(review by MWJ)
You know those times when you meet a beautiful, intelligent girl, someone who really lights up your life, puts a spring in your step and has a whole lot of humour and fun in the mix to? Then one special night you get to go up close and personal with her, get all rough and sweaty and release all that pent up love? Only to have her die half way through? You don’t? Oh well, that’s what this gig was like the other night.
Fresh off the back of their new “Supporting Caste” album the Canadian’s punks were over here for a short tour with only one Northern date, so that was the destination of choice for our car load representing the NWPR massive. Anticipating a crappy drive via the windy ways over the Pennines we set of quite early but there were no real hold ups enabling us to even stop off for “refreshment” breaks. Into the city past Hillsborough, at this apt time. Remarkably (to myself) found the venue ok too and were able to park underneath, sorted. The tour bus is outside, they’re here (two tours back the seeing them on a similar first night of tour they’d had all the gear impounded by customs, probably for being dodgy political types), all looking good so off to nearest pub.
It’s early doors as it’s early curfew so the place can earn it’s wedge with a club night after so we head in about 6.30. It’s seems a huge space, big stage with lovely velour drapes, death star scale glitter ball. Even though I expect folks will like us be travelling a fair distance from all over the North for this date I seriously wonder whether it will fill up significantly, especially compared to the rammed sold out smaller venues I saw them in on the last tour. And what’s with these “no crowd-surfing or instant ejection” posters, how am I supposed to get my concussion tonight?
Swiftly up first are erst-while locals Cop-out who have a very relaxed attitude to playing such a big gig. This turns out to be partly due to some if not all of the three piece being quite pissed but that doesn’t detract much from their hard hitting hardcore performance, really quite intense. It also adds to a lot of chaotic funny banter between the tracks with friends in the crowd and sets things up nicely for the evening.
Next Random Hand from Bradford who I’d maybe expected to be more ska-orientated than they were. Not that as I was complaining as they came across as some really heavy and polished hardcore, only occasionally breaking down to a bit of skanking. The vocalist is full of energy and fair play to him for also interspersing spot on trombone to some of the songs, both fast and slow.
Finally, the headliners. Looking around from up front and centre the place has certainly filled well anyway which is good to see. We see the familiar guys from the band gathering behind the limited cover of their stacks and preparing their guitars but who is this guy creeping up to the mike at the front? Some old wizardly dude in mediaeval studded leathers brandishing a flute?!? That warbling intro…Surely not… As he introduces himself as a guy (Clive from Black Widow) who wrote a song a long time ago, that was banned but Propagandhi have brought back, anyone who has heard the hidden track on the new album knows what’s coming (though any that don’t will be thoroughly bemused) and he exhorts us into a chant of “Come to the Sabbat” to summon the band in hilarious fashion, totally stealing the thunder of those of us plotting to chant for it later anyway.
In their unassuming way the band take up their positions and kick off with the title track of the new release, as with most of their recent output demonstrating the effective hardcore punk core elaborated on with complex technical melodies. They easily incorporate their thrash influence too, celebrating the fact on “The Bangers Embrace” that recollects their own pilgrimages to see reformed bands from their teens, and in the crazy pit action it’s all smiles of empathy. There are dips into the back catalogue with “A speculative fiction” and beyond but then one of the belters off the new one with “Dear Coaches Corner” which has hundreds here singing to “Ron McLean”, some Canadian hockey commentator we only know through this song, while Chris asks us if our “football” has similarly been appropriated for military support rituals. Bouncing along to its building beat while singing along in the swirling pit with friends old and new it not long before my lungs are giving out so am grateful for the dub-bed down rest brought by “Haillie Sellasie, up your ass” from their first album. A time to reflect that they are on top form again and really getting into their stride, in spite of any jetlag or whatever. The opening of the raging “Back to the Motor League” signals more happy fear of flying bodies but then… they’re being tapped on the shoulder by venue personnel and things are brought to a stumbling halt.
There’s a bit of rummaging around some electrical fuse box at the back of the stage while they have a bit of a chat and say this type of thing always happens to them. The lights are up and then they are told to leave the stage which they cover by saying that Jord the drummer’s going for a shit, which may explain the smell of burning plastic. But they will be back. However soon after, despite their being no evidence of a fire the full drama queen fire procedure is rolled out which involves some fat bastard bouncer shouting at everyone from the stage to evacuate the building or the show won’t restart. Yer average fan is instinctively (and somewhat further conditioned) to be not appreciative of fascist authority and therefore no-one is much inclined to go anywhere. It needs one of the stage crew to encourage us a bit more positively so we begrudgingly exit. Three fire engines turn up but they spend just a few minutes inside before realising there’s no great concern, outside there continues a half hearted good humoured proto-riot with the bouncers failing to maintain any control so the police turn up to reinforce. A window gets smashed, someone is arrested, a cop gets his hat knocked off, entertainment of sorts.
Having gone all that way and knowing the rarity of opportunity I was desperately hanging on to hope that there would be some flexibility with the curfew that would allow just a bit more of so many of the classics that would undoubtedly have been rolled out but with no great surprise eventually everyone’s favourite bouncer informs us that’s that. Though again with no surprise the club night will be continuing unaffected. Massive disappointment offset by the great joy of the truncated set. We take time for another beer to take the edge of things then trek back west.
Maybe invoking pagan rituals before shows will always end in doom, but hopefully they can be encouraged back before too long to console us