TEA AND ANARCHY : From Sounds 20 June 1981
Found at http://members.tripod.com/reviews7/gigs/id52.htm Edwin Pouncy sees Crass In Action plus Poison Girls,Annie Anxiety & Flux Of Pink Indians 100 Club London June 1981
So here we are queued up outside the 100 club, a long line of black leather sprinkled with colour observed with curiosity and feigned amusement by the inhabitants of passing traffic. Here we are a mass of multi coloured hair twisted into spikes with liquid soap or Vaseline, leather jackets spray painted or Humbrol enamelled, many with great artistry, utilising the names of the groups that support the cause that many have written off as being dead. Groups such as 'The Damned', 'Theatre Of Hate', 'The Exploited', 'Killing Joke' and of course 'Crass'.
The Crass emblem which is at one stroke both a symbol of group identity and more importantly a declaration incorporating anarchy and peace has been stencilled out and stamped on to that favourite jacket with obvious loving devotion. The queue moves forward a little, the prospect of witnessing Crass in action grows a little stronger. Around the comer an orange transit van loaded with police bumps along into Oxford Street on patrol, inside the security of their van they were forcing back stifled, nervous laughter and contemptuous disgust, observing the line as a potential threat.
In front of me a pudgy faced Japanese girl is interviewing with caution, select queue people while her male partner is candidly taking photographic studies of spike topped 'curiosities' with an almost guilty enthusiasm. The Japanese girl has found a willing interviewee and is plying him with questions instructing him to talk into the slimline cassette recorder she has clutched in one gloved hand.
"Do you like other groups other than Crass?"
"Uhh yeah, sure."
"Do you like reggae and dub?"
"Have you come here just to see Crass?"
"Well yeah, of course."
"Ahhh that's very good, do you believe in anarchy?"
Now there's a question to ponder on as the queue slowly snakes its way to the entrance of the 100 Club.
The vibrations of loud music could be heard coming through the pavement below us. Then from the front of the queue came the cry that many of the throng were dreading to hear, "ALL THOSE WITH TICKETS TO THE LEFT, THE REST OF YOU CAN GO HOME IT'S SOLD OUT."
The expected friction mounted and subsided, those who held tickets scampered up to the entrance while others not so fortunate sauntered away almost amiably. although certain angered fans apparently felt it necessary to pay for their disappointment by smashing in shop windows situated in Wardour Street causing some grief to the owners. I had now managed to get to the pay desk and was greeted by the demure form of Annie Anxiety (more of whom will be told later) holding a white emulsion painted mask and long ashed cigarette. "It's okay he's a friend of ours" she told the club owner as I explained my story to gain admission.
I finally made my way down the flight of stairs and into the tightly packed surroundings of the club bedecked with huge banners of the Crass symbol and the backdrop inscribed with the motif of The Poison Girls. Banked on either side of the stage are video monitors which flicker an occasional snowstorm pattern into the audience and a film screen, hanging in space. I had, while waiting in the queue outside, missed the main film attraction of the evening, a twenty-five minute extravaganza of film collage by one Mick Duffield who does much of the film work for the Crass organisation.
On stage a group called Flux Of Pink Indians are winding out the last few sweat drenched minutes of their set to full enthusiastic response from those in attendance. Flux Of Pink Indians used to be called The Epileptics and have a single out under that name, a new single 'Neu Smell' is to be issued shortly by Crass records using their new name.
Another new name to many takes the stage, the afore-mentioned Annie Anxiety, carefully pulling on her own personal little backdrop in front of which she will perform. The symbol of Annie's black curtain, a skull and flowers set within a circle came, I am told later, from a book of Japanese house signs. With this simple little prop Annie shrieks out her heartfelt message over a taped backing track of percussion assault, the videos snow scene has gelled together and come into sharp focus displaying the image of Annie??? or perhaps her doppelganger stroking a microphone. Annie's performance was, I found myself feeling, gloriously fulfilling, its simplicity in execution was almost uplifting.
She returns later in the evening just before Crass come on to do another song which surges into a stop start vocal routine hung loosely over a ballroom dancing backbeat, I admit to failing to understand a word that was being sung on stage but I enjoyed it thoroughly. A record from Annie Anxiety entitled 'Barbed Wire Halo' also to be released on the Crass label should go some way to clear up this minor detraction however.
The evening moves into phase three of the big build up that will eventually errupt with the emergence of Crass as The Poison Girls take to the stage, again heralded by a personal banner draped behind them.
What has impressed me most of all about the evening's proceedings has been the organisation of the entire event, the way each performance merges into the next leaving no tiresome time-filling gaps to get bored in between. There's no work here for the devil to put into idle hands so to speak. The News Of The World shock horror expose was conspicuous only in its absence this night, no blood, no vomit, no overflowing toilets and the merest speck of saliva was all that was in evidence on this particular occasion.
The actual sound is another all important factor, instead of the expected blitzkrieg of aural assault that tends to lead up to one big headache, the sound is mixed with care keeping it loud and powerful but not to the extent where it becomes uncomfortable. The Poison Girls sound is totally murk free and the songs, sung with an earthy, broken texture to them by singer/guitarist Vi Subversa are almost corrosive in the way they are lashed out as the system, its bombs and greed are vigorously attacked and sprayed with The Poison Girls particular brand of venom. Before their live attack a film by Mick Duffield was shown called Total Product' made with The Poison Girls and using a song called 'Statement' originally given away as a flexi disc item with their album 'Chappaquiddick Bridge'.
