Tuesday, 3 May 2011
814 THE BUZZCOCKS, The Computers, Charred Hearts, Swindon MECA (Music and Entertainment Cultural Arena), Friday 29 April 2011
This one has a real sense of occasion to it; a first gig at the new Swindon Music and Entertainment Cultural Arena! The MECA, AKA the old bingo hall up the top of town that had lain derelict for years, had been gagging for all that time for someone to give it a fresh coat of paint, a new soundproofing layer and sound system, and turn it into a concert venue. Well guess what; someone did, namely Swin City and “Frequency” mastermind Steve Causer. Good on you, Steve!
This being the first actual “rock” gig at the venue, I was well up for it. This of course notwithstanding that on previous evidence 4 years ago or so, tonight’s hosts, original punk band the Buzzcocks, hadn’t aged anything like as well as some of their peers (Killing Joke, SLF, even The Damned). But hey, it’s only up the road, and I really need to get behind this venture, so why not? So, after a day spent eating BBQ food with good friends, I picked up a couple of them, namely Rich and Jase, and drove up, parking the car at 8.15 and popping into the venue as local band Charred Hearts were midway through their set. Of similar vintage to the Buzzcocks and similarly recently reformed, they played a buzzsaw ramalama punk set which was formulaic but exciting and sincere. A couple of namechecks for departed punk legends Poly Styrene (only last week, poor Poly) and Ari Up of The Slits (Buzzcocks’ support band on their last visit to Swindon – The Affair, 34 years ago!) went down well with the old punk audience too. They certainly left a better impression than tour support The Computers, a young bunch of arrogant chumps all in white, who played a tuneless set of thrash dirge and were kinetic but largely ignored. Guys, “intense” doesn’t mean screaming like a tarantula is biting your balls off!
Never mind, The Buzzcocks were up next and came on late but to a raucous reception from the expectant Swindon crowd. They fairly ripped into the set, with surprising opener “Boredom” from their first ever EP, followed with a thrilling “Fast Cars” and a superb “I Don’t Mind”. Despite Pete Shelley’s lilting, slightly effeminate vocals being already submerged in the mix, this was a great opening salvo; surely they couldn’t keep this up!
Actually, no. The set mid-section merged into a mulchy morass of indistinct guitar noise which even guitarist Steve Diggle’s rabble-rousing failed to rescue for me, although the mosh kept going enthusiastically throughout. However, the Buzzcocks finished strongly with a buzzing “Breakdown”, a soaring sing-along set highlight “Love You More”, and “Promises” and “What Do I Get”, which showcased their ear for easy catchy punk rock melody and aching lovelorn lyrical matter. A splendid 3-song encore salvo of the rockier, Diggle-led “Harmony In My Head”, the inevitable and manically-greeted “Ever Fallen In Love”, and a great final “Orgasm Addict”, rounded off a very worthy set overall. Thankfully, this time they’d left enough gas in the tank to do their final numbers justice.
Ran into Steve Causer on the way out who confirmed that the volume of punters through the door tonight had enabled them to break even, so hopefully this will be the first of many rock gig nights at the new MECA!