Thursday, September 30, 2010

ATV - Mark Perry to play Relentless Garage Nov 20

ALTERNATIVE TV have announced TWO DATES

November 20th - LONDON's Relentless Garage.

December 11th - BRIGHTON - The Lecturn.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pop Group at the Garage, Sept 11 & 12th 2010

The Pop Group had two London dates to play the ATP at the Garage in Highbury. Their website posted Paris first on 6th September, and then Bologna and Turin. I posted a note to Mark Stewart on Facebook offering to start the dancing in Turin, serve drinks on the bus, hold the lyrics up backstage... but with no reply and no dates scheduled for New York, where I live these days, I headed to JFK.

I got tickets for both London shows and booked a B&B in Kings X close to the Cathedral that is St Pancreas station, now home to Eurostar and Marks & Spencers. Back in the day that place was a spooky, Goth hall video-makers got for a discount. I was to pass by the Costa coffee and swanky upscale restaurant for the tube, like a magic carpet ride, one stop to Highbury.

Strangely, on board my American Airlines flight to Heathrow was none other than Bruce Martin - drummer for the Tom Tom Club. He was sitting with accordian player traveling to Cork to play a wedding. (Long may they love) He told me he'd recently played a 40th anniversary date with the Tom Tom Club. That made The Pop Group's first gig after 30 years seem a little pre-mature.

I have to admit that I did see Bruce Smith drumming for PIL in New York's Terminal 5 in May, this year. When Johnny Rotten asked us to "clap along becaues I need help keeping time" it was as if a dart flew out of my head and pointing at Smith said THAT'S WHY YOU HAVE BRUCE SMITH who, that night, was riding 3 horses at once and I left that gig so super happy....
When Johnny was singing "Anger is an energy" I was swaing in the crowd full of love. Yes. I hate to say it. Love. Like a hippy. Love. I LOVED HIM. I loved him. I loved Bruce. I loved the guitarist with the pointy nose. I loved the bass player wearing a kilt and a PIL t-shirt.

My friend Kath, a Bristol gal with good recall, came with me to the 9/11 show. Her Bristol of the late 1970's was going out as often as she could to any pub or club she could get in to - when every night was band night. And going to parties when Gareth Sager and Mark Stewart would turn up wearing paper bags on their heads with faces drawn on them a la Saul Steinberg. And it was, you know, "Oh - thre's Gareht. He's in a band. He's being arty." Maximum Joy.

She went to school with Bruce Smith's sister and told me his was a wild and beatiful Bristol home with a room of African masks. His dad was an American painter. And ARTIST painter, not a house painter. His mother offered you cigarettes and COFFEE.

And Mark Stewart's bedroom floor back then, when you stepped in, was covered in photographs he'd ripped from books - photos of Artaud? A Coun. Evil men and poets. You had to watch how you crossed the room that you didn't slip on the glossy pages in your socks.

And lots of singles and a portable record player. And American singles with no centers to them. IMPORTS. THere was always a thirst with this band. An interest in the word. In the world. In that noise. That slap. That bang. That tap. An intereste in things scritti and political. Mixing it all up. You didn't walk down the street listening to your mix on your iPod blocking out the world. You blended with it. And Bristol bands were doing that. There was funk. There were white boys playing it. There was Rock against Racism. There was black and white together. And we opened the door from the mini bar into the main room at The Garage - there it was - that old familiar reggae. I almost turned round to ask Vivien Goldman what it was.

The venue holds 600 people and I believe it was sold out on Saturday. With no starter band we were going to get a pure experience.

Crowd:
Beardy blokes. Some grey hair. Some young boys with young girlfriends hanging on their arms checking their msgs and Apps.
A young lad in a suit who I asked "What brings you here?" and he told me he'd got a naughty download but he'd also paid money for a Pop Group record and he liked it. It was intelligent and he liked political things.

I saw Viv and Tessa from The Slits but not for long as Viv headed straight to the front to start the dancing.

There were some lazer looks of love as I scanned the room. I recognized a glint in the ye here and there, if not the face...

9:15pm. The violin strings of "Somewhere my love" - i think might be the theme to Dr Zhivago...

BRUCE SMITH was first on the stage in his white jacket. My hero, as you've gathered. There was a third young lad on guitar I didn't recognize. No Underwood. No Waddington. [Is it true Simon Underwood is playing with Lily Allen these days?]

Dan Castis followed Bruce on - now tough and muscly in his red Warhol t-shirt.

There was a guitar tech with blonde dreads agains the wall on the far side. He tuned and paused with a guitar for Gareth Sager who headed straight to an electric piano and started playing it like a man brushing dust off it left from last century.

Then Sager took his guitar.

And then the needle hit the groove and there was light.

Out flashed the beginning riff to WE ARE ALL PROSTITUTES and MARK STEWART flew into the mike with the lyric. They were here with that familiar haunted house yell and roller coaster clatter.

The set went from LOUD to LOUDER - I dont' know if there are even knobs o nthe baord these days but whateaver he was doing, Charlie The Soundman got it spot on.

