LIVE REVIEWS, 2022.
THE STRANGLERS / RUTS DC, Brixton Academy, 5/2/22. Ruts DC are an ideal support band for The Stranglers, with a musical style that has always been so much more than ‘basic punk’ and a good selection of both old and new material to keep their set lively and unpredictable. They also the kind of character that keeps everyone’s attention, despite being a three-piece band on such a large stage, while they also have the quality of songs that you just can’t ignore! Limited to a 45 minute set, they play so many great songs in rapid succession, from ‘In a Rut’ through to ‘West One’ and ‘Staring at the Rudeboys’ through to ‘Psychic Attack’. I go to see Ruts DC as often as I can, but having them play alongside the Stranglers is a real bonus! This tour had been announced as The Stranglers final ‘full’ UK tour and, as with many other bands, had been delayed due to Covid. Sadly, the pandemic also resulted in the death of Dave Greenfield, which came as an tragic and unexpected loss for the band and their fans. Fortunately, the band had almost completed their latest album, ‘Dark Matters’, before this event, so it was finally released as a fitting tribute to Dave’s legacy. As an original member of the band, he played such an important role in defining their sound, so the tour also gained further poignance in the circumstances. To their credit, the band didn’y play-up to the situation but rather just played as well as ever, mixing old favourites with tracks from the new album in a perfect example of their continued vitality. Starting off with ‘Toiler on the Sea’, quickly followed by ‘Something Better Change’ and ‘Sometimes’, the band set their pace straightaway before presenting the excellent ‘Water’ from the latest album. Things take a slower tempo over the next few songs, including ‘Skin Deep’, a rare live version of ‘Don’t Bring Harry’, ‘Strange Little Girl’ and ‘Always the Sun’, interspersed with more new songs like ‘The Last Men on the Moon’, before ‘Grip’ and ‘Curfew’ raise the temperature once again. The main set then worked towards its’ climax with ‘Straighten Out’, ‘Duchess’ and ‘Hanging Around’, guaranteeing a massive ovation from the audience. The first encore is somewhat restrained, musically at least, but certainly tinged with emotion, as they play through two recent songs, ‘The Lines’ and the tribute to their missing comrade, ‘If You Should See Dave’. I doubt if anyone on the venue missed the relevance of that song. Another huge burst of applause rang out before the band returned for their second encore, this time restoring the energy levels with blistering versions of ‘5 Minutes’, ‘Go Buddy Go’ and ‘No More Heroes’. What an amazing gig this was! Some will no doubt be saying that, with only JJ Burnel now left from the original line-up, the band are no longer ‘real’, but just go and see them playing live. You could never play something this powerful unless it’s the real deal!
THE CHORDS UK, 100 Club, 19/2/22. Funnily enough here’s another band that may only have one original member but are still an incredible live band and also intent on releasing great new albums. In this case, this was part of a tour promoting their latest album, the excellent ‘Big City Dreams’. Starting the set with ‘Listen to the Radio’ (first track from the new album) was a bold statement, especially when it was quickly followed by the classic ‘Something’s Missing’, creating an instant comparison point. But it pays-off because the new is just as great as the old in this case. Chris Pope is still writing material that really stands-up perfectly alongside the songs that the original band produced. In fact, the whole set is mostly made-up of new songs, but the quality remains so high that no-one’s complaining. In fact, two of them, ‘Hey Kids, Come the Revolution’ and ‘Twenty First Century Girl’ are amongst my favourite moments this evening. A couple of cover versions (‘Join Together’ and ‘Pressure Drop’) also make a welcome appearance, together with older faves like ‘So Far Away’ and ‘The British Way of Life’, which ended the main set before a short but perfect encore of ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’, new and old perfectly complimenting each other again. If you haven’t seen or heard Chris Pope & the Chords UK yet, you really need to rectify that situation as soon as you can!
GIRLS IN SYNTHESES. Shacklewell Arms, 25/2/22. Last time I saw GiS at this venue, they were supporting someone else and a large chunk of the audience departed once they had finished. This time, they’re headlining and the place is packed. Which is a good indication of their growing popularity and the fact that few bands in the UK at present can match the power and razor-sharp delivery that they present. As I’ve said before, you need to think of Big Black at their best or early Helmet to get some idea of the musical territory that they inhabit. It’s aggressive and in your face but also strangely insistent, something that you can’t ignore. After a while you’ll find yourself glued to the spot and unable to leave. Back to their regular three-piece line-up, they sound at their very best tonight and I’m sure that a few good support-slots with appropriate bands could easily win them a much wider audience. In the meantime, catch them wherever and whenever you can.
THE PROFESSIONALS, Water Rats, 9/3/22. As a warm-up for their upcoming tour with SLF, The Professionals announced a gig at this relatively small venue. Unsurprisingly, it sold-out almost instantly. On the evening, the bar filled-up pretty early and there’s a great atmosphere even before the gig starts. There was a support band, but I didn’t catch their name and the few songs I saw weren’t very impressive, so I’ll just leave it at that. Once they’re done, The Professionals don’t keep us waiting too long and quickly launch into their set. It’s a great mix of old and new material and it’s nice to see the band clearly enjoying themselves just as much as the audience. Songs like ‘Kick Down the Doors’ and ‘1,2,3’ still sound superb, while newer titles like ‘Good Man Down’ and ‘Spike Me Baby’ seem destined to become classics in their own right. The gig is packed and sweaty but I doubt if anyone was complaining. When you get to see a gig as good as this, you need to make the most of it whatever the conditions. The only thing you need to know is that The Professionals are a band that you need to see, whenever you get the chance to do so.
ANARCHISTWOOD, The Finnish Church, 10/3/22. Here’s a venue that I’d never heard of before now, let alone ever going there. The Finnish Church is actually more like a community centre and is located between Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. It’s a fairly modern building and while the main area doesn’t have a stage, as such, the place does have good acoustics and a friendly atmosphere. There’s also a small, reasonably-priced bar, which is very useful! Anyway, this is the launch party for Anarchistwoods’ new album, ‘Chiasmata’, so they’re intending to perform the whole thing live (followed by a selection of older songs.) The new album has had a difficult time coming together, what with the lockdowns and the sad loss of original guitarist Paul, but the eventual results have certainly lived-up to their spirit and resilience. The band make use of the available space to include video backdrops, extra costumes and masks, even an onstage dancer, making this more an event than just a ‘gig’. There’s a good-sized audience in attendance, which adds to the atmosphere and celebration. It’s as if everyone in the room is a vital part of the performance and the DIY nature of Anarchistwood is actually quite empowering. What else can I say? Well, I’d certainly like to see more events at this venue, so fingers-crossed. And as for ‘Chiasmata’, now that I’ve heard it all, I can definitely recommend that you hear it for yourself. If you like your punk rock with some imagination and a real sense of individuality, then this is something you may well enjoy. And you really need to see them live, as well!
CHARLIE HARPER / YOUTH Punk Art Show, 11/3/22 Following the demise of the Underdog Gallery, the annual Punk Art Show had to find a suitable location for their ongoing plans and I’m glad to say that they found a new home at the Museum of Youth Culture, near Cambridge Circus in Soho. Tonight, the place is packed with exhibits and most of the artists are in attendance. Add this to the many fans and guests who turn-up, it makes for a great atmosphere, even despite the sweltering heat! The ground floor has plenty to keep us interested, although it’s the basement that seems to be the place to be. And not just because that’s where the bar is… there’s an area set-up in one corner for live music and the entertainment kicks-off with a performance by Youth. As a founding member of Killing Joke, a renowned DJ and producer, as well as a collaborator with Paul McCartney, he has a wealth of music to choose from for his appearance, so what we get is… a lengthy, acoustic version of ‘Roadrunner’! Not what anyone expected, but it’s a great song, he played a great version and we all enjoyed it! Soon afterwards, Charlie Harper gets up for another short acoustic set. The audience really gets into this and Charlie is obviously enjoying himself (possibly reminding him of the days when he used to busk around the West End?) I can’t remember what he played, but he ended with a version of ‘Warhead’, which worked really well with the audience singing along. After this, I go upstairs to meet a few friends and get involved in meaningful conversations, so I miss whatever else happens downstairs (I think JC Carroll played a set…) Eventually, the heat gets to me and I decide to leave in favour of some fresh air, but the Art Show had been good fun yet again.
UNDERTONES / HUGH CORNWELL. Electric Ballroom, 12/3/22 The combination of The Undertones and Hugh Cornwell on tour together was a stroke of genius and worked really well. Although musically, they both have their own distinct styles, they certainly complimented each other in a positive way and it was good to see the audience at the Electric Ballroom filling the place early in time for Hugh’s set. Playing alongside a bass player and drummer, the former-Strangler began with several ‘solo’ songs (including ‘Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit’ and ‘Big Bug’) before delving back to his time as a Man in Black, treating us to stripped-down versions of ‘Duchess’ and ‘Goodbye Toulouse’. No keyboards, but the songs still work surprisingly well like this and the audience response seems to confirm it. The next few numbers switch between old and (more) recent songs, including great versions of ‘Skin Deep’, ‘Always the Sun’ and ‘Strange Little Girl’, before the big surprise (for me, anyway…) a version of ‘Five Minutes’! It’s always been one of my favourite tracks by the Stranglers, but as it was one of JJ Burnel’s songs, I really didn’t expect to hear Hugh singing it. That said, he delivered a great version and more than justified its’ inclusion. Finally, he goes back to his very first single release, ‘London Lady’, with a version that was perfect end to a powerful set. It reminded me that I really need to go to Hugh’s gigs more often!
There’s a short wait before The Undertones take to the stage and by this point, the venue is as packed as I’ve ever seen it. They don’t waste time, kicking-off with ‘Family Entertainment’, ‘Billy’s Third’ and ‘You’ve Got My Number’, sounding just as exhilarating as they did when you first heard them. From that point onwards, the set includes so many songs that are instantly recognisable, even if you’re not the bands’ biggest fan. The thing is, songs like ‘Jimmy Jimmy’, ‘The Love Parade’, ‘Here Comes the Summer’ and ‘It’s Going to Happen’ all work like real ear-worms, and once you’ve heard them, they’ll never leave your brain, even if they weren’t the massive hits that they deserved to be. I’m a little disappointed that there aren’t more of their (relatively) recent songs in the set (especially as the new ‘Dig What You Need’ compilation is giving fans a second chance to enjoy their post-Feargal output.) But ‘Thrill Me’ still goes down really well, as usual, and ‘Oh Please’ is a highly under-rated moment. The main set builds up to a climax with ‘When Saturday Comes’, ‘Listening In’ and a blistering version of ‘Get Over You’, before the encore delivers ‘More Songs About Chocolate and Girls’, ‘I Know a Girl’, ‘Hypnotised’ and the classic amongst classics, ‘My Perfect Cousin’. Unbelievably, I still know people who won’t go to see The Undertones because ‘it won’t be any good without Feargal’. Well, it’s not the same, but Paul McLoone does a great job and the band, as a whole, are still simply superb. If you’re one of those misguided souls that still won’t go to see them, you’re only spiting yourself.
JOWE HEAD PLAYS SWELL MAPS. Rough Trade East, 24/3/22 As reviewed previously, Jowe Head had assembled a group of friends and associates to play two nights at Café Oto last December. Although billed as ‘The Swell Maps Sessions’, rather than trying to treat it as an actual reunion, the band more than lived-up to expectations and left fans hungry for more. Well, we didn’t have to wait too long, as the band reassembled at RTE just a few months later to celebrate the publication of Jowes’ excellent book, ‘Swell Maps 1972-1980’. A brief but highly entertaining Q&A session with Jowe starts the proceedings before the full band take to the stage. The set is different tonight, with the songs mainly culled from the first album and early singles but also including several fine selections from their later releases to keep us on our toes. They open with a blistering version of ‘H.S.Art’ and from the very-start, the sound is awesome. Also, without so many guests coming and going onstage, it allows the momentum of the set to really take over, propelling the songs along with their own, natural energy. The connection between Jowe and guitarist Luke Haines is really obvious, although it’s clear that everyone onstage is enjoying themselves just as much as the audience! Classic songs like ‘International Rescue’, ‘Real Shocks’, ‘Read About Seymour’ and a truly stunning version of ‘Midget Submarines’ fill the first half of the set, before less obvious tracks like ‘Helicopter Spies’ and ‘Bronze and Baby Shoes’ sneak into the list. Tonights’ only guest is Gina Birch (of The Raincoats) who duets with Jowe on ‘Harmony in My Bathroom’ and ‘Cakeshop Girl’, adding a perfect twist to the original songs. The set finally comes to a climax with an adrenalin-fuelled romp through ‘Vertical Slum’ and a great jam of ‘Full Moon’ which delves into ‘Set The Controls For The Heart of the Sun’ and probably a few other references along the way. This had been a truly special event, sounding even better than the gig I saw a few months earlier at Café Oto. As Jowe teases right at the end, ‘Perhaps we’ll be back… if you want us to?’ Of course we want them to. Who wouldn’t want to see something as good as this again and again? Well, fingers-crossed, and if you get the chance to see them, make sure you don’t miss it.
