My recollection of gigs at Newport TJ’s is always somewhat hazy as the venue seems to inhabit its own time zone. Not for them is there the necessity of an eleven o’clock curfew and so when opening band MIDDLE FINGER SALUTE are only just starting their set at a quarter to ten I know that later events will be clouded by a sea of Strongbow.

I had actually recently seen lead singer Calum Sutton play an acoustic set at Rebellion, but other than that I knew little of them. However since forming in 2005 they seemed to have built up a creditable reputation as a touring band sharing stages with such luminaries as the Angelic Upstarts, Rancid, Misfits, Stiff Little Fingers and the Towers of London, and were recently to be seen on the US 2009 Vans Warped Tour. I can’t say that I knew any of their numbers but certainly their enthusiasm was not dampened by the sparse crowd. Whilst I believe they originally hail from Blackburn, for my money they have more than a US/So-Cal punk feel to them. There’s nothing wrong with that, and in truth the pop punk bands are the only ones that sell in any great quantities in this genre. I guess only time will tell if they can manage to make a big breakthrough but once they end this tour they are straight into supporting TV Smith, Goldblade and Cock Sparrer, so they are certainly going about matters the right way.

Next up was local heroes STRAWBERRY BLONDES who were guaranteed a good reception by the crowd that had by now noticeably increased. Again they are a hard working band who appear to tour constantly, and like the opening act, seem to have attracted the interest of some heavyweight US punk bands like Rancid, Bad Brains, The Unseen, The Aggrolites, Anti-Flag and Millencolin. They were promoting their second album ‘Fight Back’, an album that featured a guest appearance by tonight headliners The Briggs. For a band with only three members they make a big noise, and lead singer Mickie Stabbs dementedly prowls the stage, occasionally standing on the monitors to tower over the adoring home town audience. Whilst they undoubtedly write catchy punk songs (a la Rancid) they contain lyrics that reflect the darker side of urban decay. Also songs like “Beat Down Babylon” show that they have the confidence in their own abilities to deviate from the norm and introduce a lady trumpet player stage left. Here’s hoping they get the break that their performance tonight warranted.

Ashamedly until about two months ago I had not heard anything by tonight’s headliners THE BRIGGS. However due to a steer by a good mate (cheers Geord!) I know rate their latest album “Come All You Madmen” as one of my all time favourite punk records. The band hail from Los Angeles, being formed in 2001 by brothers Joey and Jason LaRocca and tonight’s line up is completed by Chris "X" Arredondo on drums and Ryan D. Roberts on bass. Whilst playing with the usual suspects on the US punk scene, they seem to have made a speciality of playing on the Warped Tour in 2002, 2004, 2007, and 2008.

They seemed to be younger and more fresh faced than I expected, but maybe this was more a reflection of my advancing years. Also, given that they have an obsession with all matters maritime, I was half hoping they had one member with a passing resemberlance to Long John Silver (maybe even with a parrot). But no, these boys take things seriously and have the musically feel of a band battle hardened by many years on the road.
Needless to sat most of the new album was played, and I cannot recommend highlighly enough tracks like “Bloody Minds”, “What Was I Thinking?”, “ Ship of Fools”, acoustically driven “Oblivion”, “Not Alone”, “Ship of Fools” “Until Someone Get’s Hurt” and “Molly”. However if I had to pick a favourite, bizarrely, it would actually be “Blacklist” from their 2006 release “Back to Higher Ground”.

They return to encore with their trubute to their birthplace “This Is LA”, which incidentally, is deemed good enough to be used by ice hockey team LA Kings when they take to the ice. In truth, The Briggs deserve a bigger venue and audience than tonight, but hey, I’m not complaining too much as I got to see a truly great punk band up close and personal.

As I stumble out into the barmy Newport night at nearly one in the morning, sweat soaked, ears ringing, with a hangover starting and the prospect of trying to find a way to get back to Cardiff, I wonder at my age should I still be doing this? Fuck yes! Nights like this make it all worthwhile!