An evening of Ska/Punk at The Winchester Gate, Salisbury

Featuring Smiley and the Underclass and Kman and the 45s

The Winchester Gate in Salisbury is a local pub that differentiates itself from the norm with its commitment to grassroots music by providing the premier music venue in the city, close enough to town to walk the ½ mile from the centre, but not so close that it is in the city centre and part of that scene. 


The staff and locals are friendly and welcoming. The posters on the walls attest to it as a music venue with musical influences that is in the DNA of the pub – The Specials, The Interceptors, The Pirates and The Sex Pistols.

The stage and gig area is close and intimate. Fifty people would fill it wall to wall, but that is in its favour. You are in touching distance with the performers and they embrace that. You are part of the performance, not just a bystander.


And what performances.


First up were Smiley and the Underclass, a four-piece Dub Punk Rock Reggae outfit from London. "Think Bob Dylan meets The Clash and King Tubby down a dark alley with razor-blades". The band is made up of; Smiley - Vocals, rhythm guitar, Jay Hirano - Drums, percussion, Derek Daley - Bass, James Shephard - Lead guitar


From the moment they took the stage, Smiley, in an instant took every member of the audience by the scruff of the neck and gave them a shake and then didn’t let go for the rest of the set.


James Shepard got an opportunity to showcase his talent with a solo riff in Jump the Barrier – a song that had so much crowd interaction I’d be surprised if Cuadrilla didn’t have to pause the fracking again in Lancashire because of the aftershocks.


The simplistic and repetitive riffs with the repeated off beat chords and slow pace gives it a rock anthem sense, something that the crowd can easily join in on and sing along to. James went on to further demonstrate his skills using tremolo picking to get a unique riff on the song Truth and Rights.


Jay Hirano (Drums) and Derek Daley (Bass) were on point all night, perfectly accompanying the mesmerising performance by Smiley on Lead Vocals and gave rhythmic bass lines working nicely with the drums to create a beat that’s hard not to at least bob your head to.


Smiley played off beat (skank chords) on rhythm guitar during most verses and breakdowns giving the tracks a reggae type feel and owned the room with his presence, vocals and charisma.


Next up were K-Man and the 45s a Montreal 5-piece Ska and Rock and Roll band hailing from Montreal, Canada. They are; K-Man on guitar and vocals, Frankie on Bass, Josh Michaud on Trombone and Vocals, Seb Fournier on Trumpet/Saxophone and Brian Smith on drums and Vocals.


This gig at Winchester Gate, Salisbury was part of the band's European tour, covering 16 gigs in 17 days and four countries. Straight away, the horn section set up the clear ska sound that traces it roots back to Jamaica in the 60s with Prince Buster and through the 2-Tone revival and into the third wave Ska with its punk edge.


If you grew up listening to The Specials, Bad Manners, The Selector and The Beat in the late 70s and early 80s, K-Man and The 45s would not disappoint. The music was raw and gritty in the third wave punk style of the genre, the band was tightly knit in their play and their experience was visible in their easy interactions with the crowd and each other.


This was a brilliant, intimate gig at a great venue. Free of charge, friendly people, fantastic music and good beer on top. What more could you possibly ask for on a Thursday night in Wiltshire?

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