It’s a travesty, really, that bands with stature such as Crossfaith and especially Skindred aren’t playing bigger venues. However it has its advantages, because surely bands of such calibre, in such a small space can only be a really, really good thing.
As Yashin take to the stage at the tender time of 6.30- to a very sparse crowd- they waste no time in unleashing their energy upon the few people that are there to receive it. It may have been coming for a year, but new song Dorothy Gale, released a few weeks ago, is no less enticing than when it was first added to their setlist on tour with the Blackout last November. Following this, D.E.A.D is as infectious as always, and ensures Yashin end on a high.
Hed P.E are something different entirely; if you’ve ever wanted reggae/punk, mixed with nu-metal with the occasional nod in the direction of the likes of KoRn. Opening with a cover of the Specials’ Ghost Town, complete with melodica and very, very sketchy vocals, frontman Jahred Gomes screams ‘we’re Hed P.E, we have no-one who works for us and we’re from California!’ It’s almost like watching two different bands on stage as Gomes chills his way through their set, getting down to the reggae strains in their music whilst guitarist ‘Gregzilla’ moshes out like he’s auditioning to be in Metallica. From the punky Bloodfire and Whitehouse, to One More Body and its jarring, grungy guitars featuring a laid-back almost hazy bridge, it’s safe to say people who didn’t know who Hed P.E were before tonight, won’t be forgetting them in a hurry.
As ever, Crossfaith are in a class of their own, an absolute force to be reckoned with. From start to finish, the pace and energy in their set never drops once. A second in and there are wall to wall circle pits in the standing area. Newer song Ghost In The Mirror is a standout point in the show- originally featuring Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo, it’s a little less electronic than the Crossfaith we’re used to, and a little more traditionally heavy. From this, Crossfaith launch into Wildfire: ‘welcome to the stage, Benji fucking Dred!’ At which Benji Webbe makes an appearance and looks like he’s having the time of his life during to this track that is almost a legitimate dance anthem- another from the band’s newest album Xeno. During their cover of the Prodigy’s Omen, Crossfaith show every live band ever EXACTLY how it’s done- leaving the tiny room in Leeds University nothing less than absolutely annihilated.
Preceding Skindred’s entrance, the entirety of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck plays out, followed by none other than a dubstep version on Star Wars’ Imperial March. True to form, Benji Webbe is surrendering to no-one in the sass stakes, and takes to the stage in a sparkly red jacket, that ensures nobody but him is the centre of attention. First song Under Attack, followed by Roots Rock Riot, prove straight off the bat that Webbe could hold the entire crowd as his own whilst barely lifting a finger. However, of course he doesn’t do this, and it doesn’t take long before he’s hurling abuse at the people on the barrier for not dancing their asses off to the rock/reggae beats. ‘I see some people stood still with their arms crossed! That’s bullshit love! Off bitches, off!’ he berates his audience, before launching right back into their set. From Stand For Something, into the old school Rat Race Webbe’s vocals never falter once- the opposite is true, in fact, as he has creative licence to spontaneously add whatever he wants wherever he wants, which makes leagues above the recorded version.
Setlist staple Doom Riff induces a pit in the tiny standing area before the song even drops, while Benji Webbe encourages the animalistic crowd to ‘wave like the Queen!’ during Ninja, underneath strips of striking red, green and yellow lighting. Cause Ah Riot is the perfect example of why Skindred have always been such a strong band; like ten songs mixed into one, there are so many pace changes, and as Dan Sturgess on electronics in the back provides the back-up screamer vocals, it all seems so incredibly effortless. They dedicate Trouble, starting out slightly slower, to everyone who has ever ‘taken shit for the music that they love’. This, a statement that probably rings true with almost everybody standing in the room. Pressure, with its oscillating guitars, flows into Kill The Power, helped along by shouts of ‘Kill The Power, not I’m a flower!’ from the ever audacious Webbe.
Entering once again for the encore, Benji this time is dressed almost like an English gentleman for the slow, chilled Playing With The Devil. This before the band execute utter carnage with Warning, which can be nothing other than the strongest of set closers. As Benji Webbe commandeers the ‘newport-helicopter’ during the last chorus of the song, and shirts being swung above people’s heads hails the end of the show, it’s clear that this is an element of Skindred’s show that will never, ever get old. As, it seems, is the way for the band itself too- way over fifteen years into their career and Skindred really are showing no signs of slowing, only showing instead, that they can still slay crowd after crowd, every night.
Photos by Erin Moore at Forte Photography UK