The Boo Tikis originally began a few years ago playing instrumental music. Thats not the case anymore, and the three-piece – including Robber Byker of Gaye Bykers on Acid on bass – play a very agreeable mixture over fuzz, surf rock and punk. They are not quite at Misfits levels, but they do rattle through a very jaunty set. “Leave Me Alone”, “Girl Like You”, “I Want You” and the last one “Change Your Mind” all have their own particular charms, and along the way Dave Checkley, admits one of them is his attempt to write a Small Faces song. Drummer Lyse, stands, Slim Jim Phantom style but there is enough dirt in the sound here, to suggest that, if it did come down to a rumble in Brighton, then Bo Tikis aren’t backing down.

It was back in the summer of 2018, that I last saw Headsticks live. They were in North Wales, opening for The Wildhearts. Reading my review of the evening, before I wrote this, I’m struck that my notes tonight, contained a lot of similar phrases. This means that I’ve been writing the same nonsense for six years, but also the quality of this Stoke mob, is undiminished.

Quite simply, to see the four-piece is to become a fan of them. “Mississippi Burning” the even better “Flat Line Town” and indeed everything else they play here really is it good is this type of folk punk music gets.

The acoustic guitars are ditched for a blistering “Cold Grey English Skies” and the visceral “Die For A Lie” but what is impressive here in particular, are the two new songs that they play. “The God Song” – which reckons Andrew Tranter, the frontman “poses more questions than answers” –  and “Dark Waters” (perhaps tellingly given the crowd here, this one is dedicated to the live music scene) both highlight the fact that the forthcoming new album could be as special as the last one was.

Headsticks music means something, both to them but also more generally. So “My Own War” takes on the mental health crisis, and “Apocalypse” (its got a much longer title than that) is glorious.

There are a couple of bands of course, that are your competition if you are doing folk punk with a dash of politics. And those bands are excellent, I wouldn’t dream of pretending otherwise, but Headsticks deserve to be talked about in the same breath.

“We’re gonna have to go, Cooky’s got the slight hump”  laughs Tom Spencer, self proclaimed “cocky git” and singer in The Professionals. It’s all good theatre, as they give Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” a punk rock makeover.

They follow this with two of their own. “Rewind” and “Kick Down the Doors” and this mixture of something old, something new-ish and something borrowed, is sort of how the set had preceded throughout.

The first night of their small tour, this line up of the band, Mark on bass and Dave on guitar join the other two, is out for a good time. The Vodka flows, so does the Jager, and the songs come just as quick.

“Going Going Gone” and “Just Another Dream” from their 2021 record that still feels new, started things, an hour or so before. They had done so last year too when MV saw them then, but this is a slightly different set. “2020 Vision” and “Good Man Down” (“us old men, we’re back in the game thanks to Viagra” offers Spencer) show the new material, in its best light – along perhaps with “Spike Me Baby”.

But of course, there is the spectre, of the other band over this. “Cooky” , he of the slight hump, is Paul Cook  – a literal Sex Pistol – And when they play “Silly Thing” and “Problems” from that band (and Spencer cannot resist a dig at Johnny Rotten in the latter) it merely shows how good those songs are.

“Dance Like No Ones Watching” Is another new addition to the set – and if Spencer is right when he says but it doesn’t sound like The Professionals, he’s also correct that it’s fun.

And some of the older material is back. There is a notable return for “The Magnificent” which Cook apparently did not want to play, “the new stuff is better” he reasons, But it does sound superb.

Despite saying they wouldn’t, they do return for “Holidays In The Sun” and whether or not the Berlin Wall is still up might be a moot point, but the quality of this song is undeniable.

And that is the case for all of the songs The Professionals play. They seemed to go slightly under the radar, which given their personnel is rather odd, but this show has proved, and all of their shows do, that they are one of the finest punk bands around, and certainly one of the most forward looking too.

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