THE PACK + DESPERATE MEASURES + LO-FI REBELS – THE DOCKYARD CLUB, SOUTHSEA, PORTSMOUTH 24.01.19
We successfully escaped from Brighton and Sussex for the night and headed across the Hampshire border to The Dockyard Club in Southsea. It was well worth the effort as Kirk Brandon’s The Pack were playing their first gig in 40 years and we certainly not going to miss that!
The journey was surprisingly easy with no border control or even much traffic. We easily located the 150 capacity venue which from the outside appeared to be like a couple of large scout huts joined together. However on entering it was very pleasant indeed, especially as we ordered two pints and two large packets of crisps which cost less than £7 in total. This made a pleasant change to Brighton venue prices. I made use of the facilities and the gents toilets were spotless! Which sadly is something that can’t really be reflected in a vast majority of Brighton venues.
First up this evening were local Hampshire lads Lo-Fi Rebels who formed in 2015 as a two-piece group consisting of Matt Piper (guitar/vocals) and Craig Marshall (drums/vocals). With just and old Fender guitar to their name, they sourced kit from charity shops and even a drum kit from a recycling tip and started rehearsing and writing in a small room in Fareham. This began the journey to the recording of their debut 10-track album ‘Deadline To Breadline’, which was produced by Jake Willmott, who in 2017 joined the band on bass, thus completing the line up. They returned to the studio in July 2018 to record the 5-track EP ‘Keep it Lo-Fi’.
Their sound is best described as early days R’n’B style punk something akin to Dr Feelgood meets the sound of the Irish bands who were on Good Vibrations records, such as Rudi and The Outcasts.
Tonight’s set was culled from their two releases and I can recall hearing ‘Last Chance Saloon’, ‘Torpedo’, ‘Deadline To Breadline’, ‘Crisps In Church’, the comically catchy ‘Gosport Bl**job’ and there was I believe a new composition entitled ‘Toy Boy’.
It was an enjoyable set even though they dropped a track because drummer Craig’s wrist was playing up. They are a no frills outfit and singer Matt is aware of this, but they should BIG themselves up a bit more as they are worth it!
You can see them live in Brighton on Saturday 16th February at The Quadrant (which is located right by the Jubilee Clock Tower), with Failed Psychics, Chewing Gum and Hollows.
Next up were a quartet called Desperate Measures whose current personnel are Eugene (vocals), Anzi (guitar), Donagh (bass) and James (drums). They formed in the early 1980’s in Christchurch, New Zealand and are arguably a standard traditional punk band in the same mould as Brisbane’s The Saints, or The Ruts and were arguably heavier and faster than the previous act, Lo-Fi Rebels.
Tonight, frontman and only surviving original member Eugene Butcher opted for the AC/DC, Status Quo denim look, whereas the tall slender guitarist Anzi Destruction (who incidentally was the former vocalist of Finnish industrial glam punk quintet Stereo Junks!) really looked the punk part and he sure knows how to throw a pose or twelve! He did get slightly carried away during their set, as he had to replace a guitar string or two, which brought down the tempo a tad. As he commented on social media “Great show in Portsmouth last night! I broke all my guitars”.
They had brought along a compilation album of their chosen works from 1981 to 2019 to the show and during their set Eugene informed us about their latest single, which was released on 24th August 2018 entitled ‘Executive Order’ which was their first in 35 years and that it’s about Donald Trump. It’s a split single with an outfit called Reaction and is available on shocking pink 7” vinyl.
Their set tonight as far as I can recall featured a track entitled ‘1984’ (which can be found on their debut 7” 1982 EP), there was a corker called ‘Militant Takeover’ which bore a striking resemblance to The Damned’s ‘Neat Neat Neat’ and they covered The Saints 1977 tune ‘No Time’. I hear they have covered Anti-Pasti’s ‘No Government’, now that would have been greatly received tonight!
