Tag Archives: punk

Leading from the front

Back in March I posted about how long it takes to recover from being at the front at a punk gig. I’m thinking now that maybe it was a one off, and here’s why.

Last weekend, the same band – Stiff Little Fingers – played a homecoming gig in Belfast, Northern Ireland as part of their 40th Anniversary celebrations.  The venue was outdoors, in Custom House Square, and the capacity was around 5000. When tickets went on sale, over 3000 were snapped up in the first 48 hours – I got two, one for me and one for my friend S – and all 5000 were sold out long before the event.  Dee came for the weekend but had decided that she didn’t want to join us at the gig.

The support acts were not too shabby: Belfast’s very own The Outcasts, Ruts DC (best known for Babylon’s Burning) and The Stranglers, who had their 40th Anniversary a couple of years back.  I hadn’t seen the first two before, so I was looking forward to hearing them: I wasn’t disappointed.

S and I met up around lunchtime and took in some of the sights (pubs) in Belfast. It seemed like everyone in the city was wearing a tshirt or something related to one of the four bands, and the atmosphere was brilliant. We moved to the pub nearest the venue a couple of hours before the gates were due to open and joined the throng of cheerful fans.

For the last couple of years Jake Burns, SLF’s lead singer and only ever present in the band, has worn a black shirt with white polka dots when gigging.  Someone on the SLF forum on Facebook thought it might be fun if fans turned up wearing something similar. Eventually it was decided that we’d all meet up near the gig venue an hour before gates opened for a polka dot photo.  There were 50 – 60 people in polka dot shirts (S and myself included) who congregated at The Big Fish (officially called The Salmon of Knowledge) on the banks of the river Lagan, and everyone was in a happy and excitable mood.

Once photos had been taken, people either went back to the pub or, as S and I did, started queuing to get in to the venue.  Once we got in, we headed straight for the merchandise stall and each bought a tshirt which had been specially produced for the gig: as it turns out, they were sold out very early on, such was the demand (more are being printed now, for a limited time only).

We then turned the corner and saw that there were hardly any people in ahead of us, so managed to secure a spot against the barrier at the very front, right in the middle of the stage.  This was a prime position and we were very surprised to have captured it.

As the various bands came and went, the venue filled up and the press from behind grew stronger and stronger – but we didn’t lose our spot. Cue SLF, and the place went wild: there was a general frenzy of singing, pogoing, chanting – everyone totally blessed out on the music and the fact that we were there, in Belfast, where it all began for our favourite band. What could be better?  What could ever top that?

From a music perspective, possibly nothing. But, the whole experience was enhanced by a couple of things.  First off, at the end of the gig, I managed to get a hold of Jake’s set list, which is now framed and on my wall. Second, it turns out that the Ruts were staying at our hotel, and I managed to grab a few words with their bassist and got a couple of photos with him.  Third, I found the exact spot – not far from the hotel as it happens – where the photo for SLF’s latest album, No Going Back, was taken: I of course had to get a photo of me taken there.  And fourth, we found Hope Street, which is the title of a song and album by SLF.

Me in the front row, 5000 fans behind me. I’m the one with big spots on my shirt!

At the end of the gig, the crowd dispersed, still on a high and in very good humour.  Since then, my Facebook feed has been full of praise for the city of Belfast, for the welcome the fans received, and plaudits for how good the gig was.  Just imagine that: a punk gig with 5000 people and no trouble, no fighting, no bad temperedness. Everyone was just glad to be there.

I described in my article in March how I’d been battered and bruised by being in the second row at the gig at the Barras, so how do you think I fared being in the front row at a gig that had more than double the attendance?  I was absolutely fine. Other than temporary deafness which went after a day or so – and which would have happened even if I was further back – I had no ill effects. My legs were fine, elbows weren’t damaged and there were no bumps or bruises to speak of.

So, this begs the question – when I next go to an SLF gig, will be at the front again? You bet!

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Week 35 – TBT 2017 – Staring at the rude boys

Last weekend Dee and I were in Belfast for Stiff Little Fingers‘ (SLF) homecoming gig on their 40th Anniversary tour.  They had a great supporting cast of The Stranglers, The Outcasts and this week’s TBT selection, Ruts DC.

The original Ruts were also around during the punk days, and probably best known for Babylon’s Burning.  Their lead singer died of an overdose, and their guitarist died about 10 years ago. Now a 3 piece band, with the original bassist (Segs Jennings) and drummer (Dave Ruffy), their set had some of their old classics and some newer numbers which sounded great.  The DC in their name is from the musical notation Da Coda, or “go back to the beginning”.

I had the pleasure of seeing Jennings and Ruffy last year when they did an acoustic tour as part of Dead Men Walking, along with Jake Burns from SLF and Kirk Brandon from Theatre of Hate. That was a very intimate gig: Saturday’s was the opposite!

The gig was sold out, with over 5000 tickets for an outdoor event.  The weather gods looked kindly on us, and the gig gods were even kinder. I spent the whole gig in the front row, right in the middle: I was in seventh heaven.  And to cap it all off, Ruts DC were staying in my hotel and I had the pleasure of meeting Segs the next morning.

On the Dead Men Walking tour, they talked about this song,  It was based on a real night out that they were at, along with Jake from SLF and others, where a serious fight broke out and all the various factions got involved.  The song itself is very textured, and tells the story really well.  I hope you enjoy it!

