“You’ll know you’re playing too loud when I cut off the electric.”
Thus warned the dubious venue owner, not a hint of jest to soften his tone. And so agreed the first band of the evening to dial it down a notch – but it wasn’t their volume, exclusively, that lead to the lights going out after three or four tracks.
In an act of salacious shamelessness, the drummer was naked less than five minutes into the set, his snare so low as to display everything, the lights at just the right angle to adequately illuminate the surprise fourth member and apparent namesake of Mister Lizard. The owners caught wind and, gluttons for punishment, parted the small crowd like the Dead Sea to get a glimpse for themselves. I savoured the innards-incapacitating thrashings while I still could, torn as were those around me between savouring the sideshow or pretending that everything was perfectly normal and acceptable and that this sort of thing was just the norm. Then came the inevitable blackout and the shuffling of patrons heading outside to confirm with one another that yes, they had just bore witness to cock and balls.
The venue was Poco Loco, a Spanish tapas restaurant in the belly of Chatham, which seemed an unlikely host given the menagerie that comprised the evening’s bill. An establishment of two halves, on one side of the wall lived a bar and stage area, on the other a dining room – all that separated the two was that wall, and a door with a sign that read “Restaurant and Ladies Toilets”. I can only imagine that, as the ludicrously loud bands ground their limbs into stumps against their weapons of choice, the diners were forced to pin their quivering plates to the table and do away with their utensils lest they accidentally gouged out an eye.
It was easy, initially, to inwardly admonish the crestfallen owner as he stood outside and blankly stared ahead, no doubt wondering at which point in his life he’d been led so astray for him to now be the unwilling host of such seismic exhibitionism. But music is loud, old man! You can’t play hardcore at a 6! Stifling such brashness has the same effect as a roast pork dinner without any gravy. It’s still there, still tangible, but missing that vital, life-giving component. Even the equipment did its best to sabotage sets, the microphone petering out like a car stereo in a tunnel. And by the stage, a sound monitor on the wall blinked maliciously like a cousin of HAL 9000’s, a damp cloth to suppress the ceiling-licking fires of Mister Lizard, Ragweed and That Massive Bereavement. It would sit at green, content that the noise-merchants were moderate with their decibel output, but every time the threshold was passed it would start to heave and turn into a sickly piss-yellow, a beacon for alerting the proprietor to tug at the sleeve of the gig-maker who would pass on his demands to turn it the fuck down.
But sometimes villains are unreasonably demonised by the masses – like Scott Evil, or Tom of Tom and Jerry. “He doesn’t get it,” came the hushed, spiteful utterances, but he was right – this building just wasn’t cut out for the dredge of pulverising punk. The walls could only offer so much resistance, and the venue wasn’t far from residencies. It was neither practical nor fair to deluge the vicinity with feedback tremors, and the guy just wanted to avoid a) his building collapsing and b) pesky noise complaints. So in the same evening that I was introduced to a local scene that I had not previously been privy too, I surmised that this was due to a lack of accommodation. Whether Poco Loco will ever again allow such loud bands within their walls is at the discretion of our misunderstood owner, but how many other establishments are likely to be into losing their hearing every weekend?
Whatever the answer may be – does it still count as a local scene if everyone migrates to cooler towns for gigs? – the bands all prevailed past the forced limitations, to as scorching a degree as was possible in our three measly dimensions. Mister Lizardliterally played so loud and feverishly that clothes were falling off bodies, and even if it was one of their kin, their brief time on-stage demonstrably captivated the gathered crowd and set the bar for the evening. That Massive Bereavement also utilised what they could in an effort to ease up a crowd jarred by the ever-watchful eyes of an owner scorned, what with the delightful (if unintentional) juxtaposition of a renegade bass player in an orange, tasselled luchador mask, and a lead guitarist still in his Asda uniform. Not to mention the mouth of the band, who managed to raise eyebrows that were already practically hanging off of foreheads with his quips: “This one’s dedicated to everyone who’s had sex with Rupert Murdoch.” And Ragweed, toying dangerously with the omnipresent sound monitor as it occasionally emitted whiz droplets every time it blinked yellow, built upon the momentum with precise punk punches and a new drummer who was charmingly more stone-faced than an Easter Island statue. They wafted the alluring scent of free CDs under all our noses, and we flocked like stray cats to a stinky bin bag.
I couldn’t stick around for the last act, Wire Mother. A shame, but I had to make sure I woke up in the morning, and any more exposure to such distortion may well have rendered me mute as well as deaf. Luckily though, these booming musicians were playing in an unreadied shack that had already become dishevelled having spent three hours being rogered from pillar to post, so I could still hear them for about a sixth of my walk home.