Adam & The Ants Celebration and Convention 2011: live review
Adam & The Ants Celebration and Convention 2011
12/13th November 2011, London – Why I’m Glad I Went
By Carrie Quartly
As soon as you hear the word ‘convention’, certain unfavourable associations immediately spring to mind; elaborate costumes that suggest an unhealthy amount of spare time and attention to detail, socially crippled nerds who have trouble meeting people or otherwise inhabiting reality. For the cynics and skeptics (as well as the generally more sensible and grounded individual), this kind of environment is the worst thing imaginable, an Adam and The Ants convention!
And not just any Adam and The Ants convention; a celebration no less of his third album Prince Charming and the 30th anniversary of its release. Visions of flouncy pirate fancy dress wear and over the top effeminate makeup swirl in the brain, culminating in an orgy of shame as a certain synchronised arms crossing dance is attempted, resulting in several black eyes and a collision of flamboyant Regency clothes falling arse over tit.
While it is true there are those hopelessly devoted pop aficionados who will endlessly defend their idols and tell anyone who will listen (and especially those who won’t) how untouchable they are and how they can’t put a foot wrong, thankfully they happened to be in the minority at this event. The majority of attendees are like-minded niche enthusiasts banding together with no further expectations than the joy of seeing one another (in some cases for the first time since the last one). But why do we go to these things, you might ask? Why not just meet for a drink at a quiet pub any day of the year?
The first probable answer is for the sheer amount of work that founding organiser Stan Barker puts in year after year, with package hotel accommodation offers, nine hours of tribute bands booked, rare big screen footage arranged to play in a continuous loop, raffles and discount merch stalls, as well as sorting out a selection of real ales on tap and several other duties and responsibilities I can’t even begin to comprehend. This is no mean feat by anyone’s standards.
This year it was appropriately held at the Fiddler’s Elbow in Chalk Farm, a rather cosy little place, the walls a mosaic of old vinyl records and gig flyers. After meeting up with a friend, I arrived fashionably late, a little after 8:30 PM. The stalls had already been packed away and one of the bands was just finishing their set. Several of the regular faces were outside puffing on cigarettes and not observing the ‘no drinks outside’ policy. “It’s a bit warm in there,” I’m warned, and good lord they weren’t kidding, it wasn’t doing much for the hairstyle, and you could probably fry an egg on the dance floor! Some time passed in a whirlwind of chatting and drinking, reuniting with old friends and getting acquainted with new ones.
Then the bald-headed and fierce looking Marco walks in, and before we all knew what was happening, he’d taken the stage with ex-Ant drummer Terry Lee Miall, a historic reunion, and the first time they’d played together in 30 years. They were joined by The Ant Lib All-Stars (members of The Wolfmen and veteran Ant tribute acts Ligotage and Antflavour – Ciaron Marlow, Simon Clarke and Alan Wicks) for a one-hour set of Ant tunes and associated favourites. There were mic problems but that hardly mattered, it was a fantastic impromptu jam with no pressure, a true Adam and the Ants celebration which seemed at times even more legitimate than seeing Adam Ant himself with his sexed up posse of late. So here we were in this packed, sweaty little room, thrilling to the spaghetti twang of Marco’s inimitable guitar tone, when not long ago a stony look from him would abruptly halt all further lines of enquiry into why he doesn’t play live any more (not even with The Wolfmen). If that weren’t enough, he is actually visibly enjoying it; the slightest twist of a smile lurks on his lips as he raises his axe while banging out those great cinematic licks, which, together with Adam Ant’s own garish charisma, helped launch a thousand posters in a thousand teenage bedrooms.
Some danced like excited kids at a school disco, and others who normally need more space to throw big shapes paced in the crowded room like ants in a terrarium (if you’ll resist the urge to hit me for using that analogy), but everyone was stunned, happy and glad to be there.
So the real answer to my previous question ‘why do we go to these things?’ – is that it is the people who make it worthwhile, some who travel long distances and come from all over the world for this one special weekend (of course having Marco onstage doesn’t hurt, either).
And it’s not just because we all like Adam Ant, we connect on several other levels as music fans with a wide range of personalities and interests. Simply put, sure you get the usual cringe worthy displays of sad super fandom, but most of us are a fun and fascinating bunch of free thinkers who don’t have to wear an elaborate costume or a white stripe on the night!
If you’ll pardon the saying, by now so well tread and overused it is bound to elicit a few uncomfortable groans, “Ridicule is nothing to be scared of”. Adam Ant himself has come a long way from the shaky guerrilla gigs and odd eyebrow-raising stage intrusions of last year. Tickets are still on the expensive side for fans of a modest income, but not quite to the diva-like sense of entitlement tune of 50 – 70 quid a throw, and with a fairly tight backing band playing a set chockfull of early punky material, now is as exciting a time to be an Ant fan in many a year.