Rikki from Red Flag 77 looking for the missing 5 punters
Spring 98 – Flushed with moderate success after my first gig I was now planning my second. The Mad Professor gave me a Friday night and free reign to choose the bands. I now realise that this is quite a strange way of doing it. Most d.i.y promoters I’ve come across book around bands that are looking for a gig instead of booking the gig and looking for the bands. This might help explain the saga of the gig line up.
My plan was to get three bands that hadn’t played Leicester. There were barely any local punk bands at the time , and I thought the ones that were around could play local gigs easily enough. I wanted to get a wider range of bands. This was probably self defeating from a point of view of costs and getting local interest, but I was new to this. One of the first bands I contacted was a new band , The Filth FC , who’d released a single I though was really good. They weren’t available (they went on to become the new version of Garry Bushell’s band the Gonads). Moving on I contacted and got semi-confirmations from three bands: West Midlands anarcho stalwarts Contempt; new Romford streetpunk band Airbomb; and merry anarcho japesters from the Chilterns, The Chineapple Punx. A solid line up. I put together a flyer with a generic photo of punks in the street circa 82 and started distributing it. It was just as well it was generic because Contempt and Airbomb then sent their apologies; I hastily got Road Rage and Ipswich band Red Flag 77 and re-did the flyer…just in time for the Chineapples to pull out. Wisbech band Combat Shock were hastily confirmed.
Combat Shock pulled out days before for personal reasons, which we fully understood. Red Flag and Road Rage made it to the actual gig. Line up changes at d.i.y gigs are par for the course but old hands said that they had never before known a gig where every band on the bill had changed completely between the first flyer and the final gig. It’s not the last time I would pull off something apparently unique through sheer inexperience!
The Physio was a great venue, but there were problems. It was slightly out of the city centre, but not much could be done about that. It was next to the Leicester Royal Infirmary and it had been decorated with medical diagrams with the idea that it would appeal to medical students and young doctors. Several had been invited for a launch night and had hated it – it apparently hadn’t occurred to the designers that after a long shift on the wards you probably didn’t want medical diagrams as a backdrop to your pint. So the pub was floundering trying to find punters. So you’d think they’d really get behind the gigs. But instead there was a decree prior to the gig from the chain that the pub couldn’t put up gig posters on the wall because it made it look untidy! The Mad Prof challenged this and was told that “if the bands are good enough people will turn up”. “Not if they don’t know about them” was his eminently sensible response, but we appeared to be dealing with idiocy here. So while I was busting a gut to get flyers and posters around Leicester and beyond the pub (or at least the chain) was virtually trying to keep the gig secret.
Then on the night I arrived to be told that bar staff had told around 5 potential punters that there was no gig tonight, despite the fact that both bands were setting up upstairs! The pub seemed to be set on sabotaging the gig. Again gig promotion was proving far more complicated than it should be in theory.
The gig itself went ok. Red Flag chose to go on first as they’d never played Leicester before. They’d started out as a cover band playing 77 obscurities which didn’t interest me, but recently had released a couple of excellent 7″s of their own material and I was interested …but tonight they chose to play mainly covers. They were good though. Road Rage had a small problem. They’d been gigging all over the country and were winning punk crowds over all over the place…except in Leicester where virtually nobody seemed to like them. I never really got why. If I say so myself this was possibly their best Leicester gig. The night had gone well enough, but the crowd was if anything slightly smaller than the last gig, around 35 people, despite it being a Friday. I could have done with those 5 punters who’d been turned away. On the other hand , bizarrely, someone told me afterwards there’d been a review of the gig on local radio , commenting on the small but enthusiastic crowd, and saying that both bands were destined for bigger things. True perhaps, it mainly because it would be hard to get much smaller.
