Monday, December 26, 2011

Show Time!

OFF! - CHAINSAW HOOKERS - PROJECT MAYHEM - Amplifier Bar, Perth, Australia - 3rd December 2011

I'd never been to Amplifier Bar before, but heard plenty of shitty things about it from other people. It seemed like a completely average venue-cum-club to me. Apparently it turns into a townie disco at the stroke of midnight, curtailing any gigs that inexplicably want to run on later than that. Personally, if the bands around here actually shared backlines (like a community) then changeovers would be 5-10 minutes instead of 25 minutes, and a four-band show could be done in under three hours instead of dragging on all bloody night. But I digress.. The stage was a sensible height, with no barrier (something a lot of these places seem to love sticking up) and kinda diagonal in a corner. Overall, the setting seemed good for a band like OFF! to get people moving.
OFF! came on shortly after we got there - having intentionally sat out the first two (rubbish, local) bands in the pub around the corner - but considering the pedigree of the main band, the venue seemed barely half-full - we were able to stand front and center without any problems. Keith Morris fitted the cliché of "seeming shorter in person", and compared to the majority of spare-tired early-Eighties hardcore dudes I've seen still playing in recent years, he looked in pretty great shape for a geezer of fifty-five.
From the live sound on two of their three "videos", and the 'Live At Generation Records' 7" I knew they'd be good, but as soon as they crashed into 'Black Thoughts' everyone went nuts. I can't remember the last time I saw/dodged quite so many stage-divers. The band barely stopped, aside from a brief explanation behind the eulogising song 'Jeffery Lee Peirce', (who was the singer of THE GUN CLUB, and one of Keith's closest friends), The set was something like 16 songs long, which simultaneously seemed to last forever while it was happening, and then seemed to end horribly quickly. The band were tight and energetic, and despite the vocals being a bit low, sounded altogether incredible. After the last notes rang out, the sweaty masses began demanding "ONE MORE SONG! ONE MORE SONG!" (I wanted at least a dozen!), before the band re-appeared. Keith explained that when BLACK FLAG were starting out and they didn't have enough songs for a full-set, they'd do what they were about to do tonight, and start over. So then we got the first two songs over again ('Black Thoughts' and 'Darkness'), I was half hoping they would do the entire lot - but even that pair made the room go mad. All in all, it was an awesome show and clearly they're a band doing it for the love of it, not to make a quick buck. (Their shirts and merch were cheaper than the local bands'.)
Alex Leech (Jerk Store zine)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Obituary - Kevin Mahoney

On Friday 14th October, Kevin J Mahoney, former vocalist in American Hardcore band SIEGE, passed away. The cause of death is not clear, but his obituary states it was sudden while other sources suggests he passed away in his sleep.
Mahoney was born on 6th September 1965 and came to Punk Rock prominence in 1983 when - as vocalist and saxophonist - he joined Kurt Habelt, Henry McNamee and Rob Williams to complete the line-up of Weymouth, Massachusetts band, SIEGE. Although Mahoney was from Braintree, MA (closer to Boston and home to both JERRY'S KIDS and GANG GREEN), SIEGE was never truly accepted by Boston's XClaim scene.
In 1984, the band recorded it's hyper-speed, brutal Hardcore sound at Radiobeat Studios with Lou Giordano. The six track demo, 'Drop Dead', won SIEGE the support of Pushead who, in 1985, put three of the band's songs on his compilation, 'Cleanse The Bacteria'. These three tracks were the only 'official' release the band released, although a number of compilations have since come to the surface.
The same year, the band was set to play its first New York City show at the legendary CBGBS, supporting THE NECROS. Mahoney failed to show up and the band split-up soon after. They did reform briefly in the early 1990s, but this was without Mahoney's inclusion.
At the time of his passing, Kevin was working in the IT department at Children’s Hospital Boston, where he had served in many capacities in his several years there. Prior to Children’s, Kevin worked for many years - beginning in 1992 - in the IT department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.
Donations in memory of Kevin may be made to Juvenile Diabetes Reseach Foundation 60 Walnut Street #102, Wellesley,Ma 02581. To leave online condolences please go to the McDonald Funeral Home web site at www.McDonald-FuneralHomes.com

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Show Time!

