Monday, 17 January 2011

the Sex Pistols? In Letchworth?

Friday night saw me head off to The Plinston Hall, Letchworth, to see my mate's band "The Pistols", a terrific Sex Pistols tribute band who I've seen on a couple of occasions previously. The first time was at the drummer Toby's 40th birthday party a couple of years ago when, in the spirit of the Saints & Sinners theme, they all dressed up, with the lead singer going the extra mile and actually being  Beetlejuice.

The second time I saw them was when I booked them for my (now defunct but soon to be rekindled) cabaret show "Dollyremixture" where they both shocked and delighted the audience with a shortened set that left everyone in the place wanting more.

Now by happy accident I discovered they were playing down the road on a rare night off when I had no other plans. The ticket price of eleven quid seemed a bit steep (particularly as they were playing for free the next night in Stevenage) but victim of circumstance as I was, it was then or not at all. Problem: mid-January, big venue, steep entry fee. Would there be an audience?

I needn't have worried - of course there wasn't.

Well, I had bought ticket 61 but I think they must have started at 21 as I never counted more than forty people in the room. I saw the lead singer outside while the support band (The Merk - not bad) were on and he asked how many were in. I said "About forty". he was over the moon. Toby the drummer had told him there was actually no-one there at all. Oh you drummers! Of the forty-ish there, the self-appointed king of the party was a very curiously be-mulletted late 70s New Wave throwback in drainpipe jeans and authentic sneakers who was air-guitar-ing and singing along to the pre-show 70s and 80s alt. rock classics that echoed around the cavernous venue. Never mind, I thought, he'll have calmed down by the time the bands start.

No chance.

It was actually his vaguely demented twatting about across the whole front third of the dancefloor that had sent me outside in the first place. While The Merk were on a few of the younger members of the audience joined him as they bopped along to their friends/boyfriends brand of quirky modern indie-punk. In the break they withdrew to the safety of strategically placed tables and chairs toward the back of the abyss. He carried on jumping about and mis-calculating the ends of songs with three-seconds early flourishes that left several of us open-mouthed. He sang The Jam's "in The City" in a fat bloke's face. This was when I realised he looked like Bruce Foxton, former Jam bass player and similarly pouty mullet head.

I'm not wanting to project that I wasn't having a great time but the pints of Toby Bitter I was drinking also tasted of line cleaner.

Finally, The Pistols took the stage and I went and stood as close as could be reasonably expected, the lead singer (bedecked quite splendidly as "Country Life Butter" Johnny Rotten)

Not the same gig, but the same outfit for the would-be Lydon...
commanded the audience in his best Johnny Rotten voice to gallantly "Take ten strides forward" and they miraculously did, The Pistols dived headlong into "Holidays In The Sun", Bruce Foxton started f*&^ing careering about and everyone took a rapid ten strides back again, leaving a huge no-mans-land between band and fans. Over the next hour or so this expanse was occasionally populated by fat old skinheads by default (blokes who had gone bald) grabbing each other, pushing each other, spilling each other's beer and trying to out-man each other. Johnny Rotten called them all the "C" word repeatedly and quite clearly meant it but they thought he was in character, no-one really expected them to do an encore but they did anyway and it was brilliant. Actually they were entirely brilliant throughout. Sid Vicious did a glorious "Something Else" and got the swan song of "My Way" which was a great way to finish. Steve Jones AKA Steve Tones (My mate Colin) took a fair crack at Silly Thing and pretty much everything The Sex Pistols ever laid down to vinyl was covered - even "Belsen Was A Gas", which is probably the only song of theirs that really has become anachronistic, was very much of its time and probably really ought to be dropped. it's just a bit too blatant a diatribe for 2011 and if there was a minor low point in the show for me, that was it - not the fault of the band, just the subject matter.

Post-gig I went round the pub with Colin (Steve Tones) and shortly afterwards Paul (Johnny Rotten) came in to tell him he had to give him a lift home to Stevenage as Toby (drummer) had left without him. Punk's not dead.

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