Monday, 21 May 2012

The Lincoln Imp and the possibilities of live performance

I have noticed how much of this writing is tinged with the buzz buzz buzz of live performance. Of witnessing [tha fitness] the moment a band, a singer, a this or a that gives you that moment of sincerity and you fall head over heels in love with them again. Or even love them more.

There is a small local public house in Ashby – well not even Ashby – just sort of deposited in a road behind some houses – with a small drag of shops servicing nobody these days. I mean it’s not on Broadway – do you get me? I used to do boxing there – under the bar. All blood, sweat and tears. Leather gloves and Scunthorpe thugs.

I lasted a few weeks.

Head ringing in the ring. All Tom and Jerry birds circling heads – which is something my boys have taken to saying when they pretend or actually hit their heads – ‘can you see the birds, daddy? ‘ Well I have done. Downstairs in that public house. So I packed it in and most likely started listening to Frankie goes to Hollywood on a regular basis. It was always about extremes with me. However, I would venture there again – not down the steps to the ring but across the carpeted backroom – well I think it was a side room – and to the stage – let leash the sounds rehearsed in bedrooms, garages and church halls. All feedback squall, or glitter beat glam and acid modernism – to audiences of ten or more. There was both a sincerity and pomposity in it all. Small time promoters in small town situations – but you felt like Andrew ‘Loog’ Oldham - shaping a scene with a sprinkle of ‘pop’ magic.

It wasn’t just the Lincoln Imp mind you – there was Bentleys, The Crosby, The Royal Hotel, The Bridge, The Wortley or the Baths. There were others as well - local WMCs putting on bands  – all honky tonk C&W and synthesizer duos called ‘The 2 of Us’ or ‘Mirror Mirror’ – our anorak culture from 1985 – 89 wasn’t suited to that really. But I would have my taste at the Snooker club dances held throughout the year as Mandy tottered on heels and I put on a shirt to eat pie and peas and ‘jive’ with the best of them to the latest act booked by Sean Coleman’s dad or mine at a club located opposite a cemetery with my secondary school a stone’s throw away for walks home in the dark.

And each one of us would aim to put on a night of this and that. Some live – some just playing records. Nonetheless the possibility of live performance fuelling our minds with super rock stardom and pure adoration spurred us onward. It was a Scunthorpe scene maaaan. But as I’ve previously stated there is something explosive about sounds happening in the real. When things can fall apart or the edge [not The Edge] in the room gets soaked up in the songs.

I haven’t been to a gig for a while. I was going to go and see The Primitives this week – keep it in the past Alan, keep it tucked right back in the past. And time races by in bedtimes and bottles and kisses and cuddles. I still might go and see The Primitives this week. It’s on Friday at the Borderline – a venue I seem to find myself in once a year – as old artists’ audiences shrink and deplete and only the most ardent are prepared to pay the ticket price. That’s if there any tickets left.

I once followed The Primitives around the North and the Midlands, taking in the heady rush of bass and fuzz, fuzz, fuzz guitar coupled with simplistic rhythms and bittersweet vocals. In an orange Hillman Imp driven by a wonderful friend named Darryl. That thrill of it all – entering a venue – I was 16 at the time all underage and ready for booze and shouting. In a positive manner that is – not a late night Scunthorpe brawl in a tarmaced car park off Doncaster Road. You could smell the cigarettes and spilt drinks worn in from endless nights of energy. It’s what the youth did. Does.

My love of The Primitives live experience stretched to Paul and I hopping on a train down to London for an all dayer at The Boston Arms in Tufnell Park [The Impossibles played too – I think our love knew no bounds for them] Nowhere to stay but up for it anyway – all wide eyed and green – but we managed it – sleeping rough in some school grounds until the first tube trains started running. You do that kind of thing when you’re young – I couldn’t imagine it now – or letting my kids do it. But we did.

And we returned. Safe and sorted.

I would stay out far past my bedtime in this capital city on many occasions since then – but that was the first time. And all of those fears and teenage trepidation where outweighed by Tracy Tracy singing (We’ve) Found a way (to the Sun) just for me. I know it wasn’t - but it always felt that way. And that’s what I get from those moments when the notes collide and the feedback lingers longer than the producer would ever allow. It’s the live ‘feelin’ – it’s being there. From the small stages in steel towns to aircraft hangers we watched The Cure in time and time again there’s a feeling that goes with the territory that you can’t emulate at home. Paul sent me all the Velvet Underground records sometime last month. Buried within the mp3s was a live album that has Lou and co just rocking uptown with the glamorous and fawning. But you can tell this is a band who are at the top of their game – confident – inventive and not feared to take a risk. Switching from the chug and fug of basic guitars whilst feedback howls and things get spiked up to the simplicity of Mo Tucker sticking with you through it all. And in all of that is a super funked exploration of Waiting for my Man – all fluid and loose with rolling bass and guitar licks. It’s incredible – but not Andy’s vision for the album. I know I wasn’t at the gig – but I can feel it. There’s something special taking place in the room. I’m not certain that always happened at The Lincoln Imp – but it has to start somewhere – so credit to the owners of all those local establishments who allowed us to promote and gloat and float our ideas out there. We might not have quite been the velvets but it was all about experimenting.

Should I go to see The Primitives this week? I think I’m convinced already.

Are you coming down the front?

Here’s the Velvets. It takes a while to get going. But stick with it. This is a faster version than the one on the bootleg album I was writing about above but I think it rolls particularly well.