Letter from London June 2007

Today is also a Saturday afternoon, not a Tuesday night. One more thing: today is an all ages show. I must admit, I wasn't going to go. The idea of being at a gig with a bunch of pre-teens didn't appeal much as it'd be far too easy to look like a dirty old man.

 

Letter from London June 2007

 

Famine and feast. After last month's whirlwind of gigs, April has been very quiet for me. One night at the start of the month and one afternoon at the end of it.

 

The Spitz is a fantastic venue. I must admit that my opinion might be a little biased, as it's without doubt the easiest London venue for me to get too; being a ten minute walk from Liverpool street station. However, that's looking like it's going to be the places downfall as the people who own the place have told the Spitz to get out so they can build another gastro-pub for the office workers to spend there lunchtime wages in. It'll be business as usual until September, apparently, and there's an active campaign to save it. Have a look at their website for details.

 

Probably my favourite series of gigs at the Spitz is the yearly 'Festival of Blues' which sees nights of traditional blues (T-Model Ford, Seasick Steve ... that kind of thing) along with the more fashionable 'punk rock blues'. This year I only manage to get to one of these gigs: a chance to see how sixteen years have treated Gallon Drunk. Tonight they're supported by a band with the really unpleasant name of Mystery Juice: a gang of four blokes in white shirts and black ties. The first thing I notice about the stage is the fiddle, which has certainly seen better days. In fact it looks a little like a fiddle skeleton, and the songs where its undead screech is let loose are certainly memorable. The front man reminds me of a preacher a little, we're his congregation and he's got to save us.

 

Gallon Drunk: men in suits. Sure, they put on a show, a good show. And it's easy to tell which of the guys had been keeping himself busy in the Bad Seeds. I'm pretty sure that when I saw them all those years ago the gig ended with a semi-naked member of the band crawling along some air conditioning pipes, but there's nothing of the sort this time. The most interesting thing this time is seeing whose turn it is to play the keyboards for each song. That's a shame, as although I like the music, it's not one of those "man, it feels good to be alive", life affirming performances. To be fair though, I was never a big fan, owning one 7"... so it was never going to be. It is good have them back, and this whole 'punk rock blues' scene proves there's hope for old duffers like me to live the rock dream. If they're playing near you in support of their current CD (re-issued EPs and demos) I'd go and see them.

 

http://www.myspace.com/mysteryjuice

http://www.gallondrunk.com/

http://www.spitz.co.uk/

 

 

Artrocker again. But this time they've spread their wings a little and got away from their normal home of the Buffalo Bar. Today it's at the Roundhouse, which I know has been the venue for some seminal performances, but I can't for the life of me think of any off the top of my head. You can use a search engine as well as me: I won't insult your intelligence with a bit of cutting and pasting. Today is also a Saturday afternoon, not a Tuesday night. One more thing: today is an all ages show. I must admit, I wasn't going to go. The idea of being at a gig with a bunch of pre-teens didn't appeal much as it'd be far too easy to look like a dirty old man. Fortunately my mettle is steeled by the arrival on London of Incendiary's co-editor Damian. We have a pint and head in.

 

First impressions are disappointing: the foyer of the Roundhouse just looks like any other modern venue with lots of glass and concrete and a nice cafe / bar. Of course, this is the re-furbished Roundhouse, but it doesn't seem to have any soul. Maybe that'll change. The band which is on stage when we arrive is simply awful, so I won't bother looking for their name. They lose me straight away when I notice that the singer is swanning about barefoot with comical 1920's feathers in her hair. They loose Damian when between songs the PiL t-shirted bassist asks the sound man "Is the bass coming out the front?" We head out for some beers before heading back in for the main event: the Victorian English Gentlemen's Club. As we start yet another pint of over priced beer, the drummer appears and strikes a bell in her hand. The clear chime gent's all our attention. She strikes again, turns on her heels and slowly walks back into the venue, rhythmically tapping on the bell. As we shuffle after her, like the Eloy (or was it the Morloks) from HG Wells' 'The Time Machine'. Daims and I are stopped at the door: no beer in the venue. Seems fair enough (as it's all ages) so we gulp it down. Inside it's obvious that the band have been touring non stop since I last saw them a few months back.

 

They're a lot tighter and the songs from the eponymous CD sound better than ever. The band members don't seem too happy by the response from the crowd, and at the end of the show the guitarist has a bit of a diva moment. A little disappointing: it is the middle of the afternoon and most of the crowd may well be at their first ever gig, (as they're all about 12).  Oh well...

 

Words: Chris Gibson