The Drones – gig review by Louise Swift and Alex English at Westgate 23, Heckmondwike
It was a miserable, wet night in West Yorkshire when two of the PlanetMosh team, Alex (A) and Louise (L) descended on Westgate 23 in Heckwondwike to see Manchester punk band The Drones. Formed way back in 1976 when they were, surely, mere babes in arms. The Drones now cover three decades of Punk, the 50s, 60s and 70s, and that’s just the ages of the current, three-piece, line-up! You can read a more detailed biography here. Westgate 23, formerly The Queen Hotel was refurbished in 2014 and hosts gigs in a snug, intimate venue with a row of terraced houses, and smoking chimneys as a backdrop, for the stage, which does indeed take you back to the days of the ‘snug‘!
Here’s what our L. A. Women had to say:
A – The impending release of Friday was obviously too much for some with one guy already passed out drunk, only a few songs into the Drones set. I’m glad I passed on the offer of a Sambuca if that’s what they do to you! Another punter had more wobble than wibble and here we are amidst a pit of old school punk rockers in a pub called Westgate 23 in Heckmondwike. The Drones certainly know how to handle a crowd, from the over-enthusiastic to the drunks. Singer, Steve Cundall (AKA Wispa) must have thought he’d turned up to the wrong gig!
L – With a mean stare, which would freeze chocolate, Wispa squared up to the audience and the Sambuca shot drinker, twice his height, and requested that the audience didn’t knock his microphone stand over again. Although he added that they (The Drones) were there for a good time and he wanted us to all have a good time too. Realising that his microphone stand demolishing antics were over, Mr Sambuca then slumped in a heap at the side of the stage, prompting Wispa to ask if anyone was a first-aider! No-one else seemed even remotely concerned and that’s where he remained for the rest of the show!
A – Wispa’s enthusiasm held no bounds, taking his top off, about five sweaty numbers in, lauding a physique other men of his age would be envious of. The band’s energy took a peak about halfway into their set as they cranked up the energy and the songs. Perhaps that’s why Al Crosby on guitar bust a string.
L – Whilst Al was fixing his string Wispa told a few anecdotes. One about the toilets being closed and having to piss in a pint pot which Brian nearly drank! As he pointed out Brian isn’t Bear Grylls! At one point Wispa was tuning up and asked Al to say something witty. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, it’s a week ago now and I can’t remember exactly what he said! Although I do recall one audience member shouting ‘You’re crap’ and quick as a flash Wispa replied ‘Who said that? Ban him!’
A – Drummer Brian Grantham, an original member of Manchester’s Slaughter and the Dogs (SATD) fame took it all in his stride as they stormed through Bone Idol… A cracking punk thrash number. If only this was 30 years ago, Imagine the lunacy of the crowd, they’d be bouncing off the walls!
L – Manchester spawned a lot of (in)famous and underrated punk bands back in the day and one audience member shouted ‘I’m Mad‘ Well aren’t we all, to brave a rainy night in Heckmondwike, but I suspect he was actually referring to the SATD song. Right drummer, wrong band! He is Mad though – Mad Muffet! Now, rumour has it that, one Stephen Patrick Morrissey once auditioned for SATD and, whilst he didn’t get the gig, he went on to front The Smiths and Wispa told us that the said Morrissey, who at the time was a freelance writer for MoJo pop magazine, had declared Bone Idol, which he (Wispa) had written to be the best punk song ever.
L – Back when The Drones formed the original singer was M.J. Drone (Michael Howells) and Wispa recalled The Drones playing a gig at Rebellion, when he (Wispa) wasn’t in the band at the time. When asked where Wispa was M.J. Drone told people he had died. If that’s the case Wispa did a Lazarus tonight, to throw up a storm in Heckmondwike, leaving the stage more than once to get up close and personal with the audience, as the band powered through an eighteen song set containing songs both old and new.
A – Covering The Damned’s New Rose sent everyone feral! With a mosh pit break out in this tiny sweatbox of a room, I’m sure the wallpaper was starting to peel away! As they launched into their final song, I got more bumps than Mr. Bump! The Drones definitely saved the best till last with Sick Sick World!
L – Alas, the tables have turned, as M.J. Drone died in 2013. Whilst it’s R.I.P to M.J. Drone his legacy to punk rock lives on in the reincarnated Wispa, who has stepped up to the role of lead singer. With new material in the writing and The Drones already announced for Rebellion 2020, long may his legacy continue!
Steve “Wispa” Cundall – Vocals/Bass Guitar
Brian “Mad Muffet” Grantham – Drums
Al “no nickname” Crosby – Lead Guitar