C86 launch gig with Wedding Present, Membranes A Witness and others : live reviewC86 album launch festival
London 229 club
June 2014
Live review

To celebrate the release of the groundbreaking revamp of the C86 album Cherry Red threw a party, or a festival in London at the229. Two rooms full of the weird and wonderful bands from a discordant musical time who have either reformed or are still going and carrying the battered standard of death to trad rock, sharing a bill with the classicists and the music freaks and their deep love of the guitar melody.

That was the two wings of a scene that wasn’t really a scene. The whole noisy shebang was already rolling from 1982 onwards and Creation and others had been marking out the jangle bands for some time but C86 was handy line in the sand and has become the marker for the loose confederation of bands that shared the fanzine gig circuit of the time.

The Cherry Red compilation was put together by former NME journalist Neil Taylor and John Reed has been expanded too a triple album to encompass many of the strands of the bands and micro scenes that were shaven off the original and is, arguably, a far better document of the fervent British scene at the time.

Tonight’s gig is a snapshot of this as unashamedly older bands celebrated their lifetime creativity in a gig that broke many of the rules. In the smaller room the Wolfhounds sounded as poetically annoyed as ever over their garage band rumble and Band of Holy Joy delivered their bar stool observations. we couldn’t catch everything but it was nice to bump into David Westlake of The Servants who played a set and Simon Barber of The Chesterfields who was playing his old band’s songs with his new project Design.

In the main hall Yeah Yeah Noh marked their reemergence from the wreckage of life and middle age suits them. Many of those bands with their dark humour and world weary lyrics were never built for youth in the first place and Yeah Yeah Noh were as sardonically sarcastic as ever laced with a very British pub wit from frontman Derek Hammond who spent the whole set self deprecating himself in that wry way of that generation.

Musically the band have fleshed out with two keyboard players and a bunch of new members and also a woman singer who adds a melodic flavour to Derek’s dark moribund wit. They even end the set on a dark disco number that oddly sounds like Sisters Of Mercy ground through a shambling John Peel session mix from the mid eighties…and I mean that in all the best possible ways.

Yeah Yeah Noh still have the songs and the blunt wilful attitude of a slightly pissed off suburban band- John Betjiman on grubby cassettes, poet laureates of the bad hedgerows on the clattering soundtrack to annoyed of suburbia.

A Witness have recently reformed with a new line up built around sole former member Vince Hunt, this doesn’t affect their spikesaurus sound which is full of vintage twists and turns and delivered like those magical Magic Band gigs a few years ago. A Witness were part of the bludgeoning awkward wing of the times and they have lost non of that angular assault. Alan Brown the former Big Flame man is on guitar and is an adept and nimble player and has the blues stained rushes of the late Rick Aitken. The key to the affair is new frontman Simon Williams- a dream come true for the one person who kept the flame of this shrapnel music when no-one else cared with his band Sarandon and delivers a great job vocally and visually adding an air of esoteric mystery to the band.

I played next with the Membranes and I won’t be reviewing myself of course but returned to the frey covered in sweat to watch The Wedding Present who rushed thrillingly through their singles box set underlining their prowess at the sharp guitar rush added to classic song melodic flourishes that saw them perched as the bridge between the two ends of the indie scene at the time. They had the noise thing down enough to feel at home with the awkward squad and the song writing nods to the classic to straddle the other side. They even had hit records.

David Gedge is still the classic songwriter who also lived the rush of the noise and understood the dark side and never went down the trad path that could have made him an unhappy fortune. He remains a cutting edge musician sat outside the dreary world or playing the game and still as creative as ever as a new song played in the sound check proves.

They were as home with the newly emerging Smiths crowd as they were with our knife and fork hair cut brethren and tonight they sound oddly modern as the world has finally caught up with them and to be honest the rest of our noisy endeavours.

If at one time we were treated as musical lepers, ugly noiseniks who must have been joking and caused a violent and confused relation the modern world now sounds like our propulsive so called weirdness and like the way that every footballer is now sporting an expensive version of our vicious hair, every rock band now deals in noise in albeit manufactured doses.

Being a pioneer don’t pay the bills but it’s kinda nice that the world post Nirvana, post Pixies and post everything that came after C86 and to be honest C- early eighties is splattered with the DNA of our artful noise.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. My buddy IPT went and this was his summary of the night;
    Yeah Yeah Noh – Good but for me they were far better last year with a short sharp hit and run set – were better off on the smaller stage

    Design (the Chesterfields) – bit of a tribute act feel (one and a half original members) but did the songs well

    A Witness – were excellent – had the singer/guitarist from Big Flame, very PIL-like at points, exciting to watch too.

    McTells – saw about 30 seconds of them

    David Westlake – not familiar with the Servants and the couple of songs I saw did nothing for me

    The Membranes – bit light on truly memorable songs, but a lot of fun to watch

    The Wolfhounds – Were absolutely immense. Pure punk rock like the best catchy bits of Wire, played with energy, fury and humour. By Gum they were good! Best band of the night.

    The Wedding Present – Would it be a cliché to call them pedestrian? Maybe they seemed worse in contrast to the Wolfhounds, but I found them boring and very much going through the motions.

    Band Of Holy Joy – Thank goodness for the Band of Holy Joy, they made sure that such a good night didn’t end on a downer. Very good – Jonny Brown the singer is like a weird Geordie hybrid of Kevin Rowland, Vic Godard and Marc Almond, the bloke is a star. Had to leave after “Tactless” though (a classic that one for me, should have been a massive summer hit) cause by then I was out on my feet.

  2. Great night and great to see bands as fired up as they ever were and some even better than I remembered. wolfhounds and A witness were ok- good run throughs of trusted old sounds, wedding present were good but the Membranes were immense, the best band of the night by a country mile – they even played lots of great new songs which were better than they ever were. Hope they record them at some point.


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