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diskant rewind: Honey Is Funny #4

Posted: July 29th, 2008, by Chris Summerlin

(Originally posted July 2002)

Honey Is Funny by Chris Summerlin

SHIT. New column time comes steaming around again and here I am under intense pressure from Marceline to deliver.

Sorry no column last time so it’s a double ended dong of an effort this time round.

After last months “I hate punk rock” columns all round (where Luke Y revealed he hates all his records which is cool because I hate all his records too) I see no reason to change a winning formula, except fuck it, I’m not in such a bad mood.

I’ll start with a whinge but it’ll get better so read on…

I was in the pub the other day and a good friend I was chatting to said she wasn’t going to see Fugazi because they’d sold out by playing Rock City (since postponed). Knowing a little about the organisation that went into booking the gig I know that’s total bullshit. Jimmy Eat World played there recently (more of which later) and it was nearly 14 quid to get in. Fugazi was £7.50. Add to that the fact it would have been the first gig at Rock City where over 14s can get in and I’m sure you can imagine how hard the set up of this gig was.

There is a far more eloquent response to this kind of criticism on the message board at www.nightwithnoname.com by the way.

The choice of supports for Fugazi was a weird one. The guy putting the show on in Nottingham is a very good friend of mine (not to mention the best independent promoter in the UK) and he mentioned some of the bands that would be playing on the tour. This is not a gripe and neither is it a big deal but it just got me thinking. The Fugazi support slot is something of an institution for smaller bands in that Fugazi occupy the unique position of being the only band big enough to pack out Rock City or Brixton Academy while remaining unaffected by managers, agents, label favours, tour packages etc. This means supporting Fugazi is the one opportunity for smaller bands to play to a packed house while remaining small, or put more crudely – without sucking anyone off to get there.

I think this is Fugazi’s intention and why, in the past, you’ve had bands like Marine Research or Pram playing on the bill or relatively small bands like The Tone or Hernandez opening up. Some of the bands mentioned this time around were odd though. One in particular got me thinking. I’m not going to go into details or even say the band’s name because this isn’t a criticism of them as a band (because they’re damn fine) or even a criticism of the way they handle themselves or Fugazi’s choice of support bands but more to do with some sort of mistaken identity.

They do have press agents, booking agents and they do operate in the very traditional “play the game” industry-friendly way to a certain extent. Maybe I’m being naïve but when I read about a band being independent I think of it meaning they exist almost like a cottage industry business. They are totally self sufficient. It’s what made me and friends start up a recording studio to record our band in a garage or do our own sleeves and be opposed to the idea of having any kind of outside help with booking or the “press”. The idea that you pay someone to talk up your record is as weird as the fact that you will not get an album review in the music press without a press agent’s backing.

The band in question do run their own record label but a friend of mine involved in a festival they played at asked if they could record the band’s set and they said they couldn’t because their record label wouldn’t let them do that. Maybe crossed wires or whatever but what I’m saying is I don’t think that band needs the help of getting these support slots. If Fugazi picked them purely because they love them as a band then I think that’s cool but I really think they view them as independent in the same way as they themselves are and so to have them play on the same bill is helping them.

This is something I’ve noticed happens a lot. There’s no way a band from the USA, no matter how clued in to regional scenes, can know all the obscure bands in the UK that really deserve to play with them or, more specifically, deserve any help that can be offered. The bands they know from the UK are known because they’ve read about them or someone has passed them a record within the confines of the label/booking agent world. So the independent bands from the UK that are known in the USA are almost always known because they’ve been written about and to get written about (especially now the fanzine culture seems to have ground to halt) you need a press agent.

Le Tigre

The same band were put forward as a support to Le Tigre, who we put on a few weeks back (same night as Jimmy Eat World, felt like the biggest FUCK YOU we could muster). Another band put forward as a support for Le Tigre were a very young all girl band from London. I’m sure to someone from the US this band looks pretty good and worth supporting and helping. They played their first ever show with a band I play in so we saw the way things went with them. Whether right or wrong, they definitely get a certain amount of press attention because of their youth and their gender. Music journalists are invariably fat old men who have destroyed every relationship they’ve ever been in by overanalysing each record purchase their partner makes. Each relationship finally breaks down when the journalist decides that said partner’s inability to appreciate the expansive, airy production on Television’s Marquee Moon makes them a worthless human.

So to a total fucking scumbag like this, a bunch of teenage girls in skimpy clothing playing rock music is a wet dream that needs coverage to help it sustain itself. If the band existed as a self sufficient unit this ugly situation would not be their problem, they can wear what the hell they want. What is repellent is the fact that business decisions and style decisions are made by their father which, to me, turns it on it’s head. It’s the same old thing of Girl Power created and driven along by men – exactly the opposite of Le Tigre. I’d rather have the X-Rays swilling booze and winking at the ladies as support for Le Tigre as at least both bands would be honest.