MING CITY ROCKERS / THE PHOBICS / SCANT REGARD. Hope & Anchor, 25/3/22 Ahh, back to the Hope & Anchor on a Friday evening, what could be better? As usual, there’s plenty of friends to catch-up with and a great atmosphere. Plus, some good music to keep us entertained! First-up, Scant Regard, which is basically Will Crewdson (ex-Rachel Stamp and currently guitarist for Adam Ant.) It’s a real solo project, just Will on guitar accompanied by a drum machine. But it works really well, performing instrumental tracks inspired by rock-n’roll, Spaghetti Western soundtracks and Surf music. It’s a fine way to start the evening, but when The Phobics take to the stage, that’s when it really takes off. They play a great set tonight with plenty of energy and the audience react accordingly. They may have been the support band but on this occasion, it was clear that the majority of the audience were there to see them and the crowd responded enthusiastically throughout the set. With plenty of songs from their most recent album, ‘Burnt Rubber’, we also get treated to a few new songs which are always good to hear. Hopefully, it means that there’s going to be a new record on its’ way, but we’ll have to wait and see… In the meantime, you’ll just have to enjoy the gigs! Finally, tonights’ headliners are Ming City Rockers from Grimsby who, in some ways, have a similar musical approach to The Phobics. They combine trashy rock’n’roll with New York Glam and deliver their songs with energy and attitude. That said, for me they had a pretty tough job following The Phobics’ set and on this occasion, hearing and seeing them for the first time, they didn’t really make the impression I had hoped for. That said, I’ll still try to check them out again some time, as they’ve obviously got the potential to be something special.
JOWE HEAD. Rock’n’Roll Rescue, 7/4/22 Fortunately, as I’m also going to another gig later-on this evening, this event starts pretty early. It’s a launch-party for the latest issue of Pioneer Punk Art Zine, a Dutch magazine featuring Art-contributions from various Punk Rock associated individuals. In this particular case, the magazine has been ‘curated’ by Gaye Black and features contributions from, amongst others, Billy Childish, David Arnoff, Gina Birch and Nicky Tesco. It’s an interesting project and well-worth tracking down (go on and Google!) Anyway, whilst the partying gets underway (mainly involving beer) there’s also going to be some live music, with Jowe Head (who seems to be everywhere these days!) He’s brought along a drummer and bass player for this short set and they perform in the ‘Parkway Arena’ (eg, the back room of Rock’n’Roll Rescue.) The first few songs are, presumably, some of Jowes’ solo material, but they do treat us to a Swell Maps tune at the end of the proceedings (‘Midget Submarines’, I think, although my memory isn’t clear on that fact) and it’s a good way to end the first part of the evening, before I have to catch the tube down to Oxford Street in time for…
STEVE IGNORANT. 100 Club, 7/4/22 Unfortunately, I’d missed the set from Zoundz by the time I arrived, but was in plenty of time for Steve and his band. It’s been a while since he’s played a Crass-retrospective set in London, but his current band are more than up to the job and it all goes really well. I know that some people have whinged about Steve playing Crass material again, but at the end of the day, they’re songs that he originally wrote or recorded so it’s his prerogative as to whether he should perform them again. Personally, the way I see it is that I never got the chance to see Crass, so to finally see and hear these songs being played live by the original singer with a great band is something I can really appreciate. The music is still innovative and the lyrics are just as relevant now and in some cases, even more relevant. At the end of the day, if you don’t like the idea of Steve performing his own songs, then don’t go. It’s as simple as that. Anyway, on to the important stuff, the set began with ‘The Gasman Cometh’, followed quickly by ‘Do They Owe Us a Living and thereafter, the set includes a mix of songs from right across the Crass back catalogue. Carol Hodge steps up to perform vocals on ‘Batamotel’ and ‘Shaved Women’, which are both highlights, while my own personal favourites tonight are the excellent versions of ‘Big A Little A’ and ‘Rival Tribal Rebel Revel’. After the set ends, the applause brings the band back for an encore, starting with a second version of ‘Do They Owe Us a Living’ and then, a real surprise, as the band launch into a cover of ‘Ziggy Stardust’! Well, it is the song that Crass took their name from and Steve was a big Bowie fan back at the time so, why not? It’s a bit rough and ready, and Steve’s voice isn’t entirely suited for it, but I think everyone enjoyed the moment. It was a great gig and the songs still really mean something. What’s more valid than that?
KILLING JOKE / BRIX SMITH. Hammersmith Apollo, 9/4/22. The day before this gig I had been to the dentist to have some treatment on an abscess. My mouth was still very sore so I was taking painkillers and antibiotics and trying not to collide with anyone. I was also not supposed to be drinking, all of which is not an ideal situation for a Killing Joke gig. But we managed to get a good viewpoint towards the middle of the venue and decided to just watch the bands from there, with only occasional trips to the bar… Anyway, Brix Smith was playing with her new band which among others features Deb and Jen from My Bloody Valentine. Despite what you might be expecting from her previous musical escapades, her new songs seem to be leaning more towards a harder, alt-rock sound, together with a hint of grunge. Her new album, ‘Valley of the Dolls’ (yet to be released at this point) has been produced and co-written by Youth, which explains the connection with Killing Joke. Fortunately, their sound is heavy enough to appeal to Killing Joke fans and whilst it is a little strange to see Brix onstage without her guitar, she prowls the stage like a confident front-person. There are no songs from her previous ‘solo’ releases, but towards the end of the set, they do play a cover of ‘Totally Wired’, which is a bit odd as it’s a song that The Fall released several years before Brix joined them. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for her to play something from when she was in the band? That said, it’s still a great song and the band play it with style, so fair enough! I think the set will make more sense when the album is released and we’re more familiar with the songs, but on this showing, I think this is going to be another great twist to Brix’s tale. Not too long to wait until it’s time for Killing Joke, and as soon as they arrive onstage, Geordie launches into the intro for ‘Love Like Blood’. It’s a little surprising to hear this song opening the set, but it sounds as great as ever. It’s quickly followed by ‘Wardance’ and ‘The Fall of Because’ and I’m really tempted to head down to the front, but I have to keep reminding myself, it could literally end in tears… Considering the recent lockdowns, ‘I Am the Virus’ is more poignant than ever, while older tracks like ‘Requiem’, ‘We Have Joy’ and ‘Money is Not Our God’ also retain their relevance. The set progresses with a powerful momentum, featuring a great mix of older and more recent material, until the main set climaxes with the double-barrel blast of ‘The Wait’ and Pssyche’. We don’t have a long wait for the encore, which gives us the excellent ‘The Pandys Are Coming’ (which doesn’t get played live as often as it should) ‘Change’, Bloodsport’ and ‘Pandemonium’. Superb! Whatever’s happening in the world outside, isn’t it great that Killing Joke are still here to provide respite from the bullshit?
SPARKS. The Roundhouse, 17/4/22. Big thanks to my friend Vicki, who provided tickets for this gig. Cheers! The date had actually gone through quite a few delays, having originally been announced before the first lockdown and re-scheduled twice before the show actually went ahead. On top of this, the release of Edgar Wright’s excellent documentary ‘The Sparks Brothers’ in 2021 had also brought the band to the attention of a much wider audience, meaning that the gig was sold-out well in advance. There’s no support band tonight, so it’s a little strange that the show starts later than expected, but once onstage Ron and Russell are the centre of everyone’s attention. But in typical Sparks’ contrariness, instead of starting with some of their better-known songs to get the audience on their side, they begin with ‘So May We Start’ from the soundtrack of the recent film ‘Annette’, followed by ‘Angst in My Pants’ and ‘Tips for Teens’ – both great songs, but hardly their best known numbers. But the thing is, a Sparks show is always about the whole performance and, as the set progresses, the audience becomes more and more involved, whether they already know the individual songs or not. There’s plenty of room for older songs like ‘Under the Table With Her’, ‘Get in the Swing’ and even ‘Wonder Girl’, as well as songs from their most recent album, ‘A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip’, like ‘Stravinsky’s Only Hit’ and ‘Lawnmower’. And along the way, they also have fun with lesser known moments like ‘Shopping Mall of Love’ (with a rare lead vocal from Ron) and ‘Music You Can Dance To’, before they lead up to the end of the main set with enthralling versions of ‘When Do I get to Sing My Way’, ‘Number One Song in Heaven’ and, of course, ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us’. The applause is ecstatic and the band reappear quickly to deliver a wonderful version of ‘Suburban Homeboy’ and ‘All That’ another song from ‘A Steady Drip…’.By this point they’ve been playing for nearly two hours, so it’s fair enough that we only got one encore, but the applause and cheers still continue even after the lights have gone up. We’d all been waiting a long time for this gig, but in the end Sparks had made it all worthwhile.
DISCHARGE / ASSERT, New Cross Inn, 28/4/22. I never saw the original Discharge because, by the time I was going to gigs in London, they’d ditched their classic sound in favour of the ‘Grave New World’ material. I’m glad to say I never saw that! The only time I did see them was the line-up featuring Rat from The Varukers, supporting UK Subs. They were bloody awful that night, so I lost interest in them again and it wasn’t until a lot more recently that I started to hear good things about their latest line-up, featuring yet another new singer, Jeff Janiak. I was curious to check them out again, to see if they really were up to scratch, so when they announced a gig at New Cross Inn, I decided that I really ought to be there. I had expected there to be a big crowd for this gig, but the place is absolutely packed when I arrive and there’s a good atmosphere in the place even though the main support band, Assert, are playing and not sounding great. They’re not bad, I suppose, but they don’t seem to have anything that makes them stand out. So I catch up with a few friends, have a couple of beers and wait for Discharge. It’s the 40th Anniversary of their classic album, ‘Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing’ but instead of playing it in its’ entirety as many bands would, the set is made up of songs from right across their career (apart from the naff metal shite.) So we get to hear ‘The Blood Runs Red’, Fightback’, ‘Ain’t No Feeble Bastard’, ‘Never Again’, ‘State Violence State Control’, ‘Decontrol’… in fact, they play pretty much everything that a fan of their original style would want to hear. Additionally, now playing as a five-piece with two guitarists (brothers Bones and Tezz) their sound is now immense, delivering just the sort of pummelling effect that you’d want from songs like these. With original member Rainy nailing the bass down in place and current drummer Dave Caution delivering the necessary d-beats, frontman JJ does a great job with the vocals, with just the right amount of aggression and clarity. There’s no getting past it, this is the way that I always wanted to see Discharge and its’ no wonder that the popularity of the band now is the highest its’ been since the early 80s. I know that Discharge were never going to appeal to everyone, but if you were ever a fan of the original band, then this line-up is one should try to see.
