Sunday, 2 March 2008

Impact/The Warriors/The Business @ The Glebe, Stoke. March 1st.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

I have to admit that punk rock is a genre that has generally passed me by, although I am a fan of the Sex Pistols, The Damned and the more well-known punk bands, this is the first time I have ever attended a gig given over entirely to punk rock, or rather ‘oi’ music, as someone corrected me on earlier in the evening. The Glebe is a great old-time scruffy rock pub and an ideal venue for such an occasion. Up until that evening, I had little idea that so many punks and skinheads of all ages still existed; although there were far more skinheads than punks in attendance, but this may be due to the fact that middle-aged thatchs rarely lend themselves to such elaborate hairstyles, although that doesn’t mean to say they weren’t there. Some nifty mohicans were on younger heads and although they look very showy, they seem very high maintenance to me and many looked in need of prompt attention after a solid evening’s bounding around.

Impact were the first band on and appeared to be doing very well audience appreciation-wise until the end of the third or fourth song, when the applause abruptly dropped to a level more akin to cricket matches than a punk rock gig and stayed that way until Impact finally left the stage. Why? I haven’t a clue. To my ears, Impact’s later tunes thundered just as riotously along as the ones prior to this sudden change in reception. In a possible attempt to revive their previous welcome, Impact altered course slightly and gave us a blast of Motorhead’s classic ‘Ace of Spades’, which wasn’t a bad cover at all, but the clapping still would not rise above that awarded to a good shot at a conker match. Excuse the pun, but despite the band’s obvious commitment and energy, it appeared that little impact was made.

I don’t know what it is that makes some skinheads more menacing-looking than others, but if such a thing could be measured on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say Impact were about mark 2 and the next band, The Warriors, mark 8. Their cockney vocalist, a jovial Russ Abbot lookalike, but minus the hair, having bombarded the audience with their opening number and thence a song apparently called ‘Noisy Bollocks’, showed us his belly on which the band’s name was elaborately tattooed and enquired if there were any fat people in the audience. I don’t know if any hands went up, but before we knew it, another musical pelting was under way in the form of a ditty called ‘The Bhudda of the Backstreets’. Punk rock(or ‘oi’ music)-wise, this band knows its stuff and the drummer’s relentless rhythm on ‘Political Crossfire’ really made the song. Hurtling to a finish with the metal-ish ‘The Last Result’, The Warriors hung about as if expecting to be asked for an encore, which they weren’t. I guess this particular audience just ain’t no good at applause.

Having said that though, there was a definite air of expection prior to the headliner’s entrance. The playing of Ken Dodd’s ‘Happiness’ as they made their way to the stage only added to the growing anticipation. Up from South-East London, and having Burslem lad Tosh playing guitar for them on stage right, The Business have a well-established following amongst enthusiasts of beer-flinging and generally pretending to kick each others’ heads in without actually doing it - although a battery of gargantuan bouncers stood between the crowd and the band, presumably in case the simulated punch-up got a bit real and needed sorting. Having just seen one lookalike fronting one band, I did a double take when what appeared to be one of the Chuckle Brothers sans moustache standing on the stage to front the next. Actually vocalist Micky Fitz, he went on to say something about the Chuckle Brothers later on in the set, but having been long buffeted to the back, I didn’t catch what he was actually saying about them, although he appeared to be holding up a poster of some sort. Looking around mark 7 on the menace meter, The Business got down to work, and it must be said that they do punk rock (or ‘oi’ music) very, very well. By the third song the audience at the front consisted solely of leaping, pushing, shoving, trampling, air-punching individuals; falling over, getting up, falling over, throwing beer, grinning maniacally and generally looking like they were having a whale of a time stopping just a whisker short of partaking in a savage brawl. Spotting a battered-looking grey-haired chap being thrown hither and thither in the manic melee, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had actually joined in willingly or had somehow found himself caught up on his way to the toilet. The audience in general seemed well familiar with The Business’s playlist and their version of Status Quo’s ‘Mean Girl’ and a catchy song called ‘Harry Main’ (I think), went down especially well. Interesting to note that, good as they were, The Business didn’t get asked for an encore either. Still, they can’t complain about the response. An interesting night, and definitely an experience, for sure.

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