STEVE IGNORANT PRESENTS: THE LAST SUPPER (CRASS SONGS 1977 - 1984) - THE BROOD, Kings Arms, Auckland, New Zealand - 19th June 2011
As much as I love life here in New Zealand, I recall that back in 2007 I was rather pissed off to be here instead in my country of birth, England. Y’see, I was just too young to see CRASS. They split when I was 15 and, if I am honest, back then they didn’t register too much on my musical horizon. I was in my mid-late teens when I bought ‘Feeding Of The 5000’ and I really failed to appreciate the music and the message at that stage. I kept returning to the record though, and over the years my love of CRASS, and the message the band conveyed, increased.
Thirty years on from that aforementioned (and now infamous) CRASS record came the news that inspired and ignited my discontent: Steve Ignorant was staging two shows to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the release of ‘Feeding...’ during which the record would be played in full “Yep,” I thought, “life in NZ can really suck.”
Spring forward a few years and more UK dates are announced. Neat. Then a US tour. Lucky Yanks. Then, low and behold, some Australian and New Zealand dates! Yep, thanks to the mercurial talents of Tim Edwards at Punk Rock Road Trips, STEVE IGNORANT was bringing the CRASS SONGS show to New Zealand. And yes, I was going.
Of course this was not CRASS, and those who believe they have ‘seen CRASS’ on the strength of these shows are woefully misguided, but it’s probably as close as I am ever likely to get. There has been the cries of ‘sellout’ of course, which I really could not give a fuck about. Those doing such finger pointing really need to get a grip on reality; there is no corporate promoter involved here, there is no ridiculous rider provided, tickets are priced much more reasonably than some of the more ‘right-on’ bands that come to NZ (the soon-due RISE AGAINST and SICK OF IT ALL shows at the same venue are over double what Ignorant was charging) and the band is not a bunch of jaded session musicians doing the tour for a salary.
My greater worry was the fact that Ignorant himself could be just a tired old man, reliving past glories in the most embarrassing of ways. That theory was partly dispelled on my arrival as there was Steve Ignorant in the bar, happily chatting to anyone and everyone who wanted to say, “Hello” and get their photo taken with him. I found him a very warm, personable and witty man - why should he be anything else? If CRASS stood for just one thing, it was sincerity. There was certainly no sense of egotism about him, which is further evidence against the hipster-elite claims of ‘selling out’.
I had to pity THE BROOD somewhat. The Kings Arms is not a massive venue. There is a stage of approx 3-4ft high, a bar, minimal seating and a capacity of, I’m guessing, 500. Essentially, the band can clearly see its audience - and any ambivalence it may display. The band started well, with tense bass-heavy riffs that brought to mind GANG OF FOUR meets FUGAZI-lite. Ultimately the inoffensive nature of the sound lead to distraction for those waiting for one of Punk’s most significant sons. Distraction could be read as evacuation as there seemed to be more amassed in the beer garden than the actual venue.
A familiar descending bass line followed by the even more familiar words, “Yes that’s right, Punk is Dead. It’s just another cheap product for the consumer’s head” signalled the arrival of Steve Ignorant and the exodus from the beer garden. Any thoughts that Ignorant was just a ‘tired old man’ were instantly dispelled. His vocal was still passionate and angry and he certainly wasn’t simply going through the motions. He spent the performance acting out song lyrics, contorting his body and delivering a full-on vocal. It was also clear that some of the most infamous CRASS songs were gonna be dealt with early when ‘Do They Owe Us A Living’ followed.
The band, consisting of Gizz Butt on guitar, Pete Wilson on bass, Spike T Smith on drums and Carol Hodge taking over the female vocals, played the songs faithfully but added a new dimension to them, especially from Spike’s bombastic drumming and the dazzling talents of Gizz on guitar.
As per CRASS days, images flashed on the screen at the back of the stage, most dramatically during ‘They’ve Got A Bomb’ which also signalled the first spine-tingling moment. Up to that point, there did seem to be something missing, a certain intensity maybe, but this song, particularly in nuclear-free New Zealand, certainly revived all the impending fears of imminent nuclear destruction that most UK citizens had in the Cold War days of the 80s.
From here, it was literally the best of CRASS: ‘Mother Earth’ was electrifying with Gizz taking on the opening news-reel vocal; ‘Bata Motel’ saw Carol take the spot light for the first time and do a stellar job; ‘What Next Columbus’ was attacked with a pace and intensity that was literally breath-taking and ‘Rival Tribal Revel Rebel’ and ‘I Ain’t Thick, It’s Just A Trick’ provided the evening’s pogo opportunities.
It was the encores though that really left me numb with a finale of ‘Shaved Women’ and the best track CRASS wrote in ‘Bloody Revolutions’. The former was a screaming, mechanical diatribe of frightening proportions while the sentiments and performance of the latter could feasibly be up there with the best live performances I have ever seen. Both tracks left me wondering what the effect would’ve been of seeing CRASS do them back in the 80s; I can only but wonder but these versions left me disorientated and in awe.
For the Auckland crowd, that sense of awe was apparent throughout. I understand why those in the UK who did see CRASS in their hey-day look upon these shows as Crass-on-45, but for those who never saw CRASS this proved to be no let down - just the opposite in fact. The songs played this evening have, for many, gone on to form the listener's identity, awaken them to the evils inherent in the system and those who support it unquestioningly. To have the vocalist on those songs resuscitate them in such a formidable way on a live platform and to do it all with dignity, commitment and in a spirit which certainly does not tarnish the CRASS name, really does make more of a mockery of those who view this as Crass Karaoke than it does of Steve Ignorant himself. An excellent night and one which fulfilled the hopes of many who attended. Still an inspirational figure.
More pics at www.facebook.com/steve.scanner

