Do you want some Hogwarts aggro?
Today has disaster written all over it. Firstly there’s the matter of whether the Arena will be open in time for The Violators – they’ve got until 1am. Secondly a couple of the main bands I want to see are outdoors and rain is predicted. It’s not the most promising day here.
But then my wife tells I’m a pessimist and she may have a point. I arrive at The Casbah to find System Of Hate playing in bright sunshine , making a mockery of their “dark punk” tag. They are minus a synth player, but still have a powerful sound, and plenty of samples from films, documentaries on serial killers …and Dennis Skinner speeches.
Following last night’s cliffhanger ending , The Arena is open. For the record there are several different versions of what happened last night. I wasn’t there so I’ll keep my nose out. Also last night a mate tried to tell me about a band playing in the Arena who were ex members of Runnin Riot. He seemed to think they were Takers & Users (Belfast Oi band – makes sense) so I head over, only to spot a Runnin Riot member watching them. He explains that their band is United Bottles and they are on later. My mate was quite drunk(either that or I didn’t hear what he was saying).
A turn up for the books is Leicester’s own “casual Oi” band B Squadron pulling a huge crowd in the Arena and playing a set of good, solid in your face Oi. And they’ve brought a coachload of mates from Leicester with them so I’m not saying a bad word!
Best new band of the day for me are another Irish band, The Gakk. It turns out they’ve been around for 10 years. They sound like a rough early version of Clash/SLf with a bit of Dead Kennedys and some Thin Lizzy style guitar thrown in! They finish with a fine version of Complete Control, which always goes down well with me.
There’s no relenting. Just as I’m taking it easy I get a text from my mate saying “Good game! Good game!” Eh? Of course – he’s watching Infa Riot featuring Lee Wilson who I compared to the now departed Bruce Forsyth. I’m not even getting my own in jokes. I check out their new LP on the stall of reassuringly expensive German label Randale. £13 is more than I want to pay. I ask the stall holder if there’s a CD. He tells me it’ll be “here next week”. Yes but I won’t be and neither will he, so that’s no use.
After a nostalgia session watching Combat Shock in the Pavilion (a strange feeling as I used to see them frequently in the mid 90s, always in tiny back rooms of pubs) I’m feeling knackered already so find a chair and put my feet up and relax to the metal tinged hardcore punk sound of Blatoidea.
But not for long. Steve Ignorant and Paranoid Visions are due on The Casbah, to play a much publicised special set covering Ignorant’s back catalogue from 1977-2017. A foreign punk in the B & B was keen to know at breakfast whether this meant Crass songs. I suggest he can probably guarantee at least Do They Owe Us A Living. And they start with Owe Us A Living. We get several more Crass favourites, a smattering of Ignorant’s later stuff and best of all for me covers of anarcho classics including the Poison Girls’ Persons Unknown and Flux Of Pink Indians’ Tube Disasters. And nice weather! Most lap it up, some mutter afterwards that these weren’t Crass songs. And…? Someone I know tells me he doesn’t like Paranoid Visions and asks what I think. I point out he’s talking to the wrong person.
A dash to the Arena for United Bottles now I know who they are, all good but I’m distracted my the strangest (and only) aggro I’ve witnessed all weekend. Someone who looks like a Harry Potter extra – long hair, beard and CLOAK! – is down the front shoving into people. He is quickly subject to an “expelliarmus” by the bouncers, which saves him from an imminent kicking from punters.
I looked at the line up this year and thought it wasn’t the strongest ever but as usual I’m tearing about trying to fit loads of bands in. I miss my mate’s band – sorry – and sneak back to the B & B for a rest. Next is a dilemma. Ruts DC or UK Subs & Angelic Upstarts? I usually watch Ruts DC so I decide on Subs and Upstarts for a change. The annual Subs “lap of honour” set goes down a storm as always , and Charlie is looking very sprightly at 72.
The Upstarts can’t really go wrong either. Despite songs such as Tory Tory Tory Out Out Out and Anti Nazi, Mensi mainly avoids politics in his stage patter. Just as well as his main suggestion is let the punks run the country. Seriously? See what you think at 2am. That and mocking his bassist for looking like Kim Jong Un.
I decide to widen my musical horizons, and boldly head for the Casbah to see Misty In Roots. The weather is still fine, scotching concerns that we might be watching Misty In Rain. A celebrity guest is present in the shape of Jordan. Not THAT Jordan, but former Pistols dominatrix go go dancer turned very normal looking vet Jordan. I watch probably the first proper reggae band I’ve ever seen . After 5 minutes, horizons widened, I head to the Opera House for The Outcasts, the second Irish band today to finish with Complete Control. I’ve mentioned that sleep-inducing effect of the venue , and sure enough I spot a mate fast asleep in his seat. I try to wake him to no avail so I leave him to it. The next day he tells me he was waiting for The Vapours , but slept through their whole set.
The night is still young (midnight) so I watch yet another Irish band the Defects in The Arena. Will they make it a hat trick and finish with Complete Control? No, they finish with Get Up Stand Up. I still prefer their old stuff. I don’t expect them to play their debut album Defective Breakdown in it’s entirety but it would be nice if they played the title track in it’s entirety.
Three years ago I commented here wearily “I feel cured of my fixation with reforming UK82 bands. Although no doubt someone would only have to say “Violators reunion” to change that.” Did someone say “Violators reunion”? They did. And they’re headlining the Arena. Although “reunion” means one original member and a load of newbies, but I’ve long since learned to stop worrying about petty details like that, although even my eyebrows raise a bit when the new female singer speaks with an American accent. A mate who’s seen them warned me that it’ll be ok but not to get too excited, which is nice because with ,my expectations lowered just enough, they sound brilliant. The lose a bit of the atmosphere from the records , but instead just blast everything out. As usual the youtube clips don’t really capture it
An interesting question is how a band that only ever released 7 songs will fill out a set. Answer – some new stuff and a Johnny Cash cover.
More UK82 reunions please (if there’s anyone left to reform).