JOHNNY MOPED, The Prince Albert, Brighton, 30/4/22. Brighton has often been referred to as ‘Croydon-by-the Sea’, so it’s not surprising that the Moped connection is also strong. The Prince Albert is also a very convenient venue, located mere seconds away from the train station and well-known for serving decent pints. So what could be better than a Saturday afternoon gig? Well, I wasn’t going to miss it and despite a few hiccups, I’m pleased that I didn’t. On top of everything else, it’s a lovely, sunny day, perfect for wandering around the Lanes and eventually sneaking into a pub for a crafty beer… But back to the Prince Albert, the gig is sold-out and the place is packed. Due to the lockdowns I haven’t the Mopeds for a while, so it’s particularly appreciated that this gig really caught them on top form. The audience were really up for it and even though they played a lot of their more recent material during the first half of the set, it was all going down just as well as their older classics. There’s not many bands that have reformed after a lengthy absence and produced new material that stands up so well alongside their older songs, but the Mopeds have achieved that. ‘Real Cool Baby’ and ‘Catatonic’ fit into the set with style, and even ‘Black Witch Climax Blues Band’, which seemed a bit out-of-place when I first heard it on the ‘Lurrigate Your Mind’ album, has steadily become another audience-favourite since they’ve been playing it live. Of course, everyone still wants to hear all the old classics like ‘Incendiary Device’, ‘Darling Let’s Have Another Baby’ and ‘Hard Lovin’ Man’ and the band still deliver them with style, but doing so alongside all the newer songs means that they still have a momentum that keeps it vital. The gig was packed, hot and sweaty, but by the end, I don’t think anyone left without a smile on their face. What a great way to spend a weekend!
THE PHOBICS / CHAOS UK / DISSENT, The Birds Nest, 6/5/22. Friday night, nice weather, back to the Birds Nest! Yeah, that’s enough temptation for me and the evening starts off pretty well with a short set from Dissent, who play a mix of punk rock styles which work pretty well. Not knowing much about them, I can’t really give you any info, but they’ve certainly got some good ideas and plenty of energy so, although they may not be there just yet, this is a band with quite a bit of potential. I’ll be checking them out again. Which is more than I can say about Chaos UK. Not the legendary Bristol hardcore band but a combo that existed in North London during the late Seventies and released one 7” in 1979. It’s not very good, regardless of how ‘collectable’ it may be now. Unfortunately, the band don’t seem to have improved with age, either. No idea how many original members are still involved and basically, I don’t care. Going by this performance, they’re not very good at all. But at least The Phobics are on fine form tonight and manage to salvage the rest of the evening. The set is mostly made up with songs from their most recent album, with tracks like ‘Gentrification’, ‘Path of Love’ and ‘Burnt Rubber’ really standing out alongside older faves like ‘Boy Band’ and ‘Down & Out in Deptford’. There’s a lively audience in attendance and a boisterous atmosphere, so the set goes really well and ensured that we all had a good time.
MAN ON MAN. The Lexington, 21/5/22. This is one of the few occasions when I can describe something as ‘gay indie-pop’ and have no worries about not being PC. Man on Man are a duo featuring Roddy Bottum and Joey Holman. Roddy is, of course, best known as a member of Faith No More, although Man on Man probably have more in common with one of his other bands, the excellent Imperial Teen. While Roddy has never been averse to addressing his sexuality in his songs, the subject matter is much more upfront in Man on Man, although done in a pretty playful manner rather than being preachy or alienating. I have to admit, I’ve only heard a limited amount of their songs so I can’t really review their set in depth, but what I can say is that played live, the songs have a lot more impact, combining catchy melodies with a dirtier guitar sound and stronger rhythms. Not knowing what kind of crowd this gig would attract, it was good to see the place packed-out with a mix of different people, from Faith No More fans through to people from the gay scene, with no animosity or intimidation at all. Man on Man are obviously a musical entity in their own right and whilst their lyrics may alienate them from a more mainstream audience, I doubt if they’re worried about that. It’s just good to have them doing their thing!
PETER PERRETT / JAIME PERRETT / MONOCHROME SET / SPIZZENERGI / BOOTLEG BLONDIE / JOHNNY MOPED. Brighton Concorde, 29/5/22. One of the saddest pieces of news I was given this year was the untimely loss of Jordan Mooney. In recent years, she’d made a return to the ‘punk’ scene, both with the publication of her autobiography, ‘Defying Gravity’ and her regular attendance at gigs in Brighton, London and elsewhere. I was lucky enough to meet and interview her, finding her to be a genuinely nice, inspiring and supportive person. So this memorial concert, with proceeds being donated to causes that she championed (music and cats!) was something I couldn’t miss. I travelled down on Sunday morning with my friends Tom and Dee… the event was running from early afternoon through to 11.00pm, although the first band we intended to see were Johnny Moped at 3.30. It was a particularly notable gig for the Mopeds, as regular guitarist Robot was unable to attend and was being replaced for this one-off occasion by their original guitar player, Captain Sensible. I would have expected the Mopeds to be playing much higher on the bill, especially taking this into account, but I’m sure there was some valid reason why that wasn’t the case. Regardless, the band sound as good as ever. Due to the previously-mentioned circumstances, the set is made-up of songs from the bands’ earlier days (no doubt the material Captain is familiar with) but that’s not going to be a problem for the fans. ‘VD Boiler’, ‘Panic Button’, ‘Darling, Let’s Have Another Baby’… it’s all great stuff after all. By the time they get to ‘Incendiary Device’, they’ve got everyone’s attention, ending the set with a blistering version of ‘Hard Lovin’ Man’ and their excellent cover of the Eddie Cochran classic, ‘Something Else’ (which they recorded sometime before Silly Vicious, or whatever his name was…) So, a short set, but perfectly formed and I’m sure Jordan would have loved it. There’s a lot of bands playing and quite a few that didn’t really interest me, so I’ll only mention the ones that I paid attention to. Bootleg Blondie are a tribute band but rather good at it. Watching their act, they are pretty impressive and today, they also have a special bonus as they are joined onstage by original Blondie member Gary Valentine, playing additional guitar for the latter part of their set. I’m not a massive fan of tribute bands, but these guys do it very well.
Spizzenergi have always been a good live band, but in recent years they’ve been surprisingly excellent. I think the steadier line-up has really helped to produce a band that can play the classic Spizz-songs with plenty of energy and accuracy, bringing out the best in all of them, as well as introducing some fine new numbers. Spizz himself remains the unashamed extrovert that he’s always been and I know some may not be enticed by his persona, but when he delivers songs like ‘Where’s Captain Kirk’ and ‘Soldier Soldier’, you really can’t help but enjoy yourself. He may only be a legend in his own lunchbox, but he’s a legend none the less. Monochrome Set are a band I’ve never really got into, so I’m intrigued to watch their set. Formed by former members of the (original) Adam & the Ants, I did listen to some of their songs back in the Eighties, but found them to be too ‘new wave’ for my tastes. And I’m afraid, that’s still how I feel about them now, although I suppose the hip phrase would be ‘post-punk’ nowadays. Either way, it all points towards something that would only be loved by art-student wannabes and I just haven’t got any time for that.
The big problem with today’s event came courtesy of Covid… the headline band was supposed to be Gaye Bykers on Acid, but they had been forced to cancel when one of them contracted they dreaded lurgi. This meant that Peter Perrett was now playing last and we’d have to catch a later train back to London, but there wasn’t much-else that we could do. Fortunately, the set was worth the hassle. It’s actually split in two, with the first half coming from Peter’s son, Jaime, who as well as playing alongside his father, has been playing and releasing his own accomplished music for quite some time. His set is good and I will definitely be checking-out more of his music. Soon enough, Peter appears to join the band onstage and plays a short but thoroughly enjoyable set, featuring a few songs that I didn’t recognise (possibly new?) alongside songs from his recent solo albums, a couple of Only Ones classics (From Here to Eternity’ and ‘Another Girl Another Planet’) before finishing with his excellent cover of ‘What Goes On’… well, what went on for us was a desperate rush for a taxi to ensure we caught our train, but it had been a great day and I think it was all worthwhile. Big thanks to Tom and Dee for making sure I kept going in the right direction!
DESCENDENTS / WONK UNIT. The Forum, 11/6/22. It’s a really nice, sunny day and The Descendents are back in town, so it’s starting to feel like Summer! As usual, I turn-up early in the afternoon to catch up with the chaps and discuss all the weirdness that’s been happening since they were last here. Fortunately, they all seem to have avoided the worst excesses of the Covid plague, but they also have one sad piece of news, in that their former legendary roadie, Daniel ‘Bug’ Snow had recently died. Having worked with The Descendents and ALL since the mid-Eighties, he would tour with them through all of their UK and European tours and I met him many times. Always a really nice guy, he was an integral part of the band rather than just someone working for them and, while he hadn’t been able to tour with them in recent times, it’s still a shock that I’ll never see him again. My condolences go out to his friends and family. Back to the show, the venue fills-up really quickly (early gigs on Saturday nights) and the support comes from Wonk Unit. Having only seen them in small venues before now, it’s a bit odd to see them on a large stage but they handle it well, certainly going down well with the audience and warming-up the crowd just right. The atmosphere starts to buzz and soon enough, it’s time for the mighty ‘Dents. As usual, once they’re onstage there’s very little messing around as they deliver their songs in rapid succession. Old material mixes perfectly alongside tracks from recent albums like ‘Hypercaffium Spazzinate’ and ‘9th & Walnut’ (although technically, that album includes songs originally written back in the late-Seventies…)
The thing is, The Descendents have continually produced great songs and their lyrics have always been able to reach out to their fans, meaning something more than just ‘pop-punk’ cliches. Similarly, their music has always had more depth, coming from influences as diverse as Black Sabbath, the Beach Boys, the Ramones, X and Devo, to create something that’s totally their own. Others may sound like The Descendents, but The Descendents just sound like themselves. And it may have taken a lot of work, but it’s been worth their effort, as their audiences are continually expanding and attracting new generations of fans who relate to both the music and the lyrics. Unlike many older bands, they don’t just attract their older fans (ahem!) as anyone can still love their music for the same reasons. They may have been around for a long time, but they’ve never become jaded and they’ve never abandoned the Quest for All! Long may they continue. Tonight. their encore features some special guests, as two of the girls from The Linda Lindas join them onstage to add vocals to a rowdy version of ‘All-o-Gistics’. At the time of this gig, not too many people in London would have known about The Linda Lindas (myself included) but by the time you read this review, they may well be massive. Just check out their song ‘Racist Sexist Boy’ on Youtube to find out what you need to know! As I said before, the gig comes to an early end due to the venues’ selfish policy of chucking-out gig-goers so they can charge more money for the late-night disco… That said, it gives me a chance to sample Bill’s cocktail-mixing talents and I have to say, it was a merry way to end the evening! Let’s hope it won’t be too long before they’re back again.
LOS SANTOS. Triangle Bar, 19/6/22. Having already missed a couple of gigs by this band, I made sure to get along to this one. Los Santos are a punk rock’n’roll band from London featuring ex-members of The Saints and The Members, as well as Vez from Wonk Unit on vocals (Alex from WU also plays drums with them, although he’s not available on this occasion) so it’s an interesting mix from the outset. The Triangle Bar is a great little venue just off Creek Road in Deptford, which as well as being a nice bar / café, also hosts occasional art exhibitions and musical events. Tonight, there’s a decent crowd along to watch the band and everyone seems to know each other, making for a good atmosphere. It’s not a formal event, so when the band are ready they set-up and start playing. The sound isn’t perfect but it’s more than adequate and the audience cheer the band along enthusiastically. They play some songs from their recent ‘El Corazon’ CD as well as a few that I didn’t recognise and they all go down well. Vez handles the vocals pretty confidently and the overall impression is that this is a band really enjoying themselves rather than trying to take things too seriously. That said, they’re obviously good musicians and have plenty of energy, so there’s a lot to enjoy. After the main set is completed, Vez stands aside and another friend joins the band for a short set of Saints songs (in tribute to Chris Bailey.) It was a good way to end the evening and while the songs may not have been note-perfect, it was nice that they were able to pay tribute. I’ll definitely be keen to see Los Santos again!
