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.