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It seemed rather appropriate yet also bizarrely back to front, for Subway Sect to be frolicking in near darkness of subterranean tunnel system, carved randomly under Liverpool streets at behest of eccentric philanthropist Williamson as a job creation scheme, whilst at the same moment in time, in another skewed dimension, punk credentials proudly pinned to bleeding heart , light poured from gates of re-launched Eric’s, bathing audience in heavenly glow, heralded by strains of ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’, history twisted in mimicry of Williamson’s convolutions but then punk always did subvert.

Though lucky to land in relatively, until now, stable eras, my rebel soul is jealous of witnesses to tremulous times spawning musical rebellion, summer of love and later punk, the limit of my insubordination, Bowie and Banshee under bedclothes and a fleeting but memorable encounter with the Meteors and their ‘wrecking crew’, cowered under teetering speaker stack before wielded as flimsy shield by impressively studded , pierced male entourage, all barks but no bites, in rapid exit through hail of mike stands and broken bottles. So, in trepidation of Subway’s impressively authentic punk credentials and uncertain building skills of Williamson’s untrained tunnellers, I was not sure whether a hard hat was in order, as I ventured forth in awe, to meet history. Arriving at the venue, more railway arch/ visitors centre than dank underground cavern, protected from inclemency by huge arched window through which darkness cast its shroud over both distantly glowering cathedrals, shielding holy eyes from potential debauchery, the night commenced in velvet darkness barely illuminated by purple glow and dance of fire fly from single rotating, electric, glow ball.

Mashemon, an enigmatic, witty, self deprecating Liverpool band, vocal/electric guitar, bass and drums with a hint of the Doors were first support, cocksure attitude with edge, sombre bass, spacey sounds breaking into wall of sound. Though uneven in places they captured, enraptured my imagination and deserved more than scant attention afforded by a woeful audience.

Beatnik Hurricane, the next support, is our own indefatigable Barry Sutton, who with his acoustic guitar and bass player stormed the stage with pent up electric energy, Barry coiled like spring ready to ping. Song titles elusive, the theme seems to be weather and nature, a helter-skelter ride through cornucopia of genres and Barry’s psych. Though not punk in the conventional sense, Barry’s improvised, developed in front of your eyes style, just about held together by phenomenal technique and a certain Liverpool sound from a certain era, grabbed, mutated samples and effects taking on strident, explosive, feedback life of their own, is very punk in spirit and the audience though maybe not stirred, were definitely shaken.

The Ladykillers, another Liverpool band, were final support, double electric guitars/vocals, bass and drums, full on, tightly played, post punk pastiche torn screaming from wraith like bodies, perhaps an oxymoron but impressive for ones so young. It is clear to hear, these youths are resolutely determined, sharp and focused but nerves emerge in shaky second vocals, voice barely broken hanging onto bass guitar for dear life, over enthusiastic feedback at time obliterating vocals entirely. Rollicking through its high energy set the band barely drew breath, flashes of Ramones attitude, Jams stance and frenzied guitar ‘mash ups’, slightly chained by practised orchestration, studied concentration and the feeling that ones so young should be fuelling a new revolution, rather than revisiting the past.

The approach of main act, Vic Godard and Subway Sect inspires a slow surge from bar to stage, faces of fans turned like sunflowers to shining light of adored luminaries, polished patina of experience commands the stage with easy confidence, no safety pins through noses, resolutely nonconformist baggy trousers belie true blue, punk roots, not fossil relics, rather, authentic representation of a glorious musical era, joyfully celebrated, raucous remembrances, emotionally shared with reverential audience, umbilically joined in repartee and reverie.

Aura of auspicious ages surrounds Vic Godard and his Sect, from inception in 1976, spawn of Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren as midwife, the band, in its various guises has inhaled the original essence of punk, sound waves mingled with other legendary purveyors of mayhem, such as The Clash, Buzzcocks, Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Slits and Sex Pistols, endeared the love of Edwyn Collins, inspired the likes of Ian McCulloch, Pete Wylie and Julian Cope, shaking hands with the great man post gig the connections were palpable, flash back to an epoch exploding with extraordinary energy and vitality. Tonight the line up put paid to the myth that men cannot multitask, Vic remained as himself on guitar and vocals, Kevin Younger, also with amusingly named garage band, Armitage Shanks (wonder what their nickname is?!), one hand firmly on keyboard, other grasping guitar, Mark Braby usually drums mutated into bass whilst DJ for the night, Liverpool’s own Joe McKechine, actually saved the night, moonlighting as replacement drummer. Thus the make do spirit of punk was reincarnated. 

So began my odyssey through a worm hole, bewitched and enchanted by this enigmatic bunch of musicians, pure passion unequivocal, stamina and drive shaming that of younger pretenders, as they rattled and rolled through nine tracks from their 2010 album ‘We Come As Aliens’ which endears me with its title, twee ‘Lost in Space’ artwork and the fact it was released on vinyl as well as CD and a further eight earlier classics including their debut single from 1978, ‘Nobody’s Scared’ and its B-side, ‘Don’t Split It’.

Bespectacled Vic, strings flying loose, cockney, velvet coated voice, slightly threadbare, frayed at the edges yet strong and flexible careers through well trodden numbers as if for the first time, crouching for guitar solos, there are some hesitations between songs, tuning goes briefly awry but there is little to suggest that this particular lineup had only endured the briefest of rehearsals after delayed arrival in Liverpool. In particular, Joe as complete newbie didn’t seem to falter on drums, so my hi-hat is off to him and soon the warmed up audience dares to add vocal distress to melange of disparate influences garnered by this restless child, full on melodic punk, northern soul, mod, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, swing, rockabilly, traces of Latin, jazz and scat, united and grounded by melodic bass and thread of drums, uniquely itself, hugely evocative.

Though crowd cling together like peaches, more in solidarity than for lack of space, this venue cannot recreate sweat of crammed bodies, writhing, crushed ,deafened in dank cellar but seventeen songs have taken us there in spirit and as time fast forwards the end is nigh except for one touching treat, acolyte at Vic’s feet shakily arises, raids the stage ,disarms, divests Vic of his guitar, willingly offered, approaches microphone to sing a tribute, Vic jests it is not the first time devoted fan, Kenny, has proffered his services but I only find out later that the last time was 2005’s Magnet gig, the band reveres its fans as much as they.

Chatting afterwards, appraised of the ad hoc line up, I marvelled even more at their musical integrity and learnt that Subway Sect’s original drummer is to rejoin, by which I assume Mark remains as bass and his comment, about wishing he had remembered the urine hand unguent becomes clear, apparently it is a sterile and extremely efficacious ointment for bass finger calluses, I am sure Kevin’s alter ego will have plenty in stock, a hugely enjoyable night and thankfully one that did not stink of piss.

Set List (not in any particular order):

Best Album
Somewhere In The World
Music Of A Werewolf
Chain Smokin
Back in the Community
If We’d’ve
Same Plan
Rhododendron Town
Out Of Our Zone
Stool Pigeon
Exit No Return
Nobody’s Scared
Out Of Touch
Watching The Devil
Don’t Split It

P.S The DJ set wasn’t bad either , you can get a flavour here:

Joe Mckechnie 45mins Mix for Subway Sect at Williamson Tunnels 10/9/11 by buffalo joe

Review by Miss Chumki Banerjee
Photos of Vic Godard and Subway Sect by Gareth Taylor (many thanks)

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