Buff Medways
Billy rocks!
The Buff Medways/The Stuck Ups – Boston Arms

The walls of The Boston Arms are swathed in projected images, the atmosphere is relaxed & comfortable & the audience is animated, clearly excited & mostly in their early 20’s. When you’ve been around the block as many times as Billy Childish, it’s the little things like this that must warm the cockles of yr. heart.

The support band, Washington’s The Stuck Ups, have barely got off the plane. They are tired, jet-lagged & quite possibly emotional as well. It doesn’t show as they take the stage around 9.30pm. In the 18 months or so since their debut self-titled LP for Sympathy For The Record Industry, The Stuck Ups have added a keyboard player & recorded their 2cnd LP for the label, “Human Doll Express” (SFRI702) – Oct UK release.

Financial restrictions & circumstance have meant that keyboard player Bre has had to stay home & for this visit The Stuck Ups are playing as a 3-piece. Tiffany greets the crowd, straps on her gtr & The Stuck Ups crash into their set. Meredeath slaps her bass about with studied kool & one or two furtive smiles. Justin smacks seven shades out of his kit & backs up on vocals. The set is mainly stuff from the new LP with a handful of cuts from “The Stuck Ups”, including spirited romps though “Kill Yourself” & “The Stuck Ups”. The newer material is harsher, faster & all together harder than their debut - the songs still clock in at under 2 minutes but this time round it’s more Rock than Punk. It’s all over too soon & both band & audience seem more than pleased with the evening’s cultural exchange.

The Buff Medways take the stage resplendent in matching military bandsmen’s jackets & quite possibly roasting in the un-seasonal heat of a September night. They open with The Kinks “Misty Water” & there isn’t a dry eye in the house. Rugs are being cut left right & centre, grooves are appearing all over the floor. Mods, long-hairs, big-hairs, punks, crops & one or two haircuts that could have fronted Kajagoogoo bop furiously to the sound of the Medway. The majority of the set is culled from the recent “Steady The Buffs” LP on Transcopic: “Troubled Mind”, “Dawn Said”, “You Piss Me Off”, “Sally Sensation”, “Well Well”, “Ivor”, “Vanessa Does Favours” & new 45, “Strood Lights”, which Billy informs us is for sale at the end of the show before adding;

“We were told it was illegal for us to sell it before Monday – needless to say the Police are already involved, & that’s the constabulary – not that bunch of punky reggae fruadsters”.

For a band that doesn’t rehearse, The Buff Medways are tighter than a very tight thing in the museum of tightness, Tightington. Bassist Johnny Barker holds the bottom end down admirably throughout & drummer Wolf Howard has to be amongst the greatest sticksmen of all time. The mark of a truly great drummer is his ability to dominate a modest kit without the need for double bass drums, an armoury of rack toms or 30 cymbals – when the band take it down, Wolf turns it on. The crowd bay for a run through “John The Revelator” & are not disappointed. Johnny Barker chips in with a rail- road rumble through “Hound Dog”, The Buffs tear through Hendrix’s “Fire” & the rug cutters rip into overtime. The heat in the house is causing many to wilt:

“I think I’m going to pass out”, quips Barker.

The Buff Medways don’t take the jackets off – it’s one of their few rules. Around the hour mark, proceedings are drawn to a close – The Buffs move to the front of the stage to take a well-deserved bow. The crowd aren’t finished yet, however, & demand an encore in no uncertain terms. The Buffs oblige – sans jackets. We are promised 2 further songs but eventually end up with 4. The jackets are re-applied for one further bow & they’re gone. Jaws are picked up off of the floor, eyes are torn away from the stage & people huddle in reverence, pleased & amazed in equal measure at the sight they have just collectively witnessed.

“The finest rock & roll band in all the land” exclaims Billy as he departs, & there isn’t much else you can add. Wild Billy Childish & The Friends Of The Buff Medway Fanciers Association – solid gone.

Guy Debored – trakMARX.com – Sept 2002
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