In the end we plumped for Valerie and they fucking ruled anyway.

We almost look to the bands we respect to pick out the bands from the UK that are worthy of attention. This is why in press releases for UK bands it always says “played shows with blah blah blah” as though the nod from the US bands gives the UK band more credibility.

When you bear in mind some of the stuff I just mentioned I hope you can see what a sack of shit this attitude amounts to and why it’s time people just went ahead and created their own thing. American band picked some bunch of lame asses as support? Who cares? We’ve got our own thing! This is so much more punk rock than moaning about venue choices or admission prices until you’re blue in the face.

The best example of where this has worked is Leeds and the Cops & Robbers set up of a monthly produced gig guide. Leeds gets tons of flack for being closed and cliquey but what the city has got is a self supported scene where local bands get the respect they deserve and when a large name band comes and plays then it’s on a level playing field and as many people come for the support as the headliner. The Leeds scene of bands is probably as close to a “golden age” Washington DC scene that we’re going to see and what makes it so is that no one tried to ape or copy anything existing, people put on gigs and make music and it’s easier to support the other people doing the same than it is to be snide and keep yourself to yourself. Even when supposedly independent promoters who actually try and make a living from putting on gigs try and muscle in on the Leeds scene (when they themselves live 200 miles away) it still goes strong. So when a band comes over from Germany and finds their big name booked show has been cancelled what do they do? They go and play a Cops & Robbers show at the last minute and everyone’s a winner.

We’ve tried to put something together in Nottingham like this for a while now. The first efforts came unstuck when we had a meeting with the people who make a pamphlet called Nottingham DIY. They wanted to limit the gigs included to those with a door entry of £5 and under. We felt this was a little unrealistic as at the time we’d been involved in a large argument with some local venues and promoters who felt we were promoting in “corporate” venues and charging too much door entry. We argued that although the Heavenly Social in town may be a little expensive drinks-wise and a little swanky too, it was far less corporate than the venues they listed because those venues were owned by large breweries, whereas The Social is owned by the relatively small Breakfast Group. We also tried to argue that charging £3 entry for a touring USA band is great for punters but the band simply will not get paid. So £6 to see Melt Banana doesn’t seem so bad when you know how much they need to be paid.

Anyway, it got shelved.

We all went to All Tomorrows Parties, got slaughtered and ended up forming Clamber Sands – a one night only Clambake tribute band featuring about 20 people on vocals led by the Night With No Name head man Anton together with a chorus made up of the mighty Nottingham band Seachange, Neil J guitar and Mr Phillip John Welding on a miniature child’s drum kit. I banged a table. Cocktails were drunk. Oxes were told to get out of the chalet. Phillip John trashed the kiddy drum kit before trying to walk clean off the second floor balcony.

A couple of points came up that evening, probably never directly but certainly in everyone’s minds.

1. This is a laugh.
2. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a place to do this that didn’t cost a lot to get into?
3. Aren’t there a lot of people playing music in Nottingham…
4. Wouldn’t it be amazing to curate your own festival?
5. Is the damp patch on Captain Ecru’s bed wee wee?
6. Why can’t we just all get along?

You know the part in the Simpsons where Homer and the boys are playing cards and someone says Homer is a little slow and he retorts with “what do you mean a little SLOW?” only to find it’s hours later and everyone’s gone home?

Something like that happened.

Until the Seachange folk came round the Beech and said we WILL do a monthly club night and it WILL be curated by a different local band every time. We WILL produce a monthly gig and events guide for the area. It WILL be free. There WILL be DJ battles and free gifts at the club nights.

And so, with a lot of serious hard work – mainly on the part of the Seachange people – Why Can’t We Just All Get Along? was born.

Give it up!

The first night happened back in May at a new venue in Nottingham called Junktion 7. The rules are that one band picks the line up from local bands and friends and its £2 entry with all cash going into the production of the next booklet. The bands cannot play their normal set which means many things – it’s more entertaining, it stops it feeling like a gig and makes it more light hearted and social and the door price means you can try something and not feel like you’re ripping anyone off. We want it to be a place to go monthly that’s a way to catch up with people and mainly just get drunk and have a laugh on the cheap and hear some good music too.

May’s event had WCWJAGA? masterminds Seachange playing a set of totally new songs written for the occasion coupled to loads more live music (including the folkskronk John Fahey stylings of the awesome Music For One) and the first DJ battle of Neil J Vs Captain Ecru (Krautrock James to his mates). It was grand.

We took a picture of one of my housemates dressed up as a cop in Marceline’s house, Raymond Pettiboned it and created a booklet which we gave out at all the gigs we went to in May (see pics).

Last week was the second club night and was more packed than the first. In another staggeringly bright idea the Seachange people recorded the previous months bands and DJ battle and were selling CDRs for cheap on the door to further finance the booklet. Designer Babies gave us their last gig and woke everyone up with some Beefheart/DooRag improv blooz matched to terrorist DJ antics. Hirameka Hi-Fi ducked in and out with some new stuff and a new one-off line up. Anton went head to head with Wolves soundman Mark Spivey in a DJ battle that surely will never be beaten. Anton gave out fliers instructing people how to behave while he DJ’d and danced to his own cuts holding the sleeve aloft while he did so. Mark casually smoked hard and met every Anton choice nobly before being removed by the police to give a statement (more later). Even Anton’s medley of “Cos I’m A Cunt” by The Hardskins and “Anton (He’s the Motherfucking Man-Ton)” by Anton’s mate Stand Up Paul couldn’t unsettle Mark and the event was declared a draw. The only way to close events was for Little Mike to play his first show, backed by various band members and kill all our ears with a 15 minute feedback anthem. Good work. Can’t wait for the CDR of it next month.

So that’s the positive bit, it’s working. And it’s working outside of the realms of the nonsense term punk rock. The Seachange people don’t come from that scene and don’t give a fuck either because this thing is about inclusion and everyone is invited to come down and participate (next curated nights are from garage rockers The Grips and then hopefully Wolves Of Greece) and with a late license getting sorted it should run and run. While people moan about door prices, who’s supporting who and who’s a sell out, Seachange just get wheels rolling. They rule.

So! Do the same in your town!

As a footnote the last WCWJAGA? night was something of a test for everyone. Maybe doing it the day after England were knocked out of the world cup wasn’t too bright but after Hirameka played a Transit pulled up in the car park and about 10 people got out. They came up and tried to rush the door. Mark Spivey got flattened, James from Seachange got a punch to the face while explaining the pay-to-get-in door policy. Things really flared up, Heather on the door was threatened and our friend Max stepped in to take 4 smacks to the head. There were only 2 bouncers so it was a bit scary. Some guy who will forever be a legend in Nottingham from this point on yelled “TAKE IT OUTSIDE. THERE’S ROCK AND ROLL HAPPENING IN HERE” (captured on the CDR of the night) before getting a pummelling. The guys were forced out of the door before one of them glassed the bouncer and the lady who runs the venue in the process. They legged it into the car park and the venue owners chased after them trying to stop them by hurling a road sign at the van. They stopped, got out and tried to charge the front doors, which were being locked from the inside. They then apparently jumped a passer by and beat shit out of him.

Even with the police there and everyone shook up to shit and clearing up glass and blood we still carried on in good spirits. James and Simon from Seachange got on stage with James mopping up his face and rather than call the night off they announced the DJ battle was about to start. Spivey dropped New Rose by the Damned and it was back to normal.

Damo Suzuki

Anyway. Do the same because it’s fun. We mope too much.

I recently enjoyed:

Putting on Le Tigre.

Seeing Sonic Youth with Jim O Rourke blaze through new stuff and throw out some classics too.

The Icarus Line live. I doubted. I was wrong. They’re no goth hardcore nightmare but a back to the basics hard rock band the world needs more of. Now lose the make up.

Going to the studio with Wolves Of Greece and having such a great bunch of people engineer and help out.

Seeing Warhorse play.

Watching England Vs Nigeria at 7.30am with Damo Suzuki, former singer of Can.

Practising with Oklahomo. Basically a Sabbath styled retro rock act formed as an excuse to consume ale by myself, Kev from Reynolds and Ian from Econoline.

Here’s a compilation tape to rule the earth. Don’t know how long it lasts and if it fits on a 90 minute but why not post me one and we can all find out?

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Circumstances
Black Sabbath – Supernaut
Excelsior – Robust
Tight Bros From Way Back When – Show Me
Jimi Hendrix Experience – All Along The Watchtower
Neil Young – Cinnamon Girl
Mule – Hayride
Antimony – Tecumseh
Arcwelder – Treasured Island
Rye Coalition – Thanksgiving Day For Cats
Sweep The Leg Johnny – last song off new album
Fugazi – Epic Problem
Bastro – dunno what this is called

John Fahey – Requiem For John Hurt
All Most Heaven – Song Of All
Low – Sunflower
Rex – Ride Home
Palace Brothers – Stable Will
Dirty Three – Everything’s Fucked
Angelo Badalamenti – Laurens Walking
Papa M – O Kentucky
David Grubbs – Transom
90 Day Men – To Everybody



Chris Summerlin

Chris lives for the rock and can often be seen stumbling drunkenly on (and off) stages far and wide. Other hobbies include wearing jumpers, arsing about with Photoshop and trying to beat the world record for the number of offensive comments made in any 24 hour period. He has been married twice but his heart really belongs to his guitars. All 436 of them.

http://www.honeyisfunny.com

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