STE 25th Anniversary punk festival

Southampton Joiners Arms

29th June 2013

As a follow up to the recent preview of this event, Louder Than War’s Nathan Brown gives you the lowdown on a landmark event for Southampton’s DIY punk scene.

Mike Todd kicked off proceedings at this DIY punk festival with some acoustic ranting which I confess I only caught the tail end of as I was busy out in the front bar of Britain’s best small venue.  Numerous record labels, zine writers and DIY punk distributors (distro in the lingo of the scene) were hawking their wares and transformed the only seating available into a market place.

After a malfunctioning lighting rig speedily fixed by the Joiners talented sound crew, up next were local street punks Chemical Threat. Sporting a couple of mohicans and plenty of tattoos they treated us to some 80s style singaling choruses and a mix of speedy guitar riffs and stompy mid-tempo tunes that fall somewhere between an Oi sound and Discharge. I get the feeling guitarist Ben would like to speed them up a bit with some Scandinavian and Japanese hardcore influence creeping in. Frontman John’s antics pretending the microphone was his penis gave a comical counterbalance to the serious content of their songs. They’ve got an opportunity to broadcast a message and they ain’t happy about the society we live in!

Three piece The C-30s, the latest outfit of serial Bournemouth punk protagonist Andy Nazer, took to the stage offering up an indie-punk cross over with some Stooges-esque guitar. They knocked out a set of stripped down mid-paced tunes with definite hints of Sub-Pop, Grunge or whatever you want to call it. You know, that shit that Nirvana got quite famous for.

Now, I can’t really comment on The Shorts as I was standing in on guitar. The unfortunate non-appearance of singer Mike due to a family emergency meant that of the 3 bodies on stage only 2 were actual members of the band and there was a distinct lack of singing apart from the choruses on 4 songs. “The show must go on” as they say, so a new genre of “instrumental hardcore” was born, in bursts of less than 60 seconds. It was especially sad that Mike couldn’t make it as he would have been the only performer that day who had appeared at the first STE gig in his band Corporate Grave.

Drummer Tony is also co-editor of local zine “Suspect Device“, and they had produced a special commemorative issue featuring interviews and views on the STE Collective and what it meant to people who had been involved.

Hancock had similar member problems, so drummer-less they gave an acoustic rendition of their rocky, Ramones influenced sound. Rumour has it that singer Rachel is a classically trained opera singer. She certainly has the vocal range to carry off a set backed only by Matt’s well played guitar.

Circus Act are a Southampton 3-piece (a common denominator at today’s gig!) who rock out a melodic technical hardcore sound. Inspired by the emo/hardcore scene that emanates from Washington DC they were joined by STE stalwart Rich for a Minutemen song. I missed this as I was in the local chip shop but I’m told the boy done good!

From the old school punk stable, Watch You Drown had reformed after more than 20 years especially to play this gig – although other gigs are sure to follow. Take the bass sound of the Stranglers, beefed up with some heavy drumming that Killing Joke would be happy with and top it with manic 3 chord guitar and you begin to get the picture. Dark and moody at times, it’s a sad reflection of the world that songs they wrote about the first Gulf War are still directly relevant now. Meanwhile in Glastonbury flags waved to an irrelevant good time Rolling Stones… Everybody’s Happy Nowadays? WYD finished with a fairly breakneck rendition of Wire’s “12XU” followed by their version of the Shakin’ Stevens classic “Green Door”. Nobody was expecting that!

Singer/guitarist Russ is co-author of “The Art of Punk” book which hit the streets last year and he also contributed to the “STE bulletin” – an A4 trifold featuring reflections on 25 years of this DIY collective and the DIY punk community in general, including its roots and current activities.

36 Strategies are a new band featuring former members of Decadence Within and Shutdown with a new release out on Boss Tuneage. A metal-influenced, heavy sound that reminded me a little of Propagandhi combined with female vocals that were sung rather than shouted produced what I would call “young people’s music” – showing my age, now. Is it emo? Is it nu-metal crossover with hardcore? I don’t really know! Out of my reference range and truth be told I was held up at the busy bar for much of their set.

Bassist Ian Glasper is another punk rock writer – responsible for 4 well researched and informative books about the post-70s UK punk scene published by Cherry Red.

Skimmer, who followed, are the West Midlands’ answer to Screaching Weasel, complete with the whiney vocals. I’ve never understood being derivative of a band who are openly derivative of another band (in Screaching Weasels case the Ramones). Consequently I missed most of this band, catching up with some of the punks who had travelled over from France just for this gig.

Hailing from Weston-Super-Mare, Violent Arrest were the highlight of the day for me, and for the assembled hordes who were throwing each other around the room including LTW’s Ged Babey who seemed to come a cropper at one point. 3/4 of renowned 80s UK hardcore Ripcord and with members having served in Spite and Heresy, Violent Arrest were loud, angry, fast and short, singer Steve looking like a vein might pop in his forehead or his clenched fist might shatter!

For my money Violent Arrest are one of the best bands on the hardcore circuit in the UK today and it’s a shame that they don’t get to play more often. They never disappoint. As the level of alcohol consumption had reached its height, heckling was the order of the day. An old tradition of shouting “Play one for Totton” was resurrected, resulting in some genuine confusion from the VA guys. There is a punk in Bristol called Totters, similar enough sounding to be confused with the New Forest town. Why were these punks repeatedly shouting for a song to be played for a bloke who isn’t there? By the 3rd attempt the penny had dropped. halfway through the set, the bass was so detuned that it took 5 minutes to sort it out at which point we were treated to some genuinely awful jokes and a round of “Guess what song this is the drum beat to?”. Strings in tune, they settled back into their pace, blasting through more of their SS Decontrol & Siege influenced hardcore. They finished with “Furder”, a song the Ripcord members had not played for 25 years. A fitting tribute to a celebration of a quarter of a century of punks organising themselves to fill the gap in availability of decent music.

It’s easy to forget how bleak times were, and how decent gigs were few and far between. What’s the solution? As it always was…..Do It Yourself!

 Photos by Pete Craven and Geraldine Lawrence – thanks.
All words by Nathan Brown. You can read more from Nathan on LTW here.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here