This is the first of two gigs where Conflict are gathering together a selection of bands and possibly playing some of their songs for the last time. You forget just had overbearing Camden can be on a Sat, full of tourists and shoppers but there was a movie fair on at the Ballroom so time was killed looking at overpriced films before popping down to the Underworld. Bands are just turning up and doors are delayed a bit but things start at just gone three as the first of eight bands kick off proceedings to the gathering of the hardiest.
I can’t say I knew Fallen Breaks and I was taken aback at first by their energetic guitar driven rock with soulful vocals as it had a slightly stoner sound before moving towards grunge. As I became acclimatised I noted it was pretty melodic with plenty of hooks and chops about it bouncing us around and working off the cold from outside. Fallen could have fitted on many a bill with their infectious toe tapping songs and nice thick bass sound. The somewhat soulful vocals had plenty of force about them and one number with repeated lyrics about feeling the progress particularly hit the spot. Last song ‘Choices’ wrapped up a short, sharp, snappy set.
Aha I recognise that guitarist. Destroy DC appears to be another project of Conflict and Fields Of The Nephilim strummer Gav King also with Conflict’s Spike T Smith handling drums and vocals. He dedicates the set to Ruts man Malcolm Owen who would have been 60 today before bursting into a hooky groover with a very technical feel about it as Gav and bassist Si Resinator trade riffs. There was immediately lots going on but there was to be far more following. We went from doom laden punk to jagged hardcore bursts that had me thinking Ramones, no The Stupids, hold on Fugazi, errr the Misfits; well it was difficult to keep up with. Then to top it all they were joined by the singer from Fallen keeping to the side lines but harmoniously adding textures to the sound, which then changed completely as the band started playing heady dub. Even though things were completely turned on their head it worked fantastically and made complete sense so full props for the versatility and skill on display here. A splash of sunshine via some sampled horns and it was all of a sudden like a funky reggae party and Babylon was not burning but spreading warmth and harmony through the venue. A certain person would no doubt have loved this and one thing you cannot accuse Destroy DC of being is caught in any rut.
Slug are a name I have seen about and recognised the drummer and one of the others from the greatly missed Active Slaughter. Put it simply they brought the aggro and the menace to the venue but although it was a set bristling with anger and intensity it was handled with great nature by band and the more enthusiastic members of the audience. There were two vocalists, one stayed on stage playing guitar, the other roamed around the audience playing the microphone on his head. He was quickly bleeding and I was later told that he always does that. Political through and through with songs like ‘Middle East War’ and later ‘Smash HLS’ (and if you don’t know the acronym look it up), there was little in the way of love and peace and it was more a case of well-orchestrated chaos. However that’s what punk should be like and those down the front thrived on it, joining in on vocals and turning things messy as everything chugged away at a riotous pace. ‘Fuck The Bloodline’ came the call as ‘Blue Blood’ entertained with some royal bashing and things were far from subtle but these gobby anthems certainly kept us on our toes.
I honestly don’t think I ever saw Liberty although remember them well and having just trawled through some old records and pulled out their Our Voice Is Tomorrow’s Hope 7” probably should have recognised some of their songs a bit more, especially as they finished with ‘Suffer No More’ from it. It seemed slightly less busy at first the call of street drinking too much to resist but as the band started with ‘Can’t Fool Me’ people drifted in and started to bounce around as the band scythed away. Singer Luke at first seemed nervous but quickly grew in confidence and there was a poetic quality behind his clean delivery with the vocal diatribe gaining strength all the time. There was plenty of conviction about songs like ‘Mark Of The Beast’ which was a rant at the Catholic religion and was a pogo laden slab of punky piousness. Next on the anti list was war with the Military up for a drubbing and by now the band had got the audience riled up enough to get crowd members up for microphone sing alongs and a bit of a pit fired up. For some reason a trainer flew past the singers head (the perpetrator was found and got a stern telling off later) and people were falling over. To cap it off former vocalist Mark Flack appeared, apparently fresh off an earlier hunt sab and joined in too on the aforementioned ‘Suffer No More,’ concluding a good evocative set.
It’s been a few years since I saw Lost Cherrees and they are always belting live, tonight was no exception as they bombed into ‘State Of The Nation’ and ‘Blasphemy’ without pause for breath. There is a huge amount of history behind this lot and plenty of past members through the years and the band are now fronted by Marie Repulsive and another singer whose name I can’t find but did a blinding job with these barbed wire wrapped bursts getting everyone back in a full on jigging mood. The twin vocals were great and if anything the band got faster as they went along. Even if we did not know the lyrics everyone was quick to join in the shouted out EDL bunch of cunts which spoke for itself with aplomb. There was little time to waste here and the band simply romped from one spiky, happy-go-lucky belter to the next. ‘Knock Me Down’ caused a mass tumbling and it was suitably bonkers down the front and it was impossible to choose a highlight on this set. S.O.P.H.I.E was a poignant number to a victim of prejudice who I am sure everyone knows about and with a finale of ‘Living In A Coffin’ they practically brought the house down.
