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LIVE: Holy Popes – The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, 24/02/2024

There’s been a lot in the news recently about the plight of grassroots music venues in the UK, and quite rightly so. In their recent annual report, The Music Venue Trust estimated that 16% of all such venues closed in 2023, 125 in total. While a number of new arena-type venues are opening up, and the companies that own them are generally doing pretty well, the venues that help produce the bands that play in them are struggling and not getting much in the way of help.

The arguments for seeing some of the financial goodness flowing down to the grassroots venues are very compelling. They are absolutely fundamental to the health of the industry.

Also, they are bloody good fun, and at a price point that is accessible to everyone.

Take tonight’s show. Free parking in the station car park next door. A nice pint of Exmoor Gold for £3 less than I paid for a shitty pint of lager at my last London show. Oh, and ticket price is the princely sum of absolutely fuck all!


The Three Horseshoes is a great venue too. It’s got a real old-school punk rock vibe, audience from all ages and demographics, even the odd dog walking around. Add a nice warm welcome from the staff, and what’s not to like?

Then there’s the music, and tonight’s lineup is a corker, headlined by Bristol’s Holy Popes, the new project of former Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster guitarist Poppi. Holy Popes take the psychobilly sound of Poppi’s legendary former band, and incorporate post-punk basslines and a strong social message.

Tonight’s show is a warm-up in advance of a five-date tour of France next month, and an enthusiastic crowd has shown up to see it. Any suggestions that they are treating this as a practice session, though, are quickly dispelled as they tear through ‘Seance’ and brilliant single ‘Pencils’. Two-thirds of the band have already dispensed of the clothing from their upper torsos by this point, with bassist Liam Dowling following soon after. These guys do not mess around.

A year on from their hugely impressive debut album, we see a band that is continuing to develop. Recent single ‘Apples’ is an absolute savage of a track, condemning the practices of the UK police (“It’s not one bad apple, it’s the whole fucking barrel”). By weird coincidence, some blue lights go past the window of The Three Horseshoes soon after; two minutes earlier, it would have been perfect.

Tonight, we are also treated to two unreleased tracks, ‘Weapon’ and ‘Lemonade’, that point to a freer, more expansive sound. On this evidence, album two is going to be something quite special.

The story tonight, though, is all about the live performance of this band. Dowling’s bass work is exemplary, Luke Bujniewicz is ferocious on the drums, and Poppi is just the ultimate frontman. A force of perpetual motion, he has elastic legs one minute, holding his guitar like a bazooka the next, then down on the floor. He is absolutely compelling viewing.

It’s not note-perfect, but when you play with this much energy and passion, it really doesn’t have to be. In fact, it really shouldn’t be. This is the essence of punk rock, right here, and the crowd love it.

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The band close out their main set with ‘Slither’, one of the best tracks from their debut, but the crowd won’t let them leave. Two encore tracks later, the last order bell has been rung, and they only stop because they have run out of songs to play.

What a band. What a performance. What a night.

I’d take this over a fancy arena show any day of the fucking week.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.