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Obituary - Poly Styrene

“Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard; But I think Oh Bondage Up Yours!”
Those were the first detonating words I ever heard from one Marianne Joan Elliott-Said, who is better known to all as Poly Styrene, vocalist in the band X-RAY SPEX. I was mid-teens and the song that followed, ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours’, sounded screeching and a tad annoying. But, the energy of the song captivated, inciting me to play it again... and again. The b-side, ‘I Am A Clich√©’, had an equally abrasive almost unorthodox vocal and just as much jarring energy, but it was ‘Oh Bondage...’ that lured me into the day-glo world of X-RAY SPEX. Soon after I managed to hear another track, ‘Identity’. I was hooked.
Incredibly, that was 27 years ago and the memory is still extraordinarily vivid, as is the sleeve of that ‘Oh Bondage...’ 7” with Poly’s eyes staring out and that jagged, orange logo embedded over the black and white image.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that day when her raw but emotive vocal made my tender, 14-yr-old ears prick up. I started reading rumours just yesterday of the passing of Poly Styrene; there seemed little in the way of confirmation but today her passing, on 25 April 2011 due to advanced breast cancer, was confirmed.
Marianne Elliott-Said was born on 3 July 1957 in Bromley, Kent. She was the daughter of a dispossessed Somali aristocrat but raised by her mother who was a legal secretary. After a flirtation with the hippie culture, she cut her first record in 1976. Under the name of Mari Elliot, the single was a Reggae song titled ‘Silly Billy’. It was after seeing the SEX PISTOLS that she placed an ad requesting ‘young punx’ to form a band. It was also at this stage she re-christened herself as Poly Styrene.
The resulting band was, of course X-RAY SPEX. The band’s history is well documented elsewhere but clearly, they became one of the most instantly recognisable bands from that original wave of Punk. They played twice during the first 100 days of the infamous Roxy club with the band appearing on the ‘Live At The Roxy WC2’ album. The sound, as stated was a strident, energetic and slightly discordant rush, with Laura Logic’s saxophone and Poly's natural, untutored howl setting the sound apart from any other band on the fledgling Punk scene. And visually, Poly herself instantly stood out from the crowd with her mixed-race ethnicity, prominent thick braces (on her teeth that is!) and day-glo wardrobe. She also rebelled against the stereotypical notion of the female pin-up and championed the roll of female equality stating, “There's nothing wrong with beauty, but whether it's actually helping the female cause of being equal to men, you have to judge for yourself."
November 1978 saw the release of the classic ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ album – an album which has stood the test of time as well as any of the classic albums (and much better in many cases) of the era.
In 1979 Styrene left the band. A Jazz-influenced album, ‘Translucence’, followed the next year. In 1983 she became a follower of the Hare Krishna movement and was initiated as a devotee while living at the Bhaktivedanta Manor. During this time, she released the EP ‘God’s and Godesses’. She remained in the movement until 1988.
Less fortunate news occurred in 1991 when she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (this following a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia in the very late 70s). The same year, X-RAY SPEX reformed for a sell-out gig at the Brixton Academy with another reformation occurring in 1995 and the recording of the ‘Conscious Consumer’ album.
Another solo album, this time a set of soothing musical mantras – ‘Flower Aeroplane’ – was released in 2004.
In September 2008, to celebrate 30 years since the release of the ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ album, a gig at the Roundhouse saw Styrene and the band play the album in its entirety. The same year also saw Styrene hook with John Robb’s GOLDBLADE for a one-off Christmas single, the rather excellent ‘City Of Christmas Ghosts’.
As recently as March of this year with the single ‘Virtual Boyfriend’ and the succeeding, critically-acclaimed album, ‘Generation Indigo’, Styrene was back in the public eye and warmly received at that. "I just channel my songs like a medium," she said of the new material. "If my friends like them, then I'm quite happy that they're good songs." She had planned to take the new songs on tour.
The album was a particularly poignant and triumphant release due to the fact that, just one month earlier in an interview with the Sunday Times, Styrene had talked of her battle with breast cancer and of the fact that it had spread to her spine and lungs.
On Monday 25 April 2011, aged 53, bed-bound due to a fall that broke her back in two places, she passed away as a result of the cancer.
She is survived by her mother and daughter, Celeste Bell-Dos Santos.
Additional obituary here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Obituary - Phil Vane

