Wednesday 25 January 2023

Anti-Nowhere League / Borrowed Time at The 100 Club, London 13/01/23

 I really hadn't expected my first gig experience of 2023 to include a trip in a cramped tour van to the world famous 100 Club in that there London town. But that's what happened the Friday before last ( trust this ol' blog to be up-to-the-minute ). My friend Glenn has been asking me for years to come to the Resolution punk festival in London but I've never made it until now. His band, Borrowed Time, have played The 100 Club nine times now and I thought it was time I made the effort. If there's one positive outcome of the pandemic, it's that many people like me are now grabbing opportunities they may have passed up previously  -  the lockdowns and restrictions showed us how empty life was without shared experiences with others. It's time to get out there! And getting out there, in this case, meant seeing crusty old biker-punks The Anti-Nowhere League. ( Yes, they're still going. ) Not a band I was ever into or was really bothered about seeing live but, hey, it looked like fun and I was on the BT guest list, so why not?

So we all piled into the Borrowed Time tour bus ( cunningly disguised as a works' van ) and headed to the capital. We got to the 100 Club at about 6 pm and lugged the gear down the 33 steps of the treacherous fire escape and into... the legendary 100 Club! It's such an iconic venue and it was a fantastic feeling to finally be in the building where everybody who is anybody has played. ( Including the ANWL, as seen above, sound-checking. ) It was great to soak up the atmosphere and see all the framed photos on the walls of so many historic acts, from long-gone jazz musicians, through the Punk explosion and up to the modern day with people like the increasingly-mental Kanye West. ( Very bittersweet to see photos of the likes of Amy Winehouse and the recently-departed Terry Hall. )

And here are Glenn, Steve and Cliff in the glamorous green room backstage. ( Okay, it's a dump but still cool. )

( Glenn here pointing out that Borrowed Time have stencilled their name on the wall and somebody has helpfully added the word "Dildo" underneath... )

After BT had sound-checked, Glenn and I had an hour to wander down Oxford Street and find something to eat. It was lovely to be back in London again after so long even though it's still a culture shock after the bloody pandemic to be surrounded by so many people. After a quick plant-based burger we headed back to the venue, bypassing the queue at the front door with a swish of our wrist-bands. It's who you know, obviously :-)
Luckily the club was virtually full at 8:30 pm when BT hit the stage, which was great for them, and they went down well with the pleasingly diverse crowd. As I said, they've played the 100 Club on quite a few occasions and so are fairly well known to the Resolution faithful. They played a punchy, no-messing half-hour set, packed with BT faves like Under The Radar, Bad Stranger and Bridges with a couple of new songs thrown in. The sound and lighting were both excellent and all the band were on top form.
All together now: "I'm fucked up and I'm insecure / Needy and emotional"

The next band on were the Cockney Rejects-wannabes Knock Off. They're really nice guys and very good at what they do but the subject matter of their songs ( fighting, football, drinking ) leaves me cold. I was into that stuff ( if  only vicariously ) when I was 14 but it all sounds old-fashioned now. They also went down well with the crowd ( of course they did, with all the Lahndahn football fans there ) and were worth watching but I didn't take any photos. And then it was time for The League...

The ANWL came out to a rapturous welcome and kicked off with Can't Stand Rock 'n' Roll and the audience kicked off too. It was a proper old Punk gig, with pre-pandemic moshing, crashing about, falling over, beer-drinking and -spilling all making a comeback. Typically for me, I forgot all my reservations ( too crowded, don't know the band, everyone else is still in the green room ) and went Down The Front, often a dangerous place to be but usually the best place to be. And it was great!

