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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Music to remember dead friends by... a punk-rock compilation.


Music to remember dead friends by… 

Mumblings on those that have passed and contemporary observations on the songs that surround them.



It’s great to write a music article again, and for no apparent reason this article is peppered with photos of bands I’ve seen recently.

Over the past few years, a few people close and not so close to me have passed away. More recently, I was sat alone at a third division Danish football match, slighty morose after two beers that topped me up from the night before, and I spent the whole match in a day dream about all those whose souls had moved on. I found it therapeutic. This all came to ahead a few weeks ago when I heard two songs on shuffle, back to back, that reminded me of dead people, and thus the idea of the ‘Songs to remember dead friends by’ compilation came about. What follows is a run down of the tracks that made it, and why.

Disclaimer: It’s difficult to find songs that exclusively deal with death, outside of ones that are directly about an individual or a community, so I make no apologies that some of these songs may be about loss in general. 

Track One: No Use For A Name – On the outside

I’ve never given a shit about the death of celebrities or famous people. In fact, it nauseates me to see endless amounts of people posting links on social networking sites about the latest celebrity death, “Robin Williams RIP”. It’s like people are resorting to DIY journalism, to be first at the scene. Needless to say my comments on this received a tonne of criticism. Still, I stand by these words, and it’s typical of the society we live in today when people feel more sadness towards the death of a celebrity, rather than working class heroes or those in their local community.

Tony Sly was different. He was just a punk-rock songwriter that managed to write songs that resonated with me as a teenager growing up ‘out of step’ with the world. His death shocked and saddened me, and it brought back fond memories of a time in 1999 when we went to a gig in Sheffield to see some US bands, and afterwards we had an epic game of 5 a side with Tony & the rest of No Use For A Name in the adjacent car park. The amount of bands that contributed to the tribute LP is testament to how widely loved he was – RIP Tony Sly.

Choice lyric: “I'm dying on the inside, you're never coming back, and now I know whatever we go through, my heart is stuck with you.”

Track Two: The Murderburgers – All my best friends are dying

Perish the thought. I’ve never had a ‘best’ friend die on me, yet the impact some deaths have had on me, I dread to feel the sadness. This is a beautiful song, melodic and catchy music, combined with dark and regretful lyrics. A perfect song for a post- Gin & Tonic melancholic mindset.

Choice lyric: “Snap back a few years ago, we had loads of fucking time. All of our omens seemed benign, now all we see is warning signs.”

Track Three: Against Me! – Dead friend

Have you heard the new Against Me! Album ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’? If like many of us you disappeared from the horizon after some poor musical output during their time on a major label, then it’s time to re-visit. Tom Gabel’s transition to Laura Jane Grace, combined with band members leaving, has led to an introspective look at themselves, and this new record is a ‘return to the roots’ effort, full of pacey, catchy punk rock anthems, full of anger. They were incredible during their recent Leeds show, and once again proved how damn good they are. ‘Dead Friend’ is one of the new tracks, and it’s simple chorus serves as a poignant reminder not to forget those who have passed by the wayside.

On a side note, Tom Gable (now Laura Jane Grace) coming out into the mainstream as a transgender is one of the best things to happen in punk-rock recently. It’s great that these issues are permeating the mainstream, and hopefully it will inspire a generation of transgender punks to be more confident in themselves.

Choice lyric: “God damn, I miss my dead friend.”

Against Me!

Track Four: The Vandals – My girlfriends dead

A bit of a bizarre choice here: This is a tongue in cheek fictional song about someone who can’t cope with telling people that his girlfriend has left him, and the on coming questions that ensue, so he just tells people that she died to end the conversation. It’s classic pre-banter humour as we have come to know from the Vandals, and its inclusion on the compilation was merely to provide some light relief from the heavy content.

Choice lyric: “I say it's leukemia or sometimes bulimia, or a great big truck ran her over and chopped off her head.”

Track Five: Sage Francis – Jah didn’t kill Johnny

I’d been a fan of the ‘Crakpipes’ debut Sage Francis record since it’s release on Epitaph records, as it stood out on a punk label. Good quality ‘white man’ hip-hop that has deep socio-political lyrics. At a recent show at the Brudenell Social Club, Sage went on a long rant about paying homage to those of yesteryears, and how they should be remembered. I was expecting the usual homage to a dead rapper, yet out of the blue he announced the song was about Johnny Cash – it was a great cross over to see homage come to someone outside of the genre – this is creative hip-hop. The timely message is a denouncement of all the religious bullshit of ‘god give life, god take it away’, and eulogises the rebel heart in a way that he should always be remembered.

Choice lyric: “But God, God, God...would never...kill...Johny Cash. He had a train to catch. He had a date with death. And we've all got a train to catch.”

Sleaford Mods

Track Six: Leatherface – Not a day goes by

The obvious choice Leatherface song here would’ve been ‘Andy’ – a song about a former member that died – however, with the recent death of Leatherface driver and manager ‘Big Rock’ it felt appropriate to include an alternative track that symbolises the loss of a loved one. For more information on the life of Chris Schaefer, see my previous post: CLICK HERE

Choice lyric: “No I, didn't think you were wrong and I can still sing your favourite song. It's not as simple as forgetting presents that were bought. And not a day goes by when I don't spare you a thought.”

Track Seven: HDQ – Hand me downs

It had to be a back-to-back Sunderland song choice. This song is about the author’s brother who fell to addiction. It brings tears to the eyes, even without that context. We don’t want another one from the clan disappearing – if you’re reading son, steady away tiger.

Choice lyric: “Brother, where art thou? I feel like the Soggy Bottom Boys without the voice. Your hand me downs I’ve long since grown out of, I miss you, I’m missing you”.

Rocket From The Crypt

Track Eight: Descendents – Jean is dead

A track about suicide? Henry Rollins got a lot of shit for calling the act selfish for those that are parents. As a parent myself, I can empathise with these thoughts. I have never seen eye to eye with the man, yet this time round I think he had a point. See link here for more background on the story: CLICK HERE

Choice lyric: “I would have done anything, I would have taken you with me, or brought you a ring, but now you're gone and, I'm alone!”

