Behind a non-descript doorway in Wood Street, Liverpool lies the city’s oldest club and what a treasure it is. Stubbornly ignoring the fashion for slick refurbishments that make all clubs and bars look like replicas of each other, the club known to locals as The ‘Bin has more character and feeling than most of its identikit rivals put together. If the upstairs booths’ formica tables could talk, what stories they could tell.
It’s not slick and it’s not what most people would call glamorous but it is EXACTLY the kind of place that us Wizards feel right at home. It reminded me very much of a place I spent many Saturday nights in my teenage years, indie / goth / punk / mod club Sister Ray’s in Brighton. To quote Spinal Tap, don’t look for it, it’s not there anymore.
Both venues have (or had) lots of little alcoves, nooks and crannies for surreptitious snogging or speed taking. Both had sticky carpets and some of the punters’ outfits at the gig last night were exactly what the better dressed people wore back in the 80s.
I was there with my fellow Wizard, Kicker of Elves, our gun-toting associate Texas Paul and our 3 Chinese student mates Devon, Jason and Peter (possibly not their real names!)
We’d gone along to a club night called The Go Go Cage to see their “September Surf Spectacular.”
First up were The Delmars from Blackpool, which according to Carl the MC is the surfing capital of the north west. The flyer called them “twanging reverb drenched surf instro maestros” and who am I to disagree with that.
According to their website, these guys live all over Europe and don’t play that many gigs. Very surprising to read that because they played a really tight set. Don’t know exactly what they played but I’m going to guess there was probably at least 1 song each by Dick Dale and The Ventures in there somewhere. They definitely played a song called Red Monkey which they said was by The Milkshakes. Kicker tells me that’s one of the “Medway Sound” bands led by the prolific garage genius and tash enthusiast Billy Childish. I reckon anyone who dared to go surfing on the Thames anywhere round the Medway area would probably end up a Dead Monkey.
They had 2 excellent guitarists, one of whom was wearing a beret, a brave fashion choice no matter what decade you’re in, but he was cool enough to get away with it.
Apart from the beret, accessorywise things were very much monopolised by the bass player. His stagewear included a Mardi Gras style mask, a parrot on his shoulder (not a live one) and all the way up top (he was very tall) some feathers. He also had a beard that puts 99% of all other beards to shame. It’s a pity you can’t really see any of that in this really shit photo I took of the top of some peoples heads and the drummer.
All the band, and in fact most of the crowd, were wearing stylish Hawaiian style shirts. As I stood there listening to this great music with its roots in California half a century ago, in a dingy basement club with an enormous rocking horse in the middle of it, surrounded by people wearing Hawaiian shirts and lei necklaces, a pretty basic but still quite psychedelic light show and with 3 Chinese lads next to me dancing around like crazy, it was sometimes difficult to remember exactly where I was! Like the panicking astronaut from The Fast Show who appears in different scenes saying “What year is this? Who’s the president?” every now and then I found myself saying “Chorizo, you’re in Liverpool and it’s 2013!”
So as mentioned above, the Chinese contingent were loving this. Peter was holding a bottle of beer in each hand and showing off some fancy footwork. In one of the more laidback twangy numbers, Texas Paul was seen to be doing the Shadows walk. And great googly moogly, I even saw Kicker of Elves dancing (if you can call it that!)
I suppose that made up for his lack of effort in the Hawaiian shirt department. The flyer for this gig said there was a prize for the best shirt but the best Kicker could manage was a plain navy blue one with some writing on the back. In fairness, there probably are people who wear shirts like that in Hawaii, the ones who work in petrol stations. As for me, I was wearing a shirt that I bought on my honeymoon in Las Vegas 8 years ago and have only worn about 3 times since because there aren’t many occasions when you can get away with a shirt like that. It’s a lively red number with the pool playing dogs from Arthur Sarnoff‘s classic painting “The Hustler” on it. I don’t know much about art but I know what I like.
I’ve been trying to find out more about The Delmars so I could put some Youtube / TwitFace links and stuff in here but confusingly it seems that there is a Californian surf band with the same name (albeit with a space between Del and Mars). They were selling a 7″ single at the gig last night but I can’t find a link for it being sold online anywhere. Did find this webpage though, some great stuff to listen to there.
