Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In the name of love

This piece has taken quite a while to write, which is probably not that obvious from reading it. I'm not entirely sure that it's any good, or if it covers all or even most of my feelings about the extraordinary weekend that I've just experienced, but for better or worse here it is...

So there we are then, The 2014 Rebellion Festival. And what a wonderful event it was - well, I had a good time anyway! I spent a fair amount of it working behind the Cadiz Music merchandising stall with label supremo Richard England and his assistant Blaise, and although it was hard work (yes ok, not as hard as digging a hole or something like that, but you know what I mean!) it was generally really good fun. In addition to various Ruts and Ruts D.C. items (including the re-issue of 'Rhythm Collision Volume 1' and our new live album 'Live On Stage') we had albums and t-shirts from Wilko Johnson, The Cockney Rejects, Electric River, Eight Rounds Rapid and more, and over the course of the four days of the festival we met and spoke to literally hundreds of people; yes there was the odd nutter but overall it was something that was a real pleasure to be part of. 

It was good to catch up with various people too, many of whom I hadn't seen since last year's gathering while some like John King I'd arranged to meet at the festival. Somewhat inevitably this involved late nights and lots of drinking - well, why not eh? It's only once a year after all... 

However the real reason that I was there was of course to play with Ruts D.C.; following our performance at The 12 Bar Club back in February we were invited to play an acoustic show on Saturday evening as well as headlining The Pavilion Stage (formally known as The Bizarre Bazaar) the following night. In addition to these two gigs Segs and Dave were interviewed by Garry Bushell on The Literary Stage on Sunday afternoon, which was an amusing and lively session ostensibly to discuss the upcoming book on the band ('Love In Vain - The Story Of The Ruts and Ruts D.C.' which should be out in October) but which ended up covering all sorts of unrelated topics featuring much banter between all concerned. All good entertaining stuff, as was Bushell's interview with Pete Haynes earlier in the day, where Pete spoke of his new book 'Cool Water' and even gave your humble narrator a name check for encouraging him to pursue his gift for writing all those years ago. Well - I did!
The acoustic show took place at 9.20 pm on Saturday evening in the bar - throughout the preceding days I'd been aware that while many visiting the stall were looking forward to Sunday's electric set it was the acoustic show that had really caught people's imagination. 'What are you going to play?' was a common question, as indeed was 'how are you going to play it?' In an attempt to answer these and many other queries Dave, Segs and myself gathered in Segs's hotel room at half past three in the afternoon - well, there's nothing like leaving it until the last minute is there? As we were setting up before the show it became that we were going to be playing to a full house, to such an extent that by the time we kicked off the show with 'Something That I Said' there were so many people in the room that a visit from the local fire department would have surely resulted in the show being closed down. Given the unusual nature of the gig we chose some less likely songs from the band's back catalogue (including 'Dangerous Minds' and 'Despondency' from 'Animal Now') as well as giving the first-ever public performance of a new song 'Second Hand Child' - as the set progressed I for one was aware of the growing intensity of the show, and by the time we got to 'Babylon's Burning' things were at fever pitch with our last song 'In A Rut' instigating the sort of standing ovation that people like me can usually only dream about. Amazing. But things didn't end there, as next up was the mighty T.V. Smith. He began his set as a solo act but then invited me to join him and bassman Jonathan from his band The Bored Teenagers for a couple of songs before getting the rest of the band up to finish the show with three Adverts songs. You can see how it all ended by clicking here - yes, that is Attila The Stockbroker joining me at the microphone near the end, and yes, the drummer really is playing a cardboard box!

But if that was a good gig then the electric set the next evening took things to another dimension entirely. I wrote last time about how we were following Glen Matlock whose band was to feature Earl Slick on guitar - I'd hoped to meet him and so was well pleased when I bumped into him (literally - he came through a door as I was about to walk through it in the other direction!) and he turned out to be a very nice chap, as did drummer Slim Jim Phantom who was also playing with Glen. I missed most of their set as we were getting changed and working out a set list - as I walked towards the stage to get ready for our show I saw Mr. Slick again (I'm starting to sound like a stalker now aren't I?!?) who's comment 'all black - that's the way to go man!' has all but guaranteed that I'll never wear any other colour clothing on stage again. Well I will, but you know what I mean!
We were introduced on stage by Irvine Welsh, who is a friend of Segs's and who had also appeared on The Literary Stage earlier in the day; as he wrote 'Trainspotting' there was of course only one possible opening song... we usually open with a reggae - style song so starting with 'H-Eyes' caught everyone by surprise. Once again some less-than-obvious songs featured in the set, not least 'Demolition Dancing' which has always been a big favourite of mine - judging by the audience reaction quite a few other people like it too... without wishing to sound too big-headed there are some shows that you just know are going to be special, that are just that little bit better than usual, and as we neared the end it was clear that this was going to be one to remember. Despite being told that there was a curfew and that we couldn't come back for an encore the audience simply refused to leave, even when the crew began dismantling the drum kit. We eventually returned for a blazing romp through 'Society' which ended what was a truly unforgettable performance and - dare I say it - one of the best things that I've ever been part of.

Gatherings such as this seem to contain so many high points, and yet I've found that there's often a defining moment which somehow focuses the overall feeling into a few words or a single statement - this time the one that sticks with me occurred in the backstage bar in the early hours of Sunday morning after our acoustic show. Segs and I were talking to Doug, who knew Malcolm Owen when he (Doug) was in his early teens. I said something about how it must have been an extraordinary experience - Doug just smiled and said 'he taught me dignity, and he taught me pride'

His words hung in the air. I can still hear him saying them now. I hope that I hear them forever. 

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