Friday 18th October found me travelling across the Scottish Borders, through a very dark evening complete with driving rain – my destination being The Station Bar where I was eagerly anticipating an evening of punk excitement. The occasion was the launch of local band Spat’s EP, ‘Down And Outs’, a truly great offering that contains a varied range of exciting songs – with no attempts to conform to current populist trends.
As the opening act got things started around thirty minutes after the billed starting time I wondered if there might be a knock on effect at the other end. Any such concerns were quickly dispelled as I found myself thinking about bands such as Sham 69 – having travelled up from Cumbria, No Thrills managed to trash the myth that ‘punks can’t play their instruments’; their set was very extremely tight and presented a great combination of skillful metal guitar played by a cowboy boot wearing giant alongside a rockabilly styled bass player, supported by a tiny powerhouse of a drummer; all fronted by a combat short and boot wearing singer with short red mohawk hair whose Ian Dury style moves kept the audience enthralled. If I had one criticism, it would be that the sound had been turned up beyond what the room could sustain; the instrumentals remained crisp and clear but the vocals had less clarity. Having said that, the intent behind the lyrics remained crystal clear. This was something that I reflected upon when driving home after the gig whilst thoroughly enjoying Natacha Atlas signing in Arabic (which I definitely don’t understand)!
The second band up were the reason I was there, local band Spat had impressed me from my first hearing – following the departure of Angie, this was to be their first performance with new bass player, and they were also joined by a trombone player who fitted in perfectly. I was very impressed by their ability to inject tremendous enthusiasm into their music. Each song was delivered well, and the idiosyncratic addition of the trombone added greatly to the overall effect. The band quite clearly relished their moment in front of the audience and it was a pleasure to see the smiles on their faces as they gave it their all! Having a personal mention during the introduction to my ‘track of the month’ ‘Robot’ certainly added to my appreciation of their set!
Splinter came, in parts, from Glasgow and Fife and added yet another dimension to the evening – very political and angry, they rattled through a number of quick fire songs, many ‘for the government’ as introduced by front man Dek. The bass player particularly caught my eye, he either had extremely long arms or was somehow enabled to pull off an exceptionally distinctive low-slung playing stance.
To close, The Zips kicked off – a crisp, sharp and tight sound, very reminiscent of The Clash! Their drummer may not win any prizes for delicate subtlety, but he more than made up for that with out and out brutality – no way was anybody in the room going to ignore the drumming! Further to my earlier concerns, the band were requested to cease playing shortly after midnight, around half way into their set. They went ahead and played one more song but wound up after that. Speaking to singer Johnzip afterwards he recognised the need to stick to local arrangements in order not to alienate neighbours so that future band nights might be allowed to continue thereby denying a local audience further opportunities to experience such electrifying music.
All credit must be given the Hawick ‘Underground Army’ for their dedication in striving to bring such excellent bands into the Scottish Borders. I look forward to seeing more of a similar style and standard in the future.