Time for another guitarist solo. Please welcome Ritchie. Free Bird!
Most of what follows, unfortunately, happened.
Date: The day the band needed new underwear.
Venue: One of the most reputable punk venues in the county.
Crowd: Hardcore punk fans.
There are certain parts of the country that have a certain reputation. There are certain punk stereotypes that have a certain reputation. When you put them all together, you have a recipe for destruction but very likely with much less appetite for it than Axl Rose.
We arrived in one of these certain parts of the country that we’d not been to before. Everything seemed to be going well. The promoter seemed nice, he’d even got a crate of beer for us. The venue was well sized and had a reputation for attracting decent sized crowds. The stage was sizeable and the PA system looked loud to our non-technical eyes.
We even arrive in time for a soundcheck and the sound guy is efficient enough that there is time for us to do so, and we are pleased with how everything sounds. Smiling we decide to go outside the venue for a spot of fresh air or, for those of us who are smokers, some unfresh air. We are jovial, in high spirits, full of the joys of spring… and then we spot them.
A bunch of skinhead punks waiting for the venue doors to open. They look like they’ve travelled to the gig via a time machine from the late seventies, at least they would if it wasn’t for the fact that these guys are not youthful. These are old school punks who lived through the Pistols, Clash and the Buzzcocks and seem to be refusing to acknowledge that these bands are dead, defunct or doing reality TV. They’ve probably been coming to this same venue for the last 40 years listening the same music.
Everyone’s mood drops instantly. Sure we’re a punk band. But we’re not “punk” punk. We weren’t even born when London Calling came out. My mum thought that Johnny Rotten was a naughty little boy.
These guys know what they like and if their precious venue books any bands that don’t match their tastes… well they look like they’ve had more than a few fights in their time and they can probably still handle themselves well.
The rest of the band are bricking themselves. As the oldest member of the band, I also happen to be the baldest. I can probably pass for a skinhead who has just not been able to afford a haircut in a couple of months. If it comes to it, my get out is that the rest of the band make me tone down my punk sensibilities. Man.
The doors open, the skinheads go inside. Everyone breathes a momentary sigh of relief as they start to discuss the possibility of doing a runner. As the grown up, I point out the sound is ace, the money is alright, there’s free beer and most importantly, I’ve got the car keys and I want to do it. We’re going to play the gig, even if it could well be our last.
When we get on stage, we don’t see the skinheads and this relaxes everyone, along with the 5 pints of lager that are inside their bellies. We start to play well. The best we’ve done in quite some time. And then, during around the fourth or fifth song, the skinheads come down to the front, there’s a wave of menace and potential violence about them. They form a line and basically square up against us. I think even the stage trembled a bit.
And then they dance.
In fact they spend the rest of our set dancing along non-stop. Afterwards, they buy us all a drink and each of them hugs each member of the band at least five times. They ask us when we’re coming back to the venue and when we tell them we don’t know, they start to hound the promoter.
We have four new number one fans. Which is four more than we had before.
The morale of the story: never judge a punk by their haircut.
Photo by Eye Steel Post via Flickr.