THE SAS TOUR
STOCKPORT, THE THATCHED HOUSE - 19th December 2009
Up at 7.30am - quick breakfast, a last minute push on the various computer social pages and a get together of backdrops, CD's, posters, notebook and most importantly booze. Arriving at The Thatched House at the arranged 9.00am I was left knocking away before I finally got keys thrown my way and was able to let myself into a very cold, dingy gaff indeed. The first few bands arrived and a few keen supporters of the cause (genuine appreciation for that - you know who you are). The sound guy was due to arrive in good time for a 10.00am start but other arrangements had been made apparently and he was arriving at about 10'ish at the earliest. First band due on were 3 Black Dwarfs and thanks to Glue Ears drummer Lambert things were eventually started and a 15 minute delay was all that was had (Cheers man). This day was going to be a long one in many ways and although many had said I was mad to take on a 20+ bander (which ended up as only a 18 band/19 set showcase - bah) I thought it was worth attempting to show what the SAS bands are capable of when pulling together. Nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say!
So for me the Most Under-Rated Band of the Year 3 Black Dwarfs hit the stage with sleep filled eyes at 10.15am and rattled out a set that would wake the most deepest sleeper. With quite a few watching them the day started in fine style and the first tin was opened to celebrate. Really well organised and power-surging in parts with magnetic melody one just can't ignore the 3BD machine hit all the right alarms to get the on-lookers punky brains kicked into action. 'Blackboard/Whiteboard' politically toys and destroys with its 4 count inducement and thriving life. No worries throughout the set and 'One Plus One' finished in big, big style. Please book these for 2010 - you need em' in your punky lives.
Glue Ear are in this punk game for no other reason than 'just a crack'. For me that approach deserves applause and these 3 unassuming characters deserve each and every gig they get and I hope the following year is really kind to them. You take the band in your stride and come to enjoy and not critically assess. There are always the odd blips here and there but these are becoming less frequent but somehow add character. The set becomes tidier and more structured with each outing and this was pretty good. 'Stand Up And Fight' was my fave and hopefully I can point these in the direction of gigs farther afield for next year.
Glue Ear - in it for the crack and pleasing the Fungal Fucker no end
Still only just past 11.00am we had the pleasure of watching CRUX next, a band I had not seen before but as is the way with the SAS I thought I would throw them in and assess as they play. This was however more a case of 'CRU' as one member was missing and time was too short to wait for him to get his ass to the gig. No gripes from the band and up they got and gave me a total surprise. The bouncing vibe was evident throughout and despite being a man down smart spirit and some good songs won the day for me. They really held themselves together and that is what I like to see in a band. Very fuckin' likeable and the catchy pop crustiness was devoured with relish. The CD I piocked up will be reviewed – will it back up my thoughts? Heck back soon.
CRUX - a very unexpected turn up
Stealing The Process are a young crew who came in quietly, played a nifty set and left after watching a few bands with little fuss. They recovered well after a broken string (which there wasn't time to fix so in stepped that great gent from Mardi Gras Bombers Gerard, who lent the band his guitar - quality touch) and they technically tumbled their way to a good standard and showed solid promise. The sound for me bordered on pop punk and one word of suggestion would be to not get too over-technical and so confuse matters and specific genres. I think the solid pop route is where they should concentrate their efforts and just slightly speckle with new-school intricacies here and there. A nice bunch they seemed too and I am more than happy to help them along and advise people to check em’ out. Cheers lads.
