This year’s North West Calling, an annual event held at O2 Ritz Manchester, took place on the 30th June. I haven’t been to this prestigious event before, as I’ve always had other arrangements in place. I hadn’t actually intended to go but plans change, so the day before the gig I dashed to Rockers in my lunch hour and got a ticket. I hadn’t intended to review the gig but it was such a great day I couldn’t let it pass without a few observations so this is an overview, not a full-blown review.
An impressive line-up but marred with sadness as Garry Alexander Borland, the lead singer from Heavy Drapes, the band who were due to open the event, tragically died a few weeks before this year’s event, RIP Garry. Sham 69 were due to headline but with drummer, Robin Guy, recovering from an operation they had to pull out. Penetration and Peter and the Test Tube Babies were added to the line-up leaving the running order as follows: –
12.00pm Doors open
12.20pm -12.50pm – In Evil Hour
1.00pm -1.30pm – Slaughter II
1.45pm – 2.15pm – Duncan Reid & The Big Heads
2.30pm – 3.00pm – Wonk Unit
3.20pm – 4.05pm – Dirt Box Disco
4.25pm – 5.10pm – Penetration
5.30pm – 6.15pm – Ruts DC
6.30pm – 7.15pm – Peter & The Test Tube Babies
7.30pm – 8.15pm – GBH
8.30pm – 9.25pm – Angelic Upstarts
9.50pm – 10.55pm -The Adicts
11.00pm – Curfew/Load Out
A lot to pack into eleven hours and I didn’t get down there until part way through Dirt Box Disco’s set so although I didn’t see the first four bands I have seen all but one before. I saw opening act In Evil Hour when they supported The Exploited in Manchester in May, an energetic four piece from the North of England, fronted by the feisty Alice Hour. Slaughter II, featuring former members of Slaughter and the Dogs (SATD) a great fun band who play a mix of SATD songs and their own. Frontwoman Edweener Banger, has even more wigs than me and today was sporting a baby blue one!
Next up came Duncan Reid & the Bigheads, the only band I know nothing about and haven’t seen before, so I asked my friend Stu, for an overview and this is what he had to say “Duncan, Sophie, Nick and Karen are as visually stunning as they are entertaining. With a few Boys songs thrown in for spice, their own material is thriving. They are a heavy melody power pop band with a love of the Ramones classic pop song idea” Wonk Unit a punk band from London, who play punk but in their own inimitable style.
I have seen Dirt Box Disco many times before and I got to North West Calling just as they started playing My Life Is Shit, a great song but I hope that’s not an omen. I don’t what is about them that makes our feathered friends follow them but I spotted the human pigeon again, and whilst it kept trying to fly over barrier I suspect it’s wings were clipped and it landed on its head. Frontman Weab was looking cool is a large white baby grow whilst Spunk and Danny were (probably) sweltering in balaclavas and fur hats. To give security a break they asked the audience not to try and fly over the barrier for their popular singalong song Let’s Get Wasted and asked that they form a conga instead.
Penetration from County Durham, a late addition to the line-up and a first time for me, followed. From the name I expected them to be more hardcore but they turned out to be a melodic punk band, fronted by Pauline Murray, in two tone black and white, they played songs from the old ‘Don’t Dictate’ to the new ‘Beat Goes On’
I had been wanting to see Ruts/Ruts DC, for a while now on strength of ‘Babylon’s Burning’ which they did play but it wasn’t until they played ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’ that I realised it was one of their songs, whilst I know the song I wouldn’t have been any good on Mastermind as I wouldn’t have been able to answer the question as to who sang it until today. A great set and pleased I am out of the rut of not having seen the Ruts!
Peter & The Test Tube Babies another band I have heard of, but I wouldn’t have been able to name one song, so no good on Name That Tune either, they turned out to play a fast, heavy Motorhead style of punk and I particularly liked Up Yer Bum which I quickly picked up and managed to sing along to albeit out of key and Banned from The Pubs was another good one for the audience to sing to!
I wasn’t expecting much from GBH, as the only time I have seen them before, at Anarchy in Buckley at the Tivoli several years ago now, the sound was poor and I couldn’t really hear Colin’s voice, but every band deserves a second chance. Colin with his blonde spiky hair, in black leather and drainpipe jeans reminded me of Billy Idol. He was constantly moving around that stage, humping and throwing shapes. I was pleased to find that this time around, I did enjoy them and the sound was good. Luckily they did play the two songs I know and like, Sick Boy and City Baby Attacked By Rats. Before Big Women, Colin said they had to play this one in Manchester. Why? You may ask, I was reliably informed by my friend that a well-endowed topless woman always gets up to dance with them, when they play this one at The Star & Garter.
The penultimate band were Angelic Upstarts from South Shields, and tonight they were playing their 1979 debut album Teenage Warning in its entirety. With a few extra songs such as Police Oppression, thrown in at the end. Being from the North East, singer Mensi had a definite Geordie twang to his accent and I even thought that some tunes had an AC/DC vibe. Mensi had a great line in banter, aiming the brunt of it at the younger good-looking guitarist who he kept referring to as Gareth Gates! With the lyrics to the title track of the Teenage Warning album starting ‘You wind me up like a Clockwork orange’ it was not going to be the first time I thought of (Terrys, oops that’s chocolate, I mean) Kubrick but we’re coming to that shortly.
When it was time for the headliners to hit the stage the music from that eye watering moment in Clockwork Orange rang out before the band all in white Droog attire came on. Just before they came on my mate kindly ruined the element of surprise by muttering something about the singer usually wearing a swan outfit, so there was me expecting some geezer dressed as Bjork. As it turned out Monkey was to lay no golden egg, he was more like some strange hybrid of The Joker, and a multi-coloured but more svelte, Mr Blobby with his wings being more Dance of the Seven Veils than of the feathered variety! With props linked to the songs and including an umbrella filled with confetti, playing cards, a teddy and a Chinese takeaway meal they were entertaining to watch. For the grand finale big bouncing balls were launched into the audience and whilst most bands throw out plectrums or drumsticks, which most of the audience probably have little use for, The Adicts threw out far more useful rolls of Andrex! I defy anyone to say they don’t use toilet roll! Technically you could say the show ended on a bum note but, I left on a high and am looking forward to seeing several of the bands at Rebellion Punk Music Festival in Blackpool next month.
North West Calling will be taking place at the same venue on the 1st June next year. The line-up is yet to be revealed so watch this space!
Reviewed by Louise Swift
Photographs by Phil King