Access All Areas: The Ballad of Woozy Scamp

Access All Areas: The Ballad of Woozy Scamp

Most of what follows, unfortunately, happened.

Date: The end of days.
Venue: A zoo.
Crowd: The pale, bloated cadavers of decomposing festival-goers.

In the late summer of not very long ago we were invited to play a festival. Festivals are great fun for many reasons, even better if you play halfway up the bill. It leaves less time for your bassist to get involved in inebriation related shenanigans before the show.

At this particular festival, on the grounds of a local zoo (the absolute truth, I swear), the trouble starts upon arrival. On the drive in, queues of cars back up for miles from the entrance. Ritchie, ever the pragmatist, asks for help from the nearest stewards. The stewards shrug. This non-committal gesticulation of total and utter cluelessness would become company policy by the end of the weekend.

We eventually find the stage we are due to play, but nowhere to camp. Between ourselves and about three other bands in the same predicament, we resolve to pitch our tents where we’re parked. Enter: Grumpy Steward. Grumpy Steward projects the same unhappy demeanour as every other steward, but for some reason is actually making decisions. His latest involves us camping with the rest of the public. On the other side of the arena. For our troubles, and despite protestation, we are given wristbands with the lowest level of access. That means we’re lucky to be able to use the toilets, let alone get back stage.

So the wagon train rolls slowly around to what can reasonably be described as the Kansas City circa 1850. A conservative estimate would put the attendance at 10,000. That’s 10,000 people that have no clue what is going on, where to camp, where to park, where to get wrist bands, water or food. It becomes immediately and painfully apparent that this festival is doomed. Collectively, we decide to lean into it.

And get drunk.  

The festival miraculously starts, albeit 2 hours late. Our set, from what I recall through the whiskey induced haze, alters people’s perception of the world with its ground breaking innovation and musical prowess. Or it was dreadful. I’m really not sure. It was a pretty thick haze. But our bassist could’ve performed Mein Kampf with interpretive dance, and it still wouldn’t have been the most catastrophic part of the weekend. So the fact we didn’t get bottled is a win.

After we play, rumours start to circulate through the crowd. The promoter failed to raise the cash to pay for all the artists. This doesn’t matter to proles like us who play for free. But the rumours extend to the potential pulled performance of a prominent grime artist. To protect the innocent, we’ll call this particular rapper Woozy Scamp. But more on Woozy Scamp later.  

The music abruptly stops an hour and a half early. Bored, and not yet totally floored by the all-day drinking, we stagger towards the nearest place labelled ‘bar’. We casually wave our ‘Access No Areas’ wristbands and zig zag our way inside. Which is when we realise we’re in the VIP area. After looking around, it’s clear there are no VIPs. I look back at the steward who let us in, stood next to a gate that is wide open for all. We catch each other’s glance, and in that moment I see the quiet resignation of someone who gave up enforcing the rules.

“Guys, I think this place is falling apart.” I offer.

“What do you suggest?” Ritchie asks.

I shrug. “See what we can get for free?”  

At many major festivals, a large gate next to the main stage looms over the arena. More terrifying than the Gates of Mordor, it bars plebs like us from the wonders and candyland dreams of beyond. Tonight, we breach that barrier. Because there is literally no one guarding it.

It becomes apparent after a few moments that the rumours, along with our recent supposition, are true. What I’d hoped to see was a Hunger Games inspired mass of destruction. Guitars flying through the air. People garrotted with bass strings. Drums pumping the blood of war around adrenaline filled veins. Some front men just want to watch the world burn. But it’s no man’s land. It makes Gallipoli look like party central.

Amongst the post-apocalyptic debris, we scavenge for food. We find a sparsely populated marquee serving dinner to the few optimistic musicians that haven’t abandoned this fiasco altogether. Nicky and I resolve to fetch dinner for the crew. Confidently waving our inadequate wristbands, we stride past the uncaring staff to the bounteous feast. But as we’re being served, we’re denied by a familiar face.

“You’re not supposed to be here.” Grumpy Steward exclaims. I respect those who take pride in their work, and right now this guy is Sergeant at Arms. We make a swift exit before he sanctions a firing squad.

Dejected and hungry, we trudge around the backstage wasteland. Around this time, we realise Jake has been absent for some time. None of us remember the last time we saw him. This kind of disappearing act is not uncommon, especially after a war with whiskey. But this battleground is Grumpy Steward’s territory.

After a fruitless and uncharacteristically thorough search, he returns. We breathe a sigh of relief before seeking answers.

“Relax. I saw an old friend that played the main stage. He gave me his wrist band. Access all areas.”

Nicky presses him. Demanding to know where he’s been and if this place contains food. To be honest, we’re all eager to here if there’s somewhere to eat.

“I dunno. Found Woozy Scamp’s trailer though.”          

“Did you find food?!”

“No. I took a shower.”

Ladies and gentlemen. If there’s one lesson to be learned from our entire time together this past year, it’s this; when you get the opportunity to access all areas, you access ALL areas.

 

Photo by Emily Tan via Flickr.

