Why was this one of the best gigs of the year? Or, to put it another way, why go to gigs? There’s, what, 30 people here tonight, but all of them saw a night that variously included semi-nudity, sudden mental breakdowns, confused jamming, karate kicks and Belinda Carlyle. A normal night out in Newport you’re probably thinking, except in this case you get to see the effect a guitarist’s decision to go goggleshit bonkers three songs in has on his startled bandmates.
And you probably think I’m talking about Strange News From Another Star here. But guess what: the Cardiff boys are their usual professional selves, though their chosen profession involves gold plated drunk banter about cock gloves as much as brilliantly tight garage rock. Despite singer/guitarist Jimmy Watkins’s plan to give the entire audience the lyrics foundering after only being arsed to write them out twice, opener ‘The Ballad Of John Rostron’ kicks all kinds of bum, screamed out intensity hitting muscular, speedfreak riffing. You can’t hear the lyrics anyway. The whole set is what happens when you burn through surreal word mangling, stand up comedy, heads down rocking and disturbing alcohol consumption, and they never let you down.
Jonny’s pissed off. Not because the mild mannered Science Bastard guitarist has already been called “the kid from Home Alone” from the stage tonight. It’s the lack of people. Plus, Jonny is a bit weird and hears sounds differently to other people, so that what sounds like fine clanging noise to everyone else resembles Autotuned cat buggery to him. After three songs, he’s had enough. The guitar gets thrown to the floor and half-volleyed into the waiting keyboard, while Jonny spins around and sinks his foot into the amps behind him. Then falls over. As do the amps. The look on amp-owner Jimmy Watkins’s face, as his thoughts run from “Rock and roll!” to “Hang on, I paid a grand for that”, redefines priceless. The rest of the SB set is like a cross between a roadie convention and hostage negotiation, as people swarm in to re-plug, test out, and pat Jonny on the head, carefully. The next song has the guitarist refusing to get up, issuing vocals while lying on the floor, a mic held to his mouth. It’s like Lee Mavers holding a political protest. The gaps between songs stretch to Pinter lengths. The crowd shout “What’s he on?” and, strangely, “I’m not a lesbian”. At one point, five people from the audience play keyboard. Then Jonny decides to play his guitar parts on the keyboard. It sort of works, fevered post-hardcore guitar noise being adaptable to any instrument. In the end, a Really Big Jam is fantastically bashed out, Watkins jumping onstage to make guitar noise and wiggle his arse, singer Vernon passing the mic around to anyone who can scream, until a Sixties girl group record emerges from the DJ booth. The opposite of quite good isn’t always quite bad. This is the opposite of sleepwalking professionalism, of songs played like they are on record. Chaos and fun, and you missed it.