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Skindred Vs. Crossfaith: Road Ragers

Armed with killer new music, Skindred and Crossfaith joined forces to bring the ultimate party to the UK. And we were there for all the hits, high-fives and hangovers...

When ragga-punk innovators Skindred and Japanese rave-metallers Crossfaith invited us to ride along on their UK tour for the party of the year, accepting was a no-brainer.

Each armed with killer new records – Volume by The ’Dred and Crossfaith’s sci-fi concept album Xeno – and boosted by the triumphant return of Crossfaith guitarist Kazuki Takemura following the trauma of a career-threatening brain haemorrhage, this was always going to be something special. So, with a skip in our step and our livers quaking in fear, we headed up to join them in Nottingham for a wild weekend...

Friday – Nottingham Rock City

14.30 After a hideous car journey from London in the remorseless, pissing rain, Hammer arrives at the historic Rock City. Skindred’s crew are setting up for soundcheck for tonight’s show. We get an AAA pass from tour manager Dave, who shows us our bunk on the Skindred bus and the dressing room, and tells us to help ourselves to whatever we fancy from a rider stacked with beer, Brie and Cadbury’s Heroes. It’s not the worst welcome we’ve ever had.

14.50 We bump into our first musician of the day, ’Dred bassist Dan Pugsley. He informs us that there’s a club night on after the show, hence why Skindred have to be offstage at the oddly early hour of 10pm. “We’ll have a few drinks though, OK?” Er… yeah, Dan. Obvs!

15.30 Skindred’s Benji Webbe and Crossfaith’s Ken Koie are having their photo taken in the venue’s lounge. We head down to say hello to the two frontmen and have a chat. Both are excellent company and show a genuine and obvious respect for each other. “All we wanna do,” shouts Benji, “is give people a show that will make them forget about all the shit in the world for a few hours. It’s about positivity, unity and going, ‘Fuck all that other bullshit!’” Ken nods in agreement.

16.10 Photoshoot over, Benji goes off to soundcheck, and we grab a few words with Ken about the headliners’ influence on his band. “When I first saw Skindred,” he begins, shaking his head, “I just thought, ‘Wow!’ – they bring so much energy. But we do our best on this tour to put them in their place.” Ooh! A little competitive edge. We like it.

18.00 The doors open and a healthy crowd stream into Rock City, ensuring openers Yashin aren’t playing to an empty room. We nip into The ’Dred’s dressing room, where drummer Arya Goggin is making himself a gin and tonic. Yeah, we’ll take one too, mate. And so it begins...

19.20 Just before Crossfaith are about to hit the stage, we nab ourselves a beer from Skindred’s rider. Guitarist Mikeydemus is stretching, getting ready for the show. You don’t mind us having a beer, do you, Mikey? “I’ve not had a drink for two years now,” he tells us. “But when it kicks off, I like to just sit back and observe the chaos.”

19.35 Crossfaith take to the stage, and lay the smackdown with their own type of chaos. New tracks from Xeno sound huge, particularly when Ken introduces “My friend Benji ’Dred!” to duet on the mammoth Wildfire, and their closing cover of The Prodigy’s Omen elicits a response that any headline act would be proud of.

20.20 With Skindred about to hit the stage, we bump into Ken again. “All makes sense live, doesn’t it?!” he exclaims. Hell yes, you must be pleased with that? “Best night of the tour so far! You drinking later?” he asks. Ken, we’re drinking NOW, mate!

20.30 Skindred take to the stage and do what Skindred do. If you’ve seen them before, you’ll know it’s one of the most fun shows around, and the tracks from new album Volume add to their flawless back catalogue. By the time Jahred from Hed PE and Ken return to sing Warning with Benji and co., Rock City is a sweaty, stuffy, boiling hot mess of excitable people.

22.20 There’s an obvious celebratory air in Skindred’s dressing room. It’s a sold-out show, and they’ve received news that Volume has entered the UK album chart at Number 29 and is sitting at Number Two in the rock chart, with only Def Leppard above them. Champagne is delivered and sprayed accordingly.

22.35 After high-fives and hugs have been exchanged, Skindred’s PR Jon bounds into the room with local grime artist Gino in tow. “Guess how many followers this guy has got on Instagram?” says Jon. Silence. “Who saw me on the MOBOs last night?” asks Gino. More silence. Tough crowd, boys.

23.00 There may be a club night going on in Rock City, but the real party is happening in the back lounge of the Skindred bus, where Benji has invited Gino and his mate G-Dog (yes, really) to listen to music and smash a couple of bottles of brandy. “Bro, you gotta listen to my country album!” says Benji, and proceeds to play us a selection of tracks recorded in his home studio that sound as though they could have been lifted from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. “That was the vibe I was going for!” he tells us. You should release this, it’s great! “I wanna get it in movies! Or on The Sopranos!” comes the reply. Are we going to tell him that that show finished? Maybe later...

23.30 PR Jon tries to put on Benji’s glasses and is immediately ejected from the party. The music is turned up loud, brandy bottles are chinked and drink is consumed. It’s basically a hip hop video in here.

00.30 ’Dred DJ Dan Sturgess is heading up to the club in the venue to help lighting man Jordan score with the ladies. “He’s on Tinder all the time,” Dan says. “He needs to interact with the real world.” Sounds like fun – count us in.

00.40 It’s not fun. These people are dancing to Rita Ora. Dan is, too. We aren’t that drunk yet. Time to go.

01.00 Benji is now on the Crossfaith bus. Amazingly, Crossfaith seem to be relatively calm, except for bassist Hiro, who is almost skipping on the spot as he slurps on a bottle of beer. Benji is not calm, switching between singing at the top of his voice and shouting. He’s super-drunk.

03.00 We crawl back onto the Skindred bus where Mikey, Dan P and the crew are all relaxing. It seems like a good time to call it a night. As we’re about to head up, Arya walks past holding an expensive-looking bottle of coffee liqueur. You alright, mate? “GAAAA PAARRR ARRRGHH!” is his reply. Yep, definitely time for bed.


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