Nestled down the side of Waterloo station, the House Of Vans is a vast, versatile space, containing a skate park, cinema, bar, cafe, and an intimate little music venue right in the centre. The walls are littered with Vans merchandise, and the cavernous tunnels that the space is comprised lend an edgy feel that makes the venue perfect for Canadian hardcore punks Cancer Bats, who’ll be headlining tonight.
First up though are Sick Ones  from Bristol. It’s always impressive when a three-piece manages to deliver grooves that feel this huge, and their tracks are short, sharp bursts of irascible, frantic energy. Frontman Ben Curd looks more like he’s dressed for the gym than the stage, but that just adds to their don’t-give-a-fuck punk ethos, especially when he dives into the crowd during their closing number.
There’s a lot of liveliness on show here, which is great, but all-in-all there’s a lot of bands doing exactly the same thing right now, and Sick Ones may struggle to stand out. Worth a look, though.
Leeds five-piece Higher Power  take the stage with gusto, and it’s clear that old school hardcore with a positive vibe is the order of the day here. “Where the mosh pit freaks at?”, yells vocalist Jimmy Wizard several times throughout the set – you’re left wondering if he can actually see the crowd from underneath his bucket hat, as the mosh pit freaks are clearly out in force.
The centre of the crowd becomes a flurry of spin kicks and furious windmills as the band deliver one bangover-inducing rager after another, and the bass rumbles from Ethan Wilkinson are nothing short of monstrous. They look so at home on the tiny stage that it’s easy to forget that they’ve toured with the likes of Every Time I Die, but it’s not hard to see why – this is one of the most promising bands in UK hardcore right now.
Headliners Cancer Bats  arrive to kick the energy into overdrive. “I don’t know about you, but I did not come to a sewer to stand still,” frontman Liam Cormier declares, referring to the underground tunnels that make up the venue. Thankfully, it seems the crowd echoes his sentiments, as the floor becomes a hotbed of movement for the next hour.
It’s a very varied set from the Toronto mob. Dishing out infectious new tracks ‘We Run Free’ and ‘Brightest Day’ from latest album ‘The Spark That Moves’, interspersed with older cuts such as 2012’s thunderous ‘R.A.T.S.’, there’s never a dull moment, and the set keeps everyone on their toes.
Cormier darts about the stage with the frenetic feverishness of a man on fire, and it rubs off on the crowd, who are a hazy blur of furious fists bellowing along to every word. At one point during ‘Pneumonia Hawk’, Cormier takes a break from screaming and hands his mic to an eager fan before pulling her up on stage to take his place while he emphatically cheers her on.
The band are not only celebrating the release of their new album, but also the tenth anniversary of 2008’s ‘Hail Destroyer’, the album that catapulted them into hardcore’s front line, and the eponymous title-track blazes triumphantly, causing the loudest singalong (shoutalong?) of the night. As an incendiary ‘Bricks & Mortar’ brings the set to a close, and the sweat soaked crowd makes their way out of the tunnel, there’s a definite buzz throughout the room, and it’s not just because you forgot your earplugs.
Punk’s not dead, kids – Cancer Bats are keeping it alive.
Written by Lottie Cook (@pixelottie)