Fugazi and Shellac
Stratford Rex, London
A sunny saturday in London and I was excited as fuck to be seeing Fugazi for the second time in as many weeks. By the time I hooked up with the others I was like a toddler on a sugarbuzz. Once in London, me and Wig took it upon ourselves to shout weird everytime we saw a person in a suit. We screamed it out a lot.
Even though the gig was at the Rex, we met up with our friends at the Astoria. Whatever the reasoning behind this idea, it still gave us the opportunity to flick through the sex manuals in Dillons on Oxford Street.
Getting off the tube the general conclusion of Stratford was that it was (sarcastically) punk rock capital with skaters and meatheads bouncing of the floor. The Stratford Rex itself wound up being a very strange venue. Really it was actually a proper club type club venue (a big arse fancy nightclub), not usually catering to/for punker lowlifes. And the place was fucking huge. Also a little intimidating with the plaque by the door for the dead bouncer and then the Great Escape entrance and security. As the crowd queued well around the corner a roughly 100 metre gap was kept between the punters and half a dozen bouncers feeling people up for needles and machetes (I guess). And maintaining this distance (in addition to 20 stone black guys) was another security struggling to keep hold of a maniacal Rottweiler with quite a distaste for humans (or rather a taste for). Phill handily added "it's fear what they smell".
Inside, unmauled, Marine Research were the first band to emerge and open. Marine didn't do much for anybody in our little group. Personally, they reminded me of the direction of the Secret Goldfish and Tiny Too, which is stuff I do not strictly like. In this context I think the band were out of context (and perhaps out of depth). Then again, Fugazi have played before with bands such as the Spinanes and Unrest so...... Back to Marine Research and previously I had heard some stuff by Heavenly and as a result I had expected much worse.
We had made it down front by the time it neared Shellac. The mere sight of their futuristic DIY ampheads served to give a buzz to our little party. The equipment honestly looked like it was from another planet. Or at least from a spaceship that had been to another planet. The sight of the band just adjusting their stuff subtly drove us apeshit. Come stage time there was no sign of flesh. Bob Weston walked out onstage and said, "they're still queued around the corner outside, we're gonna wait a bit". The audience applauded but I cringed knowing it would push the night back even further. And Mr Phill Rodgers put it best when he said to me "those people would have learned a valuable lesson".
Shellac returned a quarter of an hour later so it wasn't too bad. It was impressive to see they way they presented themselves to the audience, especially Albini. He took sight of the crowd and went into some sinister sarcastic rant before launching into something sinister aided by the duo of Trainor and Weston, each pulling shit. With the initial shock out of the way all turned to take that as along came the most eagerly anticipated My Black Ass. It basically ensured that we would leave satisfied regardless but fortunately it matched the/all hype. The entire set was unlike on record but still how you hoped/imagined live it would sound. Live it comes delivered with an added air of intensity. The band appear unphasable, equally determined as disgusted. At times the rhythm section would just stand alone, pounding along like an army prior to having Albini rip through the vibe inventing fire. All more funky than biohazard. The basic power and intensity of their set blew my socks off as I witnessed something in a band I'm sure I have never seen before, something along the lines of genuine innovation. Fucking harsh from something so bare. At well chosen points Albini looked the audience in the eye requesting "tell me what is on your mind". The obvious was heckled prompting the upped request of "tell me what is really on your mind". the set was a well chosen wish list of a mix of both records and the singles, all without a painful recital of Don't We Deserve. As Albini tuned up (whatever) in between songs Weston took over the reigns and performed crowd Q&A ("who's the guy who invented fire?"). A person next to me called Matt Tagney got one in asking "what do you think of Bush?". Not sure if he meant the band or the organ. Either way it prompted the response "what's my favourite British biscuit? Why it's chocolate Hob Nobs, obviously". From Shellac we got the hottest hour I observed and all the while I was being bumped and molested by some girl from Cambridge. Hi Matilda.
Fugazi came onstage at around 10.20 (which sucked). Mackaye opened by barking out orders, which was probably sensible as they had removed the stage barriers. So with instructions out of the way, they band went into Break. Being midway back did prevent a pit/ring starting up right fucking next to me. No fun. The sound was drizzling out, unclear and spoiling. Bad mix. Then again this place (the venue) is generally a bump n grind nightclub. I was stood on Guy's side, so I got to hear Guy. In addition to this I was sandwiched between a couple of couples with over protective boyfriends that obviously saw me as some kind of threat. Boo! Fugazi wise, there was an early thrust provided by Place Position and Recap Modotti but it soon petered out slightly. They seemed to be neglecting Red Medicine and End Hits after that. Facet Squared, Merchandise and Bed For The Scraping stood out in a pretty slowish set which saw airings of tracks such as Long Division and Burning. Perhaps it was a way of subtle crowd control. And it kind of left me cold on this night. Even Margin Walker didn't really sit right for me. Finally they did Floating Boy (which along with the absent By You) was one of the songs I had been willing/wishing them to play. Unfortunately I was too deflated to enjoy despite it seeing the emergence of a trumpet player providing the screeching.
With time really pushing we left around 11.30pm with the band ploughing through their first encore. On the way out we passed the angry dog again. It could have mauled me, I didn't care I was bummed out.