12 Bar is not going down without a fight. People were literally dancing on the ceiling (what a feeling) and climbing onto the rafters at one of the last nights of this local institution for the musically inclined and criminally insane. A full day of music featuring the iconic venue’s most beloved bands played all day and all of the night, and there were several standout performances during the sentimental send off.
BUTCHER IN THE FOG
CHRIS POPE & THE UKs
HUNGRY DOG BRAND
THE LOVE-RAY SPECIAL
LAY OUT THE TRAPS!
PENNY BLACK REMEDY
ROTTON HILL GANG
THE BOLLOCK BROS.
THE FALLEN LEAVES
THE LONDON SEWAGE COMPANY
VINCE RAY & THE BONESHAKERS
VIVA LAS VEGAS
Known for it’s psychobilly / rockabilly and punk contingent, Vince Ray and The Boneshakers, King Kurt and The Bollock Brothers respectively played short sets to ravenous crowds soaking in the last of the whiskey soaked vibes. With an ambitious 33 band lineup, a few gremlins were bound to find their way into the machine, as was the case with hardcore band Waco, who braved intermittent vocals – and to the guitarist’s dismay, an overly enthused fan turned hat thief who absconded with quality headwear. Even punks have bad hair days.
For the punk scene in particular, which places such high value on authenticity, expression and commitment, the loss of the 12 Bar to the mustache-twirling dastardly land developers is especially offensive. The relevance of the 12 Bar may not be yet realised by the mainstream music fan, but its contribution to the London music scene has obviously been substantial in its influence – and will be missed.
Many famous names have been cited during the last few months – Jeff Buckley, Adele, Keane, Damien Rice, Regina Spektor, and Pete Doherty – but its history is much deeper than the superstar status of certain 12 Bar vets. Booker Phil Ryan has been willing to take chances on artists, never resorting to the pay-to-play scam, even after earning the pedigree to do so. This would’ve worked against their core ethos, which is to promote and share an eclectic variety of talent regardless of commercial interests.
Sunday’s swan song was an emotionally charged evening and the place to be – with a queue that snaked down and around the block. Top Buzzer a pop / punk / new wave outfit were the hyperactive lads of the evening, taking the stage just after the witching hour. 12 Bar’s intimate live room was converted into an open plan with the outside alleyway spilling through the side doors while the balcony was crammed to capacity. Andy Duke, a born frontman with his quick wit, pop punk vocals and driving bass, was equal parts impressive muso and audience charmer with witty banter and spot on timing. Rock / punk Guitarist Ed Sonsino slung his Les Paul around the stage like a rag doll, mastering the full sound and versatile approach needed for a three piece setup. Drummer Craig Welsh powered through the set with relentless energy and feel, locking in the groove with creative rhythms while making the most of the dynamics and playing for the song.
TB kicked off their set with the early XTC meets The Fall inspired “Mannish Girl”. Other tunes such as “She’s Red” feature new wave drums (think “My Sharona”), driving guitars, and a payoff in the form of an explosive punk-flavoured chorus. “Deeply Shallow” is a tongue in cheek musing on musical trendies, and the kinetic cover of M.’s “Pop Muzik” rallied a spirited audience sing-along. Crowd favorites were “Denny” with its oddly addictive pop waltz feel and hooky chorus, and “Meanwhile in San Francisco”, a call and response Clash inspired anthem (based on cult film The Room), which whipped the audience into one heaving mass of mosh pit, boosting the moisture index to beyond dewy proportions. These gents have been invited to play a final show tonight. There will be some additional acoustic sets before moving day on Friday, but Top Buzzer receives the honour of being the last band to plug into the 12 Bar PA, as it will be sadly dismantled this evening after their set.
The 12 Bar farewells have been extensive, with nobody quite ready to say goodbye. It’s too late for this iconic venue, but it seems that the message that these venues are truly endangered is finally being heard. This is no false alarm. If everyone who stopped by to pay their respects to this particular cultural landmark can speak and act before the next chop, perhaps our remaining touchstones might stand a chance.