INDIE DAZE 2 : THE WONDER STUFF / THE WEDDING PRESENT / POP WILL EAT ITSELF / PRIMITIVES / EAT / POPINJAYS : London Forum 03 October 2015
A year later, and Indie Daze 2 is here : it's the best day in in London all year, taking the disparate strands of Butlins weekends, reunion shows, and somehow distilling it all into one concentrated burst of Premier League Indie. Its also the kind of bill that would've sold 40,000 tickets in an afternoon in 1992.
Indie Daze 2 is frankly, the gig highlight of the year for me. Fast becoming an annual fixture, it's best described as the kind of bill that would have stormed The Reading Festival in 1991, from a time where 'Indie' meant something, where a big hit meant Top 40, not Number 1, and where success was 20 dates at 1,000 capacity venues, not 1 night at a 20,000 seater baseball arena, Indie Daze 2 is – well, at best, an indie Time Machine, a rock Tardis to a simpler time. Unashamedly nostalgic, it allows people of a certain age to revisit a time that no longer exists, see bands that perhaps they never did see when we were younger, when there was no baggage, no kids, no chronic illnesses, when the future was a brighter place perhaps, and when we thought we might be able to change the world.
Still, we live in a world where George Osborne says his favourite gig was NWA, so you know, all hope is lost. Might as well stick my dick in a dead pig for all the good it will do me.
Starting of at 1.00 and running to 11.15, it's a marathon of a day. You definitely get your money's worth – at around £2.70 an hour, or, if you prefer, around 5p per minute. Heck, there are some bands where the ticket-price-to-minute ratio runs at 1.3p per second, or £60 an hour. This? One of the best value tickets I have ever had.
We arrive at 2pm, for Back To The Planet, who are best known as being a minor league act who made a gloriously unholy racket of reggae, rock, and earnest preaching, deliver forty five minutes of their best stuff. It's unsubtle and spirited, but enjoyable. I enjoyed them – but in the way one enjoys tipsy junk food.
Following them are Eat, at their fourth show in something like 20 years : the core line up is intact, barring former Wonder Stuffer Malcolm Treece on second guitar, and the band acquit themselves excellently, with a greatest hits set – though they never had a hit I can recall – and singles “Golden Egg”, “Shame”, “Bleed Me White” and numerous others delivered with passion, no small sense of fun, and no betrayal of age. Longstanding drummer – and former member of The Clash and the much under-rated Vent – Pete Howard expertly hammers the skins, and the charismatic Ange Doolittle leads the band with no small aplomb. The sound is a murky, squall of dense modern rock, with obtuse lyrics and short on big choruses that was never destined to headline stadiums, but to be loved by few. It's no surprise they never got to headline Wembley, they're too damn odd, but that's a compliment in the greatest sense of the word. I'll be seeing them again, of course, and having a great time doing so.
Setlist: Eat Eat Eat / Bellytown / Fatman / Golden Egg / Mr & Mrs Smack / Bleed Me White / Walking Man / Combover / Shame / Skin / Electric City
The last time I saw The Primitives was thoroughly unenjoyable with tension spilling from the stage, they split up the week after, so I choose instead to go for something to eat. It's a long day, and 11 hours in a row is mildly punishing so I sacrifice seeing The Primitives for food. By all accounts, I am told they are very good, but I can't confirm that myself.
Four years in, and Pop Will Eat Itself v2.0 are still a good band with a different bands name. The last time I saw them, I wrote a review and then promptly deleted it. I didn't enjoy the last time, but that was clouded by going to a gig during a bout of double pneumonia and bronchitis that resulted in an emergency A+E trip, huge amounts of X-Rays, and having a small part of my skull removed - well... teeth are in your skull, right? (On the plus side, I lost a lot of weight, so every cloud has a silver lining). I hadn't enjoyed it, and I thought that maybe that was because of my rather unwell state. By the time I was back to health, I forgot most of it, and so... it's been a while since I've seen Pop Will Eat Itself. As a live act, the new Pop Will Eat Itself, who have managed to have a stable lineup for five years now, are almost – almost – as good as the old lineup. Their latest album - “Anti Nasty League” - is a full band recording, and gels in a way that the predecessor didn't. On stage, the new PWEI are a furious beast, and a spirited recreation of the first band. It’s not the same band, but very similar in many ways, and this version of Pop Will Eat Itself have certainly gelled in the past few years. They may not sell as many tickets, but they always make a huge roar, punch with the passion of a world champion boxer, and sound like all the best bands in the world playing all at once. It''s not the Pop Will Eat Itself, but a new PWEI, and the best PWEI you can get. The members may have changed. The spirit is the same.