Track Nine: Bad Religion – Pity the dead

A punk-rock compilation without a dissecting look at the issues of looking at death from the outside wouldn’t be complete? We could have had other Bad Religion songs here: ‘Better Off Dead’ – how often do we feel this towards those that anger us? Or ‘You don’t belong’ – an analysis of some of those that faded away during the early days of the LA punk scene. However, ‘Pity the Dead’ is a classic Bad Religion thinking song, which begs the question, is life actually better here in the living?

Choice lyric: “Well, you've seen the disease, suffering and decay, and you whisper to yourself blissfully "it's okay", and you still refuse the possibility, that the dead are better off than we.”

Evil Blizzard
Track Ten: Body Count – The winner looses

‘You wanna get high out the sky, you’re kissing your life goodbye’  - a great chorus line, almost better than ‘No Coke’ by Dr Albarn which offers ‘Cocaine will blow your brain, and ecstasy will mash your life!’ Who needs straight edge hardcore when you have Ice T and other cultural icons offering these pearls of advice? Experimenting with drugs can be a positive eye opening experience for some, yet along hard addiction has seen too many break on through to the other side.

Choice lyric: “He took the money to the dope man, and he said he had the best,
next thing ya knew, cardiac arrest!”

Track Eleven: NOFX – We threw gasoline on the fire…

There is a reference at the end of the song to the death of former Maximumrocknroll editor Tim Yohannan, which is quite a turnaround from their song ‘Im telling Tim’ which is a critique of his manner, and written whilst he was alive. I guess in this day and age when everyone is a NOFX henchmen, Fat Mike really does miss those that were able to call him out on his shit. 

Choice lyric: “Remember the good old days, remember the sound, remember the sweet mustiness underground. No, I don't feel the need for reliving. Some things are better off dead.“

Track Twelve:  Teenage Bottlerocket – Without you

The kings of pop-punk songs about being a looser and failed states to do with women. There could’ve been a number of songs from these guys. I just went with an obscure song for something different.
Choice lyric: “And those nights we talked for hours on the phone, but now you're gone and I feel so all alone.”
Means to an End Festival
Track Thirteen:  The Phoenix Foundation – To a lost friend

This track is about someone the author considered a best friend when they were younger, and as they grew up, they grew apart. It’s a beautiful song, and not by any means a familiar Phoenix Foundation number. Ironically when they crossed paths again in the future, and the person in question had heard the song and asked if it was about them.  The relevance of the song to the article just goes to show how easily people can drift apart, and be easily forgotten.

Choice lyric: “What are you thinking now. When all we had is gone. What if you’d see me now. Would you act like nothing’s wrong.”

Track Fourteen: Manic Street Preachers – Further Away

You have to wonder how many Manic Street Preachers songs are about missing Richie Edwards. This is a candidate, and considering it’s on their first record since his disappearance; it almost has to be. Without an official post-mortem, and no record of death, it must be even harder to deal with the loss, and Richie Edwards has almost become a metaphor for those lost without explanation.  

Choice lyric: “The happier I am when I'm with you, the harder it gets when I am alone.”

Track Fifteen: Bad Astronaut – The Passenger

Supposedly written from the perspective of a passenger on the 9/11 flight, which in itself is an incredibly challenging topic to base a song on, it’s even more haunting that in the outro there is a recording of a voice reading a passage from the Koran. Many religions believe in some kind of ‘life after death’, ‘re-incarnation’ or a ‘transition of the soul’ kind of thing. Yet for the rational among us, we know this is a load of old shit. When you are dead, that’s it. Gone. End.

Choice lyric: “I'm held accomplice to man's will, the faith transcending reason,
the passenger descending, and in an instant time stands still, fade, planet heartbreak , Stop thinking.” 

Manic Street Preachers


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hamburg - Pokal Round 2 - St Pauli & HSV Hamburg (October 2014)


Hamburg Trip – October 2014 – German Pokal Round 2


Regular readers of Ont Road will be well aware of my penchant for travel. This trip happened to be my first abroad for 14 months, probably the longest time I’ve spent in the UK since I was born. Becoming a father had put a temporary halt on that. However, with a bit of holiday time, some spare cash, and a supportive partner, I was able to partake in a 48-hour venture to Northern Germany’s premier port town, Hamburg.

At the end of the summer I was sat, as usual, browsing the Internet, when I read a tweet on the Yorkshire St Pauli twitter feed about the draw for the second round of the German Cup. After a quick perusal of the fixtures, I noticed that FC St Pauli and HSV Hamburg had both been drawn at home, against the two modern giants of German football, Borussia Dortmund & Bayern Munich. And although the dates hadn’t been confirmed, I knew that due to policing, there was no way that both matches would be on the same night. Half an hour later, I had flight and train tickets booked for £100 all in.

I was able to secure these widely sought-after tickets through two important supporter groups. For St Pauli, they have the fanladen, which keeps a number of tickets aside for every game, for international fans. As I was a member of the Yorkshire St Pauli fan club, which is one of the largest outside of Germany, I was able to secure a standing ticket for the game (€13). And with HSV, I contacted the English Supporters Club, and I was assisted by a kind soul who ordered me two standing tickets during the members sale on the clubs website (€18). For both matches I had tickets in the stands behind the goal, right were the ultras gather – I was going to get the full on experience.

Flying cheaply to Hamburg meant taking Germanwings, and a ridiculously early flight, which meant I had to get up at 4:30am, and spend nearly two hours on a stopover in Dusseldorf. Thankfully there was a smoking area, and I had a free voucher for the first class lounge where I was able to chill out, stuff my face full of pasties and drink a few coffees. I certainly stood out amongst the suits and designer gear with my tight black jeans, and 15-year-old rugged St Pauli ‘skull and crossbones’ hooded top.

I wasn’t meeting my friends, who had just moved to Hamburg, till later that day, so I did what many wouldn’t when they first get to town, and go on a tour of a Russian U-boat, which as parked up on the harbour by the St Pauli district. I had been to Hamburg many times before and every time it feels magical walking along the harbour, watching the boats sail by to the backdrop of all the cranes.

 I went to the Fanladen, which now has a permanent home under the Gegengerade, which in itself is now almost double in capacity, and makes an impressive pitch length all standing terrace. I picked up my ticket, and there was already a buzz about the place. Some Dortmund fans were lingering around, and I overheard tourists being told the reasons why they just couldn’t get a ticket there and then for the game, “It’s not just some normal Bundelsiga 2 game, you know”.

