Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Support Bands

The bands who have to play warm up. While the audience are filing into the auditorium. Playing their hearts out while people buy their drinks at the bar. Or their overpriced T-shirt with the transfer that'll come off in the first machine wash. Let's salute some I saw in my gig-going days. Some surprising, some superior to the main act, each being dutifully watched by me as I sought to get my place as close to the stage for the main act as possible and defend it to the last...

1) U2 Around the time of their debut LP "Boy" I saw them supporting punkers Stiff Little Fingers. (You could say there's been a seismic shift in the bands' relative fortunes from that day). I quite liked the "Boy" album and the single "11 o Clock Tick Tock" but went off them with all subsequent releases. Even then their fans had extrapolated a religio-spiritual image for the band, for as we were entering the venue, there was a collection for the crew of a lifeboat disaster and as I punk-rockerly stormed past the bucket without contributing, I was regaled with "I hope you don't get caught out at sea with your pants down". Not a very Christian attitude I thought to myself...

2) The Smiths Again early in their career, they were supporting then Rough Trade label mates The Fall. I always thought it likely that Mark E Smith just fancied having a band sharing his soubriquet to further exalt his status. I knew the Smithws were being talked about in reverential tones as the next big thing, but when Morrisey swanned on stage and hit us at the front of the stage with his gladioli and set off my hay fever, he lost any possible patronage on my part. I've never liked The Smiths, even if that made me a social pariah at university, where all the young men in long coats mourning Ian Curtis of Joy Division's death, switched their doomy love to Morrisey and thus were able to avoid a wardrobe readjustment. Atchooo!

3) Sonic Youth They were already established as 80's New York's finest purveyors of art noise and I'd seen them headline a previous UK tour. But in a depressed alternative scene after post-punk faded away into synthesizers and foppish New Romanticism, those pimply brothers from Glasgow The Jesus And Mary Chain had whipped up a storm and were on the front pages of the music press week after week. A fuzzbox applied to classic American surf/bubblegum rock and roll didn't offer a whole hell of a lot that was new under the sun, but the fact that their headline sets lasted no more than 15 minutes and thereby frequently prompted a riot among the audience had conferred instant notoriety on them. But as always happens when you play with fire, the band get worn down by the violence and infamy and had taken a break from playing live. This gig was their first London one after that break and Sonic Youth were scandalously below them on the bill. The Youth played a knee-trembling 20 minute set and left the stage with the feedback squall still shrieking at the end of "Expressway to Yr Skull" for a full three minutes. They blew away the Chain and showed them what a wall of guitar noise really was. Part way into the Chain's opener, I found myself wishing that their set would last its normal 15 minutes. They eked it out to 25 and I felt cheated that the Youth had been forced to cut short theduration of their normal set.

4) Serious Drinking/ Millions Of Dead Cops. The Dead Kennedys, West Coast hardcore punk at its theatrical finest, were touring the UK. Newly signed labelmates Millions of Dead Cops and two UK punk bands made for a strong bill. After a plodding set from The Subhumans, MDC took to the stage. I'd already got familiar with their debut LP, but their set still just blew me away. With songs like "John Wayne Was A Nazi" and "Corporate Deathburger", well you kind of get the picture. Punk rock played at 100mph, with no let up or pause for breath. It was intense. Serious Drinking then took to the stage. A comedy punky-SKA with songs like "Love On the Terraces" and "Bobby Moore was Innocent" they were the ideal kick back antidote to MDC. Perfect for serving up the live phenomenon that were the Dead Kennedys. A truly top night's beer-and spittle-soaked entertainment. Hey don't knock it until you've tried it!

5) World Domination Enterprises/ Loop. These two groups had an honourable deal whereby they took turns to headline, with the other going on first. I was never much of a Loop fan, but they were far more popular than the ghetto World Dom. The version I saw was with Loop as the headliners, but they couldn't compete with the dub-heavy reverberations of World Dom, a three piece who made one hell of a quaking racket. The band sort of expired when their drummer became a Jehovah's Witness. Pity.

6) Swans Again The Fall had afforded a soon to be vital band an early outing as their support act. I just remember spending their entire set with my finers in my ears pressed up against the speakers because they were so loud. But when John Peel played "Clay Man" on the radio, my whole body started twitching involuntarily to the rhythm as its muscle memory kicked and and overpowered me. That's how powerful their short set had been. I was a convert and I hadn't even realised it.

7) Birthday Party. Bit of a cheat this one as they were a double headline with The Fall. The two most important underground bands of 1984 or whenever it was. The Hammersmith Palais toilets were full of people shooting up. The auditorium full of Mark E Smith clones complaining at all the Nick Cave look-alikes, and Nick Cave clones complaining about the Mark E Smith wannabees. Was I possibly the only person in there to see both bands? When the Birthday Party finished the opening set, those around me at the lip of the stage all ceded their berths to be replaced by Fall fans, I've never experienced that before. They were both great by the way.

8) A.C.Temple. Remember them? I barely do and that's despite the fact they seemed to crop up on virtually every bill I turned up to. Never making it past the first act. They weren't realy that good. I never bought any of their records (unlike say Swans or World Dom, bought on the strength of seeing them live and not knowing who they were). I salute their dogged tenacity. There were other bands always turning up on bills, like The Moodists (named by ace comic Stewart Lee as one of his favourite bands) and an early incarnation of The Shamen before they turned poppy sloppy with "E's Are Good". They were terrible as a plod rock band.

So there you have it. 7 support bands of decidedly varying calibre. Let's hear it for the warm up guys!

1 comment:

Kat said...

Lol. I recognized 2 of those bands. LOL.