Meet zine rival Becca Puke (from the infamous Puke zine) in the Locomotive on Birmingham New Street at 1.pm. I'm armed with my cheapo disposable camera and £50 notes burning a huge hole in skyrocket. Becca's got 20 zines and youth on her side...it's a sweaty palmed uneasy stand off by the bar as we stare each other out as the 'Good the bad and the ugly' is meowing from the jukebox. I've got an itchy trigger finger and a raging thirst, she's got a sharp pen and a Torcha Shed badge...the chink of glasses distracts my attention for a second and Carling is beckoning me with an alluring finger...damn! I retreat to the bar and anyway I'm too old for a shootout with the Aylesbury kid. The crowd carries on talking as typewriter aggro is averted and I order a beer. I think Birmingham is big enough for two pen slingers ain't it? Well It's always good to put a face to a zine you've been reading for a few years and Puke has become a great hope for the UK ink scene this century. Becca the punkette behind the bial is 5ft tall has cropped brown spikey hair, pink smudged panda eyes with an impressive dayglo Anarchy tour T-shirt. Reason I'm telling you this is coz I tried to get her picture for my gallery but she was defiantly not having it bahhh. So as I'm knocking back my first Carling she dispatches a double vodka and coke on the rocks and sells her first zine of the day to the young kid from Stafford with a complicated handshake. Railway bar prices are fucking expensive, so we hastily beat a retreat through the bitter wind-chill factor and Christmas shoppers of New Street for the cheaper more comfortable confines of our venue for the day....Digbeth's Market Tavern.
Eventually we get to our destination after circumnavigating various windy back streets like the Clash once sung "looking for a home". Smak on 2.pm we struck gold and find an empty bar with a few old regulars smattered around, but no punks. Well this was no time to be 21 or concerned, even though I heard from the soundman worriedly looking at his watch no bands have arrived yet. I order the drinks and we sit back amidst the Christmas decor and Roy Wood records on the jukebox and wait for the rush. Becca's very observant like a lotta zinesters and has an amusing sensa yuma which passes the time well and of course she can fucking drink!!! Being a native of Aylesbury she's been here over a month but is finding her Dr Martined feet pretty well. We talk zines as zinesters usually do and she admits she was born in the wrong decade as the late 70's is her inspiration, which I won't complain about. But it's good to have a kid with her attitude in this decade too just for the sake of our punk rock reading material. As we knock back a few more drinks first band to arrive were the scary sounding Penetraitors from the wilds of Worcester. They didn't look that scary at all as they sloped in sheepishly. But fair play to em they bought a few zines and gave Becca a CD demo to review so blame her if the review don't come out till next year (Have heard since there's a couple of gems on this demo!) Before we know it the place starts filling up with punk bands and punks. It's always the same ain't it?...you wait for one to arrive then 3 come all at once. Those 3 being Death To Music yeahhhhhhhh, the Dave Vanian look alike from Cracked Actor/Bride Just Died in those sticky PVC trousers and women's evening gloves (tee hee), and lastly a nervous cold looking gang of Buddy Holly fans who only turned out to be the stars of the night...The Dangerfields all the way from breezy Belfast. So with things picking up on the band front we sit back and wait for the action as we are entertained by the bands staring at each other thinking who's the got the most expensive guitar. They start setting up upstairs at last and more punks are arriving by the pint. Alright to Dave Burns who's just got back from India on a backpacking adventure!!! He looks like he's suffering badly from a severe bout of the 21st century shock!!! Well he has been living with dope smoking Hindu monks for the past 12 months (snigger). Tom Treefall is here to hold his hand and offer comfort and support via a bar tab along with Tidy their Wolverhampton (now Shewsbury minder & Wolves fan yee haar!!!). I also have a talk with the now seriously ripped 'n' torn Ben (originally from Workington) who used to be in Seal Club and promoted gigs back in Wolverhampton during the ill fated Torcha Shed days. He's in another band now based in Brum called...wait for it...Crap Shags jeeezzzuzzz wept!!!!! By this time I heard through the grapevine 3 bands have pulled out today's line-up duhhhhh!!! The most notable being headliners Bus Station Loonies, and Intensive Care from the smoke but who were the third? I can live with that so it was back to Christmas and fuck the bands. I was out on a mission now...bands or no bands (snigger). And as we were first here and was chucking it down us like a good pair of Catholics we head off for a much needed feed which was a good idea, as this was gonna be the last supper of the day for me.
Get back about 4.30 fit and ready to rumble but still no action in the musical department. The most exciting thing to happen was Death To Music have taken over the pool room so we have another drink. However just as the drinking starts up again there's a rumble upstairs as The Penetraitors start penetrating. Becca is itching for some punk action as she'd yet to witness any real punk since her arrival in the big bad city. So with a demanding kid on one side and the temptation of an upstairs bar on the other I digress. We climb the creaky stairs past the walls adorned with band pix posted as momentos from past gigs and enter the small carpetted room about the size of the Rovers Return which is just starting to fill. There ain't no one asking for money on the door which was strange? I had my 'blue 'un' in my mit ready to pay so it must've been a FREE gig after all? How the fuck do they do it? I'll have to ask Dogshit Sandwich who promote these events when I ain't quite so busy with the Carling. Talking of which I immediately clock there ain't no-one behind the bar either grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!