Stealing The Process - a good band in the making here - nice one
As soon as Mardi Gras Bombers hit the stage you knew the standard was going up, up, up. I love this crew and consider them real cunts amongst many a floppy fannies (now that's a compliment to savour). The whole connectivity between the band, the glorious punk attitude and the just darn friendliness of this bunch make it mine and the punters worthwhile to go and support em’. As an added bonus these guys are fuckin' brilliant. In the last 12 months I witnessed 3 solid performances, reviewed their first comfortable CD and in truth have grown very fond of the band all round. 'Thought Police' oozed intent and I had to remind myself the band were playing without a bassist. Yeah - can you believe it - no bloody bassist and still rockin' the joint. Part of the body may be lacking but the soul thrives strong! 'Derelict Spiv Nation' is fast becoming a classic in the Fungal mental matter as well as the whole set to be honest - love it. Time taken to observe each individual player was my honour and I could find no fault whatsoever. 2010 is the year this band can take on all-comers and win big time - please support some decent people.
Mardi Gras Bombers - what a bunch of cunts ha, ha
St Tantrums were another band I had thrown into the mix after never viewing them live and what a fuckin' surprise, and more importantly, pleasure it was. Very approachable and likeable guys with a sleazy glamour punk expulsion that was truly an asset to the day. I like to mix and match and this really broke the set styles so far and left me more than a little happy. Some very exciting noises were ground out here with an effervescent undercurrent to ensnare the most indifferent punter. The androgynous frontman looked the part and was backed by an equally effective band who plied their trade with zeal. The twist and turns of sexualised sonica left me wanting more - watch this space.
St Tantrums - the glam ain't no sham as this lot can play
Rebel Conspiracy are a hardcore unit but try to maintain melody within the melee and so win favour with more than just the obvious few. I like this band and the guys in it are always welcome company. Andy on bass is the quietest guy of the 3 unassuming blokes and is growing in stature as regards the 4-string manipulation. Mat on drums is a proper nice lad who needs a bloody good haircut and a stint in the army but other than that is just a fantastic drummer that seems to be gettng faster and faster the more I witness his skills. Bartek is the guitar/frontman and despite a love of all Nazi Nudity and Peach Porn (only joking mate) is a bloody decent fella who is just a smiling joy to be around. The band today played the usual set but the momentum is gaining and all corners of this terror triangle are gradually merging to become one efficient unit. Next year will see them get more gigs and get more impressive and that gets my vote - full stop.
As a promoter criticism is par for the course. No matter what you do there is always someone knows better and never anyone to take the shit end of the stick. When I first showcased Born To Destruct I got praise and criticism in equal measure but knew in my own mind what I saw had potential and to be honest wasn't that displeased by the initial viewing anyway. 2 more viewings showed the expected progression and a new album release has convinced me these guys (oops and gal) are still curving upwards. Today's performance satisfied me no end and was the best of the lot so far and still has me thinking there is a whole lot in reserve. This is very exciting for underdog enthusiasts and one reason why we love mooching in the sonic undergrowth. Drums and bass are perfectly relaxed and top, top, top man Woodstock on guitar just does is thing regardless - a fuckin' gent of punk rock you know. Kat at the front is the one, to be brutal, in the critical firing line and she is coming on a treat and surely must be well on her way to making a big, juicy cake full of many critical words one or two bad mouthers may be forced to eat. Good on ya lass and keep it moving forward. 'Sudden Death' - 'Bollox' was delicious and 'Sick, Scum and Apathy' a moment to enjoy and one I hope some bugger has recorded. More of the same please!
Born To Destruct - Born To Succeed methinks
Looking at my notes it was Cosmic Finger next although I am sure this wasn't the case. My head was scrambled at this point due to bobbing here and there, chatting to all and sundry and just trying to absorb as much of the day as possible. Forgive me if I am out of sync somewhat! So to the digit that is cosmic - well what can you say? A two piece plunged into sordid vulgarity and real basic punk tomfoolery that will divide opinion. The 3CR cover of 'She Bummed Me' reflects the style of this band and if you like one you will like the other. I can take it or leave it but will opt to do the former as punky dude and frontman Stef is worthy of support due to his zealous approach to the scene. Not bad and a welcome change to proceedings. A CD to review is mine – again check back soon thy deviants of the dingle.
