Airbourne/Skirtbox, Bristol Louisiana,12th February 2008

Let me first fill you in about The Louisiana: it's a pub. That's sort of it, really. It's not a particularly big pub, or a flash pub, it's just a pub that has, for many years now, hosted a plethora of bands in it's upstairs room, which is about the size of your average shoebox. This is the last place you'd expect to see an up and coming, full on band like Airbourne. With room for just 120 people, a stage that's 1ft high and no flashing lights it's gonna be a tight squeeze. But here we are, milling around downstairs and wondering whose idea it was to make band branded “Do Not Disturb” cardboard door hangers and whether they were taken out back (or into the Outback) and shot.

Before the main event, however, we are treated to young British hopefuls Skirtbox, who have a rather fetching banner featuring a scantily clad woman on a snarling polar bear. I have no idea why they're called Skirtbox, and didn't even know what they were called until I got to the venue as their logo is almost unreadable in the trade adverts. When they get onstage and start playing I have to laugh, as their no frills old school Brit metal sound is scarily similar to Sum 41's spoof band Pain 4 Pleasure. This isn't to say it's bad, but this is unashamedly 80's from the song titles (“Slip It On”, “2 Hot Girls”) to their sometimes overly tacky lyrics. It's like someone gave David Coverdale carte blanche to write the most sexist, tongue in cheek lyrics he could. In their favour, Skirtbox have some great music behind the cheese, the sort of music to bang your head, shake your head and pump your fist (or girlfriend) to. There is no shame here, just four blokes enjoying themselves by playing the music they love about things they believe in (“This song is about fucking girls you shouldn't be fucking”). It's cheesy, but I have a feeling that when their album comes out it might be worth checking out. Track them down on and tell 'em Rock United sent you.

Unsurprisingly, the stragglers all make it upstairs in time for the main event, with the heat reaching volcanic levels as we all play sardines and the ever popular “Who farted” game. A roadie parts the crowd like a sweaty Red Sea and Airbourne hit the stage. From then on it's non stop rock & roll, and I and many others are magically transported back to our teenage years. To put it simply, Airbourne may be the best no nonsense rock band I have ever seen, and I've seen a few. They open with album opener “Stand Up For Rock & Roll”, a song destined to stay in their set forever as it sets the tone perfectly. From there on it's a straightforward rollercoaster ride through the eleven tracks on their debut album, without much in the way of pauses for breath. Lead singer and guitarist Joel O'Keeffe owns the tiny stage, staring out at the crowd with an axe murderer's eyes, gurning and screeching like the bastard offspring of Bon Scott and Angus Young. When he does say something to the crowd it is delivered in the same voice at breakneck speed, so when he shrieks “Are there any heartbreakers in here tonight?” all he gets is blank faces of incomprehension, before repeating himself and going into the song (”Heartbreaker”, funnily enough) anyway. Watching Airbourne from a few feet away is like putting your face into a jet turbine, but in a good way. This must be what it was like watching AC/DC in a small Aussie club back in the Seventies, except with better sound quality! The whole band basically throw themselves into the gig, barely stopping headbanging except when required to do backing vocals. Drummer Ryan O'Keeffe often looks like he's going to die in between songs, such is the energy he puts into trying to kill his kit combined with the heat of the room. Streety on bass pours more water over his head than in his mouth, whilst rhythm guitarist Dave Roads headbangs like crazy for forty minutes. The best moment comes when Joel strides into the crowd whilst playing his solo for “Girls In Black”, returning with a pint in hand that he has got from the small bar at the back of the room! There's really no reason to find any fault with the performance, as each song is top quality, with each delivered as accurately and aggressively as a bullet to the bollocks. Yeah, it's only forty minutes, but with a door price of £6 there are no complaints, and as “Blackjack” rounds off the set, the moshpit that formed during “Runnin' Wild” sucks in new people like a greasy tornado. Tonight, The Louisiana was ground zero for a band that will be hitting the rock world like a nuclear bomb, and for 120 lucky people it will be a gig that remains welded to their memory for a very long time. I'll leave the last words to Joel: “As long as we're alive, and as long as you're alive, rock & roll will never die!”. Nuff said.

Review by Alan Holloway
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