Later on, I took a beer with my friend in the ‘St Pauli Eck’, which is a great fan pub, ran by the landlady who used to run the bar in the old ground. Brown in décor, Dropkick Murphys on the jukebox, and a smoky atmosphere was a perfect backdrop for a warm up to the match. I arrived at the ground over an hour before the game, and there was a real buzz about the place. I drank a beer outside just to soak up the atmosphere, and I felt a little guilty for having a ticket when so many fans were standing around with ‘tickets wanted’ signs.

This was my first competitive St Pauli match where I was standing in the Sudkurve (My other trips can be read in this article: http://ontroadfanzine.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/punk-football-falling-in-love-again.html) Even with 45minutes to go the stand was jam-packed. I didn’t have the confidence or emotional bond with the club to just barge my way into the mix, so I took a modest position in the corner, which gave me a perfect cross-sectional view of the Sudkurve & the Gegengerade. There was a real party atmosphere, and although nobody expected St Pauli to win, it was the fact that they were here that was important – a sell out crowd of 29,000 was full of anticipation.

And the crowd didn’t disappoint, this was the biggest game of the season, and with it being live on TV, the fans made a real effort. With a few minutes to kick off, the Sudkurve had a huge St Pauli banner draped over it, the Gegengerade had hundreds of coloured individual flags alongside two huge skull and crossbones flags, and the Nordkurve had brown and white drapes, a huge nordkurve lettering, and to top it off, a sign across the middle that read something along the lines of ‘this is not just a one off, this is a way of life’.


At this stage of the season Dortmund had already lost 6 games, and St Pauli hadn’t done much better. And although the formbook suggested there was a potential of an upset on the cards, those that had seen St Pauli this season, were well aware that they didn’t have any strength in depth or any solid tactical experience to overcome the visitors. It was clear from the outset that Dortmund was a different class, and it was no surprise that they ended up winning the game. With these kinds of matches, you just hope that the main team don’t run away with it early on, but when they went 2-0 up just before half time it was all over.
Still, it didn’t stop the party atmosphere, and the Sankt Pauli ultras treated the crowd to a huge pyro display during the half time break. There was some great chanting, and even Dortmund joined in one song, although I couldn’t tell if it was in mutual respect or mocking. German sense of humour remains lost in translation! Dortmund took it to 3-0 late on, and then it was all over. Despite the result, I was fortunate to see and feel the atmosphere of this occasion, and it reaffirmed my support and admiration for the club once again.
After the game, I met up with my friend to take a tour of some of the more quirky drinking establishments that frequent the surrounding areas of the Reeperbahn in the St Pauli district. We started off at the ‘Tippell II’, a laid back affair, where we were able to comfortably watch the extra time parts of the other cup games going on that night – Duisburg vs. Koln certainly seemed like a great one for the neutrals. It’d take you a whole night to read all the graffiti on the walls. 

Then I insisted that we went to some of the crazy bars situated on Hamburger Weg. We started at the ‘Goldene Handschuh’, which had recently turned 50 years old! I remember reading a review of this place on a travel website and the top review talked about seeing an old man being whipped by a midget – it seemed the perfect place to hang out and witness the crazies in action. The entrance is even named after a famous serial killer, Fritz Honka, who killed many prostitutes in Hamburg during the 1970s. Imagine going into a ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ bar in Bradford? Bonkers! 

Not only was there the madness usually associated with Red Light Districts, but also the port town mentality of being by the sea. It’s a small brown bar, yet on two of the main tables there are stripper poles in the middle of them. I was assured by my friend that it was quite tame in comparison to his visits; yet I was just happy to take it all in, and enjoy a cold beer whilst simultaneously being warmed up by the iron radiator situated right underneath our wooden bench. The toilets also were a sight, literally a tiled wall that fit in with the rest of the room, and a small drain at the bottom that was hardly noticeable.
We then visited another famous Reeperbahn institution, the ‘Elbschloss Keller’. Another classic, brown wooden interior bar that is open 24 hours, has loud music playing at all times, and is full of Hamburg’s finest discerning drinkers. It didn’t disappoint! There were immigrants chatting up old grannies, wild youths singing along to the jukebox, alcoholics crowded into a dark corner, Dortmund fans propping up the bar, and us by the gambling machine, taking it all in. Totally recommended!

We ended the night at the ‘Hong Kong’ Hotel bar, a small place run by an older couple, which were St Pauli fans. It was a nice relaxed atmosphere to take in another Astra, a few Mexicaner (Bloody Mary) shots, in the company of some friendly young Dortmund fans and a jukebox of mid-90s Britpop. Our bodies, and drinking tolerance aren’t how they used to be: years of graft, and sleep-deprived parenthood ensured that it was time to hit the sack. It was a great night, to witness the St Pauli FC magic again, and the craziness of the Reeperbahn drinking scene.

The next day’s hangover set the scene, a long morning/afternoon of lying on the couch listening to music, mooching around the streets, and some half drunk purchases from charity shops in Altona: a Beastie Boys t-shirt and a Seattle Sounders football scarf were the best finds. I also stocked up on several pouches of cheap tobacco and visited a great ‘all-you-an-eat’ African buffet.
Then it was time for match number two, a tram ride, and a long walk through the woods to the Imtech Arena, home of HSV Hamburg. It is a huge and wonderful stadium, a testament to efficient German design. The beer was even cheaper that it was at St Pauli, and without the hassle of the Pfand. Prior to the game there was a famous musician on top of a crane, parked right in front of the Nordtribune, stirring the crowd with a rendition of a classic song. And then there was the banner drop, which is something I have always wanted to have witnessed from underneath, as it covered the whole of the middle area where we were standing.
By the time it was removed, the game was underway, and unsurprisingly Bayern Munich took an early lead through Lewandowski. There were plenty of Bayern fans dotted around in the stadium, and nobody seemed bothered – you wouldn’t get that in the top flight of English football, let alone being able to drink beer whilst watching the game. Even though they had been held 0-0 earlier in the season, the poor form of Hamburg over the past year, combined with Bayern’s recent 6-0 win in the league, was a sure fire recipe for a dominating affair. And just as in the previous night, it was 2-0 right before half time; thanks to a wonder 30-yard strike from Alaba. The crowd we were stood with were all friendly, and in good spirits, and without being directly involved in the politics of Hamburg football, it’s easy to avoid the default St Pauli position of hating HSV. However, I do have a lot of respect for a large group of HSV fans, who are taking a lead from FCUM, and in protest at the club moving the dominant ownership of the club from the fans to the shareholders, are boycotting the club, and next season will start up their own team ‘HFC Falke’ – the fan ownership revolution is going global!
Overall, it was cheap to watch, the atmosphere just as good, and the football better (albeit marginally from the home side). Bayern ran out 3-1 winners, and their fans got the party going with lots of jumping and smoke bombs. Unsurprisingly, Frank Ribbery was booed extensively by the crowd for dirty play, and in the dying a seconds a HSV fan ran onto the pitch and whipped him in the face with his scarf, classy! All in all it was great to tick off another German stadium visited, and to watch some teams that I had never seen play before.

