Tag Archives: Down & Outs

‘DOWN AND OUTS’ IN HAWICK, SPAT EP LAUNCH NIGHT

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.

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SPAT ‘DOWN & OUTS’

“The liars keep on lying and the triers keep on trying and the ones who don’t have fun they all refuse ……… the show-offs keep on showing and the know-it-alls keep on knowing and the posh ones keep on looking down their nose ……… so rise up high and look them right in the eye ……… you gotta fight for the right to be you!” (Fuckwits)

Nestled in the rolling Scottish Borders hills is the mill town of Hawick, famous, amongst other things, for its quality knitwear and rugby; it gained national headlines a few years back over a row about whether or not ladies could ride alongside men in the town’s historic Common Riding, and more recently as a result of having a district in ‘GTA V’ named after it. It now deserves a further place in the headlines as a result of the efforts of some dedicated local musicians. Spat’s line-up may have changed since they recorded this excellent EP but the band have been able to make up for Angie’s departure by incorporating Tazz on bass, and Cozzy with his trombone!

They bill themselves ‘Punk Rock, Riot Grrrl/Boy Madness from The Scottish Borders!’ In years gone by the ‘Border Reivers’ freely roamed around the area regularly criss-crossing an almost irrelevant border, these historical raiders are now replaced by many talented musicians. Spat add to that pool of talent and offer an exciting alternative to help increase the diversity of live music that can be enjoyed in the area. Despite working hard to help bring other similar bands into the area, it seems that there remains a certain reluctance to accept bands that are not prepared to restrict themselves to more traditional folk/rock, or churning out cover versions of favourite songs. In fact it seems that many venues quickly lose interest when the words ‘perform their own songs’ are mentioned – such a shame that people are denied opportunities to experience and appreciate original talent.

The lyrics of the opening track, ‘Fuckwits’ sets the scene for what is to follow; recognising that we are surrounded by many different ‘types’ of people, some positive and others negative – the message is, ‘what is most important is to be true to your own beliefs, stand up and be proud’. Listening to this I was reminded of a wonderfully vivid part of Simon Armitage’s ‘Black Roses (The Killing Of Sophie Lancaster’ where ‘Sophie’ lists the range of humanity that passes by outside the flat that she shared with boyfriend Robert:

“We could bolt the door

and keep the world out

or watch the world

as it wondered past,

in all its glory, beautifully mad,

all the nightshift workers and daylight shirkers,

the mods and rockers and emos and moshers

and joggers and bikers and slackers and slickers

……………………………

and the dog-walkers and the dawdlers,

all the late starters and the early risers …

all the human race in its crazy parade.”

Sophie and Robert were attacked because of their alternative dress/culture; I find it extremely refreshing that bands like Spat continue to advocate personal choice and freedom rather than become absorbed by some boring ‘normal’ standards.

The EP continues with ‘No Thrills’, a short and snappy number that would would have been very much at home back in the early days of punk, but still sounds fresh and current to me! ‘Robot’ so impressed me that I featured it as my ‘track of the month’ for October, there are shades of Poly Styrene as Hay powerfully delivers another heart-felt plea for self-belief and honesty – “just take off your mask and be free!” The penultimate track is ‘S.A.D.’, the opening bars of which remind me very much of early Black Sabbath, it soon develops a distinctive character that showcases the band’s instrumental skills – it certainly puts paid to any suggestion that punks cannot play their instruments! The lyrics are intelligent and thoughtful too, which is another thing that appeals to me. Finally, ‘Snobs’, another song with a clear message of self-belief and anthemic hook, “I don’t backstab and I don’t bullshit ….. I’m more real than you’ll ever be.” During initial hearings I was getting a ‘misheard lyric’, “I don’t back down and I don’t bullshit”, which might be misheard but probably wouldn’t be misplaced.

This band’s enthusiasm is really quite infectious and they truly deserve to be given a fair hearing – having seen them live I can also confirm that they are equally proficient and exciting outside the recording studio.

Hay – vox, guitar

Ainz – guitar

Angie – bass

Ryan – drums

1/ Fuckwits

2/ No Thrills

3/ Robot

4/ S.A.D.

5/ Snobs