Not to worry still got a half a pint in my glass as I scan the surroundings while The Penetraitors make a noise on stage. I love the sticky carpet atmosphere and tiny stage it's looking good for punk. The Penetraitors sound OK with a modern kinda hardcore sound. They're fast and energetic with lots of youth on their side. Didn't really notice any obvious standout tracks but they were into what they were doing. I thought they hogged the stage for too long considering it was a 3 hour late start but maybe the decimated bill had been bought back on schedule? Before heading downstairs for a refill and what was to be a familiar trek for the next few hours I spot a fucking massive yellow framed 'Never Mind The Bands' Pistols poster on the wall. I'm fucking jealous coz that would look great above the mantle piece in the Wolfs Lair so where's my screwdriver when I need one?
Death To Music from Bromsgrove are up next and I ain't seen these since the Punk 4 Pussy's gigs back in the late 90's. I kidnap Dave, their spikey '77 guitarist on the stairs and he tells me this was their first gig with the new singer aptly named Steve Shit (tee hee). Well they take to the stage with a 'here today gone tomorrow' attitude which is always good to witness I reckon. And big Steve Shit in matching Blonde spikes is looking at home considering it's his debut. Death To Music are what the spirit of punk is all about. Listen to their greatest effort 'All I wanna do is Reecch' for confirmation. They've come on a lot since I last seen em. They're still laid-back in their approach but the rhythms got a lot more tighter and Dave's much improved axework is becoming more prevalent. Steve Shit is the local Rob Rancid in the deadpan sound alike stakes. And one new song stuck out for me and the crowd which is an absolute corker called 'Cornflakes', yeah I know but you gotta hear it to believe it. Great debut and good punk entertainment, miss em at your peril.
Before you know it they are gone and it's the turn of those Irish fuckers the Dangerfields. Great to see a band travel for gigs of this nature, same goes with the rest who travelled. Gotta admit downstairs by the bar when the Belfast boys walked in they looked like death warmed up, but suddenly 2 hours later they thawed out and have transformed themselves into the best band of the night. I knew none of the songs, never seen em before in my entire life let alone heard em, but this band considering two regular members had to drop out at short notice and reserves were drafted in certainly got everyone's attention from the off. This is mainly due to the hilarious hyperactive hi-jinx of the lead singer Cormak. He comes complete with a witty Irish repertoire in an off the peg black Jam suit 'n' tie. He's a fucking star no too ways about it. And he's here, he's there, in fact he's every fucking where!!! Talk about energy this was blinding and they've got some fucking good beefy punk tunes to back up high the altitude approach. Don't ask me about the songs but quite a lot of em had 'FUCK' somewhere in em. But who cares about individual songs when the whole package is good. It was like someone had turned up the electricity and power to full whack when they came on. The crowd loved em and that's a good sign for Birmingham, coz bigger more established bands have died a death. However The Dangerfields have no fear of that at all. They do need your attention fast they're punk in the truest sense of the word, they got tunes, speed and enough raw talent to get em known and with a singer/frontman like Cormak who knows what's in store. Check em out fast coz these are destined for bigger and better things!!!
God help anyone following these coz they had an hard act to follow. Eggraid from Stoke had drawn the short straw. They did their best to get the audience up and running again after witnessing the last spectacle but I'm afraid it was just too faceless for me. They looked and sounded a tight hardcore unit, the type of band Fracture mag would shoot their load over. But it was left to the highly entertaining D-Fect (drummer in Kismet HC) who'd they'd hired for the night to jump around in front of em, and of course Miss Puke was getting a sweat on up front too. These pair were far more entertaining than the actual band.
So I opted out for the easy option to sell the last few remaining copies of Puke downstairs. I sold a couple but when I approached Intention's lead screamer Ian by the bar he looked at me in a disgusted manner and said "no way have you seen our review in that!" (guffaw). I had in actual fact just read it on the train coming here but it was worth it just to hear the response, he wasn't a happy chappy! By the time I got back upstairs Eggraid had scrambled off the stage and Intention were up and stalking their public. Being locals they created a large semi-circle of devotees or was it victims to their sonic blasts. They've got some great beefy guitar blasts on show which are executed with intent but Ian who was pissed off already was even more screechy tonight as he stalked his audience with codes of misconduct. Looks intense but with the full whack screech on show tonight wasn't half as entertaining as when they supported Oppressed Logic earlier this year.
Cracked Actors followed closely behind and these sound really metallic and look like they'd be more at home doing a heavy metal support. Hard attacking gruffness in the vocals are dragged along by a metallic grinding noise which shows they can play but this aint really my preferred type of punk. I preferred the singer/guitarist in his Bride Just Died front man role, although the long women's evening gloves gave us a cheap laff he wasn't expecting. And fair play to the Dogshits for giving us a diverse showcase which is good to see.
The drink was kicking in big style now as the upstairs bar had been opened and I was but merely a gob away from more amber. So not that sorry I missed the Velvet Underpants, Police Bastard or Los Destructos. Maybe they played maybe they didn't? It never registered on my total recall the next morning. And to top it all my fucking camera had stopped taking pictures grrrrrrrrr. I do remember Contempt dominating the stage with a big powerful set of street punk anthems from their growing back catalogue. Songs like 'No ID Cards', 'Semtex Solution' et all were shouted out. Martin on guitar who is the only surviving original member can still provide the crashing power chords and rifferama which is great to hear. Dunno if Trogg was there or not or even in the band? Big Griff decked out in Skinhead attire could be an extra for Romper Stomper these days and has come on loads. Seems like he's finally put Borstal's ghost to rest. The rest of the evening as they say is a blur. Before you know it I was downstairs in a packed bar which was still serving like there's no tomorrow. I asked someone the time and find it's midnight!!! Gee whizz with a train to catch it was time to leave. Great show considering the band decimation and a fitting end to my not so bulging gig attendance record
Peter Don't Care