It’s almost become second nature now to open Facebook with a sense of fear, and not just because you are sick of all these “Tag your favourite band and see if they respond” data-mining posts, but because it seems that every other hour brings news of a tour postponed due to uncertainty surrounding Covid-related restrictions.
It’s fantastic to see gigs back on again in the UK and musicians hopefully earning a living again, but the cost of putting on UK shows, coupled with the chance that it could all go pair-shaped at any moment, has meant that it’s a risky situation for overseas bands to take the plunge and travel. Unless you are Norwegian Stonerpunks Bokassa that is. They laugh in the face of risk. They eat it for breakfast. For lunch, it is an M&S meal deal, honey roast ham & cheddar sandwiches no less. We know this because upon arrival at Gatwick airport the band posted footage of guitarist/vocalist Jørn Kaarstad beaming as he declared “The tour is on!”…before divulging the contents of his M&S bag…wonder what his choice of drink was though? Can you get a can of rum & coke as part of the meal deal? Anyway, the tour was indeed on, and Kaarstad looked like he was ready to burst with joy as the band readied for the journey to Southampton for show one.
Helping make this tour a hot ticket, and a double-bill to get the taste buds tingling, are opening act (and very much one of the bands of the moment) Florence Black. The Welsh power-trio recently released their long-awaited debut album ‘Weight Of The World’, and what a debut it is. If it was an album by The Who then it would be ‘Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy’, as that is what it is. Full of meaty riffs from main man Tristan Thomas, and big beats from the engine room team of bassist Jordan Evans and drummer Perry Davies – the bouncy part of the name comes with the show-stopping ‘Sun & Moon’ and once the trio break into it live, the bouncing begins. ‘Weight Of The World’ is a damn heavy album, and in the live setting it becomes even heavier; especially the insanely good ‘Can You Feel It?’ which must be the best track that Dave Grohl never wrote. With only 30 minutes to make their mark, the band doesn’t hang about, and quickly shows anyone encountering Florence Black for the first time why they are so highly rated. Ending on a riotous cover of Budgie’s ‘Breadfan’, the trio from South Wales totally fucking nailed it. Expect to see much more of Florence Black, maybe sooner rather than later…
The very name Stonerpunk is an intriguing contrast. “Stoner” is synonymous with being mellow, while “punk” is anything but mellow. Putting both together shouldn’t work, but ‘Challenge TV’-loving Bokassa sure as hell make it work, and after an evening in their company (where you might pick up hints of acts such as Motorhead, Faith No More, Kyuss, The Clash, and The Sex Pistols), you’ll be wondering why you even questioned whether the words belonged side-by-side. The energy that the trio – (the aforementioned) Jørn Kaarstad, along with bassist Bård Linga and drummer Olav Dowkes – gives off is enough to power a small city, but they do it in such a fun way that convention goes out the window along with the notion of a setlist. How can anyone not enjoy a set from a band that can casually namecheck classic British game show ‘Bullseye’ at numerous moments throughout the night?
New album ‘Molotov Rocktail’ is currently kicking in doors and taking names as we speak, and obviously makes up the lions share of the set; ‘Burn It All (P.T.S.D.E.A.D.)’ (imagine a ballsier Gaslight Anthem) is immense, as is the middle-finger salute to all the fucktards that stockpiled toilet paper during the first lockdown – ‘’So Long, Idiots!’ – the backing vocal harmonies are killer, but it’s the work from Bård Linga that steals the show. ‘Low (And Behold)’ is another highlight and the line of “ready, set, fucking go” is tailor-made for screaming at the top of one’s lungs as some pogoing action breaks out amongst the long-time Bokassa fans and those who first caught the band opening for Metallica in 2019. Those who have been on the Bossaka train for some time now were rewarded for their longevity by a few deep cuts from the Bokassa back catalogue, included a gonzo rendition of ‘Five Finger Fuckhead’ that closed the show and saw drummer Olav Dowkes put in the performance of the night.
Before Bokassa pulled the pin on ‘Five Finger Fuckhead’ and watched it explode, the super-friendly Jørn Kaarstad spoke a few lines that perfectly sum up Bokassa…”When you walk away from this venue tonight, you might wonder…how many bands did I actually see…because that last set, there were three-minute punk songs, there were seven-to-eight minute epics, and there were clean vocals…how did just one band pull that off…was it all a dream…no, in fact, we have been Bokassa; the greatest cult band in the world…”. And on the strength of tonight’s performance, no one could possibly argue with that claim.
Bokassa brings their short UK tour to a close on October 22nd in London, the band then head over to mainland Europe for a handful of more dates, more information, here.
Review – Dave S
Images – Dave Jamieson