TV SMITH / PAUL TALLING. Rough Trade East, 28/6/22. This was a special event to launch the second volume of ‘London’s Lost Music Venues’, the excellent books that document the many well-known (and not so well-known) venues that are no longer with us. To capture the spirit of the event, TV Smith had been invited to open the proceedings with a short acoustic set, which he delivered with his usual style and enthusiasm. Mixing older material with more recent songs, it was a good way to start the event, especially as during his career, TV Smith has played many of the venues now included in these books. His set is very enjoyable, so it also gets the audience warmed-up for the second part of the evening, which features TV Smith, author Paul Talling and MC Ian Damaged talking about the book and generally rambling about people, places and gigs that have crossed their paths over the years. It’s actually pretty interesting as so many of these tales seem surprisingly familiar, either recalling gigs that you may have attended or venues that you may have been to. At the moment, London seems to be in a bit of a slump when it comes to decent venues, so it can be tempting to get pessimistic about the state of things, but the positive side of this is that there’s always going to be new bands and promoters out there, actively seeking new places for gigs to happen. So don’t worry about what may have been lost in the past, concentrate on what’s happening now! That said, the books are full of information and plenty of fun, so you should check them out. I have no problems recommending them very highly.
BABYSHAKES / DUNCAN REID & THE BIGHEADS / SMALLTOWN TIGERS. The Lexington, 3/7/22. This was the last night of the latest Pump It Up powerpop festival and it was certainly ending with a great line-up. I was looking forward to seeing all three bands, and that doesn’t happen very often these days. The place is already full by the time I arrive, just in time for Smalltown Tigers. Accordingly, their set gets a great response. An all-female trio from Italy, their music sounds like Joan Jett fronting The Muffs, or Suzi Quattro jamming with The Fastbacks. They have a hard-edge to their songs, but also pack-them full of melodies and plenty of energy. This is a band you really need to see live! Next up, Duncan Reid and the Bigheads, in what (technically) is the (much-delayed) launch for their most recent album, ‘Don’t Blame Yourself’. That said, as soon as they’re onstage, the band just get down to doing what they do best – playing their set with all the style and energy that the songs deserve. Just as their albums have got more and more confident and exciting, their live shows have steadily grown into some of the best and most exciting gigs you can catch on the live circuit. Again, this is a band you really need to see live and, unless you’re totally cynical or contrary, I’m sure you’ll be very impressed. Finally, it’s time for Baby Shakes. All the way from NYC, this is another fine band with a great mix of 60’s Garage, 70’s Glam, powerpop and punk. As you watch them, you can see that they’re really enjoying themselves and their attitude flows out into the audience. Their set is very entertaining and everyone is having a great time. I’m most surprised when their launch into my favourite Radio Birdman song, ‘Hand of Law’ and even more surprised when they perform it as an instrumental, but it still works and sounds superb. They also save another surprise for the end of their set, when they invite Damian O’Neill and Billy Doherty of The Undertones up onstage and they run through a raucous version of ‘Teenage Kicks’. It’s the perfect end to a great evening and, after this, I’m already looking forward to next years’ festival!
AXERASH / SHOOTING DAGGERS. Birds Nest, 15/7/22. Axe Rash, are from Sweden although I don’t know much about them, while the main support, Shooting Daggers, have had several recommendations so, all-in-all, this isn’t a gig I’d want to miss. There’s more than a few friends in attendance when I get there, so it’ll be fun! Shooting Daggers are a three-piece all-female band based in London (although individually they have roots in Spain, Italy and France) and they play a great mix of punk, hardcore and riot grrl sounds that are aggressive but also inclusive. They are vocal about the ‘girls to the front’ approach and attitude, but I’ve never had any problem with that and, frankly, it’s long-past the time when male/female equality in punk rock shouldn’t even be an issue. So I’ll concentrate on their music as they do have a lot of energy and some really great songs. The best thing about them is that they seem to effortlessly mix hints of early UK punk, 80s American hardcore and maybe even some post-punk atmospherics, whilst leaning more towards current feminist issues for their lyrical content. Overall, it makes for a powerful gig and now that I’ve seen them, I’ll be recommending them too. Axe Rash are a female fronted band from Stockholm and play a style that’s based around D-beat but brings in influences from American hardcore and the more extreme edges of metal, as well as more than a nod to various pioneering Scandinavian hardcore bands (Anti-Cimex, Totalitar etc.) I enjoyed what I saw, although with the venue verging on over-crowded, I admit I had to leave and listen to the end of the set from outside. But, it was more than a decent evening and it’s great that The Birds Nest is host to such a wide-range of bands and music.
BITCHIN’ HOUR / DINOSAUR SKULL. The Birds Nest, 16/7/22. I’ll admit, I didn’t know anything about Bitchin’ Hour before this gig, but it’s a great name! The main reason I was here was for Dinosaur Skull, a new two-piece band formed by Cil and Mike, both formerly of those luvverly Werecats, as well as various other combo’s. And to be honest I was expecting something similar to their former band, but when they take to the stage, I discover they’ve gone for a much more (indie-ish) pop style, which perfectly suits the stripped-down format that they’ve adopted. Who doesn’t like pop music when it’s delivered with a punky attitude? As I’ve tried to explain before, it’s Punk-pop rather than Pop-punk and there’s a difference. Cils’ voice is perfect for these kind of songs, whilst Mike handles the rhythm section (bass and drum machine) with just the right pressure to make sure it doesn’t overwhelm the melodies. At a guess, I’d probably suggest The GoGo’s and maybe Voice of the Beehive as good comparisons, but whether I’m right or wrong this is a band you need to hear (and enjoy!) Bitchin’ Hour, on the other hand, are a self-professed ‘All-female Rock Band’ and that’s what you get in the musical sense. It’s hard rock with big riffs (although thankfully omitting unnecessary guitar solos.) I’ll admit, I’m not sure about their lyrics and what they’re trying to achieve, but this wasn’t a gig I enjoyed simply because it wasn’t my kind of music. But I’m sure that others will love it, so give it a chance.
THE PHOBICS / RAGE DC / SHOCKS OF MIGHTY. Overdrive Studios, 23/7/22. Although they’ve been rehearsing there for ages, this is the first time that The Phobics have played a gig at Overdrive (and about-time too!) First onstage are Shocks of Mighty, who have been playing together for quite a while even though their drummer-turnover would seem to rival Spinal Tap! That said, they seem pretty tight and solid tonight, delivering a fine mix of punky styles that’s both accessible and in-yer-face. Next up are Rage DC who specialise in a sound that mixes Seventies and Eighties punk with a few choice hints of early US hardcore. And finally, it’s The Phobics and, despite a few sound problems, they manage to deliver a fine set. The songs from their most recent album, ‘Burnt Rubber’, sound really good although I’m now becoming curious to hear some brand new tunes. I’m sure there’ll be some soon, but in the meantime, The Phobics are still a band you can rely on if you want some authentic punk rock’n’roll.
THE DRONES / THE SATELLITES. Escape Bar, 30/7/22. My first visit to this relatively new West London venue and it’s a really nice place. A short walk along from Shepherds Bush, it’s a decent pub that’s not expensive and has a decent back room where bands can play. The Phobics are supposed to start proceedings tonight but a train-strike means a couple of them can’t get to the place. No worries, The Satellites are on fine form this evening and the room steadily fills-up as they play. Del prowls the floor in a mock-menacing fashion while the band deliver the songs with loads of energy. I’d love to hear some new material but in the meantime, the older songs are still sounding great. The Drones line-up might have changed since the last time I saw them (I’m not sure) but if anything, they sound even better tonight. Playing plenty of their older songs, they also add new tracks (or, at least, ones I’m not familiar with) that fit-in perfectly with the older material in the set. They were always one of the more under-appreciated bands from the early Manchester punk scene, but just listen to the awesome version of ‘Persecution Complex’ from the ‘Short Circuit’ album to hear just how good they were. And this line-up may only feature one original member but they can certainly deliver the goods. Catch them if and when you can. Footnote ; typically, the pub owners sold-up and shortly after this gig, the venue closed down. D’oh!
MDC. New Cross Inn, 1/8/22. As I had to go home after work these evening, by the time I get to New Cross Inn, I discover that I’ve already missed the two support bands and MDC are onstage in 15 minutes! Lucky I arrived when I did, because they are on great form tonight and blast their way through an amazing set of old and new songs in front of a suitably enthusiastic audience. The band sound really powerful and Dave Dictor is a great frontman on these occasions, delivering the vocals with confrontational intent whilst also maintaining clarity so that the lyrics don’t get lost in the volume. They include songs from right across their career, although it’s obviously classics like ‘Multi Death Corporations’, ‘Born to Die’ and ‘Chicken Squawk’ that really get the crowd buzzing, while ‘John Wayne was a Nazi’ still sounds as incredible as it did when I heard it for the first time. The gig seems to be over all too soon, but I’m sure they’ll be back again soon. Just make sure you don’t miss them.
CIRCLE JERKS. Electric Ballroom, 3/8/22. Surprisingly, the Circle Jerks have only ever played in London once before, back in the mid-Eighties, and even this time around the first scheduled gigs are postponed due to Covid, so this really is a notable event. As such, the place is packed and when they walk out onstage there’s a huge roar from the crowd. Keith Morris gives a rather lengthy spoke intro as a few guitar problems are sorted out but as soon as they launch into ‘Deny Everything’, the place seems to erupt. With only a few breaks for re-tuning and Keith’s ongoing commentary, the songs are played at a breakneck pace, one great number after another. ‘Back Against the Wall’, ‘I Just Want Some Skank’, ‘When the Shit Hits the Fan’, ‘Coup d’Etat’, ‘Wild in the Streets’. We may have waited a long time to see them but they’re certainly making up for it. ‘Don’t Care’, ‘Operation’, ‘Wasted’… 29 songs in 60 minutes and not a slack moment at all. The encore might be brief, but it’s just as effective, starting with a surprise cover of The Soft Boys’ classic ‘I Wanna Destroy You’ followed by ‘What’s Your Problem’ and ‘Question Authority’ (a sentiment that’s even more relevant right now!) With Keith keeping busy with Off! and Greg Hetson supposedly working on a new project, it’s unclear if we’ll get another chance to see Circle Jerks, so I really hope you didn’t miss this opportunity.
JOHNNY MOPED. Hope & Anchor, 12/8/22. To celebrate the publication of the excellent Johnny Moped biography, ‘1-2 Cut Your Hair’, the band are returning to the site of some of their earliest gigs for a suitably packed’n’sweaty performance. The gig sold-out within hours of being announced, with fans old and new knowing that they had to be there. Everyone seems to be buzzing with anticipation, band and audience alike, and while Moped gigs are always something special, this one turns into something exceptional. By the time the band arrive onstage, I doubt if anyone else would’ve been able to fit into the place. Johnny makes his arrival from the rear of the stage and gets a hero’s welcome from the audience whilst the rest of the band get ready to go. We don’t have to wait long before they launch into ‘Incendiary Device’ quickly followed by ‘ VD Boiler’ and ‘Panic Button’, before several more recent songs, ‘No Way Back’, ‘Living in a Dream World’ and ‘Hey Belinda’ are played and received with just as much enthusiasm. And that’s the thing, really, the reason why the Mopeds have such a loyal following second time around. They’ve come back, played gigs all over the place and recorded two new albums and, unlike many bands who return after many years, haven’t done anything to mar their reputation. The new material really does sound great alongside their older classics and fans appreciate all of it. Anyway, the set continues with ‘Make Trouble’, ‘Simon Can’t’, ‘Darling, Let’s Have Another Baby’ and ‘Controversial’ (originally by Slime) all sounding perfect to these ears. ‘Save the Baby Seals’, ‘Real Cool Baby’ and ‘Catatonic’ are as tight and powerful as they ought to be, while ‘Black Witch Climax Blues Band’ (a biographical song to celebrate the biographical book) is an unlikely but very effective highlight. The set finally comes to a raucous finale with ‘No One’, ‘Hard Lovin’ Man’ and ‘Groovy Ruby’, as spontaneous female dancers/backing singers take to the already crowded stage and certain Moped-musicians decide to get semi-naked. Gigs really don’t get any better (or hotter) than this!
