Spitting, swearing, puking and questionable musicianship – situation normal for a punk gig then
One of the defining groups of the punk movement in the 1970s, The Vibrators are touring the UK and who wouldn't want to see them?
The chance to slip away from work at a half decent hour and the opportunity of seeing said legends, alongside viewing the brand spanking new Talking Heads was just too much of a draw for a cold March night.
Legendary music venue Talking Heads has recently moved from its original home to a new setting in the Polygon, close to the civic centre so I had been planning a trip to have a look around. From its former incarnation as a sort of 70s lounge bar, what was the Maple Room has been transformed into a pretty impressive new home. There's a good bar, a wide stage and a very useful crowdspace with no restricted view. It's also accessible too.
First off were old friends The Crash Landings, The Bournemouth based band have been extending their range and visiting festivals and gigs a bit further afield and a trip to Southampton was another link in this chain. The ability to play on the same bill as the Vibrators was probably a big factor too.
I've always felt that TCL work better with a decent crowd as they tend to take energy from a lively room. Sadly for them the attendance at Talking Heads was less than ideal and the band had a teeny bit of a mare. That having been said if you are turning up at a punk gig and expecting faultless musicianship then you probably need to get yourself on Youtube and see what it used to be like back in the day and then have a word with yourself.
Cock-ups aside, the attendees did take part in a bit of a sing-a-long to Billy's got tourettes (which you could snag a free copy of by clicking here), so it wasn't all that bad.
Next up The Black Bullets hit the stage en masse and en form with a rorting blues/rock in your face set. Much more rock n roll than I expected, but great none the less an every one of them looking like they were enjoying themselves, the bullets proved a great warm up.
Tracks like 'Eat Your Heart Out', a balls off brains out piece that demands a listen to whilst riding a motorcycle down route 66 livened a small crowd up nicely (check the vid here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IFaKgSy0L8).
Leading the band through the set whilst mainly holding a mike stand for support, front Billy T always looked a short step away from mayhem as he half drank, half spat pints through the half hour. Personal fave would probably be 'Sin Seeker', spanning the gap between hard rock and metalcore with elan. You should also check out Billy Ts line in artwork.
One of the major misunderstandings about the punk scene is that it's an angry, shouty unwelcoming place to be. Actually every punk gig I've been to has ended up with me talking to oddly dressed people who are warm and friendly and interested in the music. This gig was no exception as I spent the intermissions having several discussions about everything from motorbikes to camera gear to how to get people out to see live music.
Headliners The Vibrators are without doubt legendary on the punk scene. With drummer 'Eddie' Edwards being present at the first pistols gig back in 1976 and being embedded in the formative years they are claimed to have been instrumental in inspiring many well known names (see Stiff Little Fingers).
Slimmed to a three piece in later years and having gone through a few line up changes, their latest tour takes in much of the country and seeing them in the South was a treat.
It's interesting to see the contrast between a band on the way up and one that have been doing it for years. It would be possible for them to turn up and do it all by rote, after all it's just a job right? In fact the chaps gave it large right from the off and most impressively looked like they were loving it, interacting with fans whilst mid song and having a banter on stage. Yes it was punk, but it was professionally chaotic and i got the impression that they weren't taking their fans for granted.
As they blatted through a mix of their own originals and selected covers, I moved in for a close shot of guitarist Darrell Bath, then moved to the other side of the stage. Just in time it turned out as Bath projectile vomited in place. The photographer in me decided not to intrude into private grief and Bath gave us two more examples of how to professionally hurl on stage before licking his lips and proceeding to launch into lead vocals for the next song. They don't make em like that any more. I'm not convinced it was really a bad burger though!
Undeterred the band played on for the remainder of a banging set and an appreciative and now larger crowd demanded an encore which was happily provided.
So what of the evening in summary? It cost me a miserly 8 quid to get in.I saw an old favourite, a band new to me, a new venue and some legends from the scene. I met some great punters and had a great time even though I wasn't drinking. For me these are the reasons I go to live gigs but the truth is if we don't all make an effort then places like Talking Heads will cease to be.