Darryl Fantastic, Ashtray Navigations, Early Hominids
Dewsbury Socialists Club, 23rd January 2010.
I’ve been to some strange venues in my time but seeing what is essentially a noise gig at what is essentially a working mens club in what is probably not thee most salubrious town in England takes some beating.
Working mens club, especially those in the North, have a reputation for dourness, cheap frills and an ability for making people unwelcome. Its not all unfounded, I’ve been in a few and many’s the time I’ve been asked by the jobs-worth committee man on the door [usually ex-service] as to whether I’m a member and when eventually seated with drink after signing my name three times in a huge ledger and crossing my heart promising to vote Labour until I die I sit down only to be told by the same person that thats so-and-so’s seat and he’ll be in half an hour and can you sit somewhere else preferably over there out of the way. But its not all doom and gloom, the beer is usually cheap and if you can avoid the domino card and raffle ticket sellers you can have yourself a thrifty night out. Putting this lot on at the Dewsbury Socialist Club though was a little like going to the Wheel Tappers and Shunters Club and finding a Herman Nitsch blood play in mid session or, for those of more tender years discovering Brian Potter had booked Whitehouse into the Phoenix Club.
The DSC is a small place directly off Bradford Road, made up of one room, two pool tables and a sea of sixties aluminum fluted floor buffets. After fortifying myself earlier in the evening with several pints of Taylors Landlord at the West Riding it was a joy to enter the portals of the DSC to find Kelham Island’s Easy Rider standing proud at bar full of tap lager and insipid ales. The PA was pumping out dub reggae to a small gathering of locals sat chatting amicably away and taking the dub in their stride. The odd punter who’d actually heard of this gig and had come from out of town stood with pints in hand, the frequent sideways glances giving away their nervousness. Maybe some of them were wondering if they’d got the right venue, the right town? There was no entrance fee [someone later came round with a bucket for change - a cleaned out urinal cube bucket which I thought was a nice touch].
With no fanfare what-so-ever a stout punter of advancing years moved from the bar, strapped on a bass guitar and started thrashing it. Loops of God knows what emanated from someone bent over a table full of gadgets and it all sounded very Astral Social Clubby. The locals carried on chatting although now leaning more into each other to counteract the volume but they still seeming unperturbed. Darryl Fantastic [I think thats what they were called] played for what seemed like half an hour and nobody left the room. It got louder, it got quieter, it rose and it fell like solo sessions in a jazz whig-out and it wasn’t half bad at all. Maybe they’re all secret ASC fans? Had I stumbled upon a nest of underground dub noise drone fans, a sub-culture of sound freaks who for years have been holding clandestine meetings in Northern working mens clubs, zoning in on the most recent releases before slinking off to their mill flat conversions to snack on meat pies and tripe?
The more beer I had the more surreal things became. The bar staff were really friendly, the beer was really good [and cheap] there were people out back smoking like chimneys, snaffled in whisky was getting passed round, Ashtray Navigations were steaming into a number that began as a disco track and mutated its way into a hydra headed monster of wailing guitar noise. As the beer kicks in so do the Early Hominids who manage to do what neither of the preceding could and empty the place. The Campbell/Walsh axis has noise at its heart but its posh noise with oscillating frequency envelope generators or somesuch with strobe lighting chucked in for good measure. Its too much for some and off they head for the Big F in Batley or the curry shop across the road. The set is cut short by what could be equipment failure or drunkenness. Someone shouted ‘do you do requests?’ I think it was me. As I stumble through the door to look for a taxi it looks like the stragglers are gearing up for a late night session. What time do you shut asks someone, the obvious reply being ‘How much money have you got left?’