Unlike my first drive in torrential rain to Hawick for an Underground Army gig, the weather was much drier this time; although there was some drama when I passed a car that looked very close to catching fire (smoke was billowing from under its bonnet, but as there seemed to be plenty people already in attendance I opted to drive on rather than add to the congestion). After thoroughly enjoying an evening in The Station Bar back in October last year with No Thrills, Splinter, Spat and The Zips on the bill, I was very much looking forward to another equally exciting night.
The line-up might have been different but the night followed a similar pattern; dedicated and willing local volunteers pooling talents and resources to ensure that people could appreciate something a bit different from the usual live music that seems to predominate in the Scottish Borders. Folk music and tribute acts are certainly just as dedicated to providing a great audience experience, and undoubtedly have a valid place; but for those who want to experience something a bit ‘rawer’ and ‘edgier’, the Underground Army have provided a wonderful alternative. Four bands played in the upstairs room on the last day of February; Thee Overdose travelled up from Cumbria and were billed as ‘old school punk rock ‘n’roll’, The Dreggs came from Fife to provide their brand of ‘punk rock’, local band The Zenith Complex added something different to the mix with their ‘heavy rock’, whilst another local band Spat closed with another dose of ‘punk rock’.
Thee Overdose’s bass player Jason managed to encapsulate the mood of the evening with his Exploited t-shirt – “f**k the system” on the front and “punk’s not dead” emblazoned across his back. It may have been a sleeveless t-shirt but he compensated with two full tattooed sleeves. In contrast, guitarist Mike struck an equally memorable presence with his combats, cropped hair and impressive beard. They played an energetic set, so energetic in fact that Jason managed to break his bottom string and had to complete the set courtesy of a loan bass from Spat.
Whilst Thee Overdose might have a heritage (even if not not the original line-up) dating back to 1997, The Dreggs were fresh and performing live for perhaps just a fifth time – although guitarist Rik and drummer Sean had played with Splinter during my last visit to The Station. With vocalist Lynne, they performed an engaging set with powerfully delivered vocals – a couple of excellent X Ray Spex covers went a long way towards underscoring some of their influences. Spat’s Haley joined with both of the first two bands to augment the vocals, once with Thee Overdose and again with The Dreggs on ‘Identity’ accompanied by Cozzy with his ‘bone’; trombone that is. Although not in evidence on the night, I have to say that my graphics background really appreciates the logo that The Dreggs have opted for – think of a large chain of bakery outlets!
The Zenith Complex provided a slight digression from the overt punk onslaught as they performed a number of longer numbers, certainly living up to their ‘heavy rock billing’. Andy’s guitar work was expertly accompanied by Laura’s bass, whilst Todd’s driving drumming was most definitely enhanced by the awesome sound provided by the most amazing battered and broken large cymbal! The Dreggs may have included a self-deprecating number, ‘Nae C**t Love’s The Drummer’, but I have to say that I have a definite soft spot for the drummers’ contributions – nothing during this evening led me to change this opinion.
The whole evening was marked by a truly happy and friendly atmosphere. The audience were clearly enjoying themselves – the punk sensibility was quite obvious from the selection of t-shirts, doc martens and tartan bondage trousers. Willing volunteers manned the merchandise stall, whilst others were clearly happy to joke about, with much friendly banter in evidence, along with the swapping of headgear. Between sets, the room became quite quiet due to the rush to step outside to enjoy some ‘fresh air’, but everyone returned promptly for the start of the next set.
Finally, it was time for Spat to take control of the speakers, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. I found it very encouraging to see and hear the basic guitar, bass and drums line-up being augmented by the inclusion of a trombone, and Cozzy absolutely has the personality to ensure that his contributions added to the overall effect. In addition to the trombone, Tazz on bass and Ryan on drums provided a solid foundation for Hay and Ainz to add their tight pairing of guitars. Hay clearly relishes the limelight and was thoroughly enjoying herself throughout the set. The ‘fun factor’ was enhanced by the inclusion of a cover of ‘Nellie The Elephant’ in the style of The Toy Dolls, before closing the set just after the midnight curfew with their excellent ‘Snobs’ complete with its infectious “oi, oi, oi” chorus. I’m already looking forward to my next visit to catch Spat play live, sadly I’ll have to miss their planned gig in Paisley at the start of April – marathon to run in Brighton!
For a further flavour of the evening check out the excellent set of PHOTOS by Patrick Rafferty and great VIDEO by The Zenith Complex.