We rounded off the night by taking in a final beer at the ‘Tankstelle’, a dodgy HSV supporter’s bar in the Reeperbahn, just for fun. Thankfully the ‘top boys’ were elsewhere, and we were able to sup a peaceful beer and watch the highlights of the other cup games that took place that night.

Once again, Hamburg never failed to impress, and it has certainly continued to set a high benchmark for future trips to watch German football.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rebellion Festival 2014, The Winter Gardens, Blackpool


Rebellion Festival 2014

Punx are often cynical, extremely cynical, or realists? Throughout the years I and many others have slagged the festival off – it’s just about bands reforming, the ticket prices are a rip off, and it’s just a holiday in the sun for washed-out ageing has-beens who just want to get wasted once a year. Was it really like that? There are way too many good bands playing, and good friends singing it’s praises for us to be too cynical – this year, accompanied by Turtle Tim, Vegetauren, and Support TBC, Ont Road Zine went along to see what all the fuss was about.

On the train to Blackpool, a young crusty looking kid swoops down the aisle, rummy eyed, picking on an unexpected pair of Canadian Punks, to bombard with his stories. The highlight was when he was slagging off the Bristol punks for kicking off at him for telling racist jokes, and then proceeding to justify why it’s ok to tell them. This was then peaked by the plans for a black block to attack a fascist band at the festival. Apolitical maybe, but I am certain that Rebellion now is quite open in it’s policy to not allow right wing or racist bands to play the festival. That aside, were we going to be subject to such moronic attitudes for the whole weekend? Or was said punk spotted in a Guardian photo blog about the festival?

First and foremost, the Winter Gardens is a legendary entertainments venue, which has been through it all over the years, so as you can imagine the organisation was perhaps the best I have ever seen at a festival. It was clean, all the stages were less than 2 minutes walk from each other, the on-site food was quality, and the bouncers kept a low presence, stepping in only when needed. They loved the punks! Beer wasn’t cheap, but no more than standard city centre prices and far less than other commercial festivals, so our Old Brewery Bitter heads mustn’t grumble. What’s more, with that many pop-up bars, we never had to queue longer than 2 minutes for a drink. Win! 
Getting old
Turtle and I started the afternoon off by checking out all the stages. The newest of which, the Casbah, is out the back in a car park, which was great because there was an area to smoke and watch bands at the same time. With the bar area kitted out in graffiti, it definitely had that European autonomous zone feel. We took an evening meal at the Weatherspoons on the sea front, which had nice curry but a poor selection of real ale for a ‘spoons, before heading to the venue for some real listening.

Aptly starting off was a local band named GOLDBLADE, who were playing on the main stage, and they had a catchy sing along number where the chorus went ‘fighting in the dancehall, fucking in the street, woah, woah’. Thankfully there was none of the former, but some of the latter, as spotted by Vegetauren on the way back from the venue. “Enough for the wank bag during your lonely wank in a Travelodge?, asks Kunt & The Gang. Goldblade played again on Saturday on the acoustic stage, and were later seen leading the crowd around the walkways of the venue, singing the same songs chorus. We quickly realised that the sound in the main room was rubbish, unless you went right to the front and stood in the middle, so we made it policy to go there as often as we could.

BILLY LIAR graced the stage of the acoustic stage, and blasted through a great set of songs, mostly (yet not exclusively) about failed encounters with the opposite sex. He must have been busy because later in the weekend we met someone who had previously had an occasion with him, yet she wouldn’t go into any detail when we asked if he’d written a song about her.  We then caught half a set of songs from Leeds’ own CYANIDE PILLS on the Arena stage, which had a decent turn out to watch them. The stage was nicely peppered with leftovers from a shooting range. I think some of the band are record nerds, and they only play a few gigs a year, but if you get the chance, then make sure you go see them, because they are a great band.
Billy Liar
And then there was the straw that broke the camels back, a Macc Lads tribute band, called the MANC LADS – now I am aware (and a fan) of some of their output (I make no secret on my discogs collection), yet they had a few songs which are sexist, homophobic, and racist, which are a definite no no beyond the bedroom – in 2014 why is the band playing a derogatory song about ‘puffs’? It was when they made a remark and played that song when they lost my respect. It’s fair enough playing some of the ‘before the borderline’ classics for nostalgic purposes, but being outright homophobic on stage was a step too far. They even had a guest female vocalist for two ‘questionable’ songs, which although was an attempt to give them an air of legitimacy, didn’t make the content any more digestible. Although there were some in the crowd that left in disgust, there was way more that arrived with grins on their faces. However, I still feel that these people are in the minority, and that punk has come a long way since the 1980s.  

Next up were MORNING GLORY, featuring ex members of Leftover Crack, and are on Fat Wreck Chords. The record I heard isn’t good, and on stage weren’t much better, yet they were a good back drop for getting more drunk, in preparation for THE DICKIES (funnily enough, also on Fat Wreck Chords), who as it happens, despite being a great band, felt a little out of their depth as a main stage headliner, which perhaps should have been the SELECTER who played to a packed hall prior to their set. Either way, it was a great way to have a first night warm up to a festival.

