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Saturday, August 05, 2006

PUNK GOES TO COLLEGE: Damned headline mini festival in Usk College

This was the first festival i had been to where there were more toilets than punters

The festival season is full of clashes, but in August it starts getting a bit mad. This weekend there is a choice of THE DAMNED AND 999 IN USK, POWERSTEPPERS IN WEST WALES, THE BIG WEEKEND IN CARDIFF, SICK NOTE IN BATH, BENNIES ANNUAL TRIKER PARTY IN BLACKWOOD, CARDIFF CITY’S FIRST GAME OF THE SEASON IN BARNSLEY or THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF WALES’ ANNUAL RED BARBEQUE (And the important added extra of an Emergency demo in London against the nonsense going on in Lebanon). MMMMM… decisions, decisions. Which would it be?

It was not an easy decision, but we ended up with a short trip to Usk. The site had a capacity of 3,000 but I doubt if there were 1,000 there, which was a shame, but it did mean there was no queue for the Black Rat Cider. There were very few youngsters about, mostly people who were around thirty years ago, some of them have grown up and this was a walk down memory lane for them, some are still regular gig goers but have moved on from punk, and some of them looked like they were stuck in 1976 and have only gone up a size or two in clash shirt.

I did comment that we should have done an ‘old head bingo’ with names of people we could have guessed would have come out of the wood work for it, there was a nice showing of old faces I had not seen for a while.

Pig answers the question 'who ate all the pies'

This System kills were the first band I wanted to see, but for various reasons (including hanging about for the artist formerly known as ginger, who can never make his mind up) we did not see them. We did catch singer Pig having a light snack though.

Did not pay much attention to the first band we caught, all old skool covers, so a bit of a waste of time really. Then it was Girlschool. They were one of the first bands I ever saw outdoors, supporting Motorhead in pot vale football ground in the late 70s/early 80s. They were interesting for nostalgia purposes, but they were never one of my favourites so they were ok for a grin but did not set the world on fire.

The along came 999. Slightly heavier than 30 years ago but have weathered the storm nicely. Many old skool bands still treading the boards can sound quite embarrassing, but 999 were always a bit more that three chord wonders, so their music has stood the test of time. They rolled out all the classics, but they were polished up from being played for 30 years.

Then came, for me, the big surprise of the night. I never really paid much attention to the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, even when Alex Harvey was alive, but I have to say these boys really are very good (not quite sensational though). The few numbers I recognised were pretty true to the departed Alex and far from walking in Alex’s shadow, the front man added his own little magic and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Not sure what the die-hard fans thought of him, but for a band I was not expecting to be any good they really were a pleasant surprise. Will be looking for stuff to down load later.

The Damned. What can you say? First punk band to release a single, first to release an album, first to break up, first to reform. They have a back catalogue any band would be proud of and with Grave Disorder they proved they have not lost it. In fact, although they have strayed from what could be described as punk these days, they are possibly better now than they ever were. Tight, slick, well-oiled, intelligent, professional rock musicians that can throw in the odd guitar solo without sounding pompous and can tear it up like no other punk band ever could.


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