The film's images of consumer gluttony mixed with scenes of death camp, jew-burning chimneys and the like may sound in cold print as being fatally predictable but Duffield's choice of imagery in both sections is coldly intelligent thus creating the chosen effect that both film and soundtrack strive to achieve. Greatly impressed thus far I decided to mingle and take in my surroundings, the crowd heave towards the bar a mixture of punks, skins with monogrammed throat tattoos plus the occasional beer swollen hippy and astonishingly the now legendary Gene October who reeled and wittered in loud tones about the merits of 'Freemans Beer' before being sucked again into the crowd. I manage to strike up a conversation with two loyal Crass fans called Pete Test-tube and Gray but owing to the babble of the surroundings we sound like a replica of the interview conducted by the Japanese correspondent I had overheard in the queue.
Both Pete and Gray are firm believers in the whole Crass ethic, a "they play straight with us so we play straight with them" moral is strictly observed. The point, "which other groups would put on as good a show and only charge you a quid?" is put before me, I can only nod in weak agreement. Pete's favourite Crass song is 'Band From The Roxy', it says a lot about the band's attitude to things, about not selling out, about self respect and respect for the people around you, I am told.
"It was the first song I ever heard that really hit me", admits Pete.
Gray is equally enthusiastic even though his bootlaces, marker pen, dog collar and nearly even his chewing gum were taken into custody.
Crass time ticks several paces further, everything's set to go up real soon. At the invitation of Crass, the stage is momentarily taken over by a young punkette poet with a Mephistopheles-type hair style that brings to mind the creature that appeared in the film 'Night Of The Demon', her head pulled tightly into a nest of quills. Alas the PA offers little assistance in communicating her words to the audience but eventually the spirit and the image she projects is rewarded by scattered applause.
Crass strike up, ignoring any phoney build up or 'tonight's main attraction' psyche, they just take their places and get on with it. The audience blasts into full life as if they have found new energy as Steve Ignorant thrusts the mike and stand into the belly of the crowd like a lance. The rest of Crass churn out sharp metallic rhythm like an amplified lathe.
Already Steve Ignorant's voice is shot to pieces slowly turning into the anguished cry of a wounded animal but heightening in intensity with every throat cracking twist he can pile on to it. Lead vocal chores are shared out equally between Steve Ignorant and Eve Libertine with the occasional addition of Joy De Vivre who accompanies Eve on songs from the new, highly acclaimed 'Penis Envy' album
For me, these songs work best of all, 'Systematic Death', 'Poison In A Pretty Pill', 'Berketex Bribe' and 'Where Next Columbus' have a musical edge over the material performed from the 'Stations Of The Crass', and 'Feeding Of The 5,000' projects.
It's a sign that Crass are beginning to bloom, steadily adopting a new musical alternative to getting the message across rather than that of just heavily-meshed punk thrashing (which they still do in case you're wondering), just seeing them in action made much more sense. The musical side is superbly and disturbingly illustrated with a graphic bombardment of cutting room floor, film montage bludgeoned into your senses with a cruel yet perceptive wit. A butcher assists a triple decker chinned 'modern' mother in the choosing of meat products screened in freeze-frame slow motion to accompany one of the songs from 'Penis Envy.
A taste of the full-blown horror of nuclear war hell is provided with footage showing the treating of victims during the aftermath of the sickening atrocities committed at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, it's deathly cold soundtrack is that of 'Nagasaki Nightmare' announced with the cry of "200,000people were killed in Nagaskai, now that's what I call OBSCENE" from B A Nana as he is now titled, his eyes bristling with both rage and horror at the thought of it all.
Equally chilling is the tape recorded selection of 'count down' talk overs calmly and mechanically played out and lacking any feeling. All these effects are fitted together to form a terrifying portrait of what could happen tomorrow should the right madman get it into his head that today's the day.
The crowd is crowing out, demanding to be fed. The result is a searing power charge version of 'So What' with Steve Ignorant again, by now looking as lean and wide eyed as a rabid hyena.
The fans behind me are echoing the songs lyric straight from the heart, passionately mesmerised. A final implosion of video blare and it's all over, the heat dies down, the message, for now, is over.
Afterwards, in the remains of that evening's event I talked to Andy (B A Nana), rhythm guitarist of Crass who is handing out badges and assorted material connected to the doings of the group. Two of the audience approach him and ask about the possibility of obtaining one of the 'CRASS ANTI WAR' banners about to be neatly folded away.
"You can easily make another one" one of them declares, he is told that the banners are needed for the next date on the tour and that they take a lot of time to individually produce, why doesn't he make one for himself? The fan explains that he doesn't know how and a short lesson in DIY silk screen technique is provided acting as a form of compensation. The two of them bustle off eventually, grinning, their heads already filling with ideas.
I hang around to socialise and sip apres-gig cups of tea. Crass have turned the little canteen to the side of the club into a veritable cup of tea factory. The best drink of the day never tasted so good. It felt great to be alive.
(SOUNDS June 20th 1981)