The Ruts – Staring at the Rude Boys

Week 33 – TBT 2017 – London Calling


Sticking with the punk theme from last week, I thought I’d share this classic track from The Clash.  Not just because the bassline is excellent, but because the photo that goes with it has become iconic in its own right.  

Paul Simenon is in the process of smashing his bass – presumably at the end of the gig – and I think the image has such powerful energy and makes a statement all on its own.  

I played this track with a covers band a few years back, and had it as my ringtone for ages (I now have an AC/DC tune, but that’s for another week!).  For all that the bassline is a classic, and is so much fun to play, I can also state from experience that if the guitarists don’t play with some attitude the song becomes a bit bland. The song is crying out to be played with passion, with a swagger, and if you don’t play it that way it loses a lot of its power.  

I should probably state for posterity that, for all I like(d) punk, I was never a massive fan of The Clash.  They just didn’t seem to “do it” for me in the same way that other bands – notably SLF, the Sex Pistols, The Damned or Siouxsie and the Banshees – did.  It’s almost heresy to admit that, according to some fans, but we all like what we like, right?  

Anyhow, here it is: enjoy! 

London Calling – The Clash

Week 32 – TBT 2017 – Nice ‘n Sleazy

One of the tunes I use when warming up prior to rehearsal or practice is this one. Only the intro, but it gets the fingers and hands moving well I think. The sound is unmistakably The Stranglers, and is a really dirty, grungy tone which I love. I’ve written before about how much I like JJ Burnel’s playing, and this is one of the classic examples that illustrate why. The first few notes are enough to give me goosebumps. I hope you enjoy it too!

Nice ‘n Sleazy – The Stranglers

Week 31 – TBT 2017 – When your heart stops beating

I can’t believe this song is 8 years old!  Where has all that time gone?  Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus from Blink 182 are the rhythm section of a band called +44, and this is arguably their only “big” hit.  I’m not sure why they named the band after the international dialling code for the UK, but it’s short and punchy, and I guess followed a bit of a trend back then for band names with numbers in them – or at least being called “The” something…

The song is pretty short but full of dynamic energy: the video shows Barker’s drumming power and complex rhythms really well.  I particularly like the break in the middle where the instruments each have a go, and a form of musical tension is built up.  This would be really interesting for a live band to play, as they’d need to be very tight to pull it off properly.  

Hope you’re ready for a good pogo and jump around – I am!  

+44 – When Your Heart Stops Beating

Week 23 – TBT 2017 – Smash It Up


Did you know that the first punk single released in the UK was New Rose by The Damned? Or that their brilliant double LP, The Black Album, had one side which was recorded live and which isn’t included in the CD version? I listen to that album a lot, and really missed the live side – until I found Spotify. Smash It Up (Parts I and II) is on there, and for as long as I can remember I’ve loved the bass line in Part I.  

This version on the video is a studio version, but it’s almost as good as the live one.  

I was lucky enough to see The Damned when I was in my teens. They released their Friday the 13th EP on the same day as I saw them, and the gig was memorable for a couple of reasons. There was a power cut during it, so Rat Scabies (the drummer) played a 10 or 15 minute solo while they got everything working again. Captain Sensible (guitarist) swapped his jacket with someone in the crowd because his original mohair one looked to be covered in spittle (not mine!) as was kind of customary (and gross) at punk gigs in those days. The support act was the Anti-Nowhere League, who found notoriety by having the B-side of their Streets of London single banned as an obscene publication, and they were very growls and menacing. 

I still follow The Damned and Captain Sensible on Facebook, though I’ve not seen them since the very early 80s. Listen to the track, and see if you can hear why I think the bassline is brilliant. 

Smash It Up (Parts I and II) – The Damned

Happy Valentine’s Day – Image #45

Today is traditionally the day (in some cultures anyway) when lovers shower each other with gifts and cards and demonstrate their love for their partners in many different ways.

For my part, I bought my lovely Dee a Help for Heroes bracelet (I got one for myself too) because we both like to show our support for those who gave so much to protect our way of life, and a teapot.  How romantic is that?  Well, I get that to be honest, but it’s not just any teapot.  We’ve spent a lot of time in the last year or so at a Buddhist monastery called Samye Ling, and in the tea room there they use cute little coloured teapots with built in strainers for loose tea.  The fact that they say For Life, and Samye Ling is one of Dee’s favourite places meant that buying her one of those has earned me Brownie points I think.  Oh, and as she’s an archer, and her card had arrows on it, I’ve done well in the thoughtful stakes I reckon!

In return, Dee had made me a card, so it’s unique.  She’s just started making cards and is very talented I think.  I love my card, because there is no other card like it in the world, and that’s very special.  She also bought me a boxed compilation set of songs she was pretty sure I’d love, given that it’s called The Greatest Ever Punk and New Wave – The Definitive Collection.  As might be expected, I have some of the songs on it, but not all, so I’m delighted to have this to add to my collection.  I’m not sure I’d class the likes of Madness or The Specials in either genre, and there’s no mention of the Sex Pistols or The Clash, but all in all it’s a great selection of songs over 3 CDs.

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Retailers in general and the card industry in particular try to make us feel guilty if we’re not being extravagant and to spend more and more money every year.  Personally, I don’t like that approach, and would much rather something that had taken thought, preparation and care.  Thoughtfulness and consideration for what the recipient might like is to me a lot more important than how much money was spent. I wonder what the price difference is for a bunch of roses bought yesterday compared to tomorrow….