Skip Rat I have seen on two previous occasions and both of those were also SAS ventures. They come, do the business and never cause me any fuss. That is bonus number one but the fact that all I get is positive feedback is more than enough to convince me of an efficient outfit who really don't play enough gigs. It’s a kind of reggae, crust, retro slipstream that this crew fall into and one can't help but slide along with them. All the songs from the two CD's I have were played nicely and in truth I still want more. Let’s hope next year sees them out in the field a little bit more.
The Razor Cuts next and after the soured misunderstanding afterwards which I really don't want to go into anymore I will let the review and the episode pass without further ado.
With the head now in tatters I am afraid Total Bloody Chaos and Flat Back Four (which should be Flat Back One as Steve played a solo set due to circumstance outside his control) really got the shit arse of my attention, although I did note that both sets pleased many (as well they should) and got things back on track without any fuss. Total Bloody Chaos knocked out the usual stuff with consistent vigour and honest intent. This band have always been in my favour and I can't see why that should change after what I saw here. I am so disappointed that the set almost passed me by without me re-channelling my thoughts but the aforementioned episode just got me down and it took time to recover. What I saw of FBF Steve was admirable and very well executed and I will be pecking his head for a repeat performance at some point. Nice guy too and another who deserved more of my attention - sorry all!
Flat Back One - Can I borrow your brain - you know the rest
The Senton Bombs steamrolled forth and really reinforced my belief that this is an outfit who are a cut above and really do intermingle a variety of styles and come out with an individual powerhouse racket. Slamming riffology, grooving inflection and hustle-o-rama attitude, the SB fighting machine just lets you have it - full fuckin' tilt. The band now have a new guitarist and that is the final icing on the cake which I hope many more punters will be partaking of over the coming year. There is a strict ethos here that will not be swayed into producing regular orthodox tuneage that will meet the needs of the metal heads or the punk tops. The Senton Bombs do it their way only, and I am happy to be classed as a fan. Beltin' stuff and another band I hope to help push further to the fore for thy pleasure - peel those eyes dudes.
The Senton Bombs - wake up to reality, a very good band
A splitting head, low morale, tired legs but a determination to see this day through I stood back and watched The Distrakted powersurge forth and really shine bright on this talent-filled showcase. These guys have rocked hard in their short time in the scene and are growing into a hefty outfit I can only applaud more and more. 'Monster Eats The Pilot' and 'Bloodshot In Polaroid Eyes' are my faves but the set is one entire pleasure that starts swift and finishes in the same fashion. Another gang of great 'erberts with frontman Johnny a particular punk fave of mine in an ocean of dubious dickies.
The Distrakted - ouch that's hardcore
Four to go and to say I was struggling would be a perilous understatement liable to launch my name into the heavenly realms of dishonesty. I was absolutely shot at this point and if any bands less than the 4 forthcoming outfits were about to take to the stage I think I would have just cracked up. It's been a long trying year and this was the culmination of events and had been a mentally and physically taxing day thus far. I'd supped a fair bit so far and hit the pop to stay on the right side of sanity and so readied myself for the technical accuracy that is Sounds of Swami. This crew hit hard and persistently pummel away with highly charged drama that razzles and dazzles its way into your numbed head. Since I first paraded them, (oooh about 2 and a half years ago was it, I reckon so) this super-tight outfit took my breath away and still do so to this day. Over a longer period this really isn't my bag but over a 20 - 40 minute dash I really do appreciate the skill and expertise this band throw forth into the meticulously timed music. Mesmerising and my pick tonight was the obvious depth and strength of 'Lions Share' - massive.
2 Sick Monkeys get oodles of reviews from me - 8 to date I think and so what can I add. They are fuckin' brilliant, you should have seen them by now and you should have all their stuff on CD - if not then you really should (as in the words of the band) - Eins, zwei, drei, vier - dum, dum, dum, dum, dum - 'FUCK OFF'. A top notch class outfit - that will suffice methinks!
