(review by Trev HAGL)
First thoughts were “it’s not gonna be a cheap weekend!”. Cheapest city centre digs I could find were £40 a night, the train was gonna be £80 return so I opted for the gruelling Megabus journey – 2+ hours longer each way, but I told myself that at £30 return that would be like working for more than the minimum wage for merely sitting on my arse, so Megabus it was, and Dawn had paid my £42 gig ticket for Xmas box so it was “Brum here we come” . Slowly, very very slowly.
Two miles outside Sunderland and the UK’s premier transport (ho ho) is about to catch fire. The driver applies a damp cloth and we wait – and wait – and wait – for another bus to come. In fact 2 hours after leaving Newcastle, we are still at Sunderland, and worse still, after putting on my seatbelt (after the driver warned us about spot fines as the old bill have started doing spot checks on coaches), I find that the fucking seatbelt doesn’t come undone, so if it had progressed into a full blown fire, I could’ve been dead. Great. Anyway next bus arrives and Wolvo entertains me with his tales of wind ups and whatnot which makes the journey go quicker and he knows vaguely in which direction I’m meant to go when we get there, which is a bonus.
So with less sleep than Dave Cameron, I awake the next day full of hell and get even worse when I queue 20 minutes at The Square Peg for breakfast as the staff play “ring-a-ring-a-coffee-machine”
Off to the gig and I guess it’s a sign of the chaos to come when I go to the box office to collect the ticket I paid for by cheque and am sent to the big queue down the road, who send me back to the box office who give me the ticket and send me back to the queue to get my wristband. The bouncers have obviously watched the recent drama The Fear (when the Scotsman goes to take on the Albanians with a gun in the back of his waistband) as I am felt up all over even round my collar! Explains the queues I suppose.
Into the venue at last and it’s very dark, presumably to hide the state of decay, so dark in fact that the merch stands on the large balcony have had to bring their own lights. I am trying to think of an analogy here linking to the phrase “robbing people blind” – £15 a t-shirt , £30 a hooded top. A band are on the main stage, doing one of the latest trends, a fiddly diddly new school folk punk. ROUGHNECK RIOT I think? Professional enough but heard it all before. Up to the second stage where MANGLED are on . Sound a bit like GBH. Next up are BITE BACK (feat Hocky of Instant Agony & Richie MDM) whose songs I know well, so it’s only then I realise how bad the sound actually is. In fact the only time I’ve ever heard a thumping deadwood bass and bass drum sound as bad as this is last night trying to get to sleep opposite that Gangsta nightclub. Either The Ballroom are taking on workfare PA engineers or their equipment was nicked from a skip.
Off downstairs where the sound for a big venue is fantastic. PARANOID VISIONS don’t play the sort of music that gets me excited cos as you know I am mainly into 77 style and Oi, but they are a very good live band. Very Crass 80’s style esp with the male/female dual vocals, and Deko is a great frontman bringing to mind all the lunatic excesses of Ian Dury.
Back upstairs to catch ROTUNDA who I’ve not heard for years but was pleased to see they have their own CD out which I bought copies of to be sent up to me as they only had 30 copies there (they obviously have more faith than me in the punk buying public these days!). They put on a good show but like Bite Back were absolutely crucified by the sound. They play excellent 80s style streetpunk with a nod to Conflict (at their most musical) and you can get their CD from the Savage Amusement webstore for £7ppd UK
Off to hotel to freshen up and look for grub. Birmingham is huge yet just try finding a good takeaway, even when your hotel is in the Chinese quarter. There are a million outlets like KFC & Mcdonalds but if you are veggie it’s as if you are Jimmy Savile’s best mate. Good chippies, pizza shops and somewhere to get chips curry and fried rice are as rare as a brain cell in a Sun readers head. Finally found a baguette shop, 50p a slice for makeshift pizza!
Caught up on a bit kip and back to the venue just in time for INFA RIOT who sounded good and Lee is still entertaining in a Suggs type way. Dunno who’s still original in the line up but they had a young bassist. The patter was cheesy as a crusty’s cock though. “Any Punks/skins/mods/Goths in here?” Fucking hell is this what punk has come to? They did all the classics anyway and not much if anything off the embarrassing 2nd LP.
During their set I queued 10 minutes for the privelige of paying £4.30 a pint for Red Stripe which is the most I have ever ever paid for a pint. This isn’t drinking, it’s WAR. If I ran the place and thought I could get away with charging that I would have 50 bar staff on, not a few overworked confused new starters running around aimlessly like Les off Vic Reeves.
