It's September, 1981. I'm 14 years old and at probably only my second or third ever gig. And I'm bricking it! The venue is The Marshall Rooms in grotty, recession-hit Stroud. A dingy, fag-smoke blanketed hole, packed with Stroud punks on one side of the venue and Gloucester skin'eads on the other side, glaring at each other and waiting for the first signs of provocation. Crass member Annie Anxiety stands up to read some feminist, anarchist poetry, which doesn't go down too well with some of the neanderthals in the crowd, scuffles break out, I keep my head down.
Black curtains shroud the stage while TV monitors spew out white noise and images of car-crashes, abattoirs, 1950s commercials, nuclear explosions, and other fun stuff. The curtains part to reveal Crass the band, standing motionless, intense, ignoring the crowd. This carries on for some time as the crowd gets louder and angrier until, at some pre-arranged moment, the band suddenly scream into their first song, a wall of discordant noise smashes over the crowd, a mass fight instantly breaks out.....
To be honest, I wasn't a great fan of Crass. The only album of theirs I owned was Stations Of The Crass, a virtually unlistenable howl of anger against society, the government, the armed forces, Garry Bushell (!) and other obvious targets. I preferred bands like The Subhumans or Conflict who sounded a bit more like proper rock bands: you know, with actual tunes and things.
Crass as a live band was a different prospect. It may be because I was so young and inexperienced back in '81 ( a lifetime ago! ) but they seemed an almost physical force as I was pushed and pummelled in that audience. A black wave of energy, intensity and ferocity. They meant it, maaaan! It was a Hell of a gig: the charged atmosphere, the violence, the peacemakers in the crowd trying to calm the situation, the exhilaration of being part of something, the police waiting outside, the sheer noise assaulting your eardrums.
You don't get that at Travis gigs, I can tell you!