Tufnell Park Dome, London

Wonk Fest

So, for a couple of years I was toying with the idea of attending this festival after a friend recommended it. Well, talk is cheap and so I decided to take the plunge – so glad I did, possibly the best one-day Festival I have ever been to. So much so I just had to review it!

So Wonkfest 2019. Here is the premise: 23 bands, free buffet and bbq, cheap pints before 7pm and a boiling hot sweaty venue. (Not forgetting three special guest appearances). Curator Alex (Wonk), erstwhile frontman with Wonk Unit has put together a stellar cast of signed and unsigned acts for our audio enjoyment. First of all the venue: literally a stone’s throw from the tube. Two stages; one large, one not so large.

On the main stage openers “African Vegetables” are actually Wonk Unit playing rarities. Alex sets the mood with his usual humour, bouncing off Pwosion (bass) and getting everyone in the mood. They are in fine form, call it a warm-up of sorts. Over on the “other stage” Hastings Punk/Poppers “The Barracks” are making a terrific racket. They sound (and look) American with their loud and brash output. “Back In Your Home Town” is an anthemic crowd-pleaser. These guys have the lot – songs, stage presence, tats, swagger, everything really. Expect to hear more from them. Back on the big stage, it’s “Project Mork“. Their brand of Funk/Punk with growling vocals is totally lost on me. The drummer is great but the bassist just loves himself, pulling every shape in the book.

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There’s frankly too many solo’s and (IMO) not enough songs! Due to “train issues” Beverley Kills drummer is stuck in “train traffic” so ‘2 Peas In A Pod’ move up the bill. Their acoustic mix of covers and originals is a pleasant break from the familiar, delivered with great humour and self-deprecation. Their covers are great – but I don’t recognise any of them! ‘Laser Christ’ is up next in the big room. This Power/Punk quartet have no slow songs and deliver a fast set with great guitar and drumming. The drummer looks like Rob Dickinson (Catherine Wheel) and despite the songs being a tad samey, the vocalist has a confident delivery.

Two Peas In A Pod
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Laser Christ
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Beverley Kills drummer has now arrived and joins the other band members onstage downstairs. This all female quartet deliver some great Punk/Pop songs amid great musicianship and vocals, notably from their bassist. Their happy go lucky stage presence perfectly sets the mood.

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Back in the main room “Burnout” energetically explode into life – not before confusing us somewhat with their first song. They decide to sit cross-legged for the opener while their drummer taps his sticks together. It’s all about making punters think I suppose. Once they dispense with this tomfoolery they explode into life with 17 minutes of pure adrenalin-fuelled Punk Rock. Evan (guitar) reminds me of a young Paul Simenon (The Clash), while Will (bass) with his flowing locks wouldn’t be out of place in any decent Rock band – thankfully he has opted for Punk! Oscar (drums/l. vox) is also energy personified and these guys are out to get noticed. “Drugs” is a set highlight from this Taunton trio who I’m sure will have garnered a few more fans today. They end their set with Evan fiddling away on his pedal board while Will patrols the stage. I don’t know what it is but these guys just have something about them just that little bit different – must be something in the water out West!

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There were only a handful of bands who could top that performance, one being Eastfield over in the smaller room. Their reputation has packed the room as they whizz through a set of at least 8 or 9 songs. No point chatting between songs, just get on with it! Last time I saw Eastfield I left after 3 songs – not today, I’m literally blown away by the sheer power and energy they give off in today’s performance. Fast, tight and in yer face – literally. Youth Killed It back in the main room deliver a set of bass-heavy, Poppy/Indie. The singer is confident with a decent vocal, if a tad samey. They drop in a few beats and loops here and there to keep the interest though. Back downstairs The Dub Writers are making a huge racket. It’s Dub to the core, dropping the beats amid the loud echoey snare. It’s not for my ears but they too garner a sizeable crowd. Back upstairs it’s time for the first of 3 “Special Guests”. From across the pond come The Dopamines. Again they make a huge racket and it’s a bit samey to my ears. They win this crowd over early by asking “who thinks Morrissey’s a cu*t?”, before blasting through 4 or 5 anthemic numbers.