Battle of the Bands

Battle of the Bands

Most of what follows, unfortunately, happened.

Date: Judgement Day.
Venue: The trenches.
Crowd: On our side.

There are two types of Battle of the Bands. One is a festering wasteland of arduous futility created in the degenerate filth laden mind of someone who truly despises musicians. The other is worse.

The misconception is that there can be merit in judging one band to be better than another. The problem for me is that punk is about community. You forge friendships in the damp infested basement shows that transcend prejudice and defy societal boundaries. There isn’t a band we’ve played with that I’ve disliked; Nor a musician I’ve shared a stage with that has deserved anything but respect and love.

Except The Monochrome Rainbows. They were insufferable.

Over the years, The Underdogs have had the distinctly underwhelming privilege of experiencing both types of battle of the bands. We’ll call them, for the record, Type Sh** and Type Sh**ter. The latter, and by far worse of the two, is judged by the fans. When you reduce this model to its component parts, what you essentially have is a competition judged on how many friends a band can drag to a show. The problem with this model for us is that The Underdogs have no friends. None that like us enough to come along to a show to raise their hands at the designated time anyway.

Type Sh** battles on the other hand are judged by a panel. Whilst this is indeed the least flawed of the two, the caveat would simply be this; the Hindenburg was the least flawed blimp design of the 1920s. We’ve played our fair share of these, but one particular appearance stands out.

The battle was in North Kent. A venue we had not yet seen. We arrive in plenty of time, a miracle in itself. Jake must’ve sacrificed a teeny bopper before we left because this would not be the first time the punk gods rule in our favour.

As I said, punk is about community. Helping your brothers in their time of need. But something about Battle of the Bands just turns people into insufferable f***wits. The atmosphere is frostier than an eskimos underwear drawer, and just as demoralising to our self-confidence.

“Hi, we’re The Underdogs.” We offer to the nearest musician who breaks protocol and makes eye contact.

“Ugh.” Comes the response. Punks aren’t typically known for their witty repartee, but this was going to be a long, conversation-less night.

We are on immediately after a band we’ll call The Monochrome Rainbows. They are what we aspire to be; that is to say, they clearly have talent. By the end of the set the crowd are so in awe they’d follow the singer to the ends of the Earth. The final song includes a guitar solo so technical and dripping with prowess you’d think the guitarist was possessed by a punk rock demon. Conversely, ours trips up getting onstage.  

Relative to The Monochrome Rainbows our performance is a thing of faultless adequacy. We were vanilla ice cream on a Tuesday; fine in the moment, but ultimately uninspiring to the point you’d wonder why you bothered.

The punk gods, in their infinite wisdom, choose to brainwash the judges and award us first place.

Following the decision, and given the restless crowd, we use our own version of eyebrow based semaphore to plan a swift exit. But as we bundle our mediocrity into the car, I realise my bladder has other ideas. As you’ve no doubt already aware from reading these tales, my bladder does not play nicely when full. I make the executive decision to void the contents in a legal place this time, and swiftly visit the little front man’s room.

I walk in and find two members of The Monochrome Rainbows with a marker pen permanently furnishing the wall of the bathroom with some fresh literature. Furthermore, The Underdogs are the subject of the aforementioned critique likening our collective character to that of female genitalia. It occurs to me they don’t like us.

They turn to face me. I open my mouth to say something about the new sweary wall motif, but think better of it. For one, they are much, much bigger than me and disinclined to agree with whatever I have to say, given their assumptions about my personality’s similarity to a sexual organ. Secondly, and most importantly, I’m full of urine and afraid if they beat me up I’ll wet myself.  

But they don’t recognise me.

In the ensuing, panicked wee, I rack my brains to figure out why my rear end is not being irrevocably kicked. I consider the theory that perhaps they think I look like I could handle myself in a street combat situation, but settle on the idea that they probably didn’t bother to watch our set. Ergo, they have no idea who The Underdogs are, just that they were bested in musical battle by them.

And so, The Underdogs gained their second nemesis.

The moral of the story is this; Battle of the Bands shows can get in the sea. The losers always think they should win. The winners rarely deserve to win. And the punk community? Well, that’s the real loser.

And The Monochrome Rainbows. They also lost.

 

Photo by Jakob Jankiewicz via Flickr.

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

Most of what follows, unfortunately, happened.

Date: Day 1. Ground zero. 
Venue: Probably a member’s bedroom. Or garage. Or bedroom in the garage. 
Crowd: The inner circle. 

When deciding on a name for your band, there is an unspoken list of guidelines that you must consider, lest you be the laughing stock of the punk community. Below is a list of some of these guidelines. These were not created by us, but handed down by generation after generation before us, and by the punk gods before them.

Feel free to get in touch if you have heard of any other such ‘rules’.

 

Beware the Trends

Since the first band was ever created (incidentally by Keith Richards as he’s immortal and cannot be killed by conventional weapons) there have been naming trends. In the 90s, it was law that your band must have a one word title. Any more and you were banished from the charts and destined to play basement clubs until the next Black Sabbath reunion. The 00s were plagued by the definite article; always ‘The’ Band, never ‘A’ Band.