Anyway, on to the second band The Mantawrays, billed on the flyer as “tough pounding surf and frat party stompers”.
Now I have to declare an interest here because one of the bandmembers is my mate. The only time I’ve seen the band before was 10 years ago at my mate Paul’s 30th birthday party in Leytonstone in that there London. The band played a full set of completely instrumental stuff and it knocked my rocking socks off. At the end of the gig, the birthday boy himself came on and sung a couple of Elvis numbers with them, including a particular favourite of mine “Guitar Man.” I also remember that they had a pedal steel onstage which nobody played or even touched.
That party was one of the last social events I went to before I left London to move to the northwest. In the decade since then, Paul has become a fully-fledged member of the band and recently he has also moved up to Liverpool.
They kicked things off with a few very lively instrumentals performed in matching red cardies and Buddy Holly specs. This band really kick ass with drummer Stuart leading from the back. He hits em hard and (forgive my lack of technical drumming vocab) plays some killer fills (I think that’s the right word).
But things really went up a notch when Paul got up and sang. They went into “California Sun” originally by The Rivieras, but better known to me because of The Ramones’ version. (as heard on our podcast number 5)
There followed a few rock’n’roll numbers played at 500 miles an hour and all the better for that. Paul really came into his own on these. I’ve known him reasonably well for many years and I’ve never actually hard him sing apart from those 2 Elvis songs at his 30th and a couple of late night drunken acoustic guitar sessions singing Half Man Half Biscuit tunes. I knew he could sing but I had no idea that he could howl, yelp and holler like he did on some of these songs.
One of the best ones was a foul-mouthed ditty called Hardy Sons of Bitches, which featured lyrics about knocking cocks on rocks and fucking bears. Paul told me after the gig that this is a song by The Pioneers. Surely not the same Pioneers who did reggae horse racing classic “Long Shot Kick De Bucket”? [Turns out the song is called ‘The Pioneers’ and it’s by The Phantom Surfers – TTW Ed.]
Incidentally, whenever the subject of bear fucking comes up (which, to be fair, is not that often) then I always think of this Ivor Cutler poem.
Later there were at least 2 Cramps songs which made Texas Paul’s night. Any mention of the Cramps still gives me the heebiejeebies following my experience seeing them live as a teenager (as discussed in podcast number 8) I’m still having nightmares about that Lux Interior guy. In the audience, you never quite knew if he wanted to fuck you or murder you. Probably both and not necessarily in that order!
Not content with taking poor quality photos on my phone, I also took some poor quality video which you can see here. Sound quality is appalling but it does give an idea of the atmosphere with everybody dancing and going wild (even me!)
My only negative is a minor one, the sax player was very under-used. Whenever she played it sounded great, but it would’ve been good to hear her on more of the songs.
It was a late one for us middle-aged Wizards but having said that, we stayed till the end which is more than can be said for our Chinese friends. Youngsters today eh.
These days, it’s not often I’m out in Liverpool or any other city centre at 2:30 in the morning and coming out of the Cabin into the heart of the city was another flashback to my teenage days in Brighton. We used to emerge sweaty and red-faced from Sister Ray’s onto the battleground of West Street. Having spent a few hours with a bunch of like-minded people in the safe haven of the club, we were now back in the real world and facing what we used to call the “Kevins and Tracys” (a.k.a. neds, casuals, townies etc). Up above Sister Ray’s was a massive club called The Pink Coconut, a ridiculous name which tells you all you need to know about the club and the people that went there. At 2 a.m both clubs would close and the 2 tribes would go to war in the kebab shops and burger places. We’d laugh at their awful hair and ludicrous clothes and they’d laugh at our awful hair and ludicrous clothes. I didn’t think it was possible but judging by the clothes being worn around Liverpool last night, mainstream fashion has actually got even worse in the last 25 years. Too many pastel colours, too much fake tan and bling. And that’s just the blokes. It made me think of the Dolly Parton line “it costs a lot of money to look this cheap”.
Maybe somebody should tell them to just slap some Brylcreem on their heads and put on a lairy shirt, there’s a party going on behind a little door just round the corner. Surf’s up, motherfuckers!