20 Years Of Live Music: 2016

Article June 8th, 2017

For 2016, I’ve decided not to write a detailed account of WGT or Infest. That’s not to reflect badly on either event, just that I can’t spin any lengthy tale about WGT 2016 that isn’t a slightly-modified version of one you’ve already read. As for Infest 2016, that’s coming in a future piece….so here’s a few less-obvious tales of live music instead.

 

April 2016 – Who Said You Could Die, You Bastard?!

I’ve never really done ‘conventions’, mainly due to my lack of affiliation to one thing at the expense of others. But I do love a certain brand of British Comedy. The death of Rik Mayall came as shock, hitting particularly hard given I’d found out on the train home from the airport during my post-WGT 2014 comedown. Luckily, his fanbase rallied round on social media soon after. Credit must go to my old friend Penny for being the crux of this – she also handles the Infest Army page on Facebook.

This gathering grew into real-world meetups and finally the convention RikCon. Hired for the 2016 event was comedy band “Intermittent Explosive Disorder”. Not content to simply dish out a selection from their repertoire, they’d put together a RikCon set, opening with the theme to ‘The Young Ones’ and then delivering a series of parody tunes referencing moments from Rik’s career. ‘Common People’ became a Alan B’Stard anthem (‘Everybody Hates a Tory’), whilst The Carpenters were turned on their heads with ‘Please Mr Gas Man’ – a totally unexpected twist on what I happen to think is the funniest half-hour of comedy of all time.

And then their ‘original’ for the night – “Who Said You Could Die, You Bastard?!’, a four-minute impersonation of Vyvyan from The Young Ones with a suitable foul-mouthed ‘tribute’ to every Rik role they could think of. Tributes to a man like Rik Mayall have always been heartfelt, but they need not be respectful. A man who was essentially a ‘punk’ comic could not be written into history without at least a little bad taste aimed in his direction. The singer did his voice in with that showing, leaving Lee Cornes (a comic from the same era as Rik) to come on stage to reprise his Dick Head role from Bottom for the final song.

It wasn’t the only Rik tribute I’d see that year – The Damned dedicated ‘Video Nasty’ to him when we saw them in our punk-laden late 2016 live music flurry. The only one of the guest bands from The Young Ones I’ve seen live to date (are Madness still touring?). Though I did miss out Nine Below Zero by one room at some point in Freshers Week way back in 1997.

 

All Through 2016 – Punk Rocks!

Indeed, It’s probably the right moment to bring up The Damned again, as 2016 was notable for a year-long celebration of Punk across London, and history tells us that it was the Damned who ‘got there first’. There was no shortage of events to attend as part of the celebrations, and we also went to plenty of punk-oriented gigs that weren’t officially connected to the 40 years thing(they weren’t all London-oriented either), but since when has punk been official about anything?

I won’t go into detail about all the gigs, so instead have some extended length snapshots!

  • Not actually in London, but hey, stop me – The late confirmation of Public Image Ltd playing a midnight special (actually 1 am) at WGT – the set featured a semi-cover of Leftfield’s Open Up, a song the original band don’t play, so the guest singer took it for his own band!
  • Discovery of a venue in Tottenham called T Chances which just reeked of old-school punk spirit (but without the shit layout of Power Lunches). We were actually there for an industrial-themed charity show headlined by Black Light Ascension, but this inevitably led to….
  • Blank Generation – The final day of a three-day punk festival back T Chances. All very raucous, plenty of unknown bands, but a final run of The Members, The Lurkers, The Outcasts and 999 ensured we bagged a few minor legends in the process.
  • Seeing Television in Brixton, a band that straddles either side of punk without actually being it.
  • Bad Religion and Offspring in Hammersmith the night before the fateful EU Referendum…getting both Crazy Taxi bands in one go was a coup, a pity the gig was full of twats rather than punks. An argument with a bigoted Brexiter with some indeterminate provincial accent (a ‘little Englander’ if you like) in the pub afterwards proved some people just didn’t ‘get’ what this whole style of music was meant to be about.
  • First sight of Youth Code live. For those of you wondering why they get in here, they’re anarcho in spirit if not in musicology – the kind of thing the angry women of punk would have sounded like if they’d gotten into Nitzer Ebb and Front 242 rather than all the three-chord-discord stuff.
  • A gathering outside The Greyhound in Croydon to pay tribute to that town’s part in this story – Captain Sensible was one of the speakers, and even performed an acoustic ‘New Rose’ (even though he wasn’t actually the singer of the Damned……)
  • Killing Joke’s near-perfect set at the Brixton Academy, a band who did more than most to take the principle of punk and build in so many elements without losing their tribal fury.
  • Turning up at the Plough and Harrow in Leytonstone expecting to see Rubella Ballet. They cancelled due to illness late in the day (though we got in free as compensation), so we watched Airdrop and Country Hospital instead.
  • The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – the most punk of the steampunks, with Andrew O’Neill’s stand-up act as support.
  • The Damned, supported by Penetration, using ELP’s ‘Fanfare To The Common’ man as their intro tape as an ironic statement of everything they sought to destroy. The death of Keith Emerson earlier in the year (Greg Lake to follow soon after) did not affect this stance.
  • Sham 69 and UK Subs shortly before Christmas, an Oi! double billing, with Charlie Harper (now a grandad in his 70s) getting in the festive spirit by playing my favourite festive single of the lot – Hey Santa.

 

Plus these snapshots…..

It wasn’t just punk rock, you know……

  • Das Ich back in London again, and this time rose to the challenge of entertaining an audience that for the most part didn’t understand their lyrics (a trick usually reserved for Rammstein)
  • Author & Punisher – bringing the one-man band concept to industrial, and I DON’T mean by standing behind a laptop – a hand-built mechanical performance rig of a kind I’d never seen before and probably won’t see again anywhere else.
  • Laibach touring the show they put together for North Korea based around ‘The Sound Of Music’.
  • OMD performing ‘Dazzle Ships’ and ‘Architecture and Morality’ at the Albert Hall, only time I’d been inside there despite having lived round the corner once (twice actually).
  • Plastic Noise Experience covering ‘Moving Hands’ by Klinik at around the same time Dirk Ivens was performing it in his all-projects show across town. These two really should have been in the same venue!
  • Test Dept. playing the Dome (the first DJ Terminates Here venue) on the day it was announced I was Djing at Infest.
  • Waking up in Naples, making it home to London, unpacked, sorted out all the details and STILL making it out to see The Last Dance and The Last Cry with The Last of My Funds.
  • Blood Axis finally making it to London. I nearly wrote a long piece about this but as the mere existence of this project seems to be an issue with some people, I won’t take it any further here.

On to 2017, or back to the start.

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