BAUHAUS. Brixton Academy, 19/8/22. I really wanted to see Bauhaus again, but the tickets were rather expensive and I didn’t have much spare cash when they went on sale. Fortunately, I managed to get a last minute bargain from someone who couldn’t go, so things started to look up. On top of this, the original Aussie-Cockney, Grazza, was also back in London for a short visit and decided he was going to go, so we’d be able to protect each other from the Gothic hordes! Typically, the day of the gig coincided with a tube strike, so I had to catch buses from work (Stratford) down to Brixton which were packed and took ages, but I met Grazza in a local pub and we had a couple of beers to recover before heading to the venue. Things did not go smoothly… apparently, the Academy now has a policy that you’re not allowed to take a bag into the venue if it’s larger than an A4 sheet of paper, not even if you intend to leave it in the cloakroom. As with many other punters, due to the tube-strike I’d had to go straight from work to the venue so I was still carrying my rucksack. What can I do? No worry, they tell me, there’s a kiosk across the road and you can leave your bag there. But when I tried to do so I found that they were charging Ten fucking Quid to do so! Does this sound like a cynical scam to you? Well, I wasn’t falling for it… I covered my rucksack in a plastic bag and hid it in some bushes down the road… yeah, punk can take it! Anyway… back at the venue, the place is surprisingly only two-thirds full, although I expect the cost of the tickets and the tube strike have prevented quite a few people from attending. Also, the gig is due to start early (8.15) but when the band appear on stage with a moody, atmospheric version of ‘Rose Garden Funeral of Sores’, most of the preceding problems are forgotten. They continue with a truly visceral version of ‘Double Dare’, but it’s the next song, ‘In the Flat Field’ that really gets the place moving. Whilst Daniel Ash, Davis J and Kevin Haskins look as striking and individual as ever, it’s Peter Murphy with his (now) shaven head that captures most attention, prowling the stage with real intent. The ensuing set features a lot of their slower, more restrained songs (‘In Fear of Fear’, Spy in the Cab’, ‘Silent Hedges’) than I would have expected, but it certainly helped to build the tension of the performance and provide striking contrast with the more upbeat tracks. Strangely, they also played ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ in the middle of the main set and it still sounded great, but as it’s such a show-stopper, I think most of the fans would have expected it at the end of the set or as part of the encores. Nonetheless, the main set ended with a high energy rush through ‘The Passion of Lovers’, ‘Stigmata Martyr’ and ‘Dark Entries’, leaving the audience gasping for breath and yelling for more. We don’t have to wait long before they return to the stage with the Iggy/Bowie classic ‘Sister Midnight’. It’s an unexpected but appropriate choice that sounds great, something that Bauhaus were always good at doing Then we get ‘Adrenalin’ from the very under-rated 2008 album, ‘Go Away White’, which goes down really well, before they choose to end the gig with two more covers, ‘Telegram Sam’ and ‘Ziggy Stardust’, which seemed to be a bit safe and lacklustre after the set they’d played up until that point. Not that they didn’t play them well, but I would’ve much rather heard more of their own songs than those tracks. Overall, it had been great to see Bauhaus again and they had certainly delivered a fine set. I still hope they play and even record again but I really think they should realise that people want to hear them and not just the cover versions.
THE PHOBICS / SHOCKS OF MIGHTY. The Pelton Arms, 20/8/22. Another great night at The Pelton, even if the scourge of London Transport caused me to miss the first band. As usual at this venue, plenty of friends in attendance and a great atmosphere. This place really feels like my local pub, even if it is several miles away from home. Anyway, I’ve seen Shocks of Mighty quite a few times over the past few years and they have had more than their fair share of problems, dealing with crappy PA’s and last minute drummer replacements along the way, but when things come together for them they can sound great. Tonight is one of their better evenings and, with the audience getting behind them, they sound good and play a great set. Let’s hope that things continue this way for them. The Phobics headline this gig and, with it being on home-turf, you know it’s going to be a good ‘un. After the delays caused by that pesky Covid, they’re still making the most of their latest album, ‘Burnt Rubber’, and in all fairness, it’s a great record so why shouldn’t they. There’s still plenty of room for older faves like ‘Lipstick’ and ‘Down and Out in Deptford’, but the newer songs sound just as good if not better and show a band that are moving steadily forward. Perhaps their musical style gives a nod towards the past, but at the same time they’re playing rock’n’roll for the moment. The music is as vital as it ought to be and the lyrics address subjects that that should be familiar to anyone in the audience, right now. Punk Rock / Rock’n’Roll / whatever… none of it means anything unless it’s real. Bands like The Phobics, even if they’re never going to make a career out of it, still mean something. That’s an important thing.
JIM JONES ALLSTARS / SLADY / BRUNO & THE OUTRAGEOUS METHODS OF PRESENTATION. Spa Fields Festival, 28/8/22. It’s great to have the free Clerkenwell festival back after several years when it was unable to go ahead. Today’s a lovely warm day as well, so everyone seems to be in a suitably celebratory mood. First band are Bruno and the OMP who have been recommended by several friends, so I’m keen to see them. They turn out to be interesting, eccentric and rather entertaining, reminding me to some extent of the early Modern Lovers. The songs are catchy and quirky but have a genuine edge that propels them above the usual indie-pop crowd. The sound wasn’t great and they were playing in the early-afternoon, so the situation wasn’t ideal, but they certainly have an individuality that will be worth checking out as they take things further. Next onstage are Slady, an all-girl Slade tribute band! I’m not a big fan of tribute bands, but this works well because the band add their own twist to the performance (much like Ye Nuns and the way they cover The Monks.) Plus, playing all those great Slade hits is a perfect way to get a party-in-the-park going. I’m not sure if I’ll be desperate to see them again soon but, for this occasion, they were a perfect soundtrack. Finally, it’s the Jim Jones Allstars. I’ve never been a particular fan of Jim Jones’ previous bands although at the same time, I’ve not disliked them either. They’ve just never done anything that I thought was exceptional. That said, they have put-on a decent live show on the occasions when I have seen them, so I am curious to see/hear this latest combo. As expected, the band play raw rock’n’roll and Jim fronts them with a good degree of style and swagger, which is not a bad way to end the afternoon. I wasn’t blown away and I won’t be rushing out to buy their records, but I’m sure they’ll be popular, so hear them for yourself!
HAAVAT / CIRCLE NONE. The Birds Nest, 9/9/22. This gig had been recommended by a friend and I trusted their opinion, even though I hadn’t heard either band before. I’m glad that I took their advice as both bands turned out to be well worth seeing. It wasn’t a packed event, but there was a large-enough crowd to create a good atmosphere and enough room so that you could see everything without having to stand on someone else’s toes. Circle None are a London based, female-fronted band and they play a powerful brand of Punk Rock that I would guess is influenced by 80’s hardcore from both sides of the Atlantic. Think of Poison Idea, Discharge, Final Conflict… They sound great and look good onstage, so I’d suggest you check them out soon. Trying to find details about Haavat
was rather difficult, with something on the internet claiming they were Italian. But it seems that a Finnish connection is closer to the truth (some of the lyrics are sung in Finnish, although I’m not an expert…) Either way, it seems that they are now based in Norwich and feature a former members of Agnosy and Deviated Instinct. The important thing is that musically, they do sound good. Again, their singer is female and provides a strong vocal performance while the band deliver a powerful brand of d-beat, mixed with elements of crust-punk as well as 70’s/early 80’s UK punk. In many ways it’s that mix of aggressive sounds and more melodic punk rock that helps to set them apart. I’m glad that I went to this show because I discovered two bands that I will try and see again. Do yourself a favour and investigate them for yourself.
THE OUTCASTS / PROUD CITY FATHERS. New Cross Inn, 22/9/22. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Proud City Fathers. The name doesn’t really suggest anything musically, but it turns out they play a pretty original style of punk rock that reminds me of some of the bands that emerged in the UK at the end of the 70’s, playing a solid but catchy punk-style before the UK82 sound took over. Think of bands like The Wall or the Ruts. I’ll have to listen to their records to hear what they’re like, but they’re certainly an interesting live band. But tonight we have The Outcasts and that’s the reason we’re here. Since they reformed, they’ve been a consistently great live act, playing all the old favourites with all the energy and attitude that they deserve. Unexpectedly, they start the set with a cover of The Stooges’ ‘1969’ (no complaints with that) before launching into their own back catalogue with classics like ‘Self Conscious Over You’ and ‘Magnum Force’. The cool thing about The Outcasts was that they never restricted themselves to just one style, combining punk, glam, 60’s garage and even rockabilly into their overall sound and that’s why they don’t sound particularly dated. The only let down has been the lack of new material, but tonight they play their recent single ‘Stay Young’ for the first time in London, proving that they’re more than capable of producing new songs that can easily stand alongside the old ones. They also offer a couple-more choice covers towards the end of their set, including Rudi’s ‘The Pressure’s On’ and the old country standard, ‘Ruby’. But it’s been theirown songs like ‘Machine Gun’ and ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ that made this evening special. I just hope that, next time I see them, perhaps they’ll have a few more new songs to keep us on our toes!
SIEGE / DROPDEAD / AFTERNOON GENTLEMEN. New Cross Inn, 24/9/22. Chimpyfest returns and this day, in particular, has a truly great line-up. Dropdead are returning after their appearance at the previous Chimpyfest in 2019 and Siege have been announced as headliners. With several other decent bands playing earlier in the day, this is something that no-one with an interest in genuinely extreme hardcore ought to miss. Unsurprisingly, tickets sell-out fast for this one. On the day itself, I arrive mid-afternoon to meet-up with Robert from Siege and Bob from Dropdead, both of whom I had interviewed the last times they were in London. It’s always great to catch-up with old friends and events like this are bound to bring some familiar faces out of the woodwork. Anyway, socialising aside, I watch a few bands early on but nothing really catches my attention until the Afternoon Gentlemen. I’ve been hearing about this Leeds-based band for quite a while, but this is the first time I’ve seen them and they do live up to expectations. They mix elements of early 80s UK hardcore together with grindcore and power-violence to produce a strong and powerful sound. I will definitely try to hear more of them.
When Dropdead arrive onstage, the venue is packed and by this point, the atmosphere is really buzzing. Their most recent album, ‘2020’ (guess when that came out?) was released since the last time they were here and, with many calling it their best so far, everyone is keen to see them again. Fortunately, there are no repeats of the PA problems that cut-short their previous appearance and, indeed, the sound is just about perfect for them. The band are incredibly tight this evening and the everything is loud and clear, allowing the audience to hear what they’re doing. Out front, Bob delivers his vocals with passion and clarity, tackling subjects that like discrimination, animal abuse and corporate greed. He lets you know what the band stand for but instead of merely preaching, he’s raising these issues so that you can think about them for yourself. Overall, it’s a very powerful and effective set, emotionally and musically. With Dropdead sounding so good at the moment, I can only hope we get a chance to see them again soon.
But now it’s time for Siege and we all know that this is going to be good. Ben Barnett from Dropdead joins them on second guitar again, making the band a formidable five-piece and from the moment they launch into their first song I think everyone in the place was blown away. Mark Fields is the perfect frontman for this line-up, delivering some truly blistering vocals but also communicating directly with the audience with a sense of humour and community. Meanwhile, the band create an immense sound with Robert’s incredible drumming holding everything together. I’ve said it before, but when you hear hardcore as extreme as this, it almost verges on early-Industrial music (Throbbing Gristle, Whitehouse etc) in the way that it hits you physically just as much as sonically. I really can’t imagine anyone not being impressed by a set like this. It’s not a long show but it’s perfect, exactly what we want, and they end with a couple of covers, ‘Rotten to the Core’ by Rudimentary Peni and ‘It’s No TV Sketch’ by Discharge, paying tribute to a couple of their original influences. The gig ended and everyone, band and audience, was clearly happy with the event. At present Siege seem to be on hold again but I hope they’re tempted to continue playing, at least on an occasional basis, because when music is performed as well as this, it’s always going to be valid.
DREAD MESSIAH / ANARCHISTWOOD / DISSENT. Devonshire Arms, 25/9/22. This is a Sunday afternoon gig, something that seems to be getting more common these days. It can be a bit confusing (it’s always odd when you walk outside at the end of a gig and it’s still daylight) but otherwise, I tend to enjoy these things. Dissent are already playing when I arrive and they’re sounding good. There’s been a few bands called Dissent over the years, although as far as I know, this lot from Deptford are the only ones at the moment. They’ve got a style that’s midway between ’77 punk rock and the early Oi-bands, which in their case means they’ve got an upbeat but not thrashy style, with plenty of catchy hooks and singalong choruses. It may seem a bit basic when its’ written down like this, but believe me, when you hear them live it works! In total contrast, Anarchistwood (who could use ‘in total contrast’ for everything they do) perform a great Art-punk set that would seemingly put them at odds with both of the other bands, but the deal is that it’s the attitude that holds these gigs together. The bands and audience embrace all these different things going on because they realise that we’re all on the same side, and that’s important. Anarchistwood are always an exciting band to see and hear because they’re genuinely unpredictable but also have highly original and enjoyable songs. Don’t be afraid of the clowns!