The band were very loud, very tight and very entertaining. Although the lyrics ( what I could hear of them ) are confrontational and nihilistic, it's all very much tongue-in-cheek ( or tongue somewhere! ) and it's obvious from the joy the band displayed that it's not to be taken too seriously. Songs like I Hate People ( "and they hate me" ), Let's Break The Law and God Bless Alcohol are hugely fun to sing along to and kept a permanent grin on my face. The very rude So What and the Ralph McTell cover, Streets Of London, drew a rabid response from the crowd and you could tell that Animal / Nick was having a great time. Softly spoken offstage and reserved in the green room ( apart from a few warm-up exercises ) he became a full-on Rock 'n' Roll legend on stage. Similarly to St Vincent and Mark Burgess of The Chameleons ( and who thought those three would ever inhabit the same sentence? ) he thanked us for supporting live music and small venues and also told us that, as everything's fucked, we might as well have as much fun as possible and die with smiles on our faces. He may have a point.
After a final thrash through We Are The League and a "Thank you, brothers and sisters!" from Nick, the League took their leave. I wouldn't say I'm now a converted ANWL fan but, just for the one night, it was a pleasure to be a part of their leery, fuck-everything world.

After much faffing about and networking, the Borrowed Time boys packed up their gear and we lugged it all back up the 33 treacherous steps and into the van. After a luckily uneventful journey back to the Shire in torrential rain, I got home at about 04:00 am. Phew! Rock 'n' roll!
My next scheduled gig ( Weyes Blood in Bristol ) will very likely be a more sedate affair but this night of debauchery in the legendary 100 Club was certainly an experience to remember.

Sunday 8 January 2023

Overdue gig review: The Chameleons at the Gloucester Guildhall

Back in the darkening days of the year we used to call "this year" but we now call "2022" I paid a visit to my fave venue, the Gloucester Guildhall, to catch a double-bill of Epic Gothic Punk from The Chameleons and The Membranes. I'd seen The Chams ( as nobody calls them ) a few years ago, pre-Covid, and really enjoyed them, but I'd never seen The Membranes so was keen to add them to my gig list.

Sunday 11/12/22 saw an unexpected amount of snow being dumped on Gloucestershire, the first "real" snow we'd had for a few years, and it cast a doubt over the event going ahead. Luckily both bands made it to the Shire and the gig was on! I was meant to be going with my mate Glenn but his car fell foul of the falling white stuff and the resultant traffic chaos in Stroud so he unfortunately couldn't make it. We used to have a semi-serious tradition of seeing bands somewhere around our birthdays ( 10/12 for him and 14/12 for me ) and this would have been the first one in that line for a few years, but it wasn't to be. Luckily, another great gig buddy turned out for the night... all the way from Swindon ( in the snow! )... the man, the myth, the blogger: David Rose!

Typically of me, I got to the venue just before the support band started so I only had time for a quick chat with David before it was Membranes time...

I'd seen distinctively-haired Membranes frontman John Robb with his "other" band Goldblade at this very same venue some years ago and expected more of the same Punky rabble-rousing. I was surprised to find that The Mems ( as nobody calls them ) are more of a Goth band, complete with Robb's propulsive Hooky-inspired bass lines alongside washes of colourful synth tones, courtesy of a veiled Corpse Bride-like keyboard player, who also supplied some startlingly wailed backing vocals.

Apparently, the band's most recent album What Nature Gives... Nature Takes Away is based around ecological themes and the song Snow Monkey prompted Robb to ask "Are there any budding Chris Packhams in the audience? Is anybody into Punk rock and nature?" After the general lack of response I called out in the affirmative but was out-volumed ( is that a word? ) by David who was singled out by Robb as "the kind of guy who knows about snow monkeys"  -  well, of course he is. The 'Branes ( as nobody probably calls them ) were a dark treat for a snowy Winter's evening and I definitely need to see them again. ( I used to write gig reviews for John Robb's website, Louder Than War, back in the day and I often joke that he's my ex-boss. Of course, he doesn't actually know that. I did have a brief exchange with him on Twitter after the gig and he complimented me on my photos from the night. Which was nice. )

The Chameleons shuffled onto the stage with little fanfare and launched into their expansive, windswept post-Punk set. Main man Mark Burgess was more voluble than last time I saw them and frequently paused between songs to talk to the crowd, mostly about the Godawful state of the world in general and the UK in particular. He said he'd been in America for most of last year and was shocked to find on his return that this septic isle was in even worse condition than when he'd left. Luckily, there was also some excellent music on display amongst the shared anger...

