Sometimes there are crap weeks, and then there are times like last week - pc burnout, serious manflu attack, impending financial disaster – so by Friday I was really in the mood for some ear-shredding, trouble-banishing loud fast music. I wasn’t disappointed – Rat Scabies, Brian James and Texas Terri let fly with a scorching revival rendition of the crucial “Damned Damned Damned” album, ably supported by local band the Dactyls. It looked like another good turnout at the old church hall, with quite a few people like yours truly who’d bought the old Stiff singles when they first came out, some strong support for Dactyls, and a nice mix of music lovers and all-purpose Friday nighters – and also, if I’m not mistaken, a couple of the original Stiff Records founding fathers.
Along with Damned originals Rat Scabies and Brian James, Texas Terri’s vocals made the point that this was a celebration, rather than slavish recreation, of the original album. Joined by Austen Flatpig (from Brighton’s Flatpigs) on bass, they set off at a blazing pace that never really let up. Brian James especially delivered a glorious wall of sound, riffs, fills, noise, soaring beauty – whatever was needed. Needless to say Rat’s powerful but precise drumming kicked everything along just right – literally, as after a couple of numbers he’d broken his bass-drum! No panic though, all sorted out double quick thanks to the Dactyls’ drummer.
By the time they got to my favourite of the night, a scorching version of “1970” everyone was ready to go crazy. That crazed, churning riff, and the punk supreme lyrics - “Out of My Mind on Saturday Night… Ah Feel Alright!” Suddenly Texas Terri was down off the stage, promenading thru the mob, still singing away. Next thing I knew she’d leapt up on to our table, dancing like it was the most natural thing in the world. Suddenly, with an elegant little hop she was away and heading back to the stage – just as well, as Sublime soon gave way to Ridiculous with a bloke who’d drunk “well but not wisely” tried to emulate her and only managed to send drinks, glasses, bottles (luckily all plastic) flying all around us as the table capsized.
When they'd finished a couple of songs later the stage backdrop was hanging in tatters, and the paint was practically peeling off the walls after being sprayed with musical napalm all night
(Still awaiting official set list, but I’m sure these all happened on the night, though maybe in a slightly different order: Neat, Neat, Neat; Fan Club; I Fall; Born to Kill; Stab Your Back; Feel the Pain; New Rose; Fish; See Her Tonight; One of the Two; So Messed Up; 1970/ I Feel Alright)
I hadn’t come across Dactyls before, but was well impressed by a tight, economic set that rocked hard all the way. I had a feeling we were in for something good when the drummer vaulted his kit at the end of the first number to urge the audience closer. They describe their sound as a mix of punk, acid rock and garage. Overall the sound drives hard, but there are some intricate little breaks and stop/starts that punctuated the powerful momentum of their songs. There’s clearly been a lot of hard practice and thought gone into these songs. I hope they won’t mind being bracketed alongside another very impressive Brentford group, the Jetsonics (maybe a little more classic punk/hardcore) – both groups have their own distinctive sound (slightly more hard rock for the Dactyls), and manage to steer well clear of power-trio clichés or the retro-pastiche of groups like Wolfmother and other Cream/Hendrix pretenders. By the end of the set they’d manage to rock half the stage backdrop off the wall, got the crowd closer and into the music.
Set list: Testify, Flowers of Evil, Dirty Weekend, Little Ball the Chain, Burn This City Down. Next gig – Bull the Gate, Kentish Town, November 9th), www.dactyls.co.uk
A great night that did everything I’d hoped for, personally and generally. People debate about whether “Damned Damned Damned” was the first British punk album (does it matter?), what really struck me was how the songs and overall sound hadn’t dated at all – direct, concise, fast, loud, and with a bunch of attitude. Thanks to all Helen Martin Productions – leading the Westside revival and everyone else involved for a night of joyous noise that proved the healong power of music and put the smile back on my face.Review by Den Browne