MAY/JUNE/JULY - SELECTED HIGHLIGHTS!
Morecambe Wasted Festival
Morecambe has become the real highlight of the PUNK ROCK SEASON. Jennie and Darren Russell have done a genius job of getting the scene back on its feet. In the old days, punk was never this well organazized. It was always a shambles. No one got paid - and the PAs never worked. Everyone was expected to exist as some sort of charity - and the gigs sounded shit. Morecambe is a great mix of the old and the new. Bands that you thought you would never see again - and cutting edge punk rock crews. As a result it attracts a well varied audience - old school punk mobs and innocent looking fresh faced teen punk rockers.
The punk festival swamps out the battered seaside town - and everywhere you go there are punk rockers: every cafe, every B and B every pub - every inch of the prom is packed with punk rockers sporting freshly cranked freak haircuts and their best punkoid clothes - the atmosphere is great. We like to get their early - the day before - and hang out and see bands.
It’s a great social, people you haven't seen for years. Punk rockers from all over the world. And playing there is great. It’s done the band a power of good - this year we get to play twice. The Levellers have dropped out of the main stage and we get to fill their slot. It’s a big bouncy stage and we tear it up. I also do a spoken word on the Sunday - talking about growing up in the punk scene in Blackpool in the late seventies - its a full on 24/7 punk rock weekend: see some great bands and talk punk rock jive with a million faces.
Meet up with Lars from Rancid who wants me to do some singing on a project he’s helping with for Steve - the guitar player from The Business. They are working on a band called The Masons. Steve had written some great songs and they are getting guest vocalists to sing them. They want to know if I want to join Mensi, Colin GBH and Charlie Harper and sing a song each on the project. Fuck yes!
I go down to London the week after and stick my vocals down. Mensi is there doing his vocal and sounds as impassioned as ever. Lars is producing and is great to work with, he has a meticulous ear and gets the vocal perfect and Steve is a total gent - and his songs are killer. The project will get finished off this autumn and released later this year.
Its nearly 30 years since punk rock mugged its way onto the scene. This seems astonishing. Manchester Urbis is a huge glass tower urban arts museum in the centre of Manchester and they’ve got on this great exhibition of Sex Pistols memorabilia, all the ripped T shirts, hand written Rotten lyrics and a rather tasteful 'Bollocks' poster with blood on it from Sid cleaning his syringe in the ill fated hotel room at the Chelsea Hotel. There's also a Manchester section - which I suggested they should put in just to underline the homemade DIY aspect of most punk rock. The Pistols stuff looks amazing - the sheer scale of imagination involved in the brilliantly sick artwork and clothes design remains as powerful today as it was in the mid seventies. The Manchester section is all biro and tracing paper - but is equally great in the fact that its about making your own pop culture out of nothing. DIY was the key component of punk - and inspired us when we were mid teens in Blackpool to do something: make music, make a fanzine - things you would never, ever have done before punk rock (in the days when music was owned by the record labels and the ha ha ha taste makers!). The key band here, of course, is Buzzcocks - they took punk outside London and made it something national - and then international. When they put the Sex Pistols on at the Free Trade Hall they started a pop revolution in Manchester - and the fact that they also wrote some of the greatest songs in punk rock is something that should not be forgotten.
I’m involved in this exhibition, writing all the Manchester captions - and on the opening night - Gold Blade get to play to the party in the foyer of the venue. The room is packed with suits and also rather large quotient of punk rockers and psychos which breaks the usual stuffy selection of white wine sippers you get at these sort of dos - its the record crowd ever for an Urbis launch - and The Blade hit the stage on fire. We only have time to play six songs - but manage to make the glass tower feel like sweaty gig for our half an hour of electric anarchy.
We’re hitting the summer now - which means a couple of things: we get to play festivals which are great (ram raiding the general public with our life affirming racket) - and the collapse of the gig circuit. Its a real pain that the normal gigs dry up as half the rock n roll population seems to disappear. Where does everyone go? Not everyone can be on fookin’ holiday? Leeds is still busy though - The Cockpit is a really cool club.
Before the gig I get in the mood to play. Shaking off the day to day fluff, emptying the head of all the band management stuff I’m stuck with. Stretch out - limber up - run on the spot - smash a few things - crank it up - get to feel crazy - get to feel alive - get to feel out there wild - like an animal. Get the feeling? Countdown. Hit the stage running.
Exeter (secret gig)
Now and then we will play someone's party. Gold Blade are close to the people who like our kind of music. Punk rock is, after all, a community - a large world-wide community - as we are finding out on our myspace site. Myspace - which started off as some sort of penpals website - has turned into this huge meet and greet website for anyone into alternative music all over the world.