I’ve only seen Dread Messiah once before and they didn’t really get a chance to impress. They were having big problems with the PA that evening and it was difficult to really hear what they were doing. This afternoon, all three bands have a really good sound and I finally get to hear Dread Messiah how they’re meant to be. They’ve been around for quite some time but haven’t released many records, otherwise I’m sure they’d be much better known. They play a harsh style of hardcore punk, with metal and crust elements that give them a pretty brutal sound. They certainly wouldn’t have been out of place on the Earache label during the Eighties but also have a distinctly punk attitude rather than veering towards rock clichés. Seeing them live with a decent sound behind them, I was able to appreciate and enjoy what they’re doing. I know they won’t appeal to everyone, but you may be surprised.
VARUKERS / BACKSTREET ABORTIONS. The Birds Nest, 30/9/22. The Backstreet Abortions feature former members of Sick On the Bus, which isn’t something that inspires my interest, and musically they certainly have their roots in the UK82 scene, but they also delve into the more melodic sounds of that era to produce decent punk rock with catchy hooks. It’s their singer Jesse, though, that makes them stand-out. Her songs deal with personal issues and are sung with passion and conviction. It’ll be interesting to see how this band develops as they certainly have a lot of potential. Tonights’ headliners are The Varukers who I saw back in the early Eighties, supporting English Dogs at the 100 Club. At the time, they were so obviously trying to sound like Discharge that at one point, hecklers started shouting-out for actual Discharge songs! The thing was, they could play pretty well but didn’t have a style of their own. So, 40 years down the line, what would they be like now? Apart from singer Rat, I’m not sure if any other original members are still in the line-up, but musically they don’t seem to have changed much. On top of that, the sound is pretty bad and I don’t know if that was due to PA problems (as it had been fine for Backstreet Abortions) or whether they just played a messy set. But either way, I still wasn’t impressed. Despite their current status as ‘d-beat legends’, I still can’t see what the fuss is about.
WASTED YOUTH / BLACK DOLDRUMS. Oslo Club, 1/10/22. I hadn’t intended to go to this gig but was talked into it at the last moment and both bands turned out to be rather impressive, so I’m glad I did go. Black Doldrums are a three-piece band with a powerful sound that seems to mix some pretty interesting influences. There are definite hints of Joy Division, perhaps The God Machine, maybe even some (early) Hawkwind. But it’s all put together in an intelligent and compelling way, allowing plenty of space to let their songs develop their own character. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this band becoming pretty popular over the next few years. Anyway, tonight’s headliners are Wasted Youth, whose recent reformation seems to be attracting quite a lot of attention. In my case, though, I wasn’t particularly interested because I’d heard a few of their records over the years but hadn’t been impressed. That said, various friends had told me that they had always been a great live band but had never really captured their sound on record. So now I was going to find out for myself and it didn’t take long. Within just a few songs, the band were sounding great and I was really enjoying the set. Seeing them live, it all made sense. Playing a style of sleazy rock’n’roll that combined punk rock and glam in a stylish and highly effective way, it’s easy to see why they’re often quoted as influences on the Goth-rock scene (although, at the same time, please don’t blame them for the poor imitations!) I can’t pick out particular songs as highpoints, simply because I don’t know the titles, but they certainly had some great material. Singer Ken Scott is an impressive presence onstage and his voice is still strong, while guitarist Rocco seemed much more focused than he ever was while he was in Flesh For Lulu. So I finally go to see what all the fuss is about and now I’ll try to catch-up. I’ll hope to see both of these bands again, soon.
MENACE / CHARLIE HARPER / YUKO. 100 Club, 7/10/22. This was a tribute event for our old friend, Finn Panton, who had passed away recently. Finn had played with many bands over the years, including The Eyes, Headhunters, Junior Manson Slags, Menace and most recently, Seeds of 77. Determined to make it a memorable event, Noel from Menace had managed to put something really special together. As a total one-off, he had managed to gather virtually every former member so that each line-up could play a short set, to celebrate both the band and our sadly-missed punk rock brother. To get things rolling, the music started with Charlie Harper playing a short acoustic set and it’s sounds good, with members of the audience singing along to the songs they recognised. Towards the end of the set, he’s joined onstage by his partner Yuko who also plays acoustic guitar although in her case it’s her first time playing onstage! But she plays well and certainly adds more depth to the remaining songs. The audience give her an enthusiastic response, so let’s hope that she decides to keep on playing live with Charlie.
But now it’s time for the main event and the three remaining members from the original band, Noel Martin, Charlie Casey and Steve Tannett, take to the stage. Since original singer Morgan Webster died some time after the original band split-up, Noel and Steve handle the vocals and do it really well. They play a brief but very enjoyable set and it’s great to see those original guys back onstage together again. Next, it’s the turn of Noel, Charlie, John Lacey and Andrew Tweedie, the line-up that resurrected Menace in 1999. To my mind, this line-up was just as great as the original band. John was a charismatic frontman and wrote some really good lyrics, while Andrew provided a powerful guitar sound and the rhythm section were as tight as ever. They also recorded a great album of virtually all-new songs, called ‘Crisis’, which still stands up as one of the best things that Menace ever released. So again, it’s more than a pleasure to see this line-up one more time.
After this, I have to admit that I get a bit lost with all the different members from later line-ups making their appearances, although Noel is the one consistent and Charlie remains in place for most of the sets. When it comes to the line-up that should have featured Finn, the band are joined onstage by Vince and Michelle from his most recent group, Seeds of 77, who share vocal duties for several of his songs. It’s one of the more poignant moments of the evening and much appreciated. Finally, everyone seems to gather onstage, band and audience members, as Noel takes to the microphone. The stage is so crowded at this point that I never did manage to see who was playing drums, but they finish by blasting through ‘GLC’ and ‘Last Years Youth’ in a gloriously raucous and fitting way. It really was a great event and a perfect way to say goodbye to Finn. Good on yer, mate!
GROW YOUR OWN FESTIVAL etc. Overdrive Studios, 8/10/22. Over the past few years, Grow Your Own has become one of the best independent record labels in the UK DIY punk scene, releasing great music from old and new bands alike. This gig brought together a range of bands associated with the label, with each playing a set as part of an eight hour event. I don’t usually enjoy watching so many bands over a long period, but in this case there were a lot of bands that I really wanted to see, so I had to be there from beginning to end and, I’m glad to say, I managed to pay attention throughout the day. I’m not going to claim that I saw every song by every band, but I was certainly in the vicinity. Anthrax were supposed to be opening the proceedings but due to unexpected delays, a couple of them didn’t arrive on time and DINOSAUR SKULL offered to switch with them. They’re a two-piece band with a very melodic, almost indie-pop sound which you might think would be a bit out of place at a gig like this, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. The audience are enthusiastic and open minded, happy to appreciate the individual bands. Anyway, by the time they finish, ANTHRAX have all arrived so they get ready to play. Their most recent album, ‘Serfs Out’, is probably their best to date, mixing their original style with new elements to create something powerful and contemporary. They do have some sound problems, but overall their live set does more than justice to their songs. If you haven’t already done so, hear this band as soon as you can.
BUG CENTRAL are full of energy today, playing a convincing mix of early 80’s punk and hardcore. Fortunately, they don’t get too thrashy and this allows their more melodic tendencies to shine through. SHOCKS OF MIGHTY are a similar proposition, punk rather than hardcore. Their influences seem to come as much from early UK punk as from 80’s anarcho sounds, although at times you may hear a few hints of the more melodic side of US hardcore. ACTIVE SLAUGHTER have an overtly political message while, musically, they sound somewhere in between the likes of The Epileptics and Motorhead! ARMOURED FLU UNIT have made some great records over the past few years, playing a brutal but compelling style that recalls early records from bands like Conflict and Antisect. Fortunately, they’re also a very effective live band, making this one of the best sets of the day.
DAFFODILDOS are a new three-piece band fronted by redoubtable Emily Flea, who play a frantic mix of 70’s and 80’s punk rock mixed with riot grrl and queercore attitude. The sound was a bit messy for them this evening but they still managed to deliver a good set with plenty of energy and potential. EXIT-STANCE have a long history and it’s good that they’re still around. So much of what they sang about is still valid to this day and musically they still produce a powerful UK hardcore sound, so they’re certainly still worth hearing and seeing. Next onstage are SANCTION THIS, a band that I’ve wanted to see for quite some time. Strangely enough, I actually tried to see them at this venue just before the first lockdown, but they had to cancel due to potential Covid issues. This time, though, they’ve made it to the gig and I’m finally going to get to see them. It was definitely worth the wait. They play a great, original style of punk that blends UK hardcore, anarcho-punk and even ‘post-punk’. Musically, they’re very powerful and although the songs are upbeat, they don’t play too fast, which gives them more space for the intricacies and nuances within their music. Similarly, the vocals are delivered clearly and the lyrics talk about issues that need to be thought about. At the moment, I’d say that Sanction This are one of the most interesting bands in the UK and I really hope that I don’t have to wait so long see them again.
ICONS OF FILTH are a band I’ve seen quite a few times since the 80’s and they’ve always been a great live band. The sad loss of original singer Stig in 2004 seemed to herald the end of the band, but after playing some reunion gigs in 2014 to commemorate their former singer, the band decided to continue and have found a way to move their music forward, maintaining the integrity of their older material while adding new sounds and ideas to their new material. Tonight, they played a great set that illustrated why they remain such an influential band.
Finally, hot on the heels of their latest album, ‘New Peace Movement’, OMEGA TRIBE are headlining this event. I will admit, I was a bit sceptical when Omega Tribe first began playing live again. Musically, there was little to connect the new line-up with the original band so I felt that they should really be using a new name. But when I got to hear this album, I really enjoyed it. The songs are quite different to the original band but they’re also pretty damn good in their own right. With a thirty year gap between the different incarnations, that’s fair enough. Even if the band had been together through all of those years, their music would’ve changed and developed along the way, so as I’ve got more familiar with the new songs, my opinion has changed. The album shows that they may have taken a new direction but they are still writing songs that live-up to their original ethos. Similarly, the current line-up has become a solid live band, with the new material dominating the set and creating its’ own following. Tonight, they sound really good and they deliver a set that’s a perfect end to a great day. All that remains to be said is, Gawd bless you, Grow Your Own!
ROXY MUSIC. O2 Arena, 14/10/22. With the strong possibility that this would be my last chance to see Roxy Music, I was quite tempted by this gig but at the same time put-off by the cost of the tickets (especially as I objected to giving any cash to Bryan Ferry, the fox-hunting Tory cunt.) But when one of my friends ends-up with a spare ticket at the last minute and offers it to me, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity like that! Cheers, Vince! But I still wasn’t sure what to expect. Their first four albums are great records, but after them the band seem to have made a decision to embrace commercialism and made some truly dreadful (but popular) albums. Unfortunately for me, it’s inevitable that they’re going to play a lot of that stuff tonight, but I put all to the back of my mind as band arrived onstage and launch into ‘Re-make, Re-model’. It really does sound great and they follow it with ‘Out of the Blue’, ‘The Bogus Man’ and ‘Ladytron’, which had me hoping the set would continue like this. But then they slow down and meander into their ‘grown-up’ phase. The next 30 or 40 minutes is pretty pedestrian, apart from a great, moody version of ‘In Every Dream Home a Heartache’ (which really showed up the songs around it.) At least there was a pretty impressive stage show happening, to keep me occupied. I accept that songs like ‘More Than This’ and ‘Avalon’ may have been some of their biggest hits and that a lot of the audience clearly love that stuff, but to me, it wasn’t exciting and there was too much of it. However, once the middle-section was completed, they build up towards the end of the set with a return to the good stuff, starting with ‘Love is the Drug’ and quickly following with an energetic version of ‘Editions of You’. It then gets a bit confusing, as there’s a gap before the next song and the audience is calling for more but the band members are still onstage, so is it an encore or not? Well, instead of departing and coming back, they play an excellent ‘Virginia Plain’ which is bound to go down well wherever it is in the set. Again the band remain onstage, but this time they decide that we need to hear ‘Jealous Guy’, perhaps the worst thing they ever recorded. It’s truly horrible, with only the fact that Ferry messes up the cheesy whistling to keep me amused… I start thinking of making an early exit, but then they redeem themselves with a stunning finale of ‘Do the Strand’ which was, for me, the highpoint of the set and I was able to leave the show with the good stuff still ringing in my ears. Sometimes you’ve just gotta take the good with the bad and on this occasion, the good won through.
