Tonight’s theme is centred around bands which have the punk attitude, who do their own thing, their own way. Bands that epitomise the DIY ethic and have the passion to do something different and innovating. True to form then, tonight’s headliners Babyshambles are, despite Pete avoiding porridge earlier this morning, nowhere to be found.
Cancelling due to a family tragedy (cue no sympathy whatsoever from anyone still left in Koko by 2am), they fail to provide the dose of commercial irony that they were surely booked to provide. Nevertheless, by the time one of their cronies announces the bad news, we’ve already seen the good, bad and downright ugly sides of this showcase of emerging bands and underground stalwarts.
Van Lustbader, who may or may not be named after fantasy author Eric (which would make them rather more geeky than they appear), just about manage to avoid bad and ugly, although the jury is out on whether we can call them good. Dressed in typical rock ‘n’ roll garb, and peddling riffs not dissimilar to fellow antipodean rockers Jet or The Datsuns by way of The Rolling Stones and Pixies, they are energetic, if a little predictable. Single Rock ‘N’ Roll Part III bounds with macho rock drumming and swagger but is hardly inventive. Here We Go Again is better, a driving rock anthem which sounds a bit like The Cars crossed with Sterephonics’ Dakota.
Which is a fitting start to a mixed evening. The bad is provided by none other than Mr Doherty’s (alleged) partner in crime, Alan Wass and his band Left Hand. Wass arrives on the stage looking slightly lost, peering out from a wide brimmed hat, before unleashing several uninspired mock Stones blues riffs and generally thinking his band is much better than they actually are. Guilty by association maybe, but the antics of his mates have given Wass the opportunity to showcase, it’s just a shame that it’s near to unlistenable.
Selfish C**t on the other hand, probably know that their wall of industrial punk noise is more or less unlistenable, but couldn’t care less. For the uninitiated, they are fronted by nutcase Martin Tomlinson, who manages to show us exactly what Iggy Pop would have looked like if he had been a writhing torso of homo rather than heterosexual energy. To the backdrop of screeching and wailing, Tomlinson prances like he’s performing show tunes, spits into the crowd and strips to the waist before urging his band to line up and bow at the end of the set like he was on Broadway. Musically, it can be painful, but after a distinctly pedestrian start, Selfish C**t are exactly the kick up the arse that tonight needs – and despite Tomlinson’s lack of vocal talent, he’s up there with the best punk front men around.
Which leaves indie’s new up and coming darlings Dustin’s Bar Mitzvah to (although they don’t know it yet) finish the show. Infamous for their chaotic live shows and gear trashing, tonight they are remarkably restrained. Not dissimilar to the scruff rock of The Libertines or raw punk attitude of The Ramones or The Stooges, they career through recent singles To The Ramones and Lucy at breakneck speed, stopping only to slur at the crowd and talk bollocks about the ticket price. Cocksure and at times generally brat-like they manage to be the freshest and most instantly likeable band on tonight, despite having the worst name and youngest members. Loud, boisterous but tuneful at the same time, they finally manage to provide what everyone came for. Try telling that to the Babyshambles fans though.