But lately it’s all about making sure you Verb a Noun; Pierce the Veil, Bring me the Horizon or Sleeping with Sirens. By all means, jump on a trend and ride it all the way to Money Town. But just remember you may be judged poorly for it.

Unless you’re called Tickle the Weasel. That’s an awesome name.

 

Be More Wary of Acronyms

Always take time to consider your acronym. Fans are lazy at the best of times, but they’ll always find a way to shorten your name; Rage Against The Machine became RATM, Red Hot Chilli Peppers became RHCP. So the next time you call Bring Me The Horizon ‘BMTH’, spare a thought for Krazy Killer Klowns. They don’t get offered many shows anymore.

 

Joke Names

Joke names are to be exercised with extreme caution. Sure, it might look funny on the poster, but no one is going to take the anarchic political screamings of your band seriously if you’re called TBA.

It’s also very important to remember that you were not the first person to consider calling your band Free Beer. You barely scrape into the first 1000.

Putting the appropriate amount of thought into your band name is, quite frankly, crucial. It is your first impression, this is your handshake and your warm smile. If people don’t at least partially buy into your name on some level they are probably done with you before the lights go down. Names have power, choose them wisely. Oh, one last golden rule…

 

Never, ever, under any circumstance, use a pun in your name.

Unless you’re in a ska band. Then it’s mandatory.

Story Time with Jake – Power Poses

Story Time with Jake – Power Poses

Here’s our bassist Jake to take you through some performance basics. 

Most of what follows, unfortunately, happened. 

Date: Every gig.
Venue: Every venue.
Crowd: With or without. 

Putting on a good show is down to a few different things, different factors of which musical talent is just the tip of the iceberg. Well, bit more than the tip actually, but you get my drift. There are other things. Energy for example, you go out there like it’s your 9-5 and no one is gonna have fun. Go out there like it’s your dream and everyone will. It is your dream isn’t? Because if it isn’t? Stop now.

But this brings me onto another point. Power poses. You’re out there on stage, feeling like a rock god, looking like a rock god, hell, to the people in the audience you ARE a rock god. So you’d best give ‘em what they want and pose like one. Strike a pose, not like Vogue, but like you’re the living embodiment of all the rage and rock that mosh pit is pouring out, like you’re the biggest bollocked bastard in the room.

 

Vocalist

You have choices galore you lucky git. You don’t have anything to get in the way like an actual instrument. And even the mic stand can be an excellent prop. You can cradle it like a lover and strangle it like… well a lover sometimes. But step away from the mic for a bit and consider…

Rock Jesus – Legs together, arms flung out to the side, you are the melodic martyr!

Foetal – Get down, get low, curl in on yourself because the rock is just too much. If you can, bring the mic into the huddle with you for some low and intense vocals. Rocking back and forth is acceptable.

Cocky Pirate – One leg up on a monitor (if you are lucky enough to play somewhere with those) and lean your arm across it. Stare out across the crowd as if they’ve hidden all your booty/rum. Bonus points if you do this while drinking rum.

 

Guitarist

Guitar Sex – That’s right, you’ve got an axe to grind… in the sexiest kind of way. Drop that six string betwixt your legs and pretend you’re the last stripper on shift.

Sky Beam – guitar to the sky like you are summoning angels with your playing. If you’re a lead guitarist you probably think you are.

Gettin’ Low – This isn’t a limbo-style maneuver, more of a hunch, bend over at the waist and just try to drop your guitar to about knee level, all while hammering the strings like they’re on fire. Bonus points if you actually set them on fire.

There is No Spoon – This is a limbo move. Bend back as far as you can like you’re dodgin’ bullets while you play. Woah.

 

Drummer

One Stick Salute – One stick, thrust triumphantly into the air while your other arm frantically tries to keep everything going.

Two Stick Salute – Both sticks in the air, best saved for the end of the song because there are some things even your mighty legs can’t do.

I See You – Pick a poor sap in the crowd and use one stick to point at them through the maze of toms and cymbals on your kit. Fix your best demented look and nod like they just agreed to a murder-suicide pact.

Standing Ovation – Best used at the very end of the set, tower over your kit like the beat-god you are and smash everything in reach with the power of your mighty arms. Imagine there are ants all over your kit, or pop fans. Whatever it takes to get you thrashing like an enraged kraken. When you are done throw the sticks carelessly over your shoulder and stride off stage. Bonus points if a cymbal falls over as you exit.

 

Bassist

Basically the same as the guitarist but way better because yours is bigger.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jake’s opinions do not necessarily coincide with the rest of the band.

 

Now, obviously these are just a few to get you going. In the white hot fire of gigging your body will automatically contort and bend itself into physical expressions of rock and roll. Trust me. But, only if you remember the golden rule, have fun. You can’t channel the music into power poses the likes of which Olympus will envy if you don’t have some bloody fun out there.

Photo by Andreas Ivarsson via Flickr