Setlist: Incredible PWEI vs Moral Majority / Everything's Cool / Preaching To The Perverted / / Dance Of The Mad / Digital Meltdown / Can U Dig It / They Can't Take / Watch The Bitch Blow / RSVP / Wise Up / Get The Girl / Auslander / Their Law / Def Con One
The Wedding Present continue their trend of changing lineups everytime I see them. This time there’s a new guitarist. They’re, as ever, a good - n, a great - band, but slightly out of step with the rest of the lineup, though they moved in similar circles : on the other hand, they bring a honest abrasiveness and refreshing sandpaper to things. The set is lodged around 1989’s splendid “Bizarro” which I’ve seen the band perform before, so there’s a sense of repetition there, and good as “Bizarro” is, it’s not the period I think they were at their most effective. The band always changed lineups over time, with six or several completely different configurations over the years, held around the central point of David Gedge, whose probably the closest rock has to a domestic Philip Larkin – though inevitably would hate the comparison. The Wedding Present – with longstanding drummer Charlie Layton, bassist Katharine Wallinger and a guitarist I can’t recall – play a blinding, but surprisingly spartan, lean, focused set ; then again, with a clutch of around 30 hit singles, it’s not surprising you don’t get to hear them all. They’re always good, always powerful, always sound like a jet engine taking off, and always vital, and tonight is no exception at all.
Setlist : Skin Diving / Broken Bow / You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends / Come Play With Me / Brassneck / Crushed / No / Thanks / Kennedy / What Have I Said Now / Granadaland / Bewitched / Take Me! / Be Honest / My Favourite Dress
The Wonder Stuff. It's been a while since I have seen them, and with only a handful of shows since the last UK tour two years ago, it's time for another lineup change, this time, for me, a new drummer in former Jesus Jones sticksman Tony Arthy (who finally said yes after being asked three previous times), and a new guitarist in the shape of Dan Donnelly ; though both have been in the band a year, I haven't had chance to see them before – and both slot in with an effortless fluidity.
Dan Donnelly, in particular, feels as if he has always been here, nailing the songs with a confidence and verve I've not seen since original founding guitarist Malc Treece was in the band years ago. The Wonder Stuff have always evolved over time, musically and personally, and whilst the songs may be old ones, the players change, the band move forward, and there's new material here – three from 2012's strong “Oh No!” album ('Friendly Company', 'Oh No', and 'Be Thy Name') alongside a new newie 'The Last Days Of The Feast', and a veritable greatest hits set of the majority of their early singles are all delivered like it was still 1989. Some bands get fat, old, slow, and go crap. This band still play like it's an indie disco under Thatcher's rule. The show is a veritable selection of greatest hits, chock full of hit singles, delivered with the passion and fun the band had when they if started.
In a better, more just world, Damon Albarn would be playing at 2.00pm with a ramshackle assortment of backing musicians calling themselves Blur instead of Hyde Park. And The Wonder Stuff would still be headlining festivals and stadiums. But then again, Transformers 3 is one of the biggest grossing films of all time - and gross is the word – so size isn't everything at all, and popularity doesn't count a damn to these ears. The Wonder Stuff play a gig a good as any of theirs I have seen over the past 153 shows of theirs I have witnessed, and well, that's good enough for me.
I'll be there next year. See you down the front.
Setlist : Redberry Joytown / On The Ropes / Here Comes Everyone / Oh No / Friendly Company / Golden Green / The Size Of A Cow / Welcome To The Cheap Seats / Cartoon Boyfriend / Mission Drive / Donation / Circlesquare / Be Thy Name / Last Days Of The Feast / A Wish Away / Unbearable / Give Give Give / Disco King / Poison / Money / 10 Trenches Deep