Venue: The Racehorse
Location: 15 Abington Square Northampton England NN1
Telephone: 01604 604313
📝 Pat Says
JBC GO HOME!A NIGHT AT THE RACEHORSE
It takes a couple of days for the JBC to recover from their New Year's Eve at Fawlty Towers Platinum. By Friday we are about ready to take on The Hardest Room In The World, that is to say the back room of the Racehorse in Abington Square NN1, also known as The Heart O'Darkness. We arrive to find The Man Skinner setting up the PA. Is he the new O'Higgins, we wonder with a shudder. The room itself has been beautifully decked out in drapes, with a huge multi-coloured parachute hanging over the stage.
The London posse arrives and Max heads off to the local music shop to get some bits and pieces, among them a drum key for Owen. When he returns shortly he hands this to Owen, announcing that he got it for free. The Butcher is astonished:
You got something from the music shop for free? That's a fucking first! "Fuck off," replies Skinner, "I work in that shop!" (Which shows how long it has been since I shopped there.)
In the end we agree that being sneering, dismissive and condescending probably counts as a perk of the job. After all, think how many times a month these poor bastards get to hear Sweet Child O'Mine.
After a fairly uneventful soundcheck (that's what we pay for) we retire to JBC Central, where Kathie has somehow managed to cook up dinner for everybody.
Great dressing room, this - almost like being in your own living room.
We arrive back at the venue at half past eight. Apart from Kathie and George, bravely manning the door, there are two people in the room! Now, it's fair to say that this show was organised pretty much at the last minute, but this is scary. Still, we get some beers in and wait, and sure enough the place soon begins to fill up. As we hit the magic "double figures" mark, somebody remarks "JBC friends and family night."
The crowd is still fairly thin as the great Curtis E. Johnson takes the stage. He plays a fine set featuring a load of new songs. He has started using a Line 6 delay unit to make layers of sound with the one guitar, and it works well. Except, that is, when he essays a version of Suicide's Rocket USA only to discover that he has forgotten to switch the thing on! Still, he succeeds in mutating the tune into his own wonderful Point Blank and concludes his set on a high note.
While Curtis is singing, the JBC are delighted to note the arrival of one Sonic Boom in the area. Mysteriously Pat and Steve follow him into a small cupboard by the side of the stage, from which they do not emerge for some time
Not long after the emergence of the JBC Stoner Tendency, the band takes the stage. By now the room has filled up a little more. We are probably playing to about 50 people. That's Death Week for you. Of those 50 punters probably 35 are musicians themselves, including all the members of Wilson. That's intimidation for you. Well, for us, anyway.
Skinner has sorted us a good, strong sound and we get off to a fine start with Mr. Odd and She's On Drugs before throwing The Punter a fairly radical curve and starting up Who Loves You Now? . In this room it's somehow very hard to establish eye contact with the audience (it's so dark out there), but I keep facing them down as best I can as we move on through The Talented One's Spot, whacking out Rosemarie and Diamorphine , which marks some kind of major step in the set, as indeed it always seems to do.
It's only as we move on into Rain "from the sublime to the ridiculous" (as I remark at the time) that I close my eyes, more in embarrassment at the creaky 19 year old lyric than in any kind of rock ecstasy.
I then manage to bring the intro of Soul Happy Hour to a grinding halt, accidentally trying out an entirely new intro revolving around the Special Upmarket Waitrose Superstore (on account of I'm 44), which leaves everybody without a clue as to when the tune proper should start.
This is followed by Caroline Wheeler's Birthday Present before Owen starts up the groovy beat to Come\, Friendly Spacemen . Sumo vocalist Mr. B. is in the house and keen to run up and join in, but he is frustrated by a crowd of thirsty punters for he is working behind the bar.
I have to manage on my own.
After Niagara , dedicated to the hole in the bathroom ceiling at JBC Central, we unpack Sister Death from its big black box. It's a storming version, and as it comes to a fiery end I find myself baffled that we ever thought to put anything after it in the list. But we have, and it's Partytime ! We finish with Zombie Love , one of those versions where everything ends up playing on a mad off-beat, huge dirty great noises bouncing off each other in what is only theoretically 4/4 time. The thing ends in total chaos and destruction and, like Germans, the punters of NN1 reserve their loudest applause for the end.
