Saturday, December 5, 2009

Show Time!

THE FREEZE - SHORTBUS WINDOW LICKERS - DEFCON ZERO - THE RUINED, Camden Underworld, London, UK 4th August 2009
As I sat in the World’s End pub in Camden sipping my first pint of Guinness on British soil for a year, I had chance to reflect on what
brought me here.
Y’see, I’d been back in the UK for about 36 hours when I made the trip to London. My journey from my New Zealand home to my Mum’s place had taken longer than that. I was heavily jet-lagged and struggling with the humidity of London after the relative open (and harsh) New Zealand winter that I had left behind. I still had two hours before the doors opened and just hoped that I would not have to leave the venue half-way through THE FREEZE’s set to catch the last train home.
As I found a second wind with a second pint of Guinness, I got to thinking about how I discovered THE FREEZE. My thoughts went
back to the flat Rikki of Red Flag 77 had on Wherstead Road in Ipswich some 20 years previous. We’d been on one of our then frequent lunchtime drinking sessions before crashing at Rik’s for a blitz of Punk Rock tuneage. As I sat there nursing another can of Export-strength beer, Rikki put on a record called ‘Land Of The Lost’ by some band I had never heard of. These wild harmonic notes made me pause my drinking before the band burst in with a fury that was jaw-dropping. And so began ‘American Town’, the opening track on the album.
Since that day, I’ve become an avid FREEZE addict. I’ve interviewed Clif Hanger twice and spent many hours with the stereo cranked listening to the band’s output. So, with a wait of 20 years, I finally found myself a few hours away from seeing the band. Suddenly a 36-hour trip and all the jetlag seemed trivial.
Unfortunately, I still believed the Underworld worked on the time-schedule that it adhered to before I left - ie: first band on at 8pm. By the time I wandered down, it appeared that THE RUINED (who I had spoken to in the bar and were decent blokes all round) had already played. That was a real pisser as I really enjoyed the band’s stuff on its split EP with Destructors 666.
DEFCON ZERO had only just started when I arrived. The band played a fast, tough Hardcore Punk sound, decidedly UK82 influenced, a bit rough around the edges and totally in your face. I kept thinking of a mix of CHAOS UK and the VARUKERS. Song titles are lost already but I remember a damning condemnation of the British National Party’s Nick Griffin and one about Rats. The band would probably have been more effective had it played a pub’s back room or a squat rather than the barely ¼ full Underworld.
The oddly named SHORTBUS WINDOW LICKERS was next up, keeping things entrenched in a UK82 British feel but with a hard-hitting Hardcore bite, somewhere between POISON IDEA and MOTORHEAD. They too had a song about the slime that is the BNP - possibly tied up with the word cunt!! Haha!! Can’t recall much more about them bar the fact that the singer had a fascination with blow jobs and, I think, there was a song about zombies!! The whole band was tight, powerful and equally in your face as DEFCON ZERO. Have to say though, both bands seemed rather odd choices for FREEZE support slots.
Just as I first heard ‘American Town’ at Rikki’s flat all those years ago, so it was the same song that opened THE FREEZE’s set. It was quite a cathartic moment no doubt amplified by my still slightly otherworldly state! Besides Clif on vocals, the band featured two guitarists, one of which I am sure WAS Bill Close. The set was a virtual all you wanna hear of the band’s back catalogue with a surprising amount lifted from the ‘One False Move’ album. Highlights? So many but those that stand out include ‘Warped Confessional’, ‘Mental Defective’, ‘Freakshow’ ‘Trouble If You Hide’, ‘False Messiah’ and a show-stealing blaze through ‘Terminal’. I was surprised to hear ‘This Is Boston... Not LA’ but man, it was welcome and seemingly faster than the recorded version. The band itself was tight, commanding the front of the stage and certainly seemed to know each other musically. Clif was very visual in a theatrical sense - more so than I expected in fact. More than once he brought to mind Biafra’s deranged stage antics during his DEAD KENNEDYS peak. Not sure if it was Clif’s hearing that was playing tricks, but more than once he walked over to one of the guitar cabinets and stuck his head right in front of it. A set that lasted an hour finished with the obligatory ‘Broken Bones’ the intensity of which actually sent a shiver down my spine. The last band to do that? IGGY AND THE STOOGES in Sydney.
The turn out was quite disappointing though. I thought the place would be at least 75% full. It actually appeared to be less than half.
And so I made my way back to Liverpool St to face my final task: staying awake on the train after four pints of Guinness was piled onto my already jaded state! The last thing I wanted was to fall asleep on the train and end up in Norwich. Mercifully, those ringing chords of ‘American Town’ kept reverberating in my ears. A Contract High indeed.

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