999 – Cafe Drummonds – 19th Feburary 2010
I hummed and ha’ed about this one because of the appalling weather but in the end was glad I risked it. The roads proved to be fine both ways as it turned out and the bands served up a cracker of an evening.
First up was Malfunction who I’d not seen before. They’re a three piece who play classic old-school punk the way it should be played. Their set tonight is about 50% originals, 50% covers which leads me to suspect they’re relative newcomers to the game. (Please leave a comment if you know anything more about them.) Their choice of covers – a couple of Clash, a couple of Pistols and a couple of Ruts – doesn’t really suit the original material on offer which I personally found much more interesting. Still, their spirited takes on the likes of No Feelings and In A Rut got a good cheer off the crowd and even a few brave souls dancing so what do I know.
Anyhoooo, they opened the set with an original song. Nothing flashy, just mid tempo, 3-chord stuff but cleverly put together. It reminded me a bit of Crisis from back in the 80s. Elsewhere in their material, I got hints of Killing Joke, Art Attacks and other things that are just dancing outside the perimeter of my failing memory. Not too directly lifted though, still enough of their own identity in there to make the songs work. The only place they overstepped it was on The Pressure’s On (?) which was sooo obviously Joy Division inspired. I was just talking to Mitch about it as they segued the song into a few bars of JD’s Transmission. Too much guys! They finished their set with a cover of the Ruts H-Eyes which was another wee mistake. They played it way too slowly and it was a bit of a weak end in my opinion to what had been a promising set. I look forward to seeing them again sometime in a couple of months or so when they’ve enough originals to fill the set.
Drummonds had filled up nicely by the time Toxik Ephex took the stage in their usual state of disarray. Tonight’s six piece line-up (featuring Blake, Dave and Frank all on guitar) were tripping over themselves as they donned their guitars, unravelled leads and got plugged in. All the while singer Dod Copland was entertaining the smattering of young punks lining the front of the stage with a selection of magic tricks, spinning a playing card between his open hands and pushing a cigarette right up his nose. Finally they’re ready to go but bassist Ross has disappeared so Inspector Blake regales us with a tale of how he wrote their opening song back in 1979 while sat on the toilet with a dose of bad diarrhoea. Fortunately, Ross returns to the stage and saves us from the gorier details and they launch into Fallout Shelter. As usual, it’s sloppy as fuck. I don’t know who’s worse, Dod or Chiz, but somebody is really out of time. But, as ever, Toxik somehow drag it back together and by the end of second song Wild Side Of Life they seem to be firing on all, well, most cylinders anyway.
So what did we get? Well, let’s see. We had Dave playing a home made guitar that looked more like a surf board than the classic Bo Diddley guitar he later claimed it was modelled on. We had Dod spending more time in the crowd than onstage, stealing people’s drinks and spectacles. I nearly died when he did the twins thing with Frankie. We had Inspector Blake precariously climbing atop his amp. We had more magic tricks. We had audience requests and onstage arguments about which song to play next. We had bad jokes. We had pogoing, spitting, beer slinging and Dod continually flaunting the no-smoking laws. We had a very, VERY lengthy string change which only the singing of a vulgar playground song alleviated. We had crowd pyramids and a fully fledged stage invasion at the end for a version of Take Your Share that easily ran for ten minutes plus. Oh, and don’t forget about the fifteen or so short, sharp, punk classics that soundtracked the whole surreal event. In short, a typical Toxik Ephex gig then.
In an age when polished and professional groups of corporate directors from America are considered (by many) to be the leading punk bands of the day, Toxik remain defiantly shambolic. At one point someone said to me “It’s just like the 62 Club in 1981” and it was exactly that. Exactly that. The lyrics to one song (not played tonight sadly) go along the lines of “Life’s for living, so I’m not giving a fuck about anything!” It’s a sentiment the band obviously hold dear to their hearts even after all this time. Toxik Ephex – not so beautiful chaos – long may they continue.
After all this, I had slight concerns for 999. Not in their ability to follow it, but in how the fired-up Drummonds crowd – a great mix of young Mohicans and 62 Club veterans – would take to them. I needn’t have worried though. After a slowish start – where they were no doubt catching their breath and refilling their glasses – the dancefloor filled again as 999 ripped through their set. Kicking off with traditional opener Black Flowers For The Bride, the band quickly hit their stride and showed why, in their 34th (!) year, they’re still a top live act.
Despite being a wee, round guy these days, Nick Cash is still a great front man as he gurns and hams it up in front of the mic. They blaze through Inside Out with guitarist Guy Days going mad as he belts out the “Woah-o-oh” backing vocals. The first few times I saw 999 play he always came across as silent and moody onstage but the last couple of gigs he really seems to be having fun, using at various times a bottle and his mic stand to shred his strings. He’s the epitome of middle-aged cool in his black suit and is one of those guitarists who makes it look oh so effortless as he rips the lead lines from his instrument. In amongst the classics like Boys In The Gang and Don’t You Know I Need You, we get quite a few from recent album Death In Soho and they fit perfectly with the vintage material. The System and Gimme The World could have fitted just as easily onto their 1978 debut as they do on the current record. In particular, Last Breath sounds really good tonight, prompting an audience singalong on the chorus.
Big Arthur on the bass kicks off Feeling Alright With The Crew prompting a rush to the dancefloor as people recognise the old favourite. There are some really BIG guys moshing in there tonight so I’m staying clear My Diet Coke isn’t really a tipple conducive to punk rock dancing anyway. We get Hit Me and Titanic Reaction in quick succession keeping the high pace going. In fact, if I was going to have one we complaint (as I always usually do hehe), then it would be that they play their slower songs too fast. In particular, FAWT Crew and Emergency lose the slow burning air of menace that the records have when they’re played this quickly. It’s not all bad though, as the quicker pace gives Homicide a bit of extra zip and really gets the crowd going. Judging by the red and sweaty faces at the end of it, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a heart attack here tonight.
All too quickly, they announce Emergency as being their last song. It seems really quick, but a quick mental recap shows they’ve played about as many songs as Toxik did, just minus the fucking about. After a great romp through it they prepare to leave the stage and it looks like the dancefloor is starting to clear. Nick spots this and asks if we want one more. To be honest, the response he gets is about 50/50 Yes and No but they come back on anyway, tease us with some banter about “Och aye the noo!” and then give us an energetic run through My Street Stinks and debut 45 I’m Alive bringing the night to a satisfactory end. A really good set all in all
I have to head off early to make the drive home and it’s good to see that Drummonds has been pretty full for this tonight. Hopefully it will encourage 999 to return on the next tour and Drummonds to put on more of this sort of line up in the future. New York Johnny