Most of what follows, unfortunately, happened.
Date: Day 1.
Venue: Ground Zero for Underdogs everywhere.
Crowd: Unfairly good.
Our first gig was at a Royal British Legion hall, a veritable Mecca of punk rock if ever there was one.
After rehearsing and writing songs for what seemed like years, but was more likely around 6 months, eventually the decision was made to play our songs in front of actual real life people (On the wall where we rehearsed, our drummer had drawn a picture of a woman of questionable proportions). At this stage, we were unsure whether our music was fit for human consumption, but it seemed like a good idea to force feed the locals anyway to see if anyone was made sick.
All we needed was a venue, a promoter willing to put us on and some other bands. Luckily there were hundreds of local clubs that regularly gave slots to up and coming upstarts like us. Just kidding. There were zero. And that’s probably overestimating how many there were. So we decided to put on a show ourselves; a decision that came with its own unique set of challenges that we’d inevitably regret taking on.
We ended up hiring the local Royal British Legion hall because, well, it was about the only place that agreed to trust us. Say what you want about the RBL, but they were remarkably sanguine about a bunch of punk kids invading their space and wreaking havoc for a night. Our friend Murph, of wardrobe changing fame, got us in touch with a pretty popular local band to agree to play the show. Cold Dry Toast were duly added to the bill. (On a side note, Murph was legendary in our band for her ability to charm industry types; when a HUGE American touring band played a local hall, after 20 minutes of phone calls and spinning various lines of BS she was on the phone to the booking agent trying to get us the support slot. Alas, it didn’t work, but I’ve always maintained she’d have made an excellent band manager). We had a PA borrowed and ready to go and started telling everyone we knew about the show. What could possibly go wrong?
The day of the show, Cold Dry Toast pulled out. The reasons were unknown, though Murph informed us that they were pretty adept at pulling out of shows at the last minute. Years later they would do exactly the same thing.. to this day, we’ve only managed to play with them once, and that night they broke the PA.
The frantic search for a replacement was on. We asked everyone we knew, but came up short. Until Murph visited me at my day job (we worked in the same department). She brought with her Tim, one of the backroom guys. Tim, it should be said, was scary as balls. Tattooed to hell, with a stare that suggested prison wasn’t a destination but a state of mind. Tim was also one of the nicest guys I ever met.
“I hear you need a band tonight?” Tim asked, shaking my hand.
“Sure.” I replied verbally, whilst mentally willing him not to kill me. “What are you guys called?”
“Poison Bombshell.” It’s probably fine.
Poison Bombshell were a three piece and the very living definition of punk. 2 were skinheads. The guitarist played on crutches. The drummer put his stick through the snare drum. They had more tattoos between them than a channel 4 reality show. They could’ve, and probably should’ve, eaten us alive. The lyrics to their songs were also a thing of beauty; with one, which I’ll call Choking due to the repetition of the word at least 128 times, having the immortal rhyme “I’m choking. I’m not joking.”
The Underdogs still talk about their set to this day. It was a glorious, eye opening punk experience.. Swiftly pulled into focus when we took the stage. We, if it were not already painfully obvious from the tales contained within this blog, were a little out of our depth. We never took ourselves seriously. I believe our first set peaked when we played a 30 second song Jake and I wrote called Huh. The “words” were, in no particular order, “Huh, ugh, yeah, woo, blergh, wow.” And from there, our songwriting only got more childish.
But the crowd looked happy. And that is something that we’d spend the next however many years of our musical career trying to recreate. Punk fans, by their very nature, are very morose people. It comes with the territory. But for those 60 minutes, there was a perfection that I’ll never forget. A concentrated and euphoric serenity, photographed and treasured by my brain until my punk heart stops beating.
It was the second greatest gig my life.
And Nicky wasn’t there to ruin it.
Photo by Enrique Zepeda Venegas via Flickr.