RUBELLA BALLET. Hope & Anchor, 21/10/22. I’ll let you into a secret… I went to this gig by mistake! I’d written details down for a totally different gig on the wrong date in my diary and turned-up expecting someone else to be playing. But once there, I bumped into several friends, so I decided to have a few beers and watch the gig. I’m not the biggest fan of Rubella Ballet, but I’ve seen them quite a few times over the years and when they’re on form, they’re a great live band. It’s a Rockaway Beach night, so the atmosphere is guaranteed to be good, so even if I had made a mistake, it still turned out to be a good night. As hoped, Rubella Ballet were on great form, with the added addition of Emily Flea now on bass. The confines of the Hope & Anchor also works well with their dayglo attire and make-up, with the lighting making the most of their vivid colours. They look good and, tonight, they sound great. I don’t know what the names of the songs they played but they were a lot of fun and sometimes, that’s just what you need. No doubt I’ll be seeing them again soon.
MEKONS 77 / DAVE CALLAGHAN. Venue 229, 27/10/22. The Mekons are a band that you can never take for granted. Although initially emerging from the early Leeds Punk scene, they have consistently followed their own instincts and produced music influenced by many different genres, including Country, Folk music and alternative rock. They’ve never been predictable, so when they announced that the original 1977 line-up would be reforming to celebrate their 40th Anniversary (alongside the current line-up, who are still very much active) it should not have come as a surprise. I missed their previous London gig at the 100 Club (it sold-out rather quickly) so I wasn’t going to miss this one. I can’t say that I’ve been a fan of all of their music, but their first few singles and debut LP are true classics. Initially, the gig was supposed to be a co-headline with Scritti Politti, but they had been forced to cancel at the last minute due to illness. As a result, Dave Callaghan (of The Wolfhounds etc) plays a solo set to open the proceedings and it’s actually rather good. I don’t know too much about his music, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him again after this. Anyway, there’s not long to wait until The Mekons appear onstage and right from the start, this proves to be a very enjoyable gig. Jon Langford and Tom Greenhaigh share vocal duties and also take every opportunity to crack jokes and make pithy observations, concerning anything from the age of the band members through to ‘man-dating’. Tom admits that the band are ‘authentically under-rehearsed’, and that’s definitely part of their charm. No slick, technically perfect reunions for these guys, it’s the attitude that counts! They start the set with ’32 Weeks’ from the b-side of their first single and then introduce ‘Healey Waving’ from their recent ‘It is Twice Blessed’ LP (the only new song they play tonight.) ‘Rosanne’ gets an early hearing, alongside more obscure tracks like ‘Fight the Cuts’ and ‘Corporal Chalkie’, while ‘Never Been in a Riot’ sounds as gloriously chaotic as I always hoped it would be. Tom sings the acapella song ‘The Building’ before the set ends with two of my favourite songs, ‘Trevira Trousers’ and ‘Dan Dare’. There’s only a short break before the band reappear onstage for an encore, appropriately starting with ‘What Are We Going to do Tonight?’ before Tom announces that they’re going to play ‘a medley of our hit’, which is, of course, ‘Where Were You’, sounding absolutely wonderful. They then play a cover of the Gang of Fours’ ‘Armalite Rifle’, in tribute to their old friend Andy Gill, and end the gig with ‘Waiting for my Elevator’, which segues into a brief version of ‘Love Like Anthrax’. This had been a very entertaining gig and I really hope they play some more shows soon, because they were obviously enjoying themselves and so were the audience. Miss them at your peril!
THE DAMNED / SKIDS / TV SMITH & THE BORED TEENAGERS / SMALLTOWN TIGERS. Hammersmith Apollo, 28/10/22. These gigs, featuring the original line-up of The Damned, were originally supposed to happen a couple of years ago but had been postponed several times due to the lockdowns. On top of that, there were other problems which suggested things might not run as smoothly as they should. Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies have had a long-running feud which has meant they haven’t played together for decades, while Brian James has recently had medical problems from which he is still recovering. On top of all this the tickets were pretty expensive, although the selection of support bands did make-up for that to a great extent. Anyway first night, I make sure I arrive early to watch Smalltown Tigers, an all female trio from Rimini. I’ve heard them before and want to see them live. Unfortunately, playing so soon after the doors have opened, the audience is still pretty sparse, but the band play with plenty of energy and determination which is enthusiastically received. If you can imagine a cross between Suzi Quattro and The Runaways, perhaps with an equal amount of The Muffs, then you’ll get an idea of what these ladies are doing (and doing it really well.) As their set moves along, more and more people turn up to see who’s playing and stay to watch the band. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t play higher on the bill as I’m sure that the full audience would have really enjoyed them.
Next onstage are TV Smith and the Bored Teenagers, playing a full set of songs by The Adverts. The band are tight and powerful and TV Smiths’ voice is as strong as ever, playing a blistering set that starts with ‘No Time to be 21’ and ends with ‘One Chord Wonders’, with so many great songs inbetween. ‘Safety in Numbers’, ‘We Who Wait’, ‘Great British Mistake’… the only song that deviates from its’ original sound is ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’ which is played at a slightly slower pace, although this actually works pretty well. The set goes down really well and, by this point, the atmosphere is really starting to buzz.
Main support this night are The Skids and, having seen them a few times since they reformed, I have to say that it takes a brave band to follow them. Playing support also means that they have a shorter time onstage than if they were headlining, which means they’re going to cram it full of their hits and fan-favourites. At least this should keep The Damned on their toes! Starting their set with ‘Of One Skin’, ‘The Saints Are Coming’ and ‘Working for the Yankee Dollar’, the band sound great. Richard Jobson is a fine frontman, dancing in his own inimitable way and relating stories between songs like the ultimate punk rock raconteur. The hits keep coming… ‘Masquerade’, ‘Circus Games’, ‘Into the Valley’, although it’s the absurdist ‘TV Stars’ that still gets one of the biggest cheers of the evening. They end with a cover of ‘Complete Control’, which seemed a bit odd as they still had plenty of their own songs that could have been played, but whatever the reason, it was the an exceptional performance.
And now it’s time for The Damned. The anticipation is almost palpable by this point and as the lights go down, the ‘Doctor Who’ theme plays over the PA, no doubt playing on the topic of ‘time travel’ and showing that the band still have a sense of humour. Brian, Captain and Rat appear onstage, with Captain announcing it to be ‘the gig they said would never happen!’ Brian looks a bit frail and unsteady, but takes his place in front of his amp from which he doesn’t move for the rest of the gig. Any concerns are quickly put to rest as he blasts out the opening chords to ‘I Feel Alright’ and shows that his guitar-playing sounds just as stunning as it ever was. Vanian makes his usual late appearance and it’s all underway. First big surprise comes with the second song, ‘You Take My Money’. For years, The Damned refused to play tracks from the ‘Music for Pleasure’ album as it was deemed a disappointment after the first LP. However, hearing many of the songs on live recordings from the time reveals that they sounded a lot more powerful and indicates that it was the production of the record which had caused the problems. This song, in particular, sounded great tonight. That said, most of the set tonight would be drawn from the first album and early singles, with tracks like ‘Born to Kill’, ‘Stretcher Case’ and ‘Fan Club’ sounding just as exciting as they did when I first heard them. A couple of b-sides make a heads-up, ‘Sick of Being Sick’ and ‘Stab Yor Back’, while ‘Alone’ and ‘Problem Child’, also from the second album, really benefit from the full-volume approach. In fact, the one other track that they play from that era, ‘You Know’, surprisingly turns out to be one of the highlights of the set, complete with sax-player! The set ends with ‘So Messed Up’ and the venue rings-out with demands for more. We don’t have to wait long before Rat beats-out the unmistakeable intro to ‘New Rose’, which generates an ecstatic response. Then, they end with a couple of covers, an unexpected but highly effective version of ‘Pills’ and (we hope not prophetic) rendition of ‘The Last Time’. It had been an exciting gig and a pleasure to see this line-up playing together again. It wasn’t perfect and, at times, they did seem a little tentative, but punk rock was never meant to be perfect and they got through it without any problems. They delivered a set that the fans really wanted to see. Captain and Rat really locked it down as the rhythm section, often glancing over at each other to catch their cues, Brian’s guitar playing was excellent throughout and Vanian was on top form, nailing every song perfectly and prowling the stage like he owned it. Any doubts are dismissed and I can’t wait for the second night!
THE DAMNED / REZILLOS / TV SMITH & THE BORED TEENAGERS, Hammersmith Apollo, 29/10/22. I did my best to catch Smalltown Tigers again, but was foiled by London Transport. I was there in time for TV Smith, but as they played the same set as the previous night, I won’t review it again here, except to say that they were just as good as the first night. Main support tonight are the Rezillos and they deliver a fine set, including all their old favourites like ‘Destination Venus’, ‘Flying Saucer Attack’ and ‘Top of the Pops’ as well songs from their most recent album, ‘Zero’ and, of course, their infamous cover of ‘Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked-in Tonight’. Their set seemed to fly-by quickly as everyone enjoyed it, and all too soon it was over.
Again, I won’t do a full review for The Damned tonight as they stuck to the same set as the previous night, but a few things are worth pointing out. They seemed a lot more relaxed about the gig this evening, which gave it more of an edge and helped the songs to sound a little more loose and natural. Rat and Captain still get the rhythm section tight and appeared to be really enjoying themselves whist Vanian, once again, hardly stopped moving, continually darting across the stage in an effort to make it look small. Brian remained fixed in front of his amp again, but his guitar sounded even better. During the encores, Captain starts to have problems with his bass and, during ‘The Last Time’, smashes the instrument on the stage-floor. As the song ends and the band start to leave, Captain grabbed Rat and gave him a hug, declaring, ‘We’re getting along fine!’ For a lot of fans, that was great to see and we can only hope that they can continue to reconcile their relationship.
BLOODSTREAMS / SWARAJ CHRONOS / LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR. Pelton Arms, 19/11/22. Here’s three bands that I’m seeing for the first time, so I try to pay attention. Lowest Common Denominator are a new band formed by former members of Junko Fuse. They’ve shuffled the instruments a bit and seem to be going for a harder, punkier sound, although elements of their previous band can still be picked-up (not in a bad way.) They’ve only been rehearsing and writing new songs for a short time, but you can hear that it’s coming together and while tonight they sounded a bit rough around the edges, that’s perfectly fair enough. The important thing is that they clearly have potential and I hope they stick with what they’re doing to make the most of it. Swaraj Chronos feature a couple of my friends, although I didn’t actually find out that they’d put a band together until quite recently. Musically, I suppose you could call what they’re doing ‘post-punk’ although there’s obviously a lot more going into it than just that era. There’s some noisy psychedelia, perhaps some DIY anarcho-punk and at times they even indulfge in dark, almost gothic atmospherics. But the important thing is that they have some great songs with good, thought-provoking lyrics and surprisingly melodic catchy hooks Vanessa’s vocals are very effective and sound confident, even though this is her first band. Overall, they playa good set and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on how they continue to develop. Finally, Bloodstreams, a band that I knew nothing about. They’re based in South East London and seem to be going for an ‘alt-rock’ sound, with a bit of grunge, a hint of glam and perhaps some psychedelia. It’s an interesting mix but it wasn’t something that immediately grabbed my attention and I tend to think I’d need to be a bit more familiar with their songs to really appreciate what they’re doing. They have an album due out soon, so perhaps that’ll be a better place to start.
