CKY Rise From The Ashes With Triumphant UK Return
Monday nights are the worst nights for gigs. It's the first day of the week, people are back at work, and the trains are back to being delayed after a weekend free of hold-ups. The kick in the teeth that is the sudden start to the week doesn't encourage the best of mindsets to approach a concert with. That's normally the way I am most Mondays - a little jaded, more than a little tired, counting on some live music to make improvements to my mood. Not this Monday though - May 8 - the night of CKY at Brighton's Concorde 2. I had just walked out of my last undergraduate university exam without completely screwing it up, and I was heading to Brighton for a night of metal on the coast.
Due to the train hold-ups, I made it to the venue ten minutes before opening band Graveyard Johnnys were set to take to the stage. I came in off the seafront and into Concorde 2 which doubles as a club most nights. Incidentally, it's also where CKY played their first ever U.K. show all the way back in 2003, and on this particular Monday, it was also where they kicked off a twelve-date, nationwide tour - their first since 2011. Walking into the venue, it felt a little like a celebratory homecoming show. The Philadelphia outfit have been around since 1998, and gazing around the room I was able to spot tour shirts marking the band's journey from Philly garages to south coast clubs.
Before CKY headlined, though, it was Welsh band Graveyard Johnny's, an eclectic-looking bunch in principle, who impressed. Vocalist Joe Grogan sports a large double bass, while guitarist Callum Houston dons white skinny jeans and a haircut which makes him look uncannily like Super Hans from British situation TV comedy Peep Show. Drummer Tom Lord, meanwhile, flails dreadlocks partly hidden beneath an old-fashioned military style hat. I was intrigued; even more so after a riotous set which kicked off the night in style as the band promote recent record Dead Transmission.
The crowd was quickly onboard with Graveyard Johnnys' frenetic rockabilly antics as the band powered through a string of mammoth songs showcasing riffs, solos and breakbeat drumming. As far as openers go, the band absolutely delivered, with Grogan slapping his bass like a man possessed, spinning it often and roaring into the watching crowd. Single "Compromise" sounded particularly big as the bass amplified through the venue's excellent sound setup. At one point my empty pint glass toppled from the table of its own accord, shaken into life as many in the crowd were. A man in a balaclava stepped on it as he pushed his way to the front, quickly whipping off said balaclava to headbang along to "Little Witch." It very much encapsulated the spirit of Graveyard Johnnys' set, which set the atmosphere as one of fresh anticipation as they left the stage to full-room applause.
Emphatic chants of "CKY! CKY!" began to ring out ten minutes before the band were due on stage, and after so long away it seemed that Brighton was glad to have them back and in promotion of upcoming record The Phoenix - scheduled for a June 16th release. As such, there was plenty for those in the room to be excited about. It felt like a landmark night for CKY, and the band treated it as such. The packed room bristled as the members emerged, and as soon as first song "The Human Drive In Hi-Fi" began it was as if CKY had never really left.
A pit quickly opened up and stayed open for the entirety of the bands career-spanning set. South coast punks and metalheads clashed in good spirits amidst the fray while vocalist/guitarist Chad I. Ginsburg drank it all in on stage, radiating confidence. He had every reason to ooze this confidence - flexing and drinking in the moment between songs - because CKY appeared fully rejuvenated. There was a swagger and boisterous dynamic to their set, meaning that fan favorites such as "Attached At The Hip" and "Promiscuous Daughter" found a new lease on life which set them aside from their on-record counterparts.
The latter track featured as an audience request, as did a generous six-song encore constructed on the spot as Ginsburg drilled the crowd for suggestions. This was a set for the fans, and it felt as such. There was a shared energy, a collective electricity sparking throughout the bands set. Thick riffs and deep metal grooves had the crowd applauding during every brief pause, and the recurrent chant of "CKY!" rang out between each and every song. Those in the crowd loved it, and it seemed the band did too. Taken from The Phoenix, new track "Days Of Self-Destruction" went down well, although the reaction paled in comparison to that of the band's most popular song.
"I think you know our next song, want to guess?" Ginsburg teased, before the band launched into said song, "96 Quite Bitter Beings," and subsequently set the seafront crowd into a frenzy. It was a set highlight in a set full of highlights, and bodies flailed in appreciation. One audience member scaled a mid-venue pillar to hang from the ceiling and drop to cheers into the eager crowd below. At this point I spotted the man in the balaclava, waving it above his head as he crowd surfed and belted every single word. When he was eventually dropped he fought his way back to the front, seeing out the remainder of the band's set at the front, a sweaty and heroic metal talisman.
CKY eventually called time on their performance, although I sensed they could have happily played all night long - people certainly would have stayed to listen. Any doubts about the band's current incarnation are almost certainly quashed, and I found myself walking away relieved, not minding too much that my train home had been canceled. Like the proverbial phoenix of their upcoming album title, CKY have risen from the ashes, and they're better than ever. Maybe Monday night gigs aren't so bad after all.