Saturday 22 April 2023

The Saturday List #403 - I predict a riot! Gigs that got a bit lary

 Have you ever been to a gig and it's all started to get a bit nasty? I was thinking about this last night and thought it might make a bit of a decent list.

1. The False Dots, Harwood Hall,  18th July 1981. Of all the gigs I did with The False Dots, this was by far the worst and nastiest. A bunch of National Front supporting skinheads turned up, determined to cause trouble, as we'd labelled the gig "Rock against Racism". They let off a fire extinguisher in the toilets and then started harrassing people in the audience. As we were playing a song, I could see what was going on. Then one of them walked up to me, mid song and spat in my face. In a moment of red mist, I unstrapped my guitar and walloped the culprit around the head, strapped the guitar back on and carried on playing. The unlucky individual was knocked out cold. His mates dragged him out. At the end of the song, I invited anyone else who wanted trouble to come to the front now. None did. After the gig, we put all of the gear on the pavement awaiting my Dad, who was collecting it in his Ford Cortina Estate. The skinheads who we thought had skulked off returned. The rest of the band scarpered and hid, leaving me with the gear. I had a stark choice. As I had a bottle of beer in my hand, I determined to take a few with me and not make it easy. As they were almost upon me, I heard a shout. My Dad, who was a fearsome character, appeared with an iron bar. He shouted "Who's first". At that they all ran away. The band emerged from behind the hedge. Dad was quite proud of me, and told me he'd not had as much fun since he was in the army. Rather oddly, the skinheads turned up to our next gig and behaved themselves impeccably. My Dad explained that sheep need a sheepdog. 

2. Crass at The Hope and Anchor. I don't know the date of this gig, but it will long stay in my memory. Crass were an anarchist band, that attracted the attention of the police. I went with Pete Conway. As the band started playing, the Police tried to storm the gig. The problem for them was that the venue was down a narrow flight of stairs and they were met with a shower of glasses and beer bottles. Eventually, we were told that if we left the venue quietly, they would not arrest us (not that we'd done anything wrong). I suggested we went and hid in the ladies loo until the fun died down. As the punters emerged, the police beat them up. After about 20 minutes, we emerged. There was not a soul in the place. We went and helped ourselves to a pint. Eventually the Landlord came down. We told him we were keeping an eye on the place for him.

3. The Ramones at The Hammersmith Odeon. Again I can't recall the date. What I can recall was that it was silly putting The Ramones on at a venue with seats. The bouncers tried to make everyone sit down. Eventually the crowd had enough and just about every seat in the venue was smashed to bits. They were then piled up on the side of the stage. It was wonderful.

4. Penetration and Sham 69 at The Roundhouse, 1978. Until I went to this gig, every gig had been a joyous celebration. Sham 69 had a skinhead following, Penetration had a punk following. The skinheads decided that beating up the punks was cool. I was 15 and it was quite terrifying. I really like Penetration but I can recall nothing of the gig, other than trying to stay away from the skins.

5. Aswad/ Elvis Costello and The Attractions /Stiff Little Fingers, September 1978. This was an Anti Nazi League gig. It started at Hyde Park with a march to Brixton. Again, I went with Pete Conway. We listened to the speeches, and started the walk, which was probably the longest walk I'd ever done! About 100,000 people attended. There was a strong police presence on the walk. About half way to Brixton, someone, rather inadvisedly, gave me a tennis ball. Pete Conway bet me that I couldnt knock a Policemans hat off. This was a challenge I couldn't resist. I waited until there was a copper looking the other way and no other ones close by. It was a slam dunk and his hat hit the floor, everyone roared with laughter. I was about fiffteen feet, away. The copper turned around, and arrested the nearest marcher, claiming he'd attacked him with a brick. I was disgusted, but realised that I'd be stupid to volunteer the truth. I've felt slightly guity ever since, but what can you do when the Police tell lies? I did see a press report that "One marcher attacked an officer with a brick". Sickening really. Later in the day, an ANL activist was rounding up people to attack a rival National Front rally. Pete was very up 'for some fun'. I wanted to watch the bands. I think I made the right decision as they were great.

6. The Sway, Woodford Halse Social Club. In 1995, I was managing a band called The Sway. They were doing a national tour and were booked to play at The Woodford Halse Social club ( I have no idea where this is, other than somewhere near Northampton). The support band were from a nearby village. What we didn't know was that there was bad blood between the other village and Woodford Halse. The hall was packed. About half way through the support act, the biggest brawl I've ever seen started (and I've seen a few). It was quite comical. 60 year old men, sitting at their tables with their wives jumped up, punched a few people and sat down again. George the bouncer got hit over the head with a chair. The police came and the whole thing finished before The Sway could play. All of the locals, as we were leaving were saying "It's been the best night here for years". We were offered another gig at the venue but politely declined. 

7. Country Joe McDonald, Dingwalls, 1982. Given that Country Joe is a hippy peace campaigner, this may seem an unlikely gig for a rucktion, but it was during The Falklands conflict. Country Joe adapted "The Fish Cheer", his famous anti Vietnam war song to the Falklands and gave us a lecture on how war achieves nothing. Given his audience was 99% hippies, this did not seem too contentious, however there were a small band of squaddies out for a pint, who took massive exception. One in particular gave Country Joe a massive volley of abuse. Joe responded by saying he was a veteran of the Korean war and when these young men grew up, they'd realise he was right and they were wrong. He said he'd lost too many mates to keep his mouth shut. The squaddies departed in bad humour throwing glasses and swearing.

8. Tokyo Olympics/The False Dots at The Moonlight Club, 1982. I couldn't finish without a quick recollection of some backstage shenanigans. The False Dots were booked to support Tokyo Olympics, a band that were supposed to be the 'next U2'. We got the gig as we had a parge following. We were quite excited, especially as they had a Radio 1 single of the week. As soon as we arrived, we realised that it was not going to be a pleasant night. The band had a serious dose of "Rockstaritus". They thought they were the Rolling Stones. They treated us like dirt. They refused to let us use the backstage room. They detuned our instruments and were generally A-holes. Our bassplayer, Paul Hircombe, Just 17 at the time, was particularly incensed. We played a decent set. As the audience was mostly our mates, we arranged to go to the pub next door as soon as they'd played half a number. The press had turned up en mass and we decided that this was the best way to pay the back. When we got to the pub, there was about 50 of us. I went to order a beer, Paul said "I'll pay for a round Rog". As he'd been skint earlier, I was surprised. Paul laughed. After Tokyo Olympics went on stage, he went in the chaning room, nicked all of their cash he could find, as well as a copious amount of various illegal substances.  We had a pint and returned to our lair in Mill Hill for a rather good after show party. A couple of mates who'd stayed and watched Tokyo Olympics said that when they realised they'd been robbed they went absolutely mental. We were long gone. Normally I wouldn't condone such behaviour, but they really were horrible and thoroughly deserved it. I've shared the story with people who knew the band and they have all found it hilarious. In truth, we were never a great band to cross. It happened a few times, we sabotaged vans, nicked batteries out of effects units and once filled a guitarists case with mashed up onions (it's a long story) following a bit of inter band sabotage. 

Have a great weekend. 

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