Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Cock SParrer at Riot Fest, September 2014

If I were the sort of Sparrer fan who wrote fan fiction (and trust me, I'm sure they are out there somewhere), I might imagine a dream scenario where Sparrer play to their largest ever crowd, and as the sun slowly sets over the punks, skins and who knows what, the crowd sing England Belongs To Me in unison, and ferris wheel lights up in red, white and blue behind it all. What a picture.

Except this wasn't the imaginings of someone somewhere on the internet, but instead what actually happened at Riot Fest Chicago last weekend. And it was beautiful. As beautiful as a muddy gathering of the unique and wonderful can get when everything is accompanied by the smell of port-a-loos...

We arrived in Chicago Thursday afternoon, met up with Dad and the other reprobates and then set about running up two bar tabs that would make Lemmy proud. Waking up the next morning to the sound of splashing rain on the windows was not an exciting prospect considering there were merch tents to be set up. Luckily the Pirates are a hardy bunch and very resourceful. We McGyvered the shit out of that situation. Even when wet and cold, we were never miserable (unlike the silly girls from the stall next door, they were just miserable).
We Know How To Live

The club show Friday night was our first chance to get out of the rain and defrost. The Concord Music Hall was a nice venue, the staff we met during the day were lovely. A very funny moment was when Sparrer agent Ron introduced himself to the stage manager Burgundy. You can do the joke yourselves. I say the staff during the day because it seemed to me that whilst security did their job at night, they could have been a little less zealous in barging through the crowd to sort out what they thought were scuffles. We're a punk crowd and in the large we can look after ourselves thank you.

Victory opened the show and I highly recommend you check them out. Somewhere between Bishop's Green and stompy Harrington Saints. Stiff Little Fingers played their second set of the day, having played the main festival only hours earlier. They brought all the classics and we had a great singalong. And then it was Sparrer...

...who thought they'd give some of the lesser played live tracks a run out. Which suited me right down to the ground. We were treated to The Sun Says, Working Pts 1, 2 & 3 and Secret Army, a song that is sometimes put on the subs bench to make way for other, younger players. I've written before about how much I love seeing bands having fun on stage and this gig really did remind me why they are friends first and a band second.

Back to the hotel and on to the moonshine, a story I will have to save for another day.

What a difference the weather makes. Saturday was glorious. The sun, the cider and the free backstage bar that my ever resourceful pirate women found... What wasn't fucking glorious was the sudden onslaught of wasps (yes Yanks you call them bees, I call them wasps, either way evil bastards). You've never seen bigger and meaner looking punks shrieking and jumping around. Hilarious. We had a little boogie to The Crombies. The day was on a roll.

From the very talented and funny @RiotFest Twitter account
Then there was an encounter with a Chicago fireman who loved Sparrer, some Buzzcocks, the loss of an entire pint in the pursuit of wasp death, being photographed by the official Riot Fest photographer (yeah 'official', we thought the same, turns out he actually was), making friends with an awesome group of artists who make beautiful printed leather goods, and being chased by a zombie in a ski mask. None of this is made up.

And then it was time for Sparrer to start. Like clockwork, the band on the stage next door finished and the wings banner began to rise, accompanied by the Overture we all know so well. I broke the rule of a lifetime and watched from side of stage. And I am so pleased I did. Because if I'm going to do it once, I'm glad it was this one.
"And that stall over there has the best deep fried cheese curds..."

They honestly played one of the best sets I've ever seen them play. It was the first time I've been able to see them play an outdoor festival set and I had serious doubts about losing the energy from the crowd. I couldn't have been more wrong. Take Em All sounded just as powerful. The pit looked just as feisty. And as at every Sparrer show I've ever been at, there were two teenage skinhead girls on the barrier (Hi Cammie and Erin, we think you are fucking brilliant!).

And the crowd just got bigger and bigger with every song. A very, very smart move on behalf of RiotMike and the team to put the Descendents on the stage next door directly after Sparrer. I get the impression that a number of their fans became Sparrer fans during that set. An impression confirmed by Pirates who helped a number of people buy their first ever copy of Shock Troops over the next few days.

You should watch this video taken by some bloke called Skippy to really get a feel for the size of it (Ding!).

And the sun did set as they played England, the ferris wheel illuminating the night sky. Being stuck in America during our green card process is making me very homesick. Very London sick. But hearing that anthem sung at me by thousands and thousands of punks and skins? That just made me very proud.

Sunday RiotFest was a whole 'nother adventure, and so it deserves a tale all of its own.
Laters punks, feels good to be writing again xxx

Monday, 22 September 2014

No More Avoidance Tactics

Enough is enough. I haven't written anything in over six months and even though I seriously miss it, all I've been doing is coming up with excuses not to sit down and make myself do it.

For a while I was telling myself it was because my life was mainly a lot of things I didn't want to share with the world. There were hatches, matches and dispatches, celebrated and mourned in private with family and close friends. So there is a certain amount of truth to this, but I know those we're missing would hate the thought they were an excuse for not doing something.

But I do miss it. I miss the process of trying to arrange my thoughts and ideas in a way that make sense and make people laugh. I miss being horrified with how a sentence came out and binning the whole thing, starting again trying to craft a story that truly reflected my experience.

Mostly I miss the accountability, people responding to my writing and telling me their thoughts. I miss engaging with people about the things I care most about. And I miss people telling me they enjoyed reading my blog.

So it's back. Even more radical and with very few holds barred. First up, Sparrer and Riot Fest. Watch this space.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

My two cents on the music and more of 2013

Happy New Year to one and all! Mine was cracking, thanks for asking.