Bang on the final note of the intro tape and drummer Steve Grantley was off. He has been specially commandeered from Stiff Little Fingers for the four special gigs by The Pack, with tonight’s at Portsmouth being the opening night. The remaining three dates being Friday 25th January at The Exchange in Bristol, Star & Garter in Manchester on Saturday 26th January, and the final night at The Dome, Tufnell Park on Sunday 27th January.
The other three members of The Pack this evening were original member Kirk Brandon (vocals) who is now based in Brighton and first live gig band member John Werner (bass) and they were joined by Warren ‘Woz’ Wilson on guitar as the original guitarist Simon Werner sadly passed away on 26th November 2010.
As Kirk reminded us tonight, that it was indeed 40 years since The Pack songs have been played live as their last outings were in 1979. It turns out that the original tapes were locked away in a Barclays Bank vault.
The origins of The Pack started with the original band the Pack of Lies. It consisted of Kirk Brandon, John Fuller (who was an old school friend of Brandon’s) and a Scottish drummer called Rab Fae Beith, who incidentally went onto play with the UK Subs. They rehearsed and got the songs together at John’s uncle’s house in Stanmore.
The Pack itself was formed sometime in 1978 in Clapham, South London amongst the punk anarchist scene set amongst the backdrop of the totalitarian government of Margaret Thatcher – at a time when the country stood at the abyss of total chaos. The band’s first gig lineup had become Kirk Brandon (vocals), Rab Fae Beith (drums) and two Canadian brothers John Werner (bass) and Simon Werner (guitar). The last ever gig by The Pack took place at the 101 Club in Clapham and it was completely sold out by the time the band went on stage.
Wind the clocks forward 40 years to November 2018 and Newcastle Upon Tyne based Overground Records announced the release of The Pack’s ‘Dead Ronin’ compilation album tracks on vinyl for the first time ever with the option of four very limited edition different coloured vinyls Black, Yellow, Red and Green. At the time of writing the red and green vinyls have already sold out despite only being released for several days. Grab your yellow or black version HERE.
Back at The Dockyard Club and The Pack work their way through a thirteen song set of virtually all of The Pack material, the notable omissions were ‘Lament’ and ‘Tyburn’ which you can watch HERE.
Brandon seemed to loosen up during the set and was smiling a few songs in. Grantley’s drumming was we agreed particularly fine and ‘Woz’ certainly knew all the right chords and Werner on bass seemed to be lapping it up.
We were treated to The Pack’s original version of ‘Legion’ which was a longer and disjointed affair than the officially released latter Theatre Of Hate version. I would suggest that my fave track of their set was ‘No. 12’, but I suspect that I might be outvoted by a majority of the punters present who no doubt would opt for either the aforementioned ‘Legion’ or the final number ‘King Of Kings’.
My mate enjoyed it so much that he snapped up a specially commissioned poster for tonight’s gig, that no doubt will be expertly framed and hung on the wall of his man cave for many decades to come!
The Pack setlist reads:
‘St Teresa’ (found on 1982 ‘Long Live The Past’ posthumous EP)
‘Thalidomide’ (found on 1982 ‘Long Live The Past’ posthumous EP)
‘Brave New Soldiers’ (found on 1979 ‘Heathen’ single)
‘Death To Life’ (found on 1982 ‘The Pack Live Cassette’ of 1979 gig)
‘Machine World’ (found on 2000 ‘Dead Ronin’ compilation album)
‘Pack Of Lies’ (found on ‘Live Brixton 1979 & Demos’ CDR)
‘Vauxhall Savage’ (found on 2000 ‘Dead Ronin’ compilation album)
‘Abattoir’ (found on 1982 ‘Long Live The Past’ posthumous EP)
‘No.12’ (found on 1979 ‘King Of Kings’ single)
‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ (found on 1982 ‘The Pack Live Cassette’ of 1979 gig)
‘Legion’ (found on 2000 ‘Dead Ronin’ compilation album)
‘Heathen’ (found on 1979 ‘Heathen’ single)
‘King of Kings’ (found on 1979 ‘King Of Kings’ single)
Further reading if interested – The Pack’s ‘Dead Ronin’ album is reviewed track by track:
‘Brave New Soldiers’ (04:31) – The longest track on the album, and this tune unmistakably has the template Kirk Brandon wailing vocal style which is found on Theatre Of Hate releases. The lyric writing for one so young is applaudable, with lines such as “Press ganged from the cradle to live as a slave” setting the tone. This was the b-side of their debut single ‘Heathen’ in 1979 and then it became the lead track on their 1980 4 track EP ‘Kirk Brandon & The Pack Of Lies’.
