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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2012 - a Buzzcocks Odyssey Part 3

There is something a bit dreary about a venue immediately post-gig. It's a little like casual sex - the lights come on, the excitement and intimacy is over and you're left with an unsettling vision of how shabby and sticky things are. And yet you don't want to leave. You want that little thrill to be more than a memory. You want the residual excitement to continue to light you up. But it's a forlorn hope. The party is over. The hosts want you out of the house.

I don't know if it's my perception changing over the years, maybe it's health and safety. Venues want you out as quickly as possible these days. Didn't bother me that everyone was being steadily herded away from the stage. I knew from prior experience that the aftershow would be in the upstairs bar, so I hung around looking smug at the foot of the stairs, behind the velvet rope. It would surely only be a  matter of time before I'm whisked up to the inner sanctum for some proper ligging.

OK, I'll wait in the lobby.

OK, I'll wait outside. The band will be out in a minute and we'll go back to the hotel for a proper chat.

It's getting bloody cold. Scantily-dressed young women are going into the venue. Something's Gone Wrong Again.

I spot Buzzcocks' manager Raf packing up at the merchandise booth. I front up to the bouncer (which I should have done an hour ago). "OK if I nip in and buy a T shirt?" He nods. I'm clearly old and not looking to blag my way into the nightclub with the totty. Raf remembers me from various other occasions.

"Have you been backstage yet?"

Raf takes me backstage. The band are more or less leaving. I walk down to the car with Pete. He's telling me about the primitive wired internet at his hotel. We pause at his transport, which is waiting to leave.

"Short and sweet", he says and we shake hands.
"See you in Manchester", I say.

And then he's gone. Ever fallen in love with a band you shouldn't've fallen in love with?

Next time out - Manchester here I come!

Monday, May 14, 2012

2012 - a Buzzcocks Odyssey Part 2

The Lee Harveys
Frankly, the Dublin Academy is looking a bit sparsely attended. As the Lee Harveys take the stage, there is just a thin crust of punters around the bar and the edge of the pit. Doesn't seem to bother the band as they race through a blistering set of short, sharp punk tunes. Retro styling - maybe. Let's call it 'timeless'. It's no frills, the Ramones-style three-chord rush with a Celtic flavour. The band banter, the drummer wants to slow down. "We've got another 84 songs to do yet", quips the frontman and off they go again. Good steam, as they say round these parts.

If you book them, they will come. The magic starts to happen and the place is filling up. I don't know if Steve Diggle won a bet on the way over or whether the sound guy just can't be arsed but the background music is Paul Weller. It's not what I would have chosen to preface a performance by one of the original - and easily the best - veterans of the punk rock wars. The crowd is a familiar one. Not in the same faces but in composition. There are those living in a permanent personal 1977, where punk never died, never grew out if its bumflaps and dayglo dreads; there are the punk-curious and their partners; there are the young'uns who have heard their new best favourite guitar bands citing Buzzcocks as their role models. They're all here and they're all a-buzz with excitement.

Rightly so. Buzzcocks amble on.  Diggle's clutching a bottle of Moet et Chandon, the most famous item on their infamous rider. There's a bit of knob twiddling. Then we're straight into 'Boredom'. The communion has begun. The beauty of the band's long, idiosyncratic and uncompromising career is that songs from any era of their existence fit together seamlessly. The cognoscenti will happily tell you which epoch each song represents. It's irrelevant that tonight's set opens with an extended nod to their first album before rushing headlong, via a couple of drum-heavy excursions, into what the casual punter wants - the singles.

Pete breaks a string during  'Why She’s a Girl From the Chainstore'. He carries on singing while his spare guitar is tuned, and he straps it on perfectly in time for the solo. Slick and professional. polished, even.

There's a token pause after 'What Do I Get?' when the band leave the stage but they're soon back to give us a further battering. We're in Dublin after all, so Steve Diggle uses 'Harmony in my Head' to deliver a rambling homage to James Joyce. He introduces the song as " ... inspired by Ulysses". I think he's over-pitched it. The crowd just want to jump and bellow. And they do. We're all orgasm addicts.

Fast Cars
I Don’t Mind
Get On Our Own
Whatever Happened to?
Why She’s a Girl From the Chainstore
Sick City Sometimes
Moving Aay From The Pulsebeat
Nothing Left
Noise Annoys
Love You More
What Do I Get?