BACK IN THE PUNK DAYS - IT was fanzines AND FLYERS - BUT NOW THAT NEARLY EVERYONE HAS got HOOKED onto THE INTERNET - ITS making LIFE FAR EASIER FOR BANDS LIKE OURS TO GET INFORMATION OUT THERE.
NOW - PUNK ROCK AND NOISY GUITAR MUSIC IS pretty well ignored - and the mainstream media is run by indie gimps who prefer to shove their agenda in your face. It doesn't matter if their pet band will play in Manchester to 15 people - they will always get the publicity and the push whilst the noisier crews who are packing venues out will be completely and utterly ignored. It was like that when we played with New Model Army - the venue was sold out and they didn't even make any magazine listings anywhere - yet on the same night there was some hip indie band on next door and they were getting heaps of press kudos to play to the half filled smaller venue. I guess the kind of people who get to run the media are the kind of people who grew up with indie music - the sort of people into our music are too busy out there doing it and having a good time to get on with crawling up the greasy pole of media success.
Which is where the internet is really coming in. For getting information out it is perfect and the electronic information blizzard is how most of us are surviving and thriving out here now.
This secret gig is sort of typical of our scene: the band remain close to their fans it’s a given. Punk rock is a shared experience it’s not about rock stars and VIP swagger. A Blade fan is getting married in Devon and wants us to play the party. OK, we’re there. Its a long way - but well worth the journey. The party is in a field behind the dude’s house - right out in the country -side. He is so rural he even has a goat. Never met a goat before - and after feeding it a heap of grass - the goat is a big buddie - and follows us around everywhere.
London can be cursed with fashion. Good job we shook off that fashion crowd ages ago and starting digging into people who actually like this kind of music. Punk rock survives in its own world outside the confused hipsters who keep re-writing the scene - I mean - did anyone really believe that The Strokes sounded like a cross between The Stooges and The Ramones - like everyone was trying to sell them as when they were pushed onto the scene? Like a boy band with guitars and perms? Some people even thought that they were a punk band! I've seen documentaries on punk rock when The Strokes are put forward as the logical conclusion of punk rock! But they re an indie band - we laugh!
The London gig is on the Dirty Water Club night at The Boston Arms - its a great night - they play some top music: garage rock n roll, punk and soul. It’s a storming gig, riotously hot and with a top mosh pit and even some stage diving - this kind of wildness is what Gold Blade are about. We throw down the gauntlet and people pick on it. The next day Im covered in bruises - including a large one on my leg - where that came from, I can't remember.
Bristol Bierkeller is massive. It holds 700 - too big for us at the moment - but we’re getting there. This year has been great. Being on Captain Oi! has made a real difference - you can actually buy our record in every record shop now - and they keep the prices down, It should be a tenner for our album - anything over that and you know the shop is robbing you blind. The punk festivals we’ve been playing have made a real difference - people are getting to hear about the band and word of mouth is in overdrive - we keep meeting loads of new people who have come down because a friend of a friend gave them the nod. That's cool.
I’m also on the home run of this enormous punk book that I’m writing. Its an oral history of British punk rock - a history of the punk scene - done in quotes from key players and anyone was around, I’m up to about 100 interviews now - its taken for ever and is really hard work - transcribing the tapes is really hard sodding work - it takes ages to get through those interview tapes - but it’s been worth it - got some ace stuff so far - and hardly anyone is missed out. Sitting in the van going to gigs is a great time to write everything up - tap tap tap - down the motorway to Bristol and back again.
The Bristol gig had a great stage invasion - about 30 people up on the stage bouncing about - there's a great picture on our website message board of a whole merry throng. Now that what gigs should be like - share the space!
This is the hottest gig ever! The place is sweltering. It’s the last song in the set - and I feel like I’m made of perspiration there’s sweat everywhere. I’m melting, I’m stripped to my underwear. My trousers are so heavy with liquid that they’re actually dragging me down on the stage. It’s just me and a sweaty pair of black undies - good job I had some underwear on - ha ha ha! I feel like a wild feral punk rock sex beast prowling the moist sweat-shod room. We blast through ‘Home Turf’ - the last song in the set. Then the fire alarm goes off - it turns out that the heat in the room has tripped the fire alarm. It takes ten minutes to get everything sorted out and then we play the longest set of encores we ever have done. It’s a mental, mental night - but awesome. Afterwards I drink five pints of water and don't need a piss. I’ve managed to get that dehydrated.
John Robb tMx 20 07/05