East London based Arrows of Love return to the Shacklewell Arms for a local gig in front of local people. Keith Goldhanger turns up and realises that this is the kind of night everyone once dreamed of.
Excerpt from diary, March 1990 ……
“Watched Grandstand, had too much to drink, went to the Falcon, saw Silverfish”.
Years of broken dreams and piles of losing lottery tickets later ……….
Saturday 13th February 2016 … Went to see East London’s worst football team, lost 4-0, had too much to drink, went to the Shacklewell Arms, saw ARROWS OF LOVE.
We’re greeted on our entrance by a band called LEAD SISTER who are playing their first gig, drowning on stage in reverb but sounding a little like Siouxsie and the Banshees or ¡Forward, Russia!
Playing inside a deep cave.
….It’s a bit of a racket to be honest.
A glorious racket I grant you and a four piece worth seeing again.
Lead Sister are one of those bands that get you thinking ” I wonder if they all shaved off their hair, wore matching suits and stopped looking so worried…they’d probably take over the world instead of entertaining the likes of us who don’t fancy watching Casualty tonight……”
LEAD SISTER played their first gig.
We were there, they were great, they got a review and will probably not split up now that they have realised that at least one old bloke supping his ale in the corner thought they were worth telling you about.
In the bar and piped into the back room whilst amps are lifted on and off stage we tap our feet to Delta 5, Teardrop Explodes, the Raincoats and Pulp.
Arrows of Love were one of the first bands some of us saw within these four walls a few years ago and they still typify everything one or two of us love about this bit of the world.
It’s all falling apart up there, it’s all a chaotic mess and as its falling apart the band keep going keep going….. KEEP GOINGGGGG…NEVER STOP!!!…… and we imagine their pre gig team talk said just that before they mounted the stage to struggle with guitars that worked fine earlier but now fail to work and amps that buzz whilst band members fabricate their own mosh pit amongst the packed crowd.
By the end of the set of songs they’ve previously agreed to play us, there are members of the audience now playing the discarded bass guitar and ending the tune themselves, a random fellow finishes his beer and takes over the mike. We’ve seen worse bands than this one that lasts two minutes at the tail end of this Arrows of Love show and we expect those people who have taken over the stage may never have previously even met each other.
This is Dalston….that bit of London that people dismiss as being full of trendy kids with big beards, saggy trousers and their art pop port folios under their arm pits.
This is Dalston where many of the gigs that take place can be free.
Like this one.
The music piped into the room from the front of the pub is now that of The Slits…This is what we used to dream of when we were young skint and ignorant of the fact that we’d still be skint in thirty years’ time.
An Arrows of love gig can be as intense as a Crass gig in terms of the music we hear. Or as sweet as Bongwater. Maybe even as boisterous as Sonic Youth or the already mentioned Silverfish.
Songs stop and start in a way we believe they’re meant to. A male and a female voice alternate as the guitars are thrashing away kept together by a drummer that never looks up to see what the rest of the band are up to. There’s a bass player sporting a white stripe across her face Adam Ant style who stares at the drummer who we feel won’t make eye contact as it may tempt a song to come to a sudden confusing halt. No one up on this stage wants this to happen, you can tell they wouldn’t know where to begin again so they all thrash away, screaming, guitars wailing in feedback kept together with a pounding rhythm whilst disrespecting the tools of their trade without gasping for breath as if their lives depend on it.
In fact it’s our lives that depend on it.
Arrows of Love may be a delightful mess but they fill the air with beauty amongst this mayhem. They’re as important as the roof over our heads in the rear beer garden/ smokers garden and they’ll now be ingrained into the memories of those who are maybe too young to know The Gang Of Four’s ”Damaged Goods” or whatever it is they’re nodding their heads to in the front bar. Evenings like this put those in attendance into a position to look back in another few decades time to recall what we love about Dalston and the Shacklewell Arms.
Unless their lottery numbers come up or the area doesn’t get bulldozed and turned into a bloody great shopping centre or high speed unrequired unnecessary railway line.
Those that avoid this area are the ones missing out. It needs repeating that this was a free gig, the beer was less than four quid and a Saturday night like this is a Saturday night like the ones we had in the past along the train line in Camden years ago.
East London 2016. Lap it up kids, you’ll remember all this fondly in years to come.
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