The Engine Rooms, Southampton

Southampton Punk Festival

A late offer of a ticket means a short trip along the Coast for one of many Punk Festivals, in what will be a busy year in the Punk calendar. In the “adopted” 40th year of Punk it’s Southampton’s turn to show it can put on a festival of this genre. I have to say initially I was sceptical after seeing the line-up. However; every band delivered and with an early bird ticket price of just a tenner, it proved outstanding value.

We arrive an hour late and catch the last song by local boys The Flying Alexanders. Singer Jon thanks the early arrivals for sticking around to watch them and does the big sell, inviting all and sundry to offer those gigs!

The Flying Alexanders
The Flying Alexanders 12

Next up are Punk legends 999. They take an earlier stage time due to guitarist Guy (Days) having to rush off straight afterwards, to visit his sick mother-in-law. For me 999 can be hit or miss, tonight however they deliver and Nicky Cash (vox) is in fine fettle. Their better-known songs are delivered very loudly, beginning with the singalong “Inside Out”. Arturo’s bass, is in fact, near-deafening! “Feeling Alright with the Crew” is not long in coming, swiftly followed by “Subterfuge”. Nicky is energetic throughout, covering every inch of the stage. His wind-milling and stage jumps defy his years and today he’s putting it all out there. “Biggest Prize in Sport” is fast and energetic, due in part to stand-in drummer