I have to admit I had misgivings about downstairs at the Zodiac – I always do. I think it may be the slaugherhouse-style corridor to get to it, or the tiled floor so sonically bouncy. Tonight, though, with a pretty good crowd in for so chilly a night (not even considering how very early it is), and with young Raggasaurus playing their jam machine ina dub stylee, I’m pleasantly surprised. Of course, I know that the real attraction of this venue is the cocktail-bar-from-the-original-Star-Trek-style dressing room, but not much of that emanates into the main room.
Raggasaurus have warmed the crowd up nicely with their mix of raw enthusiasm, guitar effects and dub beats and leave the stage quite rightly looking pretty pleased. Richard Gappy Tooth, the man making all this possible takes the stage and introduces our man Pat Fish, who lumbers across the stage, plonks himself down and stares blinking out into the rather noisy crowd as he reaches for his Burns guitar.
First up is Out Of Touch, from Fishcoteque. As the song proceeds Pat’s clearly warming up and the hubbub of the audience starts to quieten. Next up is a song introduced as The Jazz Butcher vs Pink Floyd during which The Butcher namechecks himself. Now, in order to do this well, I believe wholeheartedly that not only does one have to be over a certain age, but also to do it with suitable aplomb. This is up there with Bo Diddley. Though the guitar is a little quiet, people really have started to take notice. Some people even start dancing – unheard of in this town.
Jim arrives, fresh off a plane and heading for another. “HellohowmuchhaveIm-“ he says quickly before being caught unawares (and entirely silenced) by the opening chords of Southern Mark Smith. It’s one of my personal faves and tonight’s version entirely does it justice. As if to balance out, new song Shakey is next, one I’ve only ever heard played live – last time I heard it, it sent a shiver through the audience and tonight Pat seems to be investing even more into it; shimmeringly beautiful.
Buffalo Sniper, a Wilson song is next up and it’s excoriating – angry, driven – the backing tracks really kick in, my hairline takes another involuntary step backwards and the rest of the audience well and truly shuts the fuck up. It’s hard to know just how he’ll follow that, but as some familiar chords sing out, I turn to Jim and ask “is this Caroline Wheeler’s Birthday Present?” – Jim replies but in the excitement he just makes a strange sound as if to say “YES. Now shush!”. Pat must by this time know he’s on a roll but he still seems to be working it just as hard as he can. It’s another great version…
Even if the following cover of John Cale’s Thoughtless Kind fails to move a certain member of the audience, to Chrissy and me certainly it brings a lump to the throat and a welling in the eyes. Last time I heard Pat play this I immediately identified it as a Cale cover; tonight he’s made it entirely his own. After the emotional rollercoaster of the rest of the set, the closer, Shame On You seems bubbly and refreshing and a perfect way to round things off. I turn to Chrissy and convey how much I’ve enjoyed the set with just wide eyes and open mouth. She nods, and adds “gig of the year”. I quickly flick through those I can remember, and, true enough, she’s right!