The mighty Dub Pistols, headliners of Off The Tracks in 2017, are playing top Derby venue The Hairy Dog tonight, and, as ever, in true Dog tradition, it’s great value as there are no less than two support bands.

Events organiser, Gav, tells me to get down early as he reckons that the first act on, The Social Ignition, from Hinckley, are pretty good. He’s not wrong either, as what follows has high octane fuelled ska beats throughout, with a jumping brass section to boot. The band play an energetic set which has punky elements in it, not too far removed their famous neighbours from nearby Coventry, namely The Specials. The band play a good selection of their own material starting with ‘Riddles.’ I also hear ‘Socially Ignite,’ ‘ Victim’ and ‘Who’s To Blame’ among others. I later learn some good news from the band that they will be supporting Steel Pulse and Suede in a star studded lineup at next years Bearded Theory Festival.

Whilst the bands change over, I head to the bar to wet my whistle. There’s a curious Hairy Dog branded beer, which is nice and citrusey, and not at all like it’s name, which is unprintable, might suggest. It’s reasonably priced too, like all The Dog’s drinks.

Gav seems to have done a disappearing act, as he’s not checking tickets, and makes a surprise (to me anyways) reappearance as guitarist in the next band on who are Phattfoxx. (I’m thinking to myself that looks rather like Gav, but isn’t he on the door?) Gav has a fabulous steam punk style top hat on with flying goggles and a wad of bank notes Mad Hatter style in the hat band, and cuts a great pose with the rest of the band, who are all local lads from Derby. The singer is outrageous in a rather bad blonde wig and fishnets, but adds definite character as the band’s frontman. Phattfoxx play some tasty licks laced with overtones of Tom Morello in a unique chaotic urban punk style. I’m surprised I haven’t seen this band before, and like other talented Derby bands, I shall be on the lookout for their future gigs.

And now it’s time for The Dub Pistols and what follows is simply terrific. Thumping dub beats combine with a fabulous brass section in a band of whom the recently reformed Happy Mondays tweeted that “The Dub Pistols were the best live band they’d seen in years.” The Mondays are proved pretty much right tonight as the band kick ass big time, just as they did a year back at Off The Tracks.

Frontman Barry Ashworth is in great form tonight, pint in hand engaging the audience and making direct eye contact with anyone near enough to the stage. He’s ably supported on the vocals by Seanie Tee, whilst bassist Dave Budgen cuts a rock steady bass line. Tim Hutton’s trombone and battered trumpet blasts out wonderful ska overtones, whilst drummer Jack Cowens backs the band up with some terrific displays of drumming. All this is a band that’s worked with greats like The Specials and Madness and have been going for 19 years.

Typical of The Hairy Dog, there’s some pretty cool people in the audience. Some of the girls are definitely dressed to impress and many are dancing in front of the stage; style is certainly their middle name. This venue is really spacious, and there is generally plenty of room for people to be able to bop about in safety. As per usual, there’s not a hint of any menace, people are too busy having a great time, and Barry and The Dub Pistols certainly aren’t disappointing tonight.

Included in the many great choons of their own that the band play in their own unique ska meets dub meets jungle stylee, what also stand out are covers of The Specials hit ‘Gangsters’ as well as The Stranglers ‘Peaches,’ with its distinctive sleazy bass riffs given a bit extra with the bands rankin’ ska beats. To be honest, I’m too busy dancing myself to take note verbatim what the band play.

All too soon, it’s getting near to the end of the evening, and in true friendly Barry Ashworth style, he invites us all up on the stage for the last numbers. Those who crowd on the stage along with the band are loving this, singing along with Barry and Seanie; it’s their five minutes of fame, and they’re revelling in it. This is all what live music and audience participation should be about, and of course, everyone behaves themselves as well, a credit to all.

After the very last song, the band leave the stage leaving some very happy people to go home or continue to have a drink in the bar or have some hot food from the chuck wagon outside. There’s food for all tastes with some yummy veggie options if you’re averse to eating dead animals. If you want a keepsake of tonight’s kicking performance, you can buy some natty threads in the form of tee shirts, or take home a cd or two or three.

What a great evening, The unstoppable Hairy Dog music machine has come up trumps yet again with a top band, and there’s lots more great acts already booked to look forward to in the weeks and months ahead, including the legendary Grand Master Flash. Expect to see me at the front for that one!