Pretty much all of the sites that I write for asked me to compile a list for an end of year round up. I partially wrote one for New Noise but life got in the way and I didn't finish it. So to start the East End Girl blog for 2014, here's a mishmash list of things I meant to share but never got round to.

1. My album of 2013. Lenny Lashley's Gang of One - Illuminator
There were a handful of good albums last year, and a few singles which have made me really excited about full lengths (The Interrupters, Bishops Green, Booze & Glory, The Ratchets, I'm looking at you kids), but in terms of the album which still gives me goosebumps, there was a clear hands down winner. I sing along to every word in the car, even throwing in some B-Town accent in certain places. I want to be arm in arm with Lauren and Tahira singing Hooligans (make this happen in February girls!). I have sent copies to my nearest and dearest. I want to see these songs live again as soon as possible.

2. My favorite gig of 2013. Saturday Night, Rebellion Festival, Blackpool
What happens when you make the headline night of the world's biggest and best punk festival a Cockney knees up? Well ladies and germs, we get those knees aloft! We all got a bit layjered during the day, then Chas and Dave took to the stage and we were off. I stopped and looked around at one point and was completely surrounded by family and close friends dancing their boots off. The septics and the Serbian watching on, part amused part horrified by the dancing and the singing. "What's a Gertcha?" I was asked after. Follow that with the Rejects and Sparrer, a line up which surely writes itself, and the more astute among us worried for the Ballroom's floor. A belter.

3. Being an auntie is brilliant.
Many, many congratulations to my sister in law and her husband who became proud parents and made me a first time auntie. All the cuteness and none of the mental and physical endurance needed to raise a child. Hat's off to all parents!

4. Artist I most enjoyed interviewing in 2013: Louise Distras. Forever and a day.
I think in total, Louise and I talked on the record three times this year, but I reviewed her album and singles in a few different places on top of that and had some great twitter conversations with her. Plus I might have mentioned her whenever I spoke to someone new. I think she is amazing in a way that I feel about so few people. Someone who speaks honestly, who has goals and wants to speak out about the world we live in. I admire every bone in her body, and that's before we even get to her music. See this woman live soon and tell me if the hairs don't stand up on the back of your neck. Her music and her message need listening to. Dreams From The Factory Floor is a top album. And she always makes me laugh when I talk to her. Good people.

5. Sporting event I'm most proud of: Red Sox winning the World Series
Now normally there would be no sporting inclusion in any list blog of mine, but that's because I'm a West Ham fan, and we win bugger all. This season, my adopted baseball team actually won the best thing there is to win. It's more than the Premiership and the FA Cup combined. And I supported all the way. I developed my own superstitions (only eating nachos and drinking shandies, not so much of a superstition but a survival strategy), I knew the players names, I had my own shirt which didn't get washed until after the competition. Then they won. Having never won anything more prestigious than the Intertoto Cup, this was a strange experience for me. So I got into the spirit(s), drank loads of Jamesons and sang Sweet Caroline really loudly. It's a nice feeling, winning something.

6. Person I met that I want to have more conversations with: Greg Huff, singer from Bishops Green
One of the thing about hosting a three day party that never ends is that you meet some incredible people, and have some amazing conversations. Over the course of the Pirates Press 9th Anniversary Party I had discussed a range of topics you would not believe. To give you examples would dull your imagination. Imagine it and we probably discussed it.
Bishops Green weren't able to stay very long the day after they played, and I didn't get the chance to carry on the brilliant conversation I had with Greg the night before. I'm looking forward to it next time our paths cross. Not that I'm stalking you or anything mate.

7. TV show of 2013: Orange Is The New Black
This new programme, available only on Netflix, is based on a book written by Piper Kerman about her experiences serving a sentence for drug smuggling in a women's prison. My work for Justice Now has given me insights which made the show both cringeworthy and very reflective of the experiences of people inside women's prisons. I then read Piper's book and could see that turning it into a TV show takes the plot away from her actual experience. It certainly gets the Hollywood treatment. Considering it shines a light into an experience that hasn't been seen or discussed in the mainstream media in a long time (if ever), the show has done a good job of putting the issue on people's agendas. Where it should be.

8. Music that came out of nowhere and became a firm favorite: The two 7" releases from The Interrupters
I played 'Family' for my 6 year old goddaughter and she wanted it played again immediately so she could join in. I felt the same way about 'Liberty'. The music makes me feel the same way I felt when I first heard La Plebe - they share a Californian sound that makes me think of sunshine and shouting. Aimee's voice makes me want to reach for my boots and eyeliner, and head out to drink cider in a park - which I never did the first time round I may point out. I can't wait to hear what they have up their sleeves for the full length.

9. Performance I Never Thought I'd Get To See: The Ratchets
I've loved The Ratchets for many years now, and had resigned myself to the fact that I'd probably never see them live, perform songs that have become classics in our collection. Through some sort of wizardry, they agreed to play agin, for the first time since 2007, at the PP9 Weekend Celebration. And not only did they completely surpass expectations, but they are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. An absolute pleasure.

10. What I'm most looking forward to about 2014 (music-wise that is)
One fateful night in Watford, towards the end of February, when the might of Argus Bargus come home to play their own turf... Joined by some of the most dubious characters you'll have the pleasure of meeting, including those who make up the rest of the outstanding bill. Yes I do love Argy Bargy that much that I'm flying all the way home to attend. Of course. Oi! Oi! See you at the bar.
And of course considering how much fun we had celebrating Pirates Press 9th Anniversary, I can just imagine the carnage we'll create celebrating the tenth. And it's my 30th birthday so who knows what shenanigans will ensue. Plenty I hope...