The next night I went to see Red Flag again in Derby. They offered to drop me in Leicester on the way home. I got in the van and was immediately offered a “cheese string”. I wasn’t familiar with this East Anglian street slang so wasn’t sure what drug was being offered. It turned out I was just being offered cheese strings. As debauchery on the road goes this was mild stuff. On the way back their driver Jack started asking me to direct him on various A roads. The trouble was I didn’t drive so didn’t know any of them. He got increasingly exasperated and eventually told me we were in Leicester and he’d pull over at the next opportunity and I could work out where we were. He pulled over and it turned out we were on the street where I lived. I jumped out and thanked them leaving them thoroughly bemused. They didn’t let me forget it.
One option to get the bands I wanted was to organise the gig, a lazier way was to get bands onto other people’s gigs! The Charlotte had decided a punk and psychobilly all dayer might be a good idea (they seemed fairly hopeless at punk but strangely were the leading venue in the country for psychobilly). My mate had suggested cutting out the agent that they usually used who seemed extremely unreliable. He could speak to Test Tube Babies and I could speak to Varukers as I knew them a bit. Sure enough within few days posters were up advertising an “all dayer” with 5 bands for £8 (generous! Punk gigs at the time were more likely to be 8 bands for £5) – Test Tube Babies, Demented Are Go and another billy band (possibly the Hangmen but I can’t remember), Varukers, and almost inevitably Truth Decay. There was a problem – I knew Varukers were touring abroad at the time of the gig. Truth Decay weren’t available either. For some reason advertising bands without confirming with them seemed to be a thing then, maybe it still is. I saw an opportunity and suggested replacing Varukers with two slightly less well known bands, Distortion and my current favourite band , Norwich Oi band Braindance. The Charlotte agreed and I did a lot of flyering again.
On the day there seemed to be a reasonable crowd there for early doors. The opening band was now Amazing Space Frogs. I’d never heard of them but they were a cult 77 band . They had a manic frontman who seemed to enjoy getting in people’s faces. About 20 minutes after they’d finished there was kerfuffle and he was carried out of the venue with a bloody nose! I drank , chatted , and drank more. Distortion and Braindance went down well enough, the trouble was the crowd hadn’t got that much bigger. Sloss, Braindance singer, had told me the Charlotte had once turned them down because they didn’t know who they were. He said if he’d realised it was the same venue they wouldn’t have agreed to play. He also decided to announce this word for word on stage with the Charlotte doorman watching so I guess they weren’t going to be invited back. Later the doorman told me that other than Test Tubes he wasn’t very impressed by the punk bands , seemingly unaware that I’d recommended them. I got very drunk by the time Test Tubes were due on…but I’ve already told that story in my Cringefest post a couple of years ago.
The Charlotte planned a further “all dayer” but I was pointedly told they wanted “name bands”. They used the agent.
One of the bands the Charlotte announced for the next all dayer was The Wernt, which was annoying because I’d already booked them for my next gig. They were a “supergroup” made up of members of GBH and English Dogs. They’d done a tour supporting The Exploited, had released an album which was proving very popular. They were now looking for a handful of their own gigs. The Mad Prof told me that a Damned/Misfits influenced band called Bride Just Died had contacted him as they were tour support for The Wernt. Did I mind? Why not, the more the merrier – but they were going on first as I’d already promised the support slot to Truth Decay. This turned out to be the right decision. It turned out The Wernt knew nothing about their “tour support” band. The cheeky scamps went on first and played to about 4 people – served them right! At least they got a rehearsal out of it. Truth Decay played to a bigger crowd, but to a muted response . The Wernt went down a storm , if you can go down a storm in front of 35 people. Some mates got them to dedicate the bouncer-mocking Alkiepone to me, because I was standing on the door wearing a pilot jacket doing a good bouncer impression. Singer Wakey threw something called an “arse nest” (have a guess) to the audience . My mate who was helping on the door caught it and I’ve heard he still has it! Or that might have been the Charlotte gig. It was good fun though. A slightly disappointing turnout, but good fun. The Mad Professor was also happy with the gigs. We were on a roll.
Another playlist – even Bride Just Died get a track in!