Harmony In My Head
Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?
Orgasm Addict

Part 3 - aftershow ...

2012 - a Buzzcocks Odyssey Part 1

In case you didn't know already, I bloody love Buzzcocks. It is a 35-year love affair that has never dimmed. When their May gig in Dublin was confirmed, there was no possibility that I wouldn't be going. I do a bit of work in Buzzcocks-world. I know I'm lucky to have got to know the band over the years. I'm not dropping names when I mention them, it's part of the story - forgive me.

There are some immediate difficulties to consider. Firstly, a 160-mile drive immediately after work to get there. Secondly, some technical difficulties with the car - I can't lock it and there is a paperwork issue that will not withstand intense scrutiny. Thirdly, nowhere to stay. So a quick trip to Asda for clicker batteries and fuel, a prayer and the throwing of a duvet into the back sorts me out and off I go, a little after 4pm.

I haven't done this kind of almost impromptu road trip for a long time. My life is busy and complicated, there isn't much that I can do that is unplanned so even a run down to Dublin and back needs a bit of forethought. I think I know where I can park, I know I am on the guestlist for the gig, I have a few lay-bys in mind for my stopover on the way back ... All of the variables run through my mind as I hit the road. The traffic is light, I'm happy to cruise at an economical speed. The sun is shining. All is good.

I make my first stop just over the invisible border, in a hotel car park. It's good to stretch my legs. I'm making good time and I think I'll be in Dublin well before the 8pm I had set myself. You never know with these city centre venues. Some of them revert to nightclubs after gigs. I don't want to be caught out by an early stage time. More than this, I have a few things I want to speak to Pete Shelley about. My stop doesn't last long and I'm soon back on the road.

Terrifically convenient as it is, the new road to Dublin is dull dull dull. I amuse myself by working out the mile equivalents of the distances in kilometres. And by listening to Placebo. I have, of course, got Singles Going Steady in the car but I don't want to listen to it. I want my Buzzcocks straight from the well today. When the CD finishes, I let the radio autotune itself through a number of dance music stations until I hear something vaguely listenable and stick with it.

The run into Dublin is straightforward until I take what I think is an intuitive left turn, signposted 'city centre'. As I do so, the radio plays Orange Juice - 'Rip It Up'. The song quotes Buzzcocks' first recorded work and I feel the cosmos is reassuring me. I call this Buzzcockicity - references to the band pop up mathematically impossibly coincidentally. It happens a lot. I feel better about being slightly lost in Dublin. Even though this is not the way I would normally go, I feel confident, so I go for it. My confidence is shortlived. I'm soon in only vaguely familiar territory. I know I'm generally travelling in the right direction and, frankly, the city centre is not far, so I start looking for a car park. This is more of a problem than you might imagine. My original research had uncovered that a lot of the city car parks close at night. I don't want to be walking the streets until 7am to recover my car/bed. Eventually I find myself parked onstreet near Custom House Square. I had been following signs for the N1/N2, to go round again. This will have to do.

As soon as I park, I spy the hi vis jackets of two lady Guards patrolling up the street towards me. My car is quite shabby, it's parked onstreet in Dublin with a Northern registration, my load cover is pulled over to conceal my duvet and my manbag (these Mercedes-Benz people think of everything). Frankly, I'd be suspicious. I have to act quickly. I spring out of the car and ask some confusing questions - can I park here? What's the best way to O'Connell Street? My diversion works, they answer helpfully and walk on. Phew. They didn't look at that which I hoped they wouldn't.

It's a ten-minute walk to the venue. Things are back on track. There is the usual kerfuffle at the door. It's cheeky to ask to be on the guestlist and I usually don't. On the odd occasion I am, I never know if I'm down as my Buzzcocks-world self or under my real name. Anyway, I'm found on the list and waved in. I realise, of course, as soon as I get into the venue that I have no Euros at all for a drink. I have to go out and in again. This time I waltz straight in.

Because I help out with a few things in Buzzocks-world, I get to speak to Pete Shelley sometimes. I have missed the soundcheck and hope that he'll come out to watch the support act. He often does. We have an exchange of texts from within the building:

Me: I'm watching the support band.
Pete: I'm in the lobby [I go to the lobby. No-one there]
Me: You must be invisible ;-) [some minutes pass]
Me: Try to catch you after.
Pete: Ok

We don't hook up.

Read Part 2 - the gig ...