The Tooth and Claw, Inverness
Tuesday, April 24
A Tuesday night gig just before pay day at one of Inverness’s most intimate venues, featuring one of UK underground punk’s strangest and most eclectic bands? You could be forgiven for having your doubts about its success.
Well, leave those doubts at the door. As frontman Alex Wonk preaches exuberantly to the crowd at the end of a blistering set, “When I booked this gig, someone said that no f***** would come – but we did it!”
And to the 50 or so folk that came along, Wonk Unit made every moment worth it – this was a sometimes weird but always wonderful night of punk thrashers, country ho-downs and bluntly honest confessionals.
Touring with Dayton, Ohio’s The Raging Nathans, the US three-piece opened proceedings with a set stuffed with straight up melodic pop-punk bangers and easy charm.
Two minute nuggets of bouncing NOFX-a-like tunes were punctuated by frontman Josh Goldman’s laconic words, as he cracked jokes and ribbed his bandmates about (presumably fictional) Viagra addictions.
For all that headliners Wonk Unit tour – and they tour a lot – this was the first time the London punks had managed to get up to the Highlands for a show.
It was worth the wait. Not every band can manage to inspire separate bouts of country dancing and a bar-length conga line over the course of an hour-long set, but Wonk Unit – ably conducted by the joyful whimsy of ringleader Alex – are not exactly every band.
It’s a testament to the band’s back catalogue that they’re able to pull in so many different genres to carry the gig – the country stylings of My Safe Place inspiring a do-se-do break out, and the bossanova-tinged The Trail bringing out the Butlins park spirit within the conga-mad crowd.
It’s joy, essentially, that Wonk Unit truck in first and foremost. No matter how dark the subject matter of their music gets – with songs dealing with the minutiae and blunt realities of alcoholism, depression, and heroin withdrawal – Alex and the band never drop the light-hearted approach to the evening.
So there were jokes. There were whimsical asides. There were atrocious American accents. There were songs about plasterers. There were even a few requests taken by random shoutouts from an audience filled with delighted fans who have taken them and their every gleefully weird moment into their hearts.
On this night Wonk Unit proved they were a must-see band – regardless of what day of the week they end up playing.
What did you think? Comment below or tweet Kyle: @spp_kwalker
Watch a clip from the show below (warning – NSFW language):