Picture the scene: It’s 1977, the Queen is celebrating her Silver Jubilee, ticker tape flies in the air, the country rejoicing in the prosperity of her figure of state: a mass party for one and all. All that is except, punk. As the celebrations for the monarch hit full swing, the leaders of the alternative revolution, the Vivienne Westwood clad, Kings Road walked tribe head to another party, one which will end up in arrests, tyranny and more besides: The Sex Pistols on the Thames.
Thirty years ago, God Save The Queen, the anthem for disenchanted, teenage rebellion, blasted out through the haphazard note-missing Sex Pistols, and anyone who questioned authority, who dared to be something other than the buttoned-downed city worker went nuts for a band who represented everything that was wrong and right about Britain.
Fast forward to 2006. Punk as it was known is dead. The DIY ethic it created lives on in the new wave of British bands who have brought the alternative to the mainstream, but the edge has been decidedly blunted. We are on a boat, moored on the river, as near on 400 revellers sway backwards and forwards, drinking sponsored vodka and energy drink, waiting for something to bring back the memories of the last generation, where a guerrilla gig didn’t mean prancing about on the tube with a megaphone, or inviting people back to your run down flat. It meant making a statement with the people who believed what you believed.
Cue The Paddingtons. A band who, less than two hours before the show were downing drinks in the chain pub across the road, oblivious to the world and anyone who thinks that rock stars are any different to you and I. Tonight, they appear with the kind of gusto and energy that truly symbolises the punk ethic: get on the stage, play your songs and give everyone the best fucking time of their lives.
Opener Some Old Girl sheds a light on their attitude to playing: it’s a full on mash up of everything that is great about music from the capital. The Jam‘s spiky riffs, coupled with the energy of The Clash, all played through with the ramshackle energy of London’s most recent sons The Libertines. All this from a band who come from Hull, who have more or less toured non-stop since they formed and epitomise the London scene without even being from it. From an outsider perspective: it’s pretty much spot on.
Sorry induces a sing-a-along which would make the most respectable indie bands jealous, while no one on this boat can believe that crowd favourite Panic Attack, with its nihilistic chorus of “You wanna die? Go on, commit suicide!” is not an anthem to rival the chart-topping, award winning antics of the likes of The Killers and Kaiser Chiefs. The raw energy and passion from the band and crowd create an atmosphere that while not being anywhere near as culturally significant as their peers decades before, still resonates with a thriving live music scene in Britain today.
Maybe the time of bands that try to change the world is over, let’s not reminisce too much. Maybe the crowd were loaded on free energy drink, at an invite only, corporate sponsored event. What matters is that bands like The Paddingtons make music which creates an atmosphere and a scene, where people let themselves go and enjoy basic British rock ‘n’ roll – and if you can’t enjoy that, then you’re missing the boat.