As you may already be aware of at the time of writing, on 17th February 2011, Phil Vane - vocalist in EXTREME NOISE TERROR - passed away in his sleep at the age of just 46. No official cause has yet been stated.
I’ve abstained from writing anything prior to this because, unlike Ari Up or Jim Carroll who are also written about here, I came from the same town as Phil (Ipswich, England) and since my first involvement in the Ipswich Punk scene, Phil was usually present at many of the early events that I attended. I can’t claim to actually have known Phil; he probably knew me by sight (at least, prior to my move to NZ that was), but via many nights seeing ENT play face-meltingly intense sets at the Ipswich Caribbean Club (and a hazily remembered gig at Murrayside Youth Club before that among others), I certainly felt that I knew him.
I also wanted to wait until after Phil’s funeral... It just seemed to be more respectful to me than penning something hastily thrown together in the immediate wake of the tragic news.
As a frontman he had an imposing presence, especially in those early ENT days where, dreadlocked and animated, he shared the front of the stage with fellow vocalist Dean Jones as the band beat out what is still some of the most intense sounds ever heard. But Phil was no novice to the Punk Rock stage...
Before the formation of ENT in December 1984, Phil had already been in both FREESTATE and VICTIMS OF WAR along with ENT guitarist Pete Hurley. ENT (line-up completed by Dean Jones - vocals, Jerry Clay - bass and Dazz ‘Pigkiller’ Olley - drums) debuted as a band at Murrayside in October 1985 supporting CHAOS UK. The band also made its recording debut with CHAOS UK on the 1986 split, Manic Ears released, ‘Earslaughter’.
1987 saw the band record the first of four John Peel sessions before the visceral debut album, ‘A Holocaust In Your Head’ was released the following year. Through various line-up changes, ENT continued releasing more records and touring Europe and Japan.
In 1991, Phil - along with Roki (ex-SCREAMING HOLOCAUST) - formed OPTIMUM WOUND PROFILE, a band that mixed hi-tech sampling and programming technology with Punk and Metal influences to create an intense Industrial sound. The band recorded two albums with Phil, before he left in 1994 prior to the release of the band’s final album.
1991 also saw ENT collaborate with THE KLF, re-recording the latter's ‘3am Eternal’. The bands appeared on the Brit Awards in 1992 (not aided by sabotaged sound), causing controversy by firing blanks into the audience!
Phil left ENT for a brief spell in NAPALM DEATH before returning in 1997, only to leave again in 1999. After a spell in Switzerland, Phil re-joined ENT once again in 2006 in which he remained until his passing.
A funeral was held for Phil in Norwich on March 15th 2011 with a wake at the nearby York Tavern. A message on ENT’s website requested, “Please all Punks come in full force.”
It’s heartening to read writings from those who did know Phil personally, be it a number of associates’ Facebook postings or Andi Morris’s memories of the man on the Maximum Rocknroll blog, all of which say Phil was a charming and friendly fella. They make a fitting tribute for a genuinely inspirational man.
Phil is survived by his son, Sam, and partner, Jennie.