2 Sick Monkeys - They are good ya know
Talking of top notch outfits - Fungals 2008 Band of the Year were followed by 2009 Band of the Year namely Most Likely To Fail and for me got my head well and truly back in the groove. A great crew and with a host of really well composed tunes this is another outfit I could waffle on about all day long. The tunes are considered and pre-planned with leanings towards creating good melodic pieces that have a definite message and thus give prosaic pieces to ponder. Songs like 'Innocent Eyes' glisten with many polished facets and really epitomise what MLTF are about. Anyone short of a band for a gig on this circuit should have these in their top contact list as they are willing and able to fill any slot and give a darn good performance. Tonight they included a punk snippet that makes everything I do worthwhile and is a moment (like many I have had whilst dealing with this band) I will never forget. The finale of 'Bloodbath at Burger King' was exquisite and beautifully executed and warmed my heart no end. The fact they chose this number shows the lads care in what they do and the buggers knew only too well this was a real fave of mine by a band I class as exceptional, namely Teenage Bottlerocket. The way MLTF delivered this tune just displayed their pedigree and I really do hope anyone reading this can sort em' a few gigs for the coming year. I have given them a round dozen so far and pointed em' in the right direction for a few others and it’s about time they really started rolling forth and being picked up by all and sundry. I have never found room to complain and feedback has always been positive - now come on - lets see the gig list swell.
Most Likely To Fail - and if they do it's your fault
And finally 3 Black Dwarfs. You remember these guys - they played earlier in the day - 10.15am if I remember rightly. Well this was a tired performance and the sound was pissing about something rotten but the lads dug in and pulled it off and sent out a message that this lot are the real deal, are committed to the cause and have an attitude and spirit many will never come close too. 'Time' was, and will be, a very special song to me and is what first inspired me to listen more to this crew. Technically sound, again with plenty of forethought and really willing to push boundaries and stretch stereotypes. Cheers lads - a special effort was made to day and will not go unnoticed.
3 Black Dwarfs - the drummers hidden he also isn't a dwarf and certainly isn't black
So that's it - 19 bands, 20 performances pulled off and only running 20 minutes over. Thanks must go to all bands who played this and their willingness to assist in the smooth running of a statement rather than a gig. If a gig like this can run so smoothly everything else should be less daunting and hopefully encourage more people with genuine belief in the scene to have a go. The turn-out was far from what the bands deserved but rumours and petty games need to be played out I suppose and so the SAS continues to suffer. The SAS poses questions many cannot answer and it seems gets many a back-up regarding its spirit and uncompromising ethos. One thing, amongst many, I am proud of regarding the SAS Tour is that it never has had any kudos - and that is an achievement that was always intended and I believe has been pulled off. It has exposed many fakers and takers and uncovered a host of genuinely lovely people who just wanna enjoy punk. Personally it has been a total drain both mentally, financially and on my time and after today’s episode a break is needed. The underdog is the true source of punk rock (like it or not) and that is where the true heart of the scene lies. What has happened to the whole genre is tragic but in truth was it any other way? Rose-tinted spectacles are a real hindrance when looking over ones shoulder and one should really smash them to pieces and take a reality check. I'd like to dedicate this gig to Andy Foulds - my original partner in crime who, when I asked did he want a piece of this idea, jumped at the chance and was soon sickened by what he uncovered. The guy leaving this country is the UK's punk rock loss and is totally irreplaceable. Many a time I could have done with this bugger at my side but there ya go. Cheers Andy fellar - one diamond that never needs polishing in my book.
Right - done and dusted and cheers. A long year that has seen me see another 68 all time new bands in between ducking and diving for the Spit and Sawdust/Underdog cause. I will be helping ye underdogs that matter in many ways so keep in touch if you want to - enjoy the scene and do your bit to keep it real. Promoters - work together and mix and match your styles - never rest on your laurels and do what you do with passion. Keep it fresh and check out new bands and even if you think they are struggling - give em' a gig and help em' along. Easy (well in theory). See you in the New Year! Be good.
Photo's by Tim 'Punk4Life' Davies