Words & Photography by Paul Boyling
Coming back to the UK after a four-year gap, Radkey, the American rock band of three homeschooled brothers from St Joseph Missouri, return for a mini three-day weekend tour – London, Manchester and Cardiff – before embarking on a European tour, opening for German Fun-Punk (Spaß-Punk) band, Wizo. It is the first night of the three, at Dingwalls, Camden, where I get to watch and photograph this fun, energetic live once more.
Dee (Vocals and Guitar), Isaiah (Bass) and Solomon (Drums), have garnered a cult following in the UK, with their unique blend of hard rock, punk and garage rock, in addition to cleverly woven pop culture references, creates a unique sound that equally stands out as much as their appearance as a band. They released six new singles over the course of 2018 – ‘Not Smart’,’You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover’, ‘Basement‘, ‘St Elwood‘, ‘Rock & Roll Homeschool’ and ‘Junes’ – in addition to dropping their newest single, Spiders, hours before the gig started. I have since discovered that it was a preview track for a brand new compilation EP, ‘No Strange Cats…’ (Sony Music), made up of previously released singles.
Nevertheless, opening the night was Mantra, the west London band that is self-described as “spellbinding melodies propelled by powerhouse riffs and thundering drums”, which sums them up rather adequately. Their unique blend of psychedelica, grunge and stoner rock creates a relaxing but moving paradoxical sound, where light and heavy compositions blend seamlessly. It is easily accessible but ambiguous enough to be open to interpretation, truly personifying and living up to the band’s namesake. A good opening act to gently ease the crowd in: prepping them for the forthcoming high energy of the other bands.
Next was Blackwaters, the alternative punk rock band from Guildford (via Sheffield). Unlike the former, Blackwaters were blunt with their biting riffs and confrontational style with a slight Gothic edge. The band’s influence of classic punk rock bands like The Ramones, indie rock bands like Arctic Monkeys and post punk acts such as The Smiths is clear and apparent, especially as I overheard one member of the crowd affectionately referred to lead singer, Max, and his theatricality and movements on stage as “a more brooding and more angry-looking Morrissey”. His emphasis on movements and diction when singing reflects the band’s hard-hitting lyrical wit, as evidenced by the relentless delivery during ‘Down’ and ‘Let The Good Times Roll’.
Finally, Radkey came to the stage with no prior announcement and went straight into ‘Song of Solomon’ – a speedy punk number to hype the crowd into an immediate mosh pit. Without transition, they seamlessly burst into ‘Le Song’ – Dee’s clear, echoing vocals intercut with his razor-sharp guitar solo, with the band and everyone else united in harmonious chanting. The band kept up their high energy and shredding until escalating to the back-back climax of ‘Dark Black Makeup’ and ‘Romance Dawn’ – with Dee diving into the crowd, Isaiah stomping and bouncing about on stage, all the while Solomon stoically remains sitting, bashing his kit until the two return to the stage for their recognisable two-man guitar shredding body pile.
One of the most sporadic and unfortunate things to happen during Radkey’s set was that Isaiah suddenly had a profuse nose-bleed, which lasted until the very end. At first, he merely wiped it away with his arm, before gradually becoming more of a red cascade, pouring down his face; having to improvise with tampons and tissue up his nose – unabashed by his then more comical appearance, until resorting to toweling off between songs. The combination of his blood-streamed face, nose stuffed with tissues and such along with his trademark rolled-back eyes – makes an equally humorous but harrowing image.
In conclusion, Radkey rocked Dingwalls to the core, with many fans clambering to get photos, selfies and autographs, making clear their admiration for the band, hoping not only that the band return for UK festivals, but at least one other London show in the near future.
By Paul Boyling