We cut short The Dickies set, to finish off in the Pavilion with TRAGEDY (no not the amazing D-Beat mental crust band from Portland), who are a Heavy Metal covers band of the Bee Gees, Abba, and beyond. They were highly entertaining and good for a sing-along, and they kept the crowd amused with short skits involving their roadie called ‘Gimp’ dressed as a sailor.
Tragedy
Thousands of punks woke up in their B&B with a hangover – ours was three streets away, so almost every one on our streets was occupied by punks – the nearest we’ll get to living in a UK version of Mattersville. To avoid the relentless onslaught, Turtle and I took an 8-mile tram ride up the coast to spend the day visiting the adjoining town of Fleetwood. A quick search of ‘Real Ale Fleetwood’ on the Internet, took us to The Strawberry Gardens, which had about 20 ales on tap, a rare treat. When we sat down to get some food, our waiter was no other than Sid Little of ‘Little & Large’ fame. He & his wife run the restaurant part, and it was amusing listening to him muse on the daily struggles of Fleetwood life, with his regular customers. The net curtain trade has certainly gone down hill. After we left a tip, he spotted Turtle’s Asian Man Records t-shirt and preceded to tell us how a Little & Large 7” was recently given to him as a present. He knew how to please his audience with the right tales. We followed this up with a visit to Fleetwood Town FC’s stadium (6 promotions in 10 years!), had a peek in, and had a hold of the League 2 Playoff Final Trophy, which was just sitting on the counter of the club shop. That was a nice little treat to round off our wonderful short visit.

Back to the action, and we met up with Vegetauren, the latest addition to our clan. The first band of our day was THE FILAMENTS, who are a standout band from a sea of mediocre pop-punk bands released by Houeholdname Records & Moonska Europe during the late 90s / early 2000s. Their fast paced & energetic ska-punk was a great way to ease into the day. We then tried to catch the last few songs of SPLODGENESSABOUNDS, but only caught the back end of the last song. We had a policy that weekend where you had to see at least three songs of a band to say you have seen them, so they didn’t make the cut. With so many good bands playing the festival, it is almost inevitable to face clashes with other bands, which in so many ways is a good thing because you can maximise viewing potential by catching different halves of two bands sets. It’s a great festival for ticking the boxes.

The first surprise of the day came from GIUDA, who are a glam band from Italy. They weren’t on the original list, but we were persuaded to go see them by Mez, and it was sound advice indeed. Their singer was one sexy motherfucker, and he was always dancing and being animated during the songs. They were definitely one of the highlights of the weekend.

One of the joys of the festival is nipping outside, buying a cheap drink from the supermarket, and people watching all the different styles of punks, hanging & sprawling around, outside the front on the venue. Yet, starting drinking after lunchtime always brings the dilemma of having to take a strategic break to eat tea. On this occasion we went to the nearby West Coast Rock Café, which I wouldn’t recommend as it was overpriced for the standard of the food. Also, the food arrived 10 minutes before DICKIE HAMMOND was due on stage, so we had to ‘wolf it down for tea tonight’.

The first thing we noticed when walking into the bar area where the ‘Almost Acoustic’ stage is located is that Dickie was running late. This gave us ample opportunity to take a piss, get a round of Newcy Brown in, and take a seat on the floor down at the front, like proper fan boys. It was clear that Dickie had quite a bit to drink already as he was slurring his words when speaking to the crowd, and regularly dropping his lyrics sheets onto the floor, which his friends had to come on stage and pick up for him.
Dickie Hammond
He was playing electric guitar tonight, and it was difficult to hear the words due to the sound coming from the amp. By the time the second song was near to the end, people were starting to look around the room at each other, as if to say, what the hell is this, and already a few people had vacated their seats and moved on. Dickie then teased the crowd that he would play ‘Springtime’ by Leatherface, but only if someone would go up on stage and sing it, as ‘there are too many words to remember’. Nobody did, and that opportunity for a great crowd sing-along was missed. There are only a few people I could think of who could get away with emulating Stubbs, and one of them was on the stage. The other would appear later.

For his third song, he played what seemed to be a Johnny Cash cover, and like his other songs, he was a little out of time, slurring and forgetful with some of the words. Following this, he exclaimed how he was going to play Cash’s Hurt, yet decided against it, as he couldn’t find the lyrics. It was at the moment that Dickie seemed to have a creative block, and was just silently strumming for a while. And then, out of nowhere, as you would do practicing in your own bedroom, he starts to play a huge AC/DC riff, and after 30 seconds seems to realise what he is doing and then just stops. It was becoming a car crash.

That was until out of nowhere, appearing from the back of the crowd, like Moses parting the sea, is Golly, the singer from HDQ. He rescues Dickie from the situation by joining him on stage to sing four HDQ songs, which pleases the hardcore crowd to no end. They play Lost in Translation, Room with a View, Hand Me Downs, and Never Ending Winter (which we find out after the show is not a commentary on the social realities of living in the North East, but is in fact about Hammonds House!). Even though Dickie was sometimes out of time, and missing certain parts of songs, Golly rarely was ‘opening my mouth, and the wrong words always come out’, they did a fantastic job considering how drunk they were, particularly Golly who wasn’t expecting this to happen. Nobody lost a friend that night. This was a real treat, and a best-case scenario for the fans, even prior to the start of the show.
'HDQ' acoustic
After the set, Golly told us that if Dickie had have asked him prior to the festival, then he would have accepted and sat down to practice and hammer out some HDQ & Leatherface numbers. For whatever reason, Dickie wanted to go it alone for the first time, and I think this occasion has taught him the harsh realties of going solo. I guess from now he must consider the following three reasons: 1) whether to step up to the challenge and start off by playing more intimate gigs, 2) do it again but next time with an accompanying artist, or 3) scrap the idea completely. Options 1 and 2 are the only ones worth considering. Take this one on the chin son, keep belting out the classics, dig in deep and we’ll see you on the other side.

* Two days since this written, I was sad to find out that Dickie is not well and is in hospital. My thoughts go out to his family and friends, and I wish him all the best for the next phase of his life. Hang in there big man!

Following the set, I tried to go and see CULTURE SHOCK, but the room was too busy, so I went back to the acoustic stage to chat more with the Mackems, and occasionally listen in to socialist punk-poet ATILLA THE STOCKBROKER singing songs in solidarity with Miners & hating fascists. He is an inspirational activist, and someone to look up to. We then took some time to gather our thoughts and drink some prepared Rum & Coke back at the B&B.

