Seattle 26th April
Post gig San Francisco and I’m burned…
The amount of intensity and energy in playing a Goldblade show completely drains you emotionally and physically. We are sat in Mexican Restaurant which has opened after hours. The whole band, our genial host, a great American dude called Marc Makale who talks non-stop and Jello Biafra who is talking about sixties garage rock and how he has just confirmed his brilliant current band to platform the Rebellion Festival in August.
It should be a great night but I’m drained.
I’m also emotionally drained as when we arrive in the US I hear that my dear friend Poly Styrene has died. I stay up all night writing a blog and answering texts and phone calls. I last spoke to her three days before and she sounded woozy but was still optimistic. We were talking about doing a big gig for her and I had the whole plan worked out. I will really miss speaking to her.
Sleep is irrelevant on tour. And drugs are pointless and boring. Adrenalin quickly takes over and I’m buzzing. I wake up early and go for a five mile run round Seattle trying to clear my head. It works.
We are staying at Steve Mack’s house. Steve is the former front man of That Petrol Emotion and an old friend. He’s a brilliant bloke and can’t do enough to help us. He even drives off to borrow us an amp for the gig and is an energetic and upbeat spirit. It’s great to see him again.
We spend the afternoon before the show with the guitars out and workout a cover of ”ËOh Bondage, Up Yours’ as a tribute to Poly. It’s such a brilliant song, the lyrics are clever and funny – even the way the she switches from the defiant chorus line of, “Oh bondage up yours”Â to Oh bondage, no more”Â- it’s a really clever switching of meaning. What an amazing and clever woman she was.
It’s great to sit there and play together like this, the whole band is jamming away sat on the floor. We haven’t done stuff like that for years. We also sketch out two new songs. ”ËMy Mind Is Like An Atom Bomb’ and ”ËPsycho Goes On Holiday’ – they both sound great. Can’t wait to get them into the set.
The gig in Seattle is a blast. You never know what to expect when you are a support band. Everyone has come to see the headliner and you are playing the ultimate away match. We go out on stage and look at the curious faces. We kick in with ”ËFighting In The Dancehall’ and you can feel the twitch of appreciation. Three songs in and there is a big circle pit and the gig is rocking. Our version of ”ËOh Bondage, Up Yours’ has people singing along, and it feels good to do a tribute to Poly. I’m not even going to pretend that I can sing the song as good her. I can’t. I just give it everything I’ve got. That’s all I can do. While I sing it I think how clever these words are and how clever they made the four chord song work? I also think of hanging out with Poly at the Hare Krishna cafe in London or the time she came to see Goldblade play at a punk festival on the south coast dressed in a white dress and floppy white hat; as un-punk as you could get. She thought no-one would remember her. They were queuing up to shake her hand.
We then play another new song ”ËSick/Tired’ which brings the house down.
Post show I sit on the merchandise and talk to loads of people. There is a good reaction. People are really into it and we have communicated something. That’s a great feeling.
San Francisco 27th April
Punk rock still stirs many emotions.
I guess that’s why we still love it. We are in love with its eternal debate. It’s not merely about going out there and playing a few songs and getting wasted, it’s a lot bigger than that. There’s actually a reason to all of this. Goldblade are in America supporting Steve Ignorant. Steve is doing one last tour playing the Crass songs. It’s a stunning show, great visuals and powerful, heartfelt renditions of the songs.
It’s also not without controversy. Outside the venue in San Francisco a bunch of punks are protesting and giving out rather nice looking glossy flyers stating their case. They are angry at Steve for what they believe is the betraying of Crass and the DIY ideal. It’s a complex argument and the gist of it is that he should not be playing conventional venues for twenty dollar tickets. We all understand their argument and would love to see a worldwide punk circuit that existed purely on DIY but the practicalities make this not only tough but nearly impossible.
In the 21st century when it costs nearly ÃÂ£3000 just to get your visas to get into America to play and about the same amount for flights and then traveling around the US, DIY touring is becoming tough. It’s really expensive these days and doing a series of DIY shows is something only the richer bands can afford to do. It’s just too damn expensive.
We finally got on tour after getting our visas at the last minute. After months of hassle and planning we got the interview at the US Embassy in London and coughed up another three hundred quid to get down to London for the 8 in the morning call at the American Embassy for the three hour wait and one minute interview…
These days the embassy is where you hang with fellow bands. In the queue we bumped into our old mates from the North West Echo and the Bunnymen, and upcoming young Brummie punks The Sharks, who are a really rocking new band who look sharp as fuck and who will be making a big noise this year.
The whole visa trip took two days and a lot of messing around; it’s another aspect of the reality of being musician these days that the idealists don’t know about. We rushed back home and scrambled onto the Internet to buy air tickets and three days later we were shivering in Seattle, a city that has the sort of English weather that I had forgotten about after the heat wave. The day after we are here in San Francisco. There was bound to be a demo here. This is perhaps the world’s most idealistic city and the hippie ethos still hangs in the air around the famous wooden houses.
There are also lots of burnouts on the streets in San Francisco. One shambles over. They always do. I have one of those faces that attract the crazy and disposed. I know nearly all the street guys in Manchester and worldwide they always come up. In the UK they are normal guys whose lives have gone wrong and have been excluded by our selfish society, In America many of them seem genuinely crazy. The one that wanders up looks like he has come straight out a comic book. He has a Charles Manson face and is babbling away in a cackling voice. He shakes hands and says ‘Umbo’ and then ‘ look into my eyes’, he takes his shades off and flashes his Charles Manson glare in my direction. I look back at his ranting face and see a borderline psychotic bumbling around the streets – a come late hippy. He can’t be over 50 so he must have arrived in the late seventies. The party must have been well over by then. Ashbury was long gone. The party was over. And yet here he is with his hippy hobo gear, his feathers hanging out of his stave, his long hair, his shades and his acid glare. A street hobo guru who arrived too late for the revolution. He rants away, spittle and spite, and crazy loco half sentences pouring out of his lice ridden beard.
San Francisco is the end of the road. The gold rush town where the gold ran out that became the world’s most liberal city, where you could afford to be nice, with it’s own distinct punk rock history from Dead Kennedy’s to Rancid to Maximum Rock n Roll.
The gig is good. Less moshpit but more head nodding. Again there are lots of appreciative people afterwards and I meet a great guy who is in his late sixties and loved the show and saw the early Grateful Dead and their band before, the Warlocks at legendary San Francisco gigs in the mid sixties. It’s great meeting people like this. People who have spent their whole lives on the counter culture frontline. The punks were meant to hate the hippies but that was such a conservative viewpoint. The punks were the freaks as well and the strengths of both scenes tied together was such a powerful combination.
Just ask Crass”Â¦