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Monday, July 2, 2012

#notmurdered - the beautiful and The Damned

Breakfast of champions
So Saturday morning does not bring the hangover I was dreading. The drinking was steady, I only had a couple of what I have heard recently described as 'cooking lagers' during the Buzzcocks show and after so the head's pretty good.

There is no possible way I could have consumed everything in @JelloPuss and @CardinalPhink's gift basket so I cram as many of the packets of goodies into my rucksack as I can. You never know when you'll need to get your face around some hairy pork fat, right?

Breakfast includes a bloody mary. It's a fine start to another exciting day. The sun is splitting the stones, another rock n roll adventure awaits. We even get to watch a bit of the qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix. I'm a happy boy.

The run to Liverpool airport is trouble-free. Almost. Note to airport car park operators: your car parks are confusing. Get it sorted.

Liverpool to Belfast, well you're no sooner up than you're down again. While my companions are getting their baggage, I go to pay for my parking. This is where disaster strikes. When I try to get some money, computer says 'no'. The car park ticket machine wants thirty-odd quid, I have to get petrol to get us out to our hosts on the other side of Belfast and back up to the North Coast the following day. And there's the small matter of socialising. My cards only get me enough to pay for the parking with a bit left over. Something's gone wrong again. Ah well. I genuinely don't know what to do or what has gone wrong.

We're on a tight schedule. We have to get to East Belfast to our hosts and then back into town to see The Damned at QUB. All the excitement that had been building all day has been sucked out of me. Time slips away. There's a burned-out bus on the M2 and the traffic is backed up. We also go awry in a certain estate. It's navigation device finger error, postcode digits transposed. Schoolboy error. We eventually arrive at @DeadbeatMum and @dirt_bird's sumptuous dwelling (helpfully picked out with  black goth flag accessory). A calming drink with a pomegranate seed in it helps get me on an even keel.

All my excitement for The Damned gig has been sucked out of me. While the gang (@CardinalPhink, @JelloPuss, @DeadbeatMum, @dirt_bird and @IsGrandmaThere [resplendent with a dashing purple streak]) are in Boojum having a delicious burrito, I'm pacing Botanic Avenue trying cash machines. Same deal, not a local error. I'm definitely out of funds. This was not in the script. Resolution? Generous friends. I'm humbled.

Just for you, here's a love song ...
So, on to QUB. There is a lot of black going on. And who's this? Maxine and Steve from Buzzcocksworld*, whom we also saw the night before in Manchester. Us aside, it's an odd crowd, actually quite unlike Buzzcocks the night before. It's nothing to do with provinciality either, The Damned have a quite unique following. Not so many middle-aged punk-curious here, it's a lot more alternative, grimly Gothy. Yes, there are the 77ers. Maybe they're here for The Defects who, from what I can hear, are living the punk rock dream still. Everything in their world that has happened since 1978 has happened to other people.

I've never seen The Damned. I have no reference points. Even so, I can say with conviction that this is one of the top five shows I have ever witnessed. It's the last night of the tour, maybe there's some additional playfulness in the delivery. The sound mix is clear and perfect, the band look upbeat. We get it all - theatre, banter, fun, hits ... everything a performance should offer. Dave Vanian is in fine voice and, despite his dark and serious persona, you get the feeling that he's having a ball. Captain Sensible cannot fail to make you feel happy. He's a paradox, a pantomime creation with divine guitar skills that kill stone dead the idea that punks can't play. That's a nonsense. And what songs! It's just a sensory battering of the most glorious kind. And for me, another piece slotted into my personal punk jigsaw. I'd have been happy if they had performed the whole set again. And again.

And then it's over. We're corralled into the bar for a Goth Disco. It begins promisingly with 'A Forest' but soon industrial music takes over. I already know how Goths dance, I've seen it in Germany. Seems it's the same here. Feet still, a lot of gloomy arm waving ...

We roll home to East Belfast. I'm feeling battle fatigue, I'm looking forward to my own bed on up the road. But that's tomorrow night. The craic and company are first class. The next day brings sausages, more sun, a Grand Prix al fresco and a leisurely run up the Antrim Coast behind the world's slowest driver. And then home. I'm shattered.

And that's where we leave this odyssey. To return to the central theme in this thread of blogs - #notmurdered. It might seem foolish to entrust yourself to the mercies of strangers.

"I can't think of many other circumstances in which you would blindly put yourself in the care of people you had never met."
Well, I did. My life has been enriched because of it. You can find good people via social media. New friends that feel like old friends. And for the record, I didn't murder anyone either.

*was nice also to meet (albeit briefly) @marshwigglegoth @5Lighters. Apologies if I have missed anyone else.

Read parts one, two, three and four of this punk rock odyssey.
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