I made it back to catch the start of SLAUGHTER & THE DOGS, one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing, as their ‘Do it dog style’ is a great record. I was too out of it, so I had to take a 20-minute strategic fresh air, and pint of stout relaxation moment, before heading back in to catch the rest of the set. The layout of the Empress Ballroom had changed this year, and a temporary stage had been set up at one side, meaning the bands were playing to a long, rather than wide, hall. What’s better is that now they have opened up the balconies, so I was able to enjoy the encore from the comfort of a chair. With such a relentless amount of bands, a strategic sit down is always welcome by the feet.

GEOFFREY OI!COTT or STIFF LITTLE FINGERS was a huge dilemma for the Yorkshire Punks in attendance.  We stuck to our roots and joined a respectable contingent of the Pyjama Army to have a good dance along at the front to this cricket themed Oi! band. It’s always great to see a band when you know most of the lyrics, so a good sing song was had. We even got a few streakers during one song, and the regional sample was obvious with the copious amounts of Yorkshire songs in-between songs. It was nice to see a local band that many years ago you were watching with twenty people down your local pub, to now headlining a stage to a few hundred people at one of the worlds most premier punk festivals. Jase Kilvo, we salute you!
Geoffrey Oi!cott
Vegetauren was crafty by checking previous shows on setlist.fm beforehand, and worked out that he could still watch Oi!cott and then make it to SLF to see all the classic songs at the end of the set. Plus one to the geek punks! Turtle and I went to the Pavilion to watch New York’s ska-punk band THE TOASTERS. This was a great way to round off the night, as we skanked just as hard as we did at the Lubby Nugget shows when were 16 years old. We were on such form, that there were grown women stood around gawping at us. The crowd was on fire and the band commented “we usually get booked to play all these hippy festivals, but we love coming to Rebellion because the punks go wild for our songs”. Says it all really.

After the nights entertainment we stopped by the hotel bar for a night cap, yet it was closed, so somehow we managed to talk round a proprietor over the road, who kindly let us into his hotel to have a coupe of pints. Turns out it is a hotel where many of the back stage crew stay, so we got to meet some interesting people during our visit, including the legendary Rat, who was earlier seen on stage in full cricket whites during Geoffrey Oi!cott’s set.

By Saturday the four was complete with the arrival of Support TBC, and the hangovers weren’t getting any easier. We started out foray into the outside world with a fish & chips lunch, and then took a leisurely stroll down the promenade towards the Pleasure Beach (no not the kind of beach you see on Kavos uncovered). That is the beauty of having a festival in Blackpool, the instant access to loads of entertainment, and it wouldn’t be complete without a game on the Arabian Horse Racing, the one where you have to roll balls down a hole to get your house to move through the race.

The Holy Grail though was ‘Adventure Golf’, an expertly designed mini-golf course, approved by the British Mini Golf Association, which twice hosted the Blackpool Open Invitational. The gradients on some of the greens were tough, which led to too many Mulligans being recorded on the scorecard. A division of talent emerged midway through the game, and Turtle Tim won the difficult course by four shots, with an extremely impressive total of one over par. If stomach hurting, non-offensive, and non-infringing banter existed, then the topic of Mini-golf would prove to be the focus of this for the rest of the weekend.
Another round of mini-golf
We didn’t’ get out arses in gear, so we expectedly missed a couple of bands that were playing early on, which is difficult to avoid at a festival of such magnitude. We started the day off with watching LOST CHEREES, whose female fronted punk-rock sounds eased us into the day. This was then followed by a comfortable sat down audience with KELLY KEMP (who was in No Comply) in the almost acoustic room. The sitting down (well lying on the floor) then continued with another surprise highlight of the festival.

I had seen JELLO BIAFRA spoken word in Manchester twelve years ago, speaking extensively about US foreign policy & all the fallout from the Dead Kennedys disbanding. This time round he gave us a wealth of material, with topics ranging from a future under corporate control, Middle Eastern band names, the Occupy movement, Fracking, and my favourite of all a long dismantling critique of US gun policy. Jello is an important thinker & artist in our movement, and his set proved that he is even sharper and quick witted than ever.

* During Jello’s talk on gun control there was a part where he was talking about the solution being to stop producing bullets. At one point he said “Guns don’t kill people” and left a short pause, to which I shouted “Rappers do!” This made many folks laugh, and I have decided to go out on a high, and officially retire from heckling, following this beauty.
Jello Biafra

And who could follow that? Fucking HARD SKIN that’s who. The Rebellion regulars caused a lot of controversy (sic) the year before by burning a Union Jack on stage, yet singer Fat Bob continued to be unrelenting in his hatred for the nationalist movement. The words “Fuck off you fascist wanker, the day he [Ian Stuart] died was one of the happiest days of my life” remain stuck in my thoughts. As usual, the ‘banter’ with the crowd was great, and the band treated the crowd to a set of all the hit songs from their array of releases. Another great set, from a classic contemporary punk/oi! band.

We then took a strategic food break, and sat down in the on-site restaurant. This place was plush, and for £6.50p a meal, was extremely good value and excellent quality. I got the feeling that they had marked down their prices in order to capture a market. It worked, because it was full every time we went in, and for the quality and convenience, wish we’d had eaten there from the start of the festival.

Afterwards we bought a bottle of Rum from the supermarket and went back to the hotel to take part in an accelerated drinking programme (it’s always tough that first hour following a mid-drinking session meal). Before we went back to watching bands, we had one of a number of regular smoke breaks at the Casbah stage, as one of a number of ‘Vauxhall Conference’ 77 ‘punk by numbers’ bands was playing in the background. Throughout the weekend, the mohawks were always different, yet the rhetoric was often the same.

If you could sum up the SUBHUMANS in one word, it would have to be consistency. Every time I see them they sound exactly the same, note for note, and watching them again, felt like I was there, in that Live in a Dive record. They played all the classic sing-along number, and you are always guaranteed a great set from the band, and a good rant from singer Dick Lucas. After their set, we all lost each other, and I remember walking around on my own just digging the buzz of the place, taking it all in, and catching one or two songs of each band that were playing at all the different stages. I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it again, this isn’t the place run by businessmen.  