We play two encores, a version of Girlfriend that seems livelier and more committed than it has in years (possibly something to do with the location), and a romping Take The Skinheads Bowling (Camper Van Beethoven) , with Curtis adding his own distinctive rapping skills ("Fuck off! Fuck off! Fuck off!")
People are very kind as we leave the stage. Sonic is particularly taken with the skills of Mr. Beirne, who wasn't with us on our last visit to NN1 in the summer. We take care not reveal Pat's telephone number: industrial confidentiality and all that. A quick check reveals that we have taken just about enough money on the door to pay everybody hurrah! Skinner is duly sorted out and the kit packed away.
Then something rather wonderful happens. There is a bar in NN1, named after the celebrated radical MP Charles Bradlaugh, which now has a license to continue serving until 1:00am. I know that this might not seem too impressive to our overseas readers, but in the UK this is still something rare and precious. It is with great satisfaction that the JBC and their friends leave the gig, walk a couple of hundred yards up the street and settle down for a civilised post-concert drink. Not, it has to be said, all that civilised: those who were there just minutes before we arrived were witness to a massive barroom brawl. Still, it has all blown over by the time we make it in, so no problems there.
I'm chatting to Steve from Wilson when Lynda appears and asks if they have Jaegermeister here. I am forced to say that they don't, and my mind turns to trying to come up with an equally frightening and viscous local liqueur. I settle on Drambuie.
Long ago, back before Air Rage had been invented, I found myself "doing" Drambuies with a young actor on a flight back from Los Angeles. I found myself moved to tell a joke one whose punch line must of necessity be screamed out at top volume. Owing largely to the Drambuies I had failed to notice that I was delivering this punch line right in the middle of the transatlantic night, with everybody else on the plane fast asleep. A slightly panicky waitress - oh, so sorry, - Flight Attendant soon brought home to me what I had just done. I suppose if it had happened this year I would have ended up sharing a cell with celebrated joghurt-slosher Peter Buck.
I haven't had a lot of Drambuie since that incident, but I remember it with affection. Heaven knows why: one mouthful and we are all agreed that it's revolting stuff!
We drink until closing time, and then it's back to JBC Central for a party.
Yes, we have a show tomorrow. No, we haven't forgotten. Yes, we end up getting to bed at about six in the morning. But this is NN1 and we wouldn't have it any other way.
It's happening again.
For some reason, we're being treated to another full-on Butcher Band experience and so soon after the previous tour. I assume this is some late, but nonetheless, much appreciated Christmas present to the otherwise musically starved minions of NN1.
Coming at the end of the first week back at work, has made that week almost bearable. I had enough time to dash home, burn my mouth on a nuclear pizza, meet up with a pal from the wilds of Corby (where Angels fear to tread) (surely Corby can't be the reason you don't play Angels aka "that Deacon Blue crap", anymore?!?!?), and head to the pulsing heart of Northampton's musical endeavours.
Getting there slightly late meant that Curtis had started his set already. The new stuff sounded great. Did I hear mention of another cd? Also... happy birthday for the Sunday.
Then the moment we've waited until 2002 for.... the dry ice starts, the laser show kicks into life, the 30 foot video bank assaults our visual senses..... no, hang on a mo, that was a U2 concert that I never went to at Wembley Stadium, this is the backroom of the Racehorse, I remember.
No need for frills here. The sound quality is excellent and everyone who chose to stay at home from Blackthorn to Far Cotton has missed out yet again.
From the opening thunder clap of Mr Odd to the old family favourite Zombie Love, every tune sounded crisp and full of life. This is how Come Friendly Spaceman should always have sounded, you can see the track listing for yourself, suffice to say, each and every one a minor classic, played with enough feeling and skill to last me another year. But guess what..... we only have to wait 24 hours! Once more on to the Garage dear friend, once more.......