Live Review: Unknown Era @ Rescue Rooms

The Mic's Dominic Allum headed to Rescue Rooms a mere couple of days before Halloween to catch Unknown Era's live set, even though he missed the memo about the spooky dress code. Read his thoughts below.


As spooky season takes over Rescue Rooms, pumpkins and skeletons line the stage, whilst cobwebs and decorations hang from the ceiling. Encouraged via social media to come to the gig in fancy dress, the audience don’t disappoint, a collection of ghosts, vampires and zombies making their way through the door. I, however, not being aware of said dress code till after the gig, take position at the back of the room, in my very un-spooky costume of cargo trousers and grey hoodie.


In what I initially presume are more members of the crowd, a colourful group of people, plastered in neon paint run past me, before making their way onto the stage. Fulfilling the role of pre-show hype, they portray themselves as a sort of steampunk circus collective, juggling a number of glow-in-the-dark objects and performing various acrobatics across the floor.


"Formed in 2014, the band are made up of a motley crew of talented musicians and performers from the local scene"

With the crowd now well and truly warmed up, the dancers leave the stage in similar high-tempo fashion, making way for Unknown Era. Formed in 2014, the band are made up of a motley crew of talented musicians and performers from the local scene. Mixing ska, hip-hop, rock and dub, they have rightfully built up a reputation as a must-see live band. But, releasing their latest album A State of Affairs in 2020 meant they weren’t able to tour the record until now.


Clearly wanting to make up for this, the band (many of whom were also in Halloween attire) arrive with an infectious energy, big smiles beaming across their faces as they clearly display their delight at being back performing live again. Their first proper gig post-lockdown, it is even more special that it is taking place in their hometown. Notts through and through, charismatic frontman Kane Ashmore begins by first checking if anyone’s in from Derby…the one person who cheers is jokingly told to then get out. As soon becomes clear, a large proportion of the crowd are also in fact close friends and family of the band, a number of shout outs being given to grandparents, aunties and cousins all in attendance.



A true party, the positivity in the air only increases as the gig progresses, the band displaying all the key elements that make the genre of ska so joyfully engaging. With the driving beat of the drums, and the steady bass counteracting against the unpredictability of the trombone, Ashmore reels off witty lyrics and stories over the top. Making their way through a set that includes songs on everything from mass murders to losing your last 40 quid, the highlight comes in the form of single Each One, Teach One. Originally featuring Ashmore’s 8-year-old son on the studio recording, he jokes to the crowd that his absence is due to the gig being past his bedtime. Nonetheless, Ashmore more than carries the song by himself, the anthemic chorus rousing the crowd into mass singalong.


"Leading the crowd in chants of "Fuck Boris", he then orchestrates a moment of audience participation as everyone in Rescue Rooms lowers themselves to the floor, before jumping up to the lively riff"

Swapping places with the guitarist for a couple of songs, he makes for an equally commanding frontman. Leading the crowd in chants of "Fuck Boris", he then orchestrates a moment of audience participation as everyone in Rescue Rooms lowers themselves to the floor, before jumping up to the lively riff. A frequently occurring sight at gigs, it remains an activity that never gets old, the crowd responding with a new lease of life in their dancing.


Returning to centre stage, Ashmore swigs on a bottle of Buckfast, momentarily taking time out from the set to tell the audience to email the head of the drinks company and try persuade them to sponsor the band. Passing out a bottle to the audience to share in return, chants now change to “Buckfast! Buckfast!”.


Clearly not lacking in cheek or playfulness, Ashmore does indeed make for terrific company throughout the set. However, a number of tender moments really allow the audience to see his vulnerability also. Returning onto the stage alone for an encore, he dedicates an acoustic song to his recently passed uncle, encouraging the audience to reach out to friends, and check in with the ones you love.


Ending the night with an equally passionate talk about the need for community, he stresses the importance of looking out for one another and helping, rather than abandoning and alienating, the youth. Receiving the biggest cheer of the night, it is clear Unknown Era have built up a following over the years that not only come back to every gig to party together, but who share these important values and beliefs. Unknown Era are a true credit to the city of Nottingham.

Written by: Dominic Allum

Edited by: Gemma Cockrell


Featured image courtesy of Unknown Era via Facebook.