At the mid-point of the day it’s time for some more acoustic songs from the one and only Frankie (Leatherface). He pulls a huge crowd, most of whom stand in silence in awestruck appreciation of this man’s work. There are one or two singalongs but his gravelly tones are delivered with a heartfelt passion. Back in the main room, it’s more generic Punk from San Francisco’s ‘Get Dead’. The raspy, throaty vocals are largely harsh and unintelligible, leaving me thinking they are a singer away from being a decent band. Back downstairs Goober Patrol is delivering a great set of 3rd Wave Punk Rock, and energising this large crowd in front of them. It’s fast and tight and Simon (vox/guitar) has a passionate delivery and stage presence. Earlier in the day we spotted Pete Bywaters and Del Strangefish (Test Tubes) and assumed (and hoped) they might be one of the three Special Guests.

Goober Patrol
Goober Patrol

An hour later a few punters confirmed this and they pull a large crowd for four biggies from their back catalogue. They open with “Jinx” before a riotous reception greets Banned From The Pubs. From memory, they follow up with ‘Spirit of Keith Moon” and depart the stage. On being told they have another six minutes to fill they return with “Blown Out Again”. Pete’s voice is at its harshest today but one cannot underestimate how good a guitarist Del still is. They depart once more to great applause as we head down again, this time for ‘The Raging Nathans‘. And there’s nothing generic about these guys; just balls to the wall, fast and furious Punk Rock. Josh (guitar/l. vox) manages to break a string first song. He makes an impassioned plea for a spare guitar, but when one arrives he just ignores it and sings instead. More self-deprecating humour from this Ohio frontman who is the happiest man in London with a swagger to match. One cannot fail to like these guys and despite the ferocity of their music, you can understand most of the vocals.

Back over on the main stage are a band Alex (Wonk) has long championed, “Ariel Salad“. They have a full room, no doubt on the strength of previous appearances here. I have to admit they do nothing for me, but I am in the minority and leave after three ear-crushing songs. They are great at what they do, I (personally) just don’t get it!

Downstairs it’s the turn of Murderburgers – ironic considering you walk past a burger stand to get to the stage! They don’t disappoint though, their brand of ‘Pop/Punk’ certainly is at the harsher end of the genre. They play fast, never keep still and keep a large crowd well entertained. Back on the big stage Guns ‘n Wankers also don’t disappoint. Louder Punk Rock as this room is filling even more. We skip Pizzatramp as my mate makes his umpteenth visit to the buffet and I head to the bar. No offence to them, but neither of us are fans. Best entertainers of the night award goes to “Hardskin”. These guys do humour and piss-take at another level. ‘We Are the Wankers’ is self-deprecation on another level, their guitarist can’t seem to hide his permanent grin throughout. The bassist is chief rabble-rouser and gets this crowd chanting “oi’s” at one point. The drummer is not to be outdone either, his hitting is simply huge.


Headlining the small stage are a band well known around these parts. Maid Of Ace are Girl-Punk, and then some. They are loud, brash and in your face. I’m afraid they are lost on me, I last one song before heading back upstairs for the main event. Wonk Unit are headliners of course, this being their event. They never disappoint and tonight is no exception. People in the scene say to me “I just don’t get them”, whereas I always have. There’s not enough humour in Punk, but it’s changing. Wonk Unit are above being a novelty band by virtue of so many killer songs and their prolific output. They manage to squeeze a decent number of songs into 30 minutes, incorporating Alex’s banter.

Crowd surfing is openly encouraged, such is the vibe in the room. You barely see the security, just how it should be. Song highlights include “Kings Road Sporting Heroes”, “J’M’apelle Alex” and a riotous “Go Easy”. Alex is unswerving in his appreciation of those who helped put this wonderful event together. We skip the last song to beat the rush back to Waterloo.

Wonk Unit
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In times where festivals have become so corporate and expensive, it’s refreshing to see how an event like this can be so popular. It’s a team effort and I feel most touring bands on the circuit would kill to get on this bill. For the princely sum of £34 you get 23 bands, free food (donations accepted), cheap drinks (for London} and a great vibe from a multi-genre crowd. It’s a great template and long may it continue. Same again next year? You bet.









Review, Pictures and Videos by Ross A. Ferrone.

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