Review: Punk Rock Factory – SWX Bristol

I am really NOT a fan of “Tribute” bands. Watching Dave from accounts change into his Freddie Mercury Lycra trousers and stick-on moustache before murdering Queen’s entire setlist does nothing for me at all! But, I LOVE a good cover version. So, a two-band bill featuring two bands that specialise in them (alongside some of their own material in the case of New Yorkers Adam and the Metal Hawks) was more than enough to draw me up to Bristol for the evening.

Entering the venue the fun had started literally as the doors opened with a DJ set from Matt Stocks. When I read the set times the addition of a DJ set seemed an odd one, but it turned out it was an inspired one that many bands could learn from. His first set meant that the energy was gently coaxed upwards as people arrived rather than the usual queue at the bar, queue at merch, stand around bored witless routine. Dressed in the style of Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman) his first set was mostly atmospheric background but did its job well.

His closing track brought to the stage Adam and the Metal Hawks, all the way from New York, and boy did they hit the stage with intent. Ripping straight into a rocking version of ‘The Time Warp’ the battle to win over the crowd was won in seconds. Singer Adam Ezeglian matched imposing physical size with a ridiculously powerful and soulful voice whilst Johnny Barry (guitar) and Ryan Daversa (bass) were a blur of movement on either side of him. Meanwhile, drummer Griffin McCarthy put down a fearsome rhythm (and later in the set a seriously impressive brief solo). ‘Tiptoe’ and ‘Wasting Time’ occupied our time in the pit with more of the same. Superb vocals, energy in abundance, and great musicianship.

A cover of Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ nearly broke the crowd. I can’t remember seeing so much reaction to a support band as every single person joined in at the top of their lungs. ‘Fine Line’ was followed by ‘Strain’ which gave each member of the band the opportunity to show just how impressive their individual skills are and then ‘Backwards’, described as the first song to be released off the new album ‘Hurry Up and Wait’. Another raucous cover in the shape of ‘Hot Stuff’ bought out the inner ‘Full Monty’ in anyone with any groove whatsoever before Adam took up a harmonica for ‘I’m Done’. Just in case anyone had somehow remained impassive, a rip-roaring version of Led Zep’s ‘Rock n’ Roll’ left a breathless, sweating mob as they left the stage to huge applause.

Mr. Stocks then showed exactly how good the decision was to pop a DJ set in that thrilling period where roadies wander around counting to two. Every song he chose was met with a Bristol choir that was seriously impressive. So loud you often couldn’t hear the music at all (at one point he turned it off and the crowd just kept going perfectly). 

Stocks took his bow, the lights went down, the audience cheered and then PRF set the tone for just how fun the evening would be with a spoken intro whilst various stage elements were turned on and off before the backdrop was revealed. The band took to the stage and vocalist Peej went straight off the front of the stage into the crowd to sing most of the first song ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’ on the barrier. One song in and my mouth hurt from smiling. The energy and party vibe are off the scale. Our next two songs in the pit are ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Power Rangers’ and all too soon we are leaving. Now, normally at this venue, I would head to the balcony for more pics but I just want to enjoy this one from the side of the stage.

The setlist features twenty-eight songs. In ninety minutes! Not counting the time that Peej, Benj, Ryan, and Kob spend interacting with each other and the crowd. It is utterly breathless. ‘Bluey’ sees Ryan go walkabout to the bar through the crowd. ‘SpongeBob’ must be the shortest song ever to feature on a setlist! ‘Jackass’ features two volunteers from the audience loaded onto inflatables for a race around the crowd, held aloft by willing arms. Peej seems mightily impressed that one competitor makes it to the bar and back intact. Adam Ezeglian makes a reappearance to help out on ‘Pokémon’, but then halfway through the cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ there is a medical emergency, well dealt with by security, and the band briefly leaves the stage. Once it is confirmed that all is well they reappear, run through ‘Paw Patrol’ (I am sure Peej describes it as their next release but it seems to last just seconds so I must have got that wrong!), and ‘You’re the Voice’ (with superb “oh oh oh oh o o oh” from the crowd ) before the evening becomes even sillier with an audience vote for the next song from a list of three, decided by an internet site and the appearance of a Countdown board and timer. The choice is ‘Gummy Bears’, which shows that the material on the setlist appeals massively and one lucky voter gets told to go to the merch table and choose £100 of merch!

A guitar change after ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ leaves Peej’s guitar silent for ‘You’ll Be Back’ and completely independently the crowd starts singing ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’. One of the funniest and most spontaneous things I have ever seen at a gig! As we approach the end (less than 90 minutes and I am exhausted just watching) the pace doesn’t drop. ‘Defying Gravity’, ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’, the slower ‘Bruno’ and a medley of ‘Let It Go’ and ‘Wish Upon a Star’” suck the remaining energy from the crowd, but more can always be found and encores ‘Oh What a Night’ and ‘How Far I’ll Go’ drain those last few drops.

I can honestly say one of the most fun evenings I have had at a gig. Every last person from the stage to the back of the room left with a huge grin. The tour started in Bristol and is mostly sold out but a 2024 tour has just been announced and you know what, you really should go!

Review and Photos – Rob Wilkins

Punk Rock Factory live dates: 

 

PUNK ROCK FACTORY: INSTAGRAM / FACEBOOK / WEBSITE / YOUTUBE

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