The Barn, Portsmouth
22nd Nov 2014
The “five bands for a fiver” punk nights at the Barn / The Milton Arms look like they might come to an end in January unless a new music-loving landlord is found. In the meantime, everybody made the most of it while there’s still the chance, says on the spot reporter Ged Babey.
Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons have been around for years and I’ve followed their night-prowling for ages online and on disc, and at last I get to see them live… with a stand-in drummer who used to play with Satans Rats and the Photos no less! What a treat, but also what a wonderful supporting bill.
Local girl-boy band Shooting Fish started way too early, and thankfully I missed their cover of a Billy Idol song but did get there in time for a new original called Punk-By-Numbers, which is exactly what they’re not. Unfortunately though at the point in the song where the line “Punk by numbers, you can’t go wrong” is sung, the drummer makes her first and only cock-up of the evening, thinking the song has ended when it hasn’t!
Only a band from Pompey with female drummer and vocalist could have an anthem called Beer O’Clock and it not be pure macho buffoonery, more like the Slits jamming with NoFX. They must be working on a follow-up to their debut album which I wrote about here. Pure pop punk with no pretensions, top tunes and a smile on its face and band with a future, despite the odd mistake.
Sweet Jonny are an all-male metal-ish trash-punk outfit who Jons Flash & Lamb the promoters rate very highly indeed, but somehow they just didn’t do it for me. Maybe I was in the mood for female fronted bands like the other three or maybe too busy ensuring the bar-takings were high enough to keep the pub afloat ….
And then… Oh God, no Not another lone acoustic warrior singer songwriter…. shoot me now! “He’s come all the way down from Scotland” Flash told me, to play 25 minutes and get paid very little, so I was lured away from the bar for a look…
Mark Ayling to my surprise, within ten seconds of hitting the stage, his songs, imposing stage presence and ultra-fast strumming had me captivated. He’s serious. He means it and he manages to imbue his songs with a warmth, melancholy, gritty determination and righteously focussed anger. TV Smith is the master of this kinda thing but Mark reminded me of more of a hardcore punk version of Patrik FitzGerald or a one man version of the Mob. Its downbeat intense stuff, gritty real life drama’s but he does it with such conviction and he’s brilliant to watch. You wouldn’t want to meet him down a dark alley, he’s a big bloke but his songs have a sensitivity, cynicism and romantic idealism that sets them apart. Someone is due to review his Out of Step, Out of Time album he told me, I guarantee that if you like TV Smith solo and the Mob then you’ll love it.
Trioxin Cherry I had checked out on you-tube, as you do, but only saw their evidently popular “I wish I was going to Rebellion” song. It’s a funny song, but it verges on the twee and reminded me of a punk rock Victoria (“beat me on the bottom with a Womans Weekly” Wood rendition initially.
That said I do like TC’s singer / guitarist Rebecca a lot. Mainly because she has a great voice the tone of which carries high above the music in an almost Poly Styrene way but she also hits notes and has the soul-ish inflexions of Skunk Anansies Skin. Unlike her contemporaries in equally fab bands like Dragster and Brassick she doesn’t dress or play the rock ‘n’ roll vamp. She’s a t-shirt and jeans girl with a practical bob and (from the song lyrics I gather…) a nerdy comic-book-geek into her horror and sci-fi and movies and shit. Trioxin Cherry’s songs mix up the horror / sci-fi with humour and a bit of social comment. Which is a neat trick when done as well as they do it and harks right back to bands like the Rezillos.
Pussycat and the DJs should be national stars by now if there was any justice. In these days where bands have to PAY to get reviewed in certain magazine/websites – its called a Fast-Track service to guarantee your product is reviewed promptly – bands without pots of money get ignored by the mainstream.
No-one looks better than Puss – she’s a total star, an extra-terrestrial cross-species, androgynous pop-star of indeterminate age.
Her beau Olvis is standing in on drums whilst Antz is on sick leave.
Big Jake in the flesh looks even more like a brick shit-house in human form or Meat Loaf’s Big Eddie from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. His guitar playing is loud and raw, simple and effective.
Anyways, they played a blinder. Pussycat crouching, staring, preening, purring, going walkabout in the crowd and rockin’ like a bastard. Livin’ with Mom and Dad, and Get out of My Face being my personal favourites. I’m glad Steve Iles video-ed most of it because, needless to say, I was very, very drunk and wouldn’t have got home were it not for Steve Barnes (one of many fans resplendent in Pussycats self-designed and made t-shirt, available here). Thanks Steves.
A wonderful night at the Barn. Let’s hope it can find a landlord that wants to keep live music this great alive and kicking in a city famed for its love of rock ‘n’ roll and punk and garage and glam….
The next gig is on 20th December and features Louder Than War favourites Bullybones and Archive 45 among others. Be there.
You can find Mark Ayling’s official website here.
The various band’s Facebook pages are here:
All words Ged Babey. Videos filmed by Steve Iles. Photo Jaggie Cooper. More writing by Ged on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.