover and highlighting how this is a tight-knit fan-base. Afterwards, Barney declared that they were diverting from the set list and playing “Bigger Than Punk Rock”, just because he wanted to – and then proceeded to rip up said set list. Very punk rock!
The best thing about this show was, no matter how commercialised or not you think Sonic Boom Six are, this felt like a DIY punk show. There was no fancy lighting rig, the band were crammed onto a tiny stage and everyone was there to have fun. This was a show where it was clear that the fans really care.
Both supports, Lobster (on home turf, a reggae & hip-hop influenced punk band from Birmingham) and Ghouls (London-based punk rock quintet), performed incredible sets and were extremely well received by the audience. It definitely felt as if they were co-headline acts, rather than support bands.
All three bands were energetic, passionate about the genre and as such, their fans responded with this same passion. One of the only gigs I’ve been to where I’ve left with nothing bad to say; the most fun show I’ve been to for a while.
By Maddie Flower