‘King of Kings’ (03:13) – More of a traditional punk sound on this track, with Brandon sounding like Johnny Rotten when he utters “Behold I’m coming quickly and my reward is with me” and also “I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end”. This was their only 7” single release on Rough Trade records, with this tune being the a-side and was backed by ‘No.12’ on the b-side. The track saw the light of day the following year on the SS Records 4 track EP ‘Kirk Brandon & The Pack Of Lies’ and also on the posthumous 1982 EP release ‘Long Live The Past’. A sure fire hit for those who love Theatre Of Hate’s ‘Original Sin’ and ‘Legion’, which leads me nicely to…
‘Legion’ (03:20) – This is more like a Theatre Of Hate early demo, however it sounds business as normal and then at 52 seconds it completely changes as though it’s a different tune and then it comes back on track at 1 minute 45 and at 2:23 it wanders off again, but by 2:41 we are back on track. It’s an interesting listen, but having grown up with the TOH version, that has the edge.
‘Abattoir’ (02:57) – When this one starts it reminds me of the guitar-work on 999’s popular single ‘Emergency’ mixed with the drumming of early Adam & The Ants. This is not a three minute pop song, but it had the feel of a late 1960’s/early 1970’s Bowie composition in there too. This saw the light of day on the 1982 4 song EP release ‘Long Live The Past’.
‘Heathen’ (02:40) – Nice feedback to start with and gnarly shouty lyrics over trad punk sounds. I don’t really understand why it isn’t as well known as it should be as it ticks all of the loud aggression boxes held dearly by the punk fraternity. This was the a-side of The Pack’s debut single out on the SS label in 1979 and it was one of the 4 tracks found on the 1980 ‘Kirk Brandon & The Pack Of Lies’ EP.
‘Vauxhall Savage’ (02:30) – 150 seconds of work that could easily be attributed to those lost darlings of punk/goth UK Decay. A most enjoyable listen.
‘No.12’ (02:58) – Now this is probably my favourite track on the album. Once again Brandon sounding like Rotten/Lydon as he bellows out “My name’s Annie..”. It also had the ‘No Reply’ vibe by the Buzzcocks versus a slightly dare I say it metal feeling. For fans of The Sex Pistols. This was the b-side of The Pack’s ‘King Of Kings’ single out on Rough Trade records in November 1979 and it was the fourth track on the ‘Kirk Brandon & The Pack Of Lies’ EP the following year.
‘Machineworld’ (04:15) – Lots of warbling on this one and probably my least favourite song on the whole album. But here is a band clearly refining their future sound.
‘St Teresa’ (01:54) – A faster beat on this one as compared the the previous song and so it’s back to business as normal and it’s under two minutes long, so it should keep those punk purists happy. It’s not often you get you review a song about a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, author, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer is it? This was released on The Pack’s posthumous 1982 4 song EP release ‘Long Live The Past’.
‘Thalidomide’ (01:33) – This was the lead track on the bands posthumous 1982 EP release ‘Long Live The Past’, which climbed as high as No.12 in the UK Indie Singles Chart. Rushing in at just 93 seconds long, this is the shortest of the lot and as soon as you get into it, it has gone! And that’s exactly what the album does to you. No soon as you put the needle on the record, it’s time to get up and flip the disc.
You know the best thing to do with this album….put it on all over again! As it truly is a lost gem. It’s the punk album that never was and I thank them for finally releasing it.
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