Just caught the last song by THE TERRACES, the Australians who include in their ranks an ex-One Way System Gadgie. They play tuneful rocky punk just this side of radio friendly. Catchy stuff if a tad repetitive in places .
Off for a jar with our mate Rikki from Northampton who has in the past (at Blackpool) lost a mobile phone and a bag of t-shirts. What will he lose this year? Well after falling asleep in the car park, some charvers relieved him of his wallet. Fuck! But was it charvers? Because Chris and Spin out of Crashed Out got their credit cards nicked so I am guessing the thieving little toe-rag responsible is a punk or skin. There were even signs up in the venue warning of pick pockets! Mind ye Barbara from the toon lost her purse and someone handed it in, so there are decent people out there too.
Back to the venue to catch a bit of STREET DOGS and PORK DUKES. 10 minutes to see both bands. Pork Dukes were doing that stupid fucking instrumental (and the sound hadn’t got much better up there) so I went back on the balcony to watch Street Dogs on the main stage. They sounded great and did a top version of “Into The Valley”. So why you may think was I in a hurry to leave?
Well the venue in their wisdom had decided on a rule that said if you left the venue after 7PM you couldn’t get back in. This is a place with appalling bar service and choice of drinks (don’t expect Broon ale or Polish lager here), sky high prices and no food that I could see (apart from adverts offering baps), and furthermore there was simply nowhere to sit down, yet Sparrer weren’t due on for another 6 hours! So it was off back to the hotel and no League or Gimp Fist for me.
Back in time for most of UK SUBS who sounded great, but you’d literally need eyes in the back of your head as the bar staff replicated the Wetherspoons coffee machine dance, only this time they were all huddled round the cider pump (evidently the only one out of 3 or 4 that worked). The venue had already shamefully broke my all time spending record for a pint, and now they broke my all time WAITING record for a pint. As mentioned before, the Subs were on cracking form and “Riot” sounded immense, Charlie on fine form.
THE EXPLOITED next and still treading the thrash metal path I see, any hint of melody ironed out while the guitarist strode back and forth flicking his hair about. Apart from “Fuck The USA” it was hard to differentiate the old stuff from their later stuff. Already throroughly pissed off at the whole shebang, this added the icing on the cake and I went up to see Jaya The Cat who were a refreshing chang . I expected horrible trendy ska punk like Less Than Jake, but they actually played old school reggae that woulda been decent if not for the sound in there. It was also hotter than the greenhouse at Guantanamo.
There was a barman hidden in between the stalls so rather than risk the 20 minute wait downstairs I ventured there for a jar then back to second stage to see DEADLINE. Liz was on fine form jumping all over knowing she had the legions of poorvoorts in the palm of her hand. Sporting a beehive hairdo her vocals are poppier than ever but go well with the high octane guitars and she kept hassling the PA bloke until he turned the vocals up loud enough to hear. Thought about stopping for SECTION 5 but the place was like a sauna so we went downstairs for RANCID who sounded good and Tim Armstrong especially was going apeshit (the hobo beard actually works and makes him look even more mental, especially as he slashes his guitar round like a council grasscutting machine).
By then I could barely stand, not because I was pissed, in fact I was completely sober; the choice of beer was that shit. So yet again I ended up missing Sparrer and in a parting shot of how shit the day was my mate Davy says they even ran out of beer.I am not one of these who religiously attacks Daz Russell. I think it takes real balls (not to mention dedication) to gamble the price of a house on putting together a big line up like this. I have had many great weekends at Morecambe and Blackpool, but this was a farce from start to finish. The sound in the second stage made the bands irrelevant. The curfew policy was that erratic not even some of the bouncers knew what the rules were, and to pay £42 to be locked out if you dared to venture outside after 7PM is a disgrace and I for one will only be going to Blackpool from now on where there’s no shitty policy like this. Our mate Davey Johnna told the bouncers he was diabetic so one of em said “It’s OK, come and see me , I will let you back in”. When he came back the same bouncer was going to refuse him until he reminded him it was he who promised him re-entry in the first place! The venue obviously thought they were being clever stopping people from drinking in rival, cheaper, better establishments, but what was the point in that when they wouldn’t even put enough bar staff on to capitalise on their monopoly? My mate Davy raised these points on the Rebellion website but it was taken down within 24 hours.
Daz is welcome to comment here