Tonight is the fourth date of CKY’s first run of the UK since 2011, and with brand new single Days Of Self Destruction having just been released and the upcoming fifth studio album The Phoenix around the corner, tonight is a night filled with anticipation and hype from die-hard fans. There is a large sense of intrigue to see how the band sound now as three-piece outfit, and speaking with fans before the show it seems most are simply glad to have one of their favourite bands back. I had a chance to sit down with Chad, Jess and Matt before doors opened for an interview of which we discussed the new record, the dynamic and their fan-base (which can be read here – http://invictamag.com/interview-cky ) Following this, the band decided to have a walk around the front of the venue to hang out and take photos with the fans before doors opened; this is such a rare occurrence for a band with this level of notoriety and set off a great first impression and vibe with those circulating the venue.
Walking into the venue felt like witnessing a celebrity homecoming show, as tour shirts could be spotted marking various stages of CKY’s career. With only two bands on tonight’s line up, Welsh three piece rockabilly/punk outfit Graveyard Johnnys had a mammoth task on their hands to warm up the audience and shake off the early gig blues. Vocalist Joe Grogan slaps a large double bass with boundless presence and charisma as he commands the audience to move forward and “wake the fuck up!” whilst guitarist Callum Houston pulls many rock poses as he ploughs through the staccato riffs of Compromise. Drummer Tom Lord hides behind his dreadlocks as he marches through the drum rolls of The Poison. Whilst his presence is strong, there are moments that the percussive side of this performance is a little sloppy as the tempo increases and decreases. Nevertheless this is barely a hindrance with a band of such punk rock heart that clearly place performance at the forefront of their priorities. The crowd quickly got on board with the energy of the set as they ploughed through catchy riffs, guitar solos and walking bass-lines that are a nod to the blues and rockabilly era, with a modern punk twist. Despite only being a three piece band, the sound in the Junction venue is monstrous and surely helps to immerse the now packed out room. The twangy riffs of For Tonight are fantastic, and the joyous “I’m moving on“ harmonic chorus of One Day Or Forever is a great excuse for the audience to get their dancing shoes on before tonight’s main event.
After a brief intermission, Chad Ginsburg, Jess Margera and Matt Deis arrive onstage to Gonna Fly Now, the classic theme tune from Rocky and a roar erupts of adoring fans chanting “CKY! CKY! CKY!”. The vibe is extraordinary as the trio launch into opening song The Human Drive In Hi-Fi, which results in a mosh pit that lasts throughout the entirety of tonight’s set. The feeling is mutual from the band smiling on stage with glee, oozing with confidence to the pure fan service as they play to their strengths with only performing songs from their first two records : Volume 1 and Infiltrate.Destroy.Rebuild. These songs have stood the test of time as the room sway and head-bang through ferocious cuts such as Sporadic Movement to the slow dirty grit of Rio Bravo. The mix of groove and bounce of these riffs, with the disco high hat beats and dirty bass lines are a perfect concoction of rock n’ roll and heavy metal awesomeness; and the fans lap it up with as much enthusiasm as they did when they were initially released.
To address the elephant in the room: It is surprising that somehow the band sound just as colossal with one less member and with Chad as their lead singer. The use of fuzz and octave pedals are a distinct element of the band’s signature sound, and the clarity between each section is richer, and more concise than ever. Chad has a prominently lower vocal range than Deron Miller’s, so there are moments that may take a little getting used to in particular; the classic Escape From Hellview, but bassist Matt Deis brings some great vocal harmonies of the higher register that to fill this out the high range when needed. Chad also has a sense of swagger about his vocal delivery that fit the songs effortlessly, and his performance on new single Days Of Self Destruction sounds phenomenal live; furthermore it is great not to hear the seemingly out of place death metal growls that used to plague their old live performances from Deron. The pop element of the band provided by synthesisers is a unique touch that fans adore, and so it is great to see the man known as Shitbird performing these, rather than as a backing track; they cut to the front of the mix in hits such as Flesh Into Gear, and sit comfortably as a subtle ensemble during others such as Frenetic Amnesic.
As one of the many humble and chatty moments of the evening, Chad casually teases tonight’s audience – “I think you know what this next song is, want to guess?” before launching into arguably their biggest hit 96 quite bitter beings. Unfortunately, not so smooth, moments into the opening riff, his guitar cuts out completely. Commendably he tells the band to stop playing so that he and his guitar tech can fix the issue “because the fans deserve better”. What could have so easily become a car-crash live situation, quickly turns into slick comedy gold as the entire band break out into an instrumental funk jam which involves Chad soloing on the synthesiser whilst the guitar tech fixes the issue, and a dance battle occurs within the crowd; backflips, the worm, the robot all take place in scenes that can only be described as something straight out of an American teen flick.
After the issue gets fixed, the remainder of the set takes place through fan requests being screamed out, between constant band chants and energetic dancing. The encore of the GG Allin cover Bite It You Scum’is particularly ferocious, and the slow bouncy riffs in the set closer My Promiscuous Daughter are ludicrously heavy behind the ear pounding pop of Jess’ snare drum. The show closes on a high as ear drums are deafened, and band chants continue as they unfortunately have to leave due to the curfew.
Any doubts about the band’s new incarnation are instantly put to bed, as the fans leave in awe with true gratitude to have one of their favourite bands back and active again. There are many reasons CKY have built such a loyal fan-base, and for them to return after such a long time with this level of a performance only further justifies this. They have not only proven to be relevant in 2017, but they are perhaps one of heavy rocks’ most important bands that are likely to reach all new heights with their rejuvenated energy. CKY, it is so great to have you back!
CKY are back, and showcase their strengths as a three-piece unit.