DERELLAS / THE PHOBICS / LOS SANTOS. Hope & Anchor, 26/11/22. It’s the Rockaway Beach Halloween Party with three fine bands to get your skull’n’crossed bones a-rockin’! First up are Los Santos, who sound really good tonight. The PA gives their guitars a boost and Vez seems a lot more confident with her vocals. They’re definitely shaping up to be affine band and I hope to be seeing them again soon. The Phobics are playing as a four-piece tonight, as Jeff is otherwise engaged, but they’re still more than capable of stirring up enough noise and energy to keep their set as entertaining as ever. In fact, the only noticeably missing element seems to be Tom’s usual Halloween attire, but that’s doesn’t upset the audience too much and they go down really well. Finally, DeRellas take the headline spot and, despite there being a few line-up changes since the last time I saw them, they still deliver a solid, enjoyable set of glam-punk that keeps everyone happy. If you haven’t already seen this band, they’re another combo that you should try and catch soon.
RUTS DC / TV SMITH, Islington Academy, 3/12/22. If you’re going to a gig at Islington Academy, you should always check the stage times in advance. The gigs are getting earlier and earlier for no other reason than they have ‘club-nights’ running after the live music and they want to get rid of the audience as soon as possible to allow the next crowd to pay-in. Incidentally, over the period that the gigs have been getting earlier, the bar prices have been getting more and more expensive… A cynical person could be excused for thinking the Academy venues only cares about profits... Anyway, on to the important stuff. TV Smith is already playing his acoustic set by the time I arrive and it’s going down well. If you saw him with his full band recently, you might think an acoustic show would be something a bit lack-lustre, but you’d be making a big mistake. Even on his own, TV Smith puts 100% into his songs, performing them with just as much energy and passion as he puts into his shows with the band. Of course, on these occasions he also plays a lot more of his post-Adverts material so you may have to pay more attention if you’re not already familiar with his later songs, but it will be worth while. Towards the end of the set, Leigh Heggarty from Ruts DC joins TV onstage and adds a second guitar for songs like ‘Tomahawk Cruise’, ‘The Lion and the Lamb’ and ‘One Chord Wonders’. The end of the set is met with much applause and it’s been the perfect warm-up for Ruts DC. Soon enough, they take their place onstage in front of a packed and lively crowd. True to the original spirit of the band, the set tonight is a great mix of old and new, highlighting tracks from their recent album, ‘Counterculture’, just as much as the classic songs from their original incarnation. The fact that they are still moving forward and producing new material which is just as key to their relevance as they’ve always been is the important element to the current line-up. They wouldn’t do it if it was only a nostalgia trip, but the fact that they play new songs which stand up along the legacy of the original band, makes this genuine and valid. Ruts DC were superb tonight, all three members displaying what great musicians they are without any muso-bullshit. And so many great songs… if you don’t know them by now, you are suffering a serious deficiency. Towards the end of the set, they play an extended version of ‘In a Rut’, featuring brief versions of ‘Silver Machine’, ‘Public Image’ and ‘Roxette’ in fitting tributes to Nik Turner, Keith Levene and Wilko Johnson. A perfect celebration of these three great innovators and at the end of the set, the band are promptly called back for an encore. The evening ends accordingly, not just with ‘Staring at the Rude Boys’, but also a ferocious version of ‘Psychic Attack’ which reminds us that, even forty years on, Ruts DC are still at the top of their game.
T-BITCH / RITES OF HADDA. Overdrive Studios, 10/12/22. This gig was supposed to be headlined by Anarchistwood but they had to cancel at short-notice due to the lurking Covid. I went along anyway, as I still wanted to check-out both of the remaining bands and I always enjoy the gigs at Overdrive. I hadn’t heard either band before now, but I’d read interesting things about both of them so I was suitably intrigued. Rites of Hadda are a rather peculiar bunch, owing as much to the likes of Hawkwind and Faust as to Punk Rock. It all comes together rather well, with the bizarre costumes and flamboyant antics of their singer adding perfectly to their overall effect. You’ll either like them or you won’t, but you should definitely give them a listen. Unfortunately, T-bitch didn’t manage to match-up to Rites of Hadda’s set tonight, possibly because they weren’t so striking to watch. The music was fine, sort of post-punk in a quirky style and it certainly wasn’t unlikeable, but on this occasion it just didn’t grab my attention. Perhaps I’ll need to be a bit more familiar with the music before I see them again.
WINGMEN. Triangle Café, 11/12/22. This was a pretty special event. In case you don’t already know, the Wingmen are a new band featuring Baz Warne (Stranglers), Paul Gray (The Damned, Hot Rods etc), Marty Love (Johnny Moped) and Leigh Heggarty (Ruts DC etc.) Not that any of them have intentions of leaving their current bands, but this was something that came together during the lockdowns as a remote-project to keep their creative urges busy. The result is that they’ve recorded a pretty impressive (self-titled) album in its’ own right and it really is the product of each individual talent. With Baz on vocals, the Stranglers comparisons are probably the most obvious to be made, but listen to the album further and you’ll soon realise that there’s much more going on than a cursory listen will reveal. Anyway, with the album due for release on Cadiz records, a low-key event had been arranged at The Triangle Café/Bar, so that the band can play a short semi-acoustic set for a small crowd of fans, in advance of their UK tour. It’s more like a meet’n’greet than a formal occasion, with all the band members hanging-out in the bar and happy to chat with the fans ahead of the gig. The Triangle is a nice little venue, whether it’s just for a few beers, an art show or a gig. Today, it is rather packed, but once you get a good spot, everything works out fine. The event starts with the first public playback of the album itself and then the band members get ready to play. It turns out to be mostly electric, just turned down a bit, but this also causes the only problem of the evening as the PA decides to play dead. There’s a lot of running around from the organisers and a few laughs at their expense from the band members, but the comments are good-humoured and then suddenly, everything is working and the set is underway. I won’t pretend to know the songs they played, as this was the first time I’d heard the album as well, but it does sound good. Once it’s working, the PA has a great sound so we can hear everything clearly. The music is great and some of the lyrics (especially the anti-Brexit song) are very direct and acute. Needless to say, the set goes down really well and once done, the band re-assemble for a Q&A session, which proves to be highly entertaining. The event eventually comes to an end, but it’s been a great way to spend a Sunday and, now that I’ve heard the album, I really can’t wait for the tour!
THE KUNTZ. New Cross Inn, 16/12/22. With all the shit that’s going down in these septic Isles at the moment, we all need Kuntz. I know some may be unsure of the language in use, but the fact is, if the use of that language isn’t appropriate for the current situation and the people who are fucking things up for their own purposes, then how are we going to address it? People shouldn’t take language for granted and throw abuse around in unwarranted usage, but some situations call for it and right now is one of them. Hence the release of ‘Boris Johnson is Still a Fucking Cunt’. The Kuntz (featuring The Artist Formerly Known As Kunt & The Gang) are just putting everything in perspective. As many of you already know, K&TG retired from active service a couple of years ago, but now he has returned with a full band and, apart from his humorous ditties which will keep you chortlin’ even if you’re having Christmas dinner with your Gran, the band are really rockin’ and aren’t messin; about. The classic songs are all on the setlist for your enjoyment, from ‘Use my Arsehole as a Cunt’ to ‘A Lonely Wank in a Travelodge’, through to ‘Paperboy’ and ‘Jesus Died of a Stranglewank’. Yes, it is horrible and it is far beyond the limits of polite society but that’s the point. Just like Derek & Clive or Jerry Sadowitz, they take things to an extreme to ridicule them. It’s funny because people who think that way are idiots who should be laughed at, in the same way that people who find such performance unacceptable are pompous twats who don’t realise that they are empowering the real bigots. One final thing that I want to record is that, despite the alleged ‘un-PC’ posture of The Kuntz / Kunt & the Gang, every time I’ve seen them the audience has always included just as many girls as boys and I’ve never seen anyone getting upset. If you don’t get it, look at yourself rather than pretending to be doing it for someone else. That attitude didn’t get Mary Whitehouse very far, either.
JOHNNY MOPED. 100 Club, 17/12/22. There’s a lot of speculation on the subject of if ‘coincidences’ really mean anything. Personally, I don’t think it’s such a big deal. At the end of the day, either they do or they don’t and it’s up to you whether you make anything out of them. In this case, though, the Mopeds are playing at the 100 Club on my 58th birthday. Old git that I now am, I decide that it’s pre-ordained and the fact that the Mopeds put me on their guestlist when they find-out is just proof that it’s the real deal. Either way, I meet up with the band in a nearby pub before the gig, we all have a few beers and everything is going fine. We eventually return to the venue in time to catch the main support, The Price, who are playing their first gig for quite some time. Featuring the inimitable Leigh Heggarty (Ruts DC etc) The Price perform a set that featured both of their original drummers and saw their singer battle through potential physiotherapy problems with the aid of beer… we’ve all been there (or will be eventually.) But it was the Mopeds who ruled the roost tonight. Against all the odds, this is a band who reformed, played some absolutely blistering gigs and recorded new material (and a few songs from the old days that had never been properly recorded) that more than matched-up to their original catalogue. Most importantly, they are a band that are still 100% the real-deal. You couldn’t fake characters like Johnny and Slimy Toad, let alone the relative ‘new boys’ (Jacko, Robot and Marty.) Tonight they deliver great tracks from their latest album (‘Lurrigate Your Mind’) through to their many classics (‘Incendiary Device’, ‘Panic Button’, ‘Darling, Let’s Have Another Baby’) and everyone wants to hear all of them. This isn’t just a dodgy nostalgia trip because this is a band who are writing and recording new material that stands up alongside their older faves with total integrity. If you get it about the Mopeds, then it all makes sense. For me, it’s my birthday and it couldn’t get better than this. At the end of the show, I go home and I feel better than ever. I hope everyone else did, too.
THE PROFESSIONALS. Venue 229, 19/12/22. This was a bit of an unusual gig, as it seemed to be set-up in a quite last-minute scenario and that dodgy-chancer Alan Magee was involved somewhere along the line. That said, the gig itself was rather good, with the current Professionals line-up playing an excellent set of both old and new material. The thing is, after having doubts that the band could really pull things off without Steve Jones on guitar, they’ve proved me (and many others) completely wrong. Paul Cook shown himself to be a proved himself to be the perfect replacement for Steve Jones, hitting the guitar chords with just the right tone to capture the original essence of the band whilst providing lyrics that keep it all on the right track. I’m not sure if there was a support band tonight as I certainly didn’t see one, but when The Professionals take to the stage, they totally claim the place as their own. Their set is based around their own songs at first, including ‘Just Another Dream’ and ‘Spike Me Baby’ before going back to ‘Silly Thing’ (I always considered this more of a Professionals song rather than the Sex Pistols) and on this occasion Billy Duffy makes a surprise guest appearance followed by ‘Good Man Down’ and ‘Lonely Boy’ before he returns to the wings. The set continues until the last two songs, when Glen Matlock joins the cast for great versions of ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘Problems’. It’s a great way to end this set, before the encore gives us a cover of ‘Stepping Stone’ (with Glen in attendance again, alongside Rhoda Dhakar, Billy Duffy and Holly Cook) followed by ‘A Merry Jingle’. It’s rather cheesy but it was almost Xmas after all., so good luck to ‘em., Maybe it wasn’t the best time I’ve seen The Professionals, but it was still a lot of fun and you can’t fault them for that.
TOM MOODY & RIK IRVINE. Birds Nest, 23/12/22. I actually went to the Birds Nest tonight just to meet some friends and have a few drinks before the onset of Xmas and had no idea who, if anyone, was playing. It turned out to be these guys, promoting the release of their new album, ‘Dew Wet’. They seemed like nice people and their set was pretty entertaining, even if it isn’t the sort of thing I’d listen to on a regular basis. Musically, they do an atmospheric, moody type of singer-songwriter thing (think Leonard Cohen rather than the dross popular in the charts these days.) As my last gig of the year, it was nice to end on a mellow note.