A mini-series in wich I look back through the mists of time and reminisce about what I was doing this time last week – the highs, the lows, the absurdities. It’ another trip to the Blackpool weekend for ageing punks.
This year doesn’t get off to the most promising start. Myself and my mate travel up by coach on Thursday morning via Birmingham as usual. There seem to be less punky types getting the coach at Birmingham than the last few years. Is austerity beginning to take its toll? With that thought, and the fact I’m missing Trashcat, who I really want to see (on at 12.40pm), to cheer me up, we’re on our way.
Things don’t look too good at the B & B. Firstly a bit of background. Previously the it was run by a nice woman who grew up in the sixties and has applied the decade’s free and easy attitude to running the B & B. You more or less automatically got booked in for next year, no deposit required! She was keen to insist that she knew we smoked “whacky baccy” in the rooms but this was fine. Thanks we said, but we don’t. She couldn’t seem to understand that. If you phoned up to confirm your booking she seemed bemused – of course you were booked in, why were you worried. Nevertheless we do phone, and this year found it was under new management who definitely did want confirmation, and hadn’t got contact numbers for us because the previous owner didn’t bother with anything so formal. We arrive to find that although we’d confirmed two single rooms, they are putting us in a twin room. This is not good, not least because of my snoring. We politely insist we want single rooms and they manage to shuffle things round.
With that sorted it’s off to the venue. I bump into a mate who insists that there’s loads of people, they all travelled yesterday, but I’m not convinced, it looks quieter than usual. Onto the highlights and lowlights.
CANCELLATION OF THE DAY Trashcat were booked to play stupidly early. The programme describes them as “punk’s best kept secret” – presumably their slot is meant to keep it this way. Perhaps they thought the same because they didn’t turn up, so I didn’t miss them! Hurrah!
NEW BAND OF THE DAY A young Irish band called Checkpoint, playing melodic but powerful SLF/Clash type stuff. They look about 21, but the programme says they are “leaving school in June”!! I feel old.
GRIPE OF THE WEEKEND The sound which was shite in 3 out of 4 of the main venues. There have been problems in different venues on different years but this is the worst. A mate argues with me that this isn’t the point (someone always argues this) but I say we pay a lot of money for this weekend. Not happy about this one. Today 70s influenced Biteback seem to suffer particularly badly playing the Arena, in fact this youtube clip sounds better than it did on the day!
SHOWBIZ TROOPERS OF THE WEEKEND Sick On The Bus also play the Arena and pull in a big crowd. They laugh in the face of poor sound by just cranking up the volume and careering through their set, and everyone seems to be happy. Biff though is looking particularly the worse for drink, but manages to get through. It only helps to conform the authenticity of their songs about punk hedonism such as Never Enough and Drink Now,Pay Later.
BAND OF THE DAY – The Straps are on next and are a bit slicker, but that does no harm. They are a band who straddled the late 70s / early 80s punks scene and had a sound to match. For a few moments I’m concerned it may be one of those “original bassist with new line up” type affairs as there is no sign of frontman Jock Strap, but it’s ok, he’s just waiting for the bad to start to make a more dramatic entrance! The last time they played here it was a bit of “hope you like the new album we haven’t released yet” set and it didn’t really work. This time it’s a good mix of old and new stuff, although I’m not sure about the cover of Music To Watch Girls By. It probably seemed hilarious after a few beers at band rehearsal.
PACING PROBLEM OF THE WEEKEND Two years ago on Thursday I managed to fall asleep during The Exploited. Last year on Thursday I nodded off waiting for the Buzzcocks. This year I head back for a break at the B & B before headliners New Model Army. They were my favourite band when I was 15, and even if I lost interest I’m looking forward to it as I haven’t seen them since 2000. This doesn’t stop me falling into the arms of Morpeus, as NMA would no doubt put it. I wake up at 1am – NMA were onstage at 12.45am. I make haste to the venue. NMA are playing to a half full ballroom. They are playing (as usual) mainly new material, which is keyboard heavy, and atmospheric rather than rabble rousing. Add to that the poor sound and Justin Sullivan seeming ready for bed himself, and it’s not quite the experience I was hoping for. We do get some old favourites like No Rest and Spirit Of The Falklands, but they don’t have quite the impact you’d expect. After an encore of I Love The World Justin Sullivan points out that it’s 2am and we need to get some sleep – good advice. Anyway here’s the kind of stuff not to play when headlining Rebellion!
My mate was bemuse by the woman sitting on someoe’s shoulders doing hand gestures – he didn’t go to goth/alternative gigs in the 80s.