The Joiners, Southampton

It’s halfway through an exhaustive; whistle-stop, eleven date tour where the “tour bus Wonk” has reached Southampton. No mid-tour days off for these perennial live veterans, just the usual fun-packed shows we have come to expect from Alex (and gang). Tonight sees two supports of differing styles. Openers Brioche arrive from nearby Basingstoke, with a clutch of simple songs about life and life experiences. This duo is Brother and Sister, quick to distance themselves from the White Stripes!! Their set begins with “WYS” but I am instantly hooked on follow-up “Minesweeping”. A familiar tale of those who purloin others alcohol, or just a trait of destitute musicians?! The stories continue, as do Nile’s(Neil) guitar and bass swaps. Their mishmash of Punk/Rock/Metal is not lost on the few early arrivers, his sister behind him bashing the skins with a powerhouse ferocity. “Down The Pub” and “Summer BBQ” kind of sums up what we all love best, while the less decipherable recent single ‘Yeet It’ keeps one guessing. Penultimate song “Circles” is simply a prelude to the wonderful set closer that is “Pasty in the Park” – a celebration of the humble pasty we all enjoy so much and take for granted. The whole duo thing I feel has run its course in popular music, so I admire their efforts taking the sound into new territory. It’s hard and heavy and at times “Strange”, but I wish them well.

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Second band on tonight is a band local to me and no strangers to the Joiners stage. Poole’s finest export, The Mistakes are here to further their upward trajectory in a room now filling up. All the big hitters are in tonight’s set, starting with “Therapy”. ‘Together’ gets a rather enthusiastic pairing down the front leaping around early doors. They do however struggle to match the energy of the band’s very own Bez in good friend and superfan Kev, who is bustin’ a few fine moves himself. “Together” sees the dancing increase, the band is in full flow now. Richie (bass) takes his lead from Squidboy (drums) while Ross (vox) continues his love-in with Shane (guitar). There’s a certain chemistry within this band, honed over fifteen plus years of graft – “Quitters Get Nothing” never seemed more apt. Set highlight “Never Be Quiet” is delivered with the usual gusto while “That’s What You Get” is as humorous as ever. The Mistakes rarely do a bad show (if ever) and tonight they are on the money. They depart us on two bangers, “Walk Tall” and “Self Control”. Despite recently headlining a prestigious local event they are equally at home taking support to our esteemed headliners. And the announcement of a forthcoming “Cockney Rejects” support in this very town won’t do them any harm. Make no mistake (sic), these guys are here for the long haul.

The Mistakes
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And so to our headliners. Wonk Unit are no strangers to the Joiners and Alex (vox) seems thrilled to be back – either that or just the relief to be playing live again. His crowd interaction tonight hits a new high as he bends over backwards to describe song origins. It’s a best-of-set that I’m sure would have pleased fans young and old, new and long term alike. With a sweary introduction Alex begins the set with “Horses”. “Strength” is the first of ten tracks taken from their latest LP and sets out their stall early. “Donkey of the Damned” keeps the tempo high as Alex and band really hit their stride. One punter who is at his first ever gig is afforded the pleasure of a whole venue crowd surf, encouraged by Alex. This is no one-off, having seen a similar stunt at Wonkfest previously. This Joiners crowd is in unison and carries the punter to the back of the room. “Green Eyed Monster” tackles a familiar problem and is delivered with a gnarly spite that echoes the subject matter. Crowd favourite and personal subject matter come into play during “Plasterer”. Alex is telling many a story tonight, but this is no spoken word tour – I just sense the relief of a touring band afforded the luxury of playing live once again. I just don’t get the excessive cussing – I can’t for one minute believe it’s nerves, these guys have been around forever. Anyway, I digress… “Lewisham” takes a light-hearted detour while “Mr. Recovery” is classic 3rd Wave. “Skin to Skin” stays in the personal arena while ‘Profiteroles’ is a shouty affair – I’m not sure I’ve witnessed Alex quite so animated at a Wonk show, perhaps the “new found love” is a factor?!

Wonk Unit
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The Carter USM-esque “Awful Jeans” gets the first big sing-a-long while “Traditional Punk Song” is a Political swipe at our government. “Teresa” is a love song (of sorts) while “Go Easy” is described by Alex as a ‘thrasher’ as he encourages crowd interaction – we are not disappointed! “Bin Him” keeps things humorous and then “Raise My Glass” sees Vez (keys/b.vox) move to lead vocals with Alex tickling the ivories (keys). Alex gives us the big sell and a brief life story of how they met and his hospitality, while endorsing her songwriting skills, hence Raise My Glass. Vez’s vocal is a gentle detour from the hard n’ harsh of Alex. “Christmas in a Crackhouse” is another thrasher and this Joiners crowd shows no let-up. A bit of crowd participation is the prelude to “Spooky House” while “Singing at the Seaside” takes the tempo down once more. Despite this Pwoison (bass) just nonchalantly smiles throughout while Kenny’s (guitar) gaze is fixed to the floor throughout. The dark and brooding “Stop” is a harsh prelude to the love story that describes the origins of “Los Angeles”. And staying with the love theme ‘The Gospel of Love’ is an East End Cockney singalong. “Disco Fever” takes a dark, twisted look at the “Saturday night out with the lads” theme with its clicky beats and shouty, anthemic chorus. With no planned encore and a straight run thru’ 120 mins they depart us on two bangers. “Guts” is delivered with the usual ferocity before Alex takes the plaudits; plugs the merchandise and thanks us all, not before pledging his undying love for his new lady. They end on “Jonny Rambo” which has a false start due to one punter’s over-exuberance in the pit. Alex stops the show; explains ‘there will be no fighting at a Wonk gig’ and encourages hugs and handshakes. The pair duly oblige and they finish the song. Alex once again begins to ramble on with the thanks and one more message of love for his lady before they depart the stage.

The main theme of tonight’s show and indeed the new album “Uncle Daddy” is one of love. Tonight’s show truly showed the love in the room. The venue, the bands, the punters, the vibe. Lockdown has affected us all in one way or another, not least live music. This will go down as being one of those shows that had a bit of everything, I guess you just had to be there?!

Set Lists
Wonk Unit
Donkey of The Damned
Green Eyed Monster
Mr Recovery
Skin to Skin
Awful jeans
Traditional Punk Song
Go Easy
Bin Him
Raise My Glass
Christmas in a Crackhouse
Je M’appelle Alex
Spooky House
Singing at the Seaside
Los Angeles
The Gospel of Love
Disco Fever

The Mistakes
Black Widow
Quitters Get Nothing
Never Be Quiet
That’s What You Get
Walk Tall

Down the Pub
Summer BBQ
Yeet It
Pasty in the Park



Words by Ross A Ferrone
Videos by David Chinery (Chinners)
Pictures by Matthew Rayner

Wonk Unit