So we’d heard that Fucked Up were playing in Shoreditch once more. As one of Canada’s greatest punk bands after Propagandhi and DOA, I found this disappointing. Support was being provided by OFF!, a kind of punk rock super-group featuring members of Black Flag and Rocket From The Crypt. As a good friend was fond of saying, the place (we called it ‘the District’) was “full of cunts.” I was worried that my culture, or at least a part of it, was being co-opted and turned into yet another fifteen-minute trend for the hipsters to play-act at. They were thinner than us, had more expensive tattoos and their facial hair was more carefully sculpted.
But I liked Fucked Up, so we gathered our hypocritical troops and made our way into the alien and inhospitable vista. Those women we shamefully masturbated over flitted in front of us ghostlike, hovering at the edges of vision, en route to The Old Blue Last or The Macbeth. Riots of sub-culture pasted slapdash to their desirable frames. None of us made eye contact with each other, fearing what we’d see.
To make up for our betrayal of everything we said and believed in, we had clad ourselves in the most punk rock clothing at our disposal. Which, really, was at odds with the whole Fucked Up crowd anyway as they were coming out of that whole US hardcore thing – which was great, but we were in London – and here we were bedecked in Oi Polloi T-shirts, Restarts patches, shaved heads, crusty dreads and enough rusty badges with out-of-date political slogans on them to fill a small recycle bin.
I’d told some of my friends about the incident in The Jolly Butchers last month, the carnivorous hipster glassed and scarred for life by some big bloke with a clear chip on his shoulder. My memories were a little hazy of that night, and the story had had remarkably little coverage in the local press. There was a general assent among my crowd that the guy had probably had it coming. He did eat meat, after all, and wasn’t wearing any socks.
We arrived at the venue which was enough to destroy any lingering hope for the future that we may have once had. Groups of women with offensively blonde hair, with expressions that suggested they were unfamiliar with Black Flag’s ‘Nervous Breakdown’ EP, stood in groups sipping cocktails. Men younger than myself darted in and out on reconnaissance pulling missions. One of them, I noticed, had the four bars Black Flag tattoo proudly displayed on his arm. He had a little sailor moustache, tight jeans and a red and white stripy top.
“What a dick” muttered one of my companions, before his Citizen Fish badge fell off his green army jacket with a rusty clatter. He scrabbled around on the floor attempting to retrieve it with some dignity. He failed, of course.
We bought some tickets. Fifteen quid. Daylight robbery! But I paid it.
There was still a bit of time – obviously we weren’t going to watch the local support act – so off we wandered into the shifting surroundings in search of some decent veggie food.
Oddly, I couldn’t find anything. I swear there were places that at least did a passable falafel last time I was here, but when that was I can’t even remember.
I had the sneaking suspicion that I was creating reasons to be angry and situations to be annoyed at.
In the end we plumped for some bread and hummus and sat ourselves down in Hoxton Square, forlornly clutching cans of Scrumpy Jack in an effort to get pissed before we entered, knowing the price of a pint was likely to exceed the four pound mark. Some of the locals gave us disapproving looks. I smiled back. I was tempted to dribble cider down my chin to make myself look properly mental, capping off the display with a wet belch.
Pigman came and sat down with us. He was wearing a Conflict ‘To a Nation of Animal Lovers’ T-shirt, also held a can of Scrumpy Jack. He smoked a fat rollup without a filter.
“No vegan options, eh?”
“No” I said, wearily. “We didn’t buy any cheese though” I add.
“I know. Good lads.” He patted my head with a menacing trotter.
A girl of about nineteen walked past. Pigman whistled through his teeth. Inter-species lust briefly clouded his vision.
“Alright, mate, I thought you were a fucking punk and a feminist!?”
I’m a bit annoyed at Pigman. What a hypocrite. The rest of us kept our contradictory and offensive thoughts to ourselves.
“I am. But I’m also a healthy heterosexual red blooded pig. I love Pettybone, The Slits, Sleater Kinney and Bikini Kill.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?” I replied, swigging deeply from my can.
He ignored this. Tension hung in the air between us. So much for punk unity.
“So anyway, first Stoke Newington and now Shoreditch? What the hell is going on?”
“Look, fuck off, I just wanted to come see the bands.”
“Yeah, but you saw ‘em at Rebellion last year right? In a proper punk place.”
He had me.
“Well” I stammered “at least we’re here lowering the tone.”
“OK” said Pigman, helping himself to some bread and hummus, “but honestly, this place is shit isn’t it? We’ll get in there, be surrounded by people we don’t like play-acting at being punks, and who despise us, and then be charged four quid a bloody pint. I mean, Oi Polloi were featured in sodding Vice magazine!”
I had read that interview. I quite liked it, to be honest. Deek is a funny man.
“What do you mean we? “ I asked him, worried now.
“Well I’m coming in with you. Time to send out a message out to these idiots.”
I noticed Pigman was tooled up, a machete strapped to his leg. He fingered a knuckleduster emblazoned with the legend ‘PUNX’. Although I agreed with a number of his sentiments, I thought he was being a bit harsh. Educate, don’t eviscerate.
Six drinks none the wiser, the gig is in full swing. Pigman and I stand near the back of the crowd, arms crossed knowingly across our chests in the universal sign of ‘been there, done that’. We nod slights nods of approval. Some of my companions are, embarrassingly, dancing and having fun.
“Sellouts” whispers Pigman in my ear, mischievously.
The venue, it has to be said, is awful. The walls are bedecked with posters advertising club nights that terrify me with their fonts and unfamiliar DJ’s. The ticket prices seem inflated. However, the bands tonight are amazing and my reservations evaporate as I dehydrate myself with rum and fill the air with my body’s moisture. I hope this isn’t showing on my face, as I want Pigman to think I’m cool.
His earlier grumbles about the price of drinks in here – which are fucking ridiculous – seem to have disappeared as the booze kicks in. His massive boarish frame turns and muscles its way to the bar, half-spilling the pint of the young man with the Black Flag tattoo and the stripy top. The naïve youngster appears to be about to voice his protest, but Pigman gets right up in his face, silent, as if to say: “What?”
Stripy-top’s companions, the young women with offensively blonde hair and expressions that now suggest they don’t own ‘Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables’ by the Dead Kennedys, look alarmed. I am slightly envious, as my companions are a bunch of crusty losers who either sign on, pursue futile creative endeavours that will never pay out, or work with ungrateful young people. Usually a combination of the three, to be honest. Or, of course, they’re an anthropomorphic psychotic pig-thing with a penchant for violence and no sense of humour.
Pigman returns to my side and hands me a cider. He clutches a double rum and coke.
“Oi, you know that Coca Cola is one of the most morally reprehensible companies on the face of the planet. Haven’t you read ‘Belching out the Devil’ by Mark Thomas? You think that the murder of Colombian trade unionists is OK because it makes your Captain Morgan’s taste a bit nicer?”
The booze helps with this tirade I direct at Pigman.
He looks sheepish.
“Hmmmm. Bollocks, you’ve got me. That was a good book, too.”
He throws his hands up in a sign of defeat and apology, but as he does so launches the glass containing his rum and coke backwards into the crowd by the bar. He winks at me as I hear shattering glass and screaming. I idly wonder if those people own the Minor Threat discography.
I put my head in my hands as I see the crowd go mad, the music grinding to a halt. Security wade through trying to incapacitate Pigman who is swinging his machete with macabre elegance, and dealing knuckleduster blows adroitly and with élan.
“Up the punks!” he shouts over the din.
I run away, annoyed, as Fucked Up were only halfway through their set.