Tuesday, 3 May 2011

It's not every day you stand in for Sid Vicious

I was inundated with offers for what to do on Saturday night and had turned a couple down earlier in the week because I thought I might get a gig last minute but none was forthcoming. This also meant I missed out on going to see Nottingham Forest thrash Scunthorpe United 5-1 in the last home game of the season with my Dad and brother, who hugely enjoyed the day but did both say that seeing as every time we all watch Forest together they lose, it was a good thing I wasn't there. Should we make the play-off final this season I'm going to have a tough decision to make.

All week I'd figured that the invite I was most likely to accept was to go to "Lord Muck's Nasty Grind" in Stockwell. A really brilliant line up of bands (including The Ten O Sevens, Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons and The Electric Cocks, but its 5am finish and South London location left me thinking it might be better to get less messy by going down to Club 85 in Hitchin to see The Pistols (My mates' Sex Pistols tribute band), Ministers Dead (featuring ex-members of Flaccid, The Kramers) and lead singer Matt who also sings with The Bleach Boys), Strontium Dog (Punk/Rock covers) and another band I didn't know. Since this doubled with my mate Tim's birthday downstairs in the bar meant I could rather neatly kill two birds with one stone and still be home for not much after midnight.

Who was I trying to kid?

I left for the station in plenty of time to catch the 7.54pm train to Hitchin. My journey was remarkably scream-free. Unfortunately there was a queue of idiots in front of me at the only operational ticket machine who farted about with money, cards, match sticks, cheque books, bits of string, failed attempts, sausage fingers and expletives until we all missed it and I grumpily walked next door to La Concha to lob a cold one down me while I waited for the 8.29pm. This turned out to be suitably civilised and I had a nice chat with the bar staff before walking back to the platform and successfully making the six minute train journey. A little walk up to the club was followed by the briefest of conversations with the door staff, the exchange of six quid for a stamped hand and real ale pint one procured. It was to be the first of many. Strontium Dog were already on and were all dressed as members of The Royal Family (This was an anti-wedding punk rock party in true tradition). The bass player looked remarkably like The Queen and the lead singer was on crutches. This left his act rather restrained but they still managed to romp through Dead Kennedy's "Police Truck" quite brilliantly and towards the end of the set when he wanted everyone to clap their hands but had no way of doing it himself (His hands were holding him up) he simply waved his crutches above his head and clapped those instead. It's this kind of can-do attitude that has put Britain at the forefront of disability activism and it it to be applauded, with crutches if necessary.

Strontium Dog with Lady Di on lead guitar
In the all-too-brief interval I nipped into the downstairs bat to let Tim (The birthday boy) know I was there. He looked inquisitively at the lack of 80s alternative vinyl under my arm and I remembered I had agreed to do a DJ set for him. Oops. Embarrassed, I offered to buy him a drink later and disappeared back upstairs to see the next band. They were an acoustic duo who sang songs I hated and wore matching T-shirts, told  jokes to their friends who couldn't hear them and looked a bit like  feisty Dutch international midfielders. I was joined by several members of The Pistols and Molly, the daughter of their guitar player who was a friend of mine at school. She is clearly old enough to both drink and smoke in public but it was the first time I've ever met her. We had a right laugh - she's a lot more fun than her dad...

Up next? More pints and the arrival of Ministers Dead. This is only a brief review and I'll keep it simple. Go and see them - they're fabulous. I've watched them develop through first Flaccid, then The Kramers and this latest manifestation is far and away their best yet. The songs are strong, politicised, catchy and there's a clarity to the sound that was missing previously. That I have managed to remember all that is testament to how good a show they put on. Afterwards I told the lead singer how good I thought they were and he gave me a copy of their new EP, a track of which is played on this week's Punky! Radio. That left one more interval and the arrival of the headline band, The Pistols. You can read about the last time I saw them here should you feel the need.

Well they blasted into "Holidays In The Sun" and we were on our way. Classic after classic was belted out and someone near me remarked that "Actually they're a lot better than The Pistols ever were". Serious praise indeed. Then something odd happened. About half way through the set they stopped, the bass player (Sid Vicious) took his guitar off, whispered into the lead singer's (Johnny Rotten) ear and walked off. "Johnny" started laughing and said "Sidney's gone for a piss and we're going to have to wait for him and I have no idea what to do!" Toby the drummer (Paul Cook) shouted "Get Paul B. Edwards up - he's in the crowd" and enough people agreed it was a good enough idea for me to take the stage (several pints in to the evening) and begin a rather long shaggy dog story (and very old joke) about a vicar and a rabbit. The whole thing took about five minutes, Sidney returned as I hit the punchline, I jumped off the stage and they carried on as if nothing had happened.

Johnny Rotten tribute singer

The Paul B. Edwards tribute act
Gig over we ventured back downstairs where a surprising number of people said I'd "Saved the gig". I hadn't - "Sid" just really needed to go to the toilet, but it was nice to be thanked. Nagi from Ministers Dead went as far as to say I had "Smashed it". All I could think was that anyone walking upstairs late might have thought that a Paul B. Edwards tribute act had jumped up halfway through the gig and through drunken paranoia (And an innate sense of mischief) I wondered whether anyone would have been drunk enough to walk up to me and tell me that I had been better than Paul B. Edwards ever was. Shots replaced pints and whimsy replaced reason.

Quite frankly it all gets a bit hazy now but by the end of the night I had managed to procure a gang of three completely out-of-control women who thought it was a spectacularly good idea for me to go back with them to carry on drinking. Not likely to disagree, I hopped in a cab with them and none of them seemed to know where they lived. We eventually got back at around 3am (I think). Within thirty minutes one of them was passed out on the kitchen floor, one of them was asleep upstairs and the last one had sworn about there being no tonic so brought me a new "tall" drink she had invented called "Gin & Cider". It's quite a potent pint and enough (certainly with the large percentage of gin contained within) to finish any night off with delirium, confusion and an entirely missed mouth on the last gulp that left something of a mess on the kitchen floor. We failed completely to find anything to eat other than ahuge amount of frozen peas and I think I went to bed about 5am - precisely, coincidentally, the exact time I had tried to avoid in South London. I awoke on the couch the next morning to a large dog licking my face. Makes a change from a cat on my legs, I suppose. None of the girls could remember me coming back with them (or why) and we sat in the garden drinking black coffee until it started coming back to us, a little. Apparently they're known collectively as "The Three Ms" because all their names start with "M". If I see them out again in public the last thing I'm likely to say, however, is"Mmm". These girls are dangerous.

...And here they are! No doubt asking for autographs with The Paul B. Edwards Tribute Act. Photos courtesy of Phil Powell  who somehow managed to keep everything in focus throughout the night. No mean feat.
The next night I did it all again in Bedford at my comedy show at The Pad. After the gig I DJ-ed. Well, what I actually did was stand next to the DJ for an hour telling him what to play and jumped on to the dance floor every time I heard one I liked. I'd like you to think about that.

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