The Fallen Leaves | Kill Pretty | TV Smith (Ged Babeys 50th)
The Joiners, Southampton
29th March 2014
To celebrate his 50th Birthday and surviving cancer the UKs Best Small Venue 2013, The Joiners in Southampton, let Louder Than War’s Ged Babey pick three of his favourite ‘punk bands’ to play in honour of his halfcentury. His mate Ian Canty reports.
If there was such a thing as a personification of Southampton Punk, odds are it would look and be more than a little like Louder Than War’s Ged Babey. Negotiating the local venues for 30 plus years with a slightly unsteady gait (which may be the result of either his short sightedness, alcohol consumption or those brothel creepers he seems forever on the edge of mastering), Ged is a living breathing advocate for all kinds of music, but that heart beats pure Punk Rock. He’s like a living cartoon sometimes, frequently hilarious, always immaculately turned out, sometimes infuriating, but always passionate and of course as you well know a writer of no mean ability too. But really he’s just a great bloke and a real pleasure to know ….
So enough hagiography, it was Ged’s 50th birthday so he got together a gig of his favourite bands and this is the story of that night ….
After a slow start the Joiners starts to fill and it is like a who’s who of Southampton Punk over the years: members of the original Soton Punk bands Strate Jacket and the Bitter Lemmings mingled with later stalwarts from Haywire and Stu Dent and the Wankers; sizeable contingents from down the road from Portsmouth and Ged’s original stomping ground Salisbury are also present. Members of C86 legends Bubblegum Splash and Accrington Stanley rubbed shoulders with youngsters from Bullybones and the Rising who squeezed past Anarcho veterans from Dread Messiah and Dirt. There’s a great sense of camaraderie and coming together of the tribes in a way, kind of like when Punk gigs meant coming to meet like minds. The atmosphere was just excellent and helped make the evening.
Fittingly this celebration of all things Gedward featured ex-members of the more thoughtful and imaginative bands of punk’s first wave, The Subway Sect, The Fall and The Adverts. But that’s in the past, lets concentrate on the now when these people are in three of the best live acts the UK has to offer.
First on were the wonderful Fallen Leaves. For me the fact they are not huge is yet more proof that most of the general public have cloth ears. I mean, what more do you want from a band? Great tunes, fine singing and playing, style and a genuine wonder on guitar? The Leaves set about their set that is full of high spots, My Phantoms being particularly super. Ending with their calling card Trouble, I think I can safely say that everyone in the room instantly fell in love with them. Miss them at your peril.
Next came Manchester’s Kill Pretty. Though they were the act I was least familiar with on the night, I will swiftly remedy that situation. Classic lineage of Manc punk here, but striking out for new and exciting fields. They were slightly hampered by guitar problems (big hand for Night Of Treason’s guitarist who was on hand to help) but that made them no less enjoyable. Sometimes dark and atmospheric, at other times light and poppy (if pop means intelligent, catchy and cool), the singer Moet pacing backwards and forwards like a caged tiger and the band (including ex-Fall 79 drummer Mike Leigh and Chris the bass player from the sublime Blue Orchids) are just perfect. They round off their set with the slightly Clash-like but perfect and ultra-catchy “Rob A Bank” , their new single so make sure it gets in the charts kids!
The legendary TV Smith topped the bill and yes it is time from Rant number 2! Why on earth doesn’t the UK valuable it’s song writing great more? The likes of Vic Godard and Rob Lloyd work in near obscurity and it just isn’t fair and you can add TV Smith to that list. He’s got a back catalogue that most artists would sell any grandparents they could lay their hand on for and what’s more he’s continually adding to that list; two songs were debuted tonight and they were as well received as the Adverts’ classic from way back in the 70s. Of course “Gary Gilmore’s Eye” and “Bored Teenagers” get everyone up and dancing (pogoing to acoustic guitar!), but people listened and loved the newies too. He’s so consistent over the years and wiry-thin and full of energy. 58? I’ve seen 20 year olds with less vim.
As a conclusion to the evening, Gosport’s Night Of Treason (No mean act in their own merit, check out Ged’s writing on here about their debut record) put on a karaoke set and did an excellent job in sometimes, cough, challenging circumstances (the fella who sang “Did You No Wrong”…hmmmm. (Mr Canty was in fine voice!) Though obviously the vocal performances can be variable for this, there were truly great versions of Alternative Ulster, ANWL’s So What and Complete Control and the birthday boy himself got up for a spirited version of the Buzzers Boredom. It all ended fittingly again with a slightly ramshackle version of Anarchy In The UK by the entire cast, a fun end to a great evening.
Here’s the next 50 years … happy birthday Ged.
Just a couple of things I wanted to say… The Fallen Leaves, like a fine wine get better with age and made a lot of new fans on the night with a storming set. I was particularly proud to see Rob Symmons wearing a home-made badge with the slogan “The John Le Mesurier of Punk” a phrase I coined in a LTW review.
Coincidentally Mike MJ Leigh from Kill Pretty bears some resemblance to Captain Mainwaring/Arthur Lowe, which I may have mentioned in a review. On meeting Kill Pretty one of their first questions to me was “Haven’t you got Mike a Home Guard Officers Cap then?”. I apologised that I hadn’t, but had spent an hour rummaging around the local Army Surplus Store the day before. “You Stupid Boy” was the reply. Their “Anarcho-Punk version of the Fall” set divided opinion but was a joy to behold as far as I’m concerned.
When Tim Smith arrived I was outside having a fag and in typical speak-before-I-think mode my first words to him were; “God I always forget how young and healthy you look in the flesh, there are so many awful photos of you online!” He was understandably taken aback but luckily knows what a dick I am. What I meant was photos of him singing don’t capture his natural relaxed facial expression but make him look like a red-in-the-face, veins-bulging, grimacing maniac, simply because he puts so much physical effort in, and a split second shot rarely captures the gazelle like beauty of TV Smith in full flow. Anyway , sorry Tim!
As for the Kareoke … well, never has so much fun been had … everyone was magnificent, even the ones who were shit! Thanks to everyone who took part, especially the Night Of Treason boys.
It was a great birthday, a wonderful gig and amazing fun. Cheers Ian for the review and a big Thank You to everyone who came; the bands, audience, friends, local band members, staff at the Joiners, and last but not least my wife and son. Special mention to people who travelled and thanks for all the cards and gifts. Several people were absent for good (and very sad) reasons and they were missed. Several people no longer living were very much in my thoughts at the emotional end of the night. Thanks again to the staff at Southampton General Hospital for making sure that I reached 50.
A full gallery of photos from the night can be found on Steve McCathries flickr page here
More from Ian Canty here. All photos by Adam Barnes except colour one of Fallen Leaves by Geraldine Lawrence.