Apparently Dropping Bombs were running late so it was down to the Subhumans to come on next. One look at the set-list and I knew we were up for one hell of a show as the guy with the permanent Rezillos t-shirt Dick Lucas came on and charged around the stage like a headless chicken. The only sense of Apathy was in the song title and immediately the band set things off and for the next hour or so had the whole place which by now must be close to the 500 in one huge melee. I have seen this lot so many times and as we discussed after the show they have never played a duff one as Dick, Bruce, Phil and Trotsky pour masses of enthusiasm and energy into absolutely everything they do. Maybe not totally active on the album front but there are no shortage of songs on offer from what they have done and they come thick and fast and I am not alone in knowing every single word from each and every one of them. Newer Infernal Riot’s sit up amongst the older likes of Big City. The somewhat chilling Pigman is a rousing and unsettling number ‘Society’ and New Age’ are furious ranting classics and adrenaline literally spreads throughout the venue as everyone goes mental.
Nobody is quite as mental as Dick though and how he has so much energy at his seemingly immortal age is beyond me. The only person who can match him of the thousands of bands I have seen is Barney Greenway and it’s amazing I even managed to get him in front of the lens long enough for some photos. The songs keep coming in breathless fashion from the quirky Us Fish Must Swim Together’ to animal rights classic Evolution. Beer was everywhere coating the singer but not slowing him down as they stomped through ‘Mickey Mouse’,’ No’ and onto the inevitable conclusion that we all knew and loved ‘Religious Wars’ Ruined, fresh air needed and the best show seen since some band called Culture Shock earlier this year.
Turning up late and having to follow that was not a good move and even less so as I walk back in after much needed time out to find that Dropping Bombs were playing the last song of what must have been an incredibly short show after a very fast turnaround. I didn’t even have time to get my camera out sorry guys.
Back out again and it all kicks off but only with a football as a volatile and hugely fun game of punk football breaks out in front of the venue. There are some near traffic misses a few face injuries and some seriously ruffled hair dos as for 15 minutes or so we are all united. Finally a great shot sees a goal through the venue doors and our ball is confiscated, probably very wisely by security. Pleas of can we have are ball back are met with stern shakes of the head (but it must be said security were excellent and friendly tonight) besides its time for Conflict.
Another deep breath is necessary looking at the magnitude behind the set-list and it is time to dig in and try and get some pics at the front of the stage as everyone behind seems intent to move forward and crush me. The recently back in action band, if you read the interview on these pages, almost decided not to continue but some test shows and an appearance at Another Winter Of Discontent proved that their message is still one that people want to hear. It is like everything has been leading up to this as it is the busiest I have seen a show of theirs in ages and it is as volatile as one could imagine. Indeed it is almost as incendiary as anything they have done in the past. There is something that seems slightly stripped down as they romp through the likes of ‘From Protest To Resistance’ and ‘Increase The Pressure,’ there are to be no guest singers here tonight it appears and although they may have been a welcome detraction it means there is no let up and the set is like a constant assault.
The anger was contained to the stage though, there was a fantastic atmosphere here throughout the day and there were plenty of worthwhile targets being sung about without the need for people to turn on one another. Conflict are a well-honed unit and seemed tighter than when I last saw them. Gav King is an excellent guitar player make no mistake and those sliding riffs sound lethal, Hoddy’s bass sound is thick and trembling from the side of the stage near him that I collapse to, to watch the mayhem ensue. Carlo and There’s No Power Without Control are jagged bombs and anyone getting on stage has the choice of getting off as quickly as possible or being dealt with by the band’s security. The stage lights were constantly on red, a bit annoying but then again it the colour of blood and anger suited the mood and atmosphere.
There were plenty of highlights as far as songs were concerned. The Serenade Is Dead although obviously it is not and as far as The Ungovernable Force is concerned I am (although pretty deaf by now) sure the place names got changed for a rousing shout out to Glasgow here. One thing’s for sure tonight was a liberating experience in more ways than one and it proved that punk and the bands that play it are still potent, still relevant and still causing Conflict. Long may it continue too.
Just after I finished writing this the following was posted so it appears the night was not without some casualties
I would like to sincerely thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for that incredible support at the underworld last night.
As some of you are already aware i have had to pull out of today’s garage event, i am so fucking sorry.Unfortunately i hurt myself during last nights appearance and need to get patched up and repaired(again)asap.
I ask that everyone still supports this event as it is of the utmost importance, everything is in order and all pre paid tickets are on the door.
I am off to hospital now but will be in contact real soon, it aint over til its over. Colin Jerwood. Conflict.
(Review and photos © Pete Woods)