I had every intention of seeing more bands on this day (ATV, STEVE IGNORANT, SPIZZ ENERGI, and KILLING JOKE) but to be honest I was just enjoying the buzz and the energy, so all that became a backdrop to having a good time with mates old and new. I may have caught the odd song here and there, and that was enough, I was just so fucking happy to be surrounded by so many like-minded people (with the exception of the odd fascist that was spotted). We ended the night watching ska band JAYA THE CAT, who were good for a 20-minute skank, yet didn’t have the bite or frenetic energy that The Toasters had the previous night, to keep us there for the whole set.

Buckfast in Co-op? Only at Rebellion
One flashback I do have from the day (or was it Sunday?), is whilst walking back from the supermarket, seeing a trickle of punks marching past us, led by two people holding an ‘anti-fascist action’ flag. It is no secret that every year, the fascist punks organise a gig in or near Blackpool during the same weekend as the festival. This year, it was more controversial because it was the closest to the festival it had ever been staged. Were these punks heading to that gig? Or were they confronting someone whom had been in and around the festival site (as a Youtube video is suggesting)? There doesn’t seem to be anything glaring online, and I don’t have time to be doing research into this minor fringe skirmish. Perhaps the prophecy of the drunken train punk I overheard on the way to the festival came true?

In all seriousness though, it did get me thinking. Now whilst there are many occasions where a fash deserves a good whipping, and I respect a lot of work that Ant-Fascist Action carries out, it’s not always the best policy when dealing with these people. Perhaps by having the right wing fascists in and around the area during the festival, in an environment where they are outnumbered 100 to 1, where there is alternative way of thinking abound in a subculture they are familiar with, it may actually work in our favour. Perhaps I am being uber-naïve, yet maybe just somewhere there are people that have been blindly following along, and thus, seeing what the dominant thought process is within the punk scene and socialising with those in it, may decide to switch their allegiance, and thus we have won part of our struggle with ideological bullets rather than close-minded fists? Surely a scrap often just leads to a further polarisation and justification of opinions? Or does it make uncertain people reconsider their position? There were those, such as ATILLA THE STOCKBROKER who wrote on his social networking site, about using this discussion tactic at a pub nearby the festival, to mixed success. The question of how to deal with the problem of the fascists is always going to be a tricky one, yet at times the answer should not always be so black and white.

We rounded off the night back at the hotel bar, which thankfully the owner opened up for us that night, and thankfully allowed entry to the various roustabouts we had gathered from the festival. We sang many an acapella punk-song to round the night off joyfully.

Networking
The Sunday of the festival was always the main selling point for us, and the announcement that NOFX were headlining was the reason we all bought tickets. Little did we know at the time, the day started filling up with lots of great bands, and more bands playing the mid-90s Epi-Fat style that we as a collective have grown to love (and imitate) over the years. In fact there were many good smaller labels around at that time, with the exception of Golf Records, who were the go to label for all the shit bands of that period. Their compilations ‘Another round of Golf’ was more apt for us in the fact that the first thing we did that day was go straight to another mini golf course, to finish off our new found rivalries. This time I managed to pull out the win, hitting a hole in one on the last hole. The first round was on me then.

We started the day off at the Poetry stage, with Vegetauren and I watching Mancunian poet JOSHUA WILLIAMS. After the first poem we were doing our best not to burst out into laughter in this serious environment. We were sat right at the front and were becoming conscious that he would see us bursting. It was getting painful to hold back the smirking, especially when he started conveying himself as some sort of pained, worldly figure, which didn’t seem convincing coming from a young, feeble, and softly-spoken character. I had to run away from the stage, and goad Vegetauren away, who was being far too polite. We got round the corner and laughed so hard.    

Then BEZ, former member of the Happy Mondays arrived, and treated us to a 20 minute tirade against fracking, the Germanic influence in our Royal Family, and a brief outline of the new political party he has formed, the Reality Party. It turns out he has been homeless and penniless for the past few years, and has been living off the land on a caravan site with some other hippies. In this time, he has become politicised, extremely concerned with environmental & ecological issues, and has taken a road of doing community and political work. The guy has a good heart, and while some of his claims were scant on detail, his general philosophical and moral outlook on today’s world is something to be commended – he is a true conscious warrior, fighting for an alternative and better world. Look out for Reality Party candidates at your next local election.
Bez

The first band we saw was THE IMPLANTS, who are on Cyber Tracks, El Hefe from NOFX’s label; perhaps that was part of the deal? They feature members of Ten Foot Pole, Strung Out, and Pulley; so you can probably imagine what they sound like – it’s great that these people are still producing that kind of sound, even though it is nowhere near as popular as it was at the time. They were really tight, seemed really happy to be at Rebellion, and were that good we actually watched their whole set. This was another great surprise of the festival.

It was at this point that I had listed on a schedule of bands that I wanted to see, the Oi!/Punk band from Belfast, RUNNIN RIOT. I decided to miss them in order to take a short music break prior to the upcoming onslaught of bands. This is probably my biggest regret of the weekend, because a week later, lead singer Colin died peacefully in his sleep, mid way through the bands tour with the OLD FIRM CASUALS.  This is a tragic loss for the Irish & worldwide punk community. Check out their song, Alcoholic Heroes, to see how great they are.

We caught a few songs of legendary Canadian band SNFU. There was another legendary Canadian band playing later on, and another legendary Canadian bands, Propagandhi, need to be booked at this festival in the future. I digress, unfortunately for SNFU, they clashed at the same time as festival favourite, KUNT & THE GANG. One man and his jingles; imagine Super Hands from Peepshow, mixed with a dodgy, offensive, Essex bloke, prancing around on stage singing cabaret style songs, that cover topics such as sucking off a builder, gentleman’s washes, lonely masturbation, Jimmy Saville, and the absurdity of UKIP. The Spanish Hall was packed for his set, and there was plenty of laughter throughout. A perfect act for a Sunday evening, when after three nights on the sauce, craic might be running low.

Next up in the acoustic room, was CHAS PALMER-WILLIAMS, the singer of the now defunct, Lightyear. He had some amusing lyrics, and quickly gained a strong rapport with the crowd, whom he was able to utilise and move around the room as part of his set. Highlights included, a conga, a staged photograph, and a fake band to play along to the Lightyear classic ‘Pack of Dogs’ at the end of a good set. The hub was then flipped as we caught half the set of CHAOS UK, and I was able to mosh down the front to get my classic, early 80s punk fix. 
Chas Palmer-Williams
DOA in Leeds was voted as gig of the year in the 2013 end of year list, and once again, at their last ever UK gig, they showed just how phenomenal they are. From start to finish they were relentless, thrashing through classic after classic. On the first song, Joey Shithead, was already playing a solo with his guitar behind his head. Both guitarists had wireless instruments, so they were thrashing around the stage all the time, which added a nice visual treat to their performance. In 35 years since inception, they have produced an impressive stack of releases, and now Joey Shithead will trade in the axe for a career in local politics. It was a treat to be able to see them one last time, or ‘until the reunion tour’ as Fat Mike jokingly exclaimed.   

In the run up till the end, we watched some songs of LEFTOVER CRACK, to get in the mood for the main event. Whilst they have admirable and uncompromising politics, musically I have never been able and never will be able to understand why they are so popular. At least with them crossing over into NOFX’s set, we were able to ensure that we would get a good spot down the front, and lead the crowd in singing a Sublime song to get in the mood.  

And what a fitting end for us pop-punkers, one of the best around, following in the footsteps of Rancid & Bad Religion in headlining Rebellion Festival. It was clear from the outset that they were humbled, honoured, and respectful of the fact that they had been asked to play. As you may know with NOFX, part of the appeal of their set is the way they make fun of the audience. The highlight this time was when they were slagging off someone who had brought their young children to the show, and had them sat on their shoulders. It started off quite mild, with Mike having a go at them for blocking the view of others, then started calling them irresponsible for taking them to a NOFX show, and El Hefe took it to the extreme by asking the kids if they knew what various sexual phrases meant, before explaining in detail what they were.

The set itself was ideal for a festival, with a mix of old classics, and a few newer ones. The only satiating moments for us NOFX geeks who have seen them so many times, was their cover of Tony Sly’s ‘Shortest Pier’, and 30 seconds of the ‘Longest Line’. The rest of the songs were what you’d expect to hear at most recent NOFX shows, which is always great, but also a little disappointing that they finished 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Vegetauren will have to wait another day until he gets to hear The Decline in full. All in all, it was a fantastic way to end a fantastic four days, and as we’ve got a few years older, we’ve moved a few yards further towards the back, now about 6 foot behind the back of the pit, so we can still jump in for the songs we like.

There were loads of daytime ad after-gigs taking place throughout the weekend at the nearby alternative club ‘The Tache”. We valiantly tried to round off the weekend, there but we soon realised we were too exhausted from four days of partying, so we turned our backs at the door, and unwound with some fast food, and a game of Blackjack at the casino.

We left Blackpool buzzing, and this Rebellion Festival weekend is up there in the top all-time festivals visited for all four of us (there is already talk of getting the tickets for next years festival already). With so many good bands and people, in such a well-organised and compact venue, with no fucking camping, it is safe to say that Rebellion Festival will remain on the Ont Road radar for many years to come.  Up the Punks!

Words © Schwarzbrennen

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Morrissey - Autobiography (Book review)


Morrissey – Autobiography (A book review)



Songwriters are the poets of the modern working classes. Nothing resonates more with the soul than the moment when the thoughtful clarity of a finely crafted lyric elates such strong feelings. Morrissey has a full arsenal of those words, and it is within the confines of the written word ‘autobiography’ that he manages to develop and elaborate on the existentialist musings that have often permeated his musical life.

These rare moments when we are given pure unadulterated access into the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of an individual so far removed and so much attached to our own lives, are often for most fans, the only opportunity we’ll ever get for a real insight into the ‘das leben das anderen’, the lives of the others.  There are many things to learn, and many things to clear up from this enlightenment of one of the most well-known musical artists of the last three decades.

The most important thing that needs to be cleared up is that there will never be a Smiths reunion. THE SMITHS ARE DEAD. Forever. The haters will no doubt rejoice, and the young hipsters in their t-shirts will no doubt yearn forevermore, yet those that have read Morrissey’s account of former Smiths drummer Mike Joyce suing for royalties will no doubt understand and respect that such a reformation could not in any way take place. If they do, there will be no integrity left within the music industry. If we take Morrissey’s words at face value, then Joyce is a cunt. He wasn’t the only one in that saga though…

The vitriolic, hateful and rightfully scornful portrayal of Judge Weeks who presided over the case is a particular highlight of the book. Morrissey does not hold back in his condemnation of him and the biased, antiquated and absurd nature of the British legal system. A disdain for the British establishment and its class system has never been far off the Morrissey radar, and here he turns up the volume of jeer to unprecedented levels.

This level of hatred penetrates perfectly through the lyrics in the song ‘Irish Blood. English Heart’, with I've been dreaming of a time when…The English are sick to death of Labor… and Tories… and spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell… and denounce this royal line that still salute him.” This book reminded me how powerful this poetic punk piece is, and every time I hear it, sing it, the hairs on my back stand up. It comes as no surprise that he has abandoned the country in favour of Los Angeles.

The other cunts in the story are the NME. You already know that, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. A familiar story of slander and defamation awaits those that aren’t scared of reading all 450 pages. It’s remarkable to think how successful he has been despite the unfounded accusations and the amount he has been shunned by radio and TV promotion.

Generally, what you will find when reading this, is enjoyment in the eloquence of his execution – ordinary tales of the grind of day to day life are brought to life by his poetic words and astute analysis of a world filled with equal amounts of misery and madness.

It’s hard not to be taken in by the charm of Morrissey, the wordsmith has is way of wooing the reader into the central tensions of his life. He goes into great depth about the recent world of Morrissey and the privations of his life as a young Steven, without looking for pity or eluding a sense of privilege. Loners of the world will certainly unite and feel comfort with his feelings of inadequacies towards the mainstream culture and his detachment from others – it’s genuinely heart-warming stuff, and makes me feel better for preferring to be in solitary existence from time to time.

Whether its grim tales of school and family life in 1960’s Manchester, The Smiths period on Rough Trade Records, or the dizzy heights of Morrissey’s solo career; this book covers it all, and no doubt there is something in here for everyone, whether you are a casual or hardcore fan. Without doubt, one of the best music autobiographies I have ever read. 

©Schwarzbrennen