It might hurt but their sound was tunneling through rubble from the past 30 years and brought them to the surface FAST maaaaaaan. Fiercesome. Exciting. Measured. After a while you're not sure if the music is inside or outside your head. You have to let go. The Pop Group is a band that rattles you. You feel in danger. You tense up. That won't help you. You can't be afraid.

In the powerful version of Saturdays THIEF OF FIRE, Mr. Stewart took the mike away from his mouth and stood with his mouth open allowing the dub vocal to make it appear that his words were still rolling out. Kath saw an angry landlord barking for his money. I had a flashback to a painting by Francis Bacon of a Pope having a tantrum.

FORCES OF OPPRESSION Gareth stole Pere Ubu's clarinet and strangled til it squealed to be let go and back to his guitar.

Sager often played like his strings were too hot and/or like he was trying to set them on fire by rubbing his strings and his plectrum together. Yeah - he looked older but as we all said in the dust after the show OLD is the NEW Alive, isn't it. There's premium gallons of rythym and action in the man. He often appeared to FLY to the front of the stage in the manner of a caged bird, and he'd be pulling his strings at us rather than pull his hair out.

Sometimes Sager turned his back while Mark was pacing or bouncing or boxing or bending double, screaming or (Sunday) singing straight into the audeince CCTV cameras.

Bruce's coat came off soon in to the set.
He looked like he was enjoying himself so much.
I can't tell you what a joy it is to watch him.
It's a joyful catch-you-out, pay-attention drumming style. It's well rehearsed. It's easy but then an odd parra diddle smack won't throw you off exactly, it'll just wiggle you sideways. The last song I was dancing from the inside out. He makes it look like he's going to play til he can't do it any more. And he sings too.

Halfway through the show, the lad in the suit got me and shook my by my shoulders "YOU ASKED ME WHY I'M HERE! IT'S THIS! YOU JUST DON'T HEAR MUSIC LIKES THIS ANY WHERE EVER!!!" He was very excited. Or maybe we were dancing. Kiss The Book.

My photos are mostly from after the show on Sunday night. A beaming Dennis Bovell (recorder of The Slits) - looking healthy and happy and GOURGEUS in his green track suit top. Me with band members. But I just don't recognize myself. It's like the pictures are from some time machine. Tardis Ride. Future... OH. No. It's me. Now.

The finish line was clocked as 10:30pm GMT.

On Saturday I managed to grab the young guitarist who was first onto the dance floor from the dressing room at the end of the show. I asked him his name. He said, Alexi. I asked him how he was feeling. He was in a sort of excstacy. He said, "I'm playing with legends. They are legends in their own time!" and that made me smile. He was playing along side them. His Fender and Gareth's Fender Jazzmaster...

So the set list:
We are All Prostitutes
Words Disobey Me
Colour Blind (correct spelling there, thank you)
Thief of Fire
Trap
She's Beyond Good and Evil
Snese
KISS THE BOOK (my personal favourite on Sunday)
Forces of Opposition
and of course WE ARE TIME

What else can I tell you?
The difference between the shows?

Saturday the room was packed. Expectant. The band totally present. The encore transcendant.
Bruce and Dan came back together on drum and bass - and then Jason, adding Gareth, crowned by Stewart. Giddy making. Sunday. I would say the crowd on sunday was boozier. Mark cajoled them along. There were more CCTV camera-kids. Every time they were held aloft, Stewart would sing RIGHT INTO THEM.

Sunday my highlight was KISS THE BOOK when Stewart became full of visuals for me again. I don't know how that happens. Suddenly he was a ferocious Angry Catholic Dad or an evil maniac scientist. I can't help mentioning here that the Pope is supposed to visit London this upcoming weekend. KISS THE BOOK.

Yes - I bought the t-shirt. I bought two.

Oh! and did I mention that i was guested in on Sunday by Dick O'Dell, their first manager. He and I had dinner beforehand where he told me Bat For Lashes are back in the studio for their third album

He also told me a good story about managing The Slits when The Slits played BONDS NYC in the 80's with The Clash. I believe they played 5 in a row. I was at one of those shows. I can't remember which one. Dick couldn't remember if it was 5 or not either. What he did remember was staying at the Iriquois Hotel and stomping on the cockroaches. He also remembered he went back to the hotel with Bernie Rhodes to wait for the men with the money. Two men came to the room with carrier bags of cash. Apparently it came up short and after counting it, Dick said so. The Men In Black flashed their belts and said, @no it isn't@ and thankfully, our hero Mr. O'Dell saw the guns and manated to refrain Bernie from requesting a recount. And went back to stomping on the cockroaches.

Dick was the first person to take me to an art gallery. I even went to art school after his opening of that door to me. And on a number of occasions, he was kind enough to drop a sock out of his London flat with his keys in so I didn't have to walk home in London in the middle of the night after a gig in my mohair sweater and my PVC trousers.

What else can I tell you?

There was a heckler. "Why aren't you playing Bristol?"

Mark Stewart didn't answer.

Has Bristol got an airport yet?