The plan for this tour was to play the "What Does Anything Mean? Basically" album in its entirety but Burgess admitted this was a marketing idea from their manager and they weren't actually going to do that. Songs from that album would be played but alongside others from the band's history... and a few surprise snippets of other classics from the likes of The Beatles, Doors, Bowie etc. All the good stuff, basically.
The Chameleons are really the quintessential post-Punk / proto-Goth band, employing all the expected sonic devices of the genres. Deep, powerful vocals? Check. Pounding, rolling, tribal drumbeats? Check. Melodic basslines and tumbling, glistening guitar riffs? Check. The lyrics often look trite on paper ( lots of what I call "Doors rhymes"... you know: higher, fire, liar, desire, car tyre, barbed wire ) but Burgess' committed delivery sells them time after time, especially when sung live. As I've said before, I never heard The Chameleons back in the day and I'm surprised they didn't become a higher profile band, especially when the inferior, stereotypical likes of Fields Of The Nephilim or Balaam & The Angel ( baa-lamb? ) were big in Goth circles. Maybe it wasn't just me who never got to hear Burgess and the boys?

The stately Pleasure And Pain and the chiming, surging Perfume Garden ticked all the Goth boxes and then things got heavier and angrier with Singing Rule Britannia and a ferocious Mad Jack's Eyes, the latter referencing "mad fucking despots" of both the Russian and American persuasion. The highlight of the set for me was, as before, the absolutely epic Soul In Isolation, reminiscent of The Cure at their best, and this was quickly followed by the twisting, intricate guitar riff of Swamp Thing, the best song named after a DC Comics monster. 

For the encores the band dug deep into their back catalogue and played songs I wasn't familiar with but were still excellent. A couple of young girls behind us had been yelling for P.S. Goodbye ( as well as spilling booze down my jacket ) and were, er, extremely happy when Burgess agreed and belted out the track for them. In fact, it was good to see quite an age range at this gig, and not just sad old gits like me.
Before the band finished with a blistering I Fall, Burgess made a detour to the crowd barrier and the front rows happily bellowed along with him as he gave it some vocal welly. As a parting gift to the crowd he thanked us all for turning up, despite the weather. He went on to say that money, success and material possessions are only worth so much, but it's experiences - especially shared experiences - which are worth more than anything else, and he again thanked us for this shared experience and for supporting live music. A very powerful and heartfelt speech and a lovely ending to a fine gig, my last of 2022. As it was a "school night" there was only time for a quick post-gig chat with David then we had to split, man. Hopefully we'll catch up again soon.

Now that I'm properly back in the swing of gigging I really need to see more bands in 2023. I've already got Weyes Blood ( Bristol SWX with my good friend Tom ) and the mighty Muse ( Milton Keynes Bowl with Sarah ) booked for later in the year. Can't wait!

Oh, and if you'd like to read David's review of this gig ( being a proper blogger, unlike me, he posted it about a day later ) you can find it here :-)

Sunday 1 January 2023

Happy New Year from The Glass Walking-Stick

 All the staff here at TGW-S ( er, just me actually ) would like to wish all you lovely people in Blogsville a happy and healthy start to this year that some are already calling "the one before 2024."

To mark the occasion of another solar revolution Sarah, Sophie and I went for a five-mile walk with our friend Caz today and found ourselves up to our proverbial armpits in mud. It was a fun but somewhat challenging way to start the year, but we needed to get out and clear the cobwebs away :-)

Here's Caz ( in the foreground ) and the three strange people who dragged her out into the wilderness. 

( I don't think my hand looks like it's attached to the rest of me in this shot. And why's it so large? Freaky. )

I also don't think Sarah's really enjoying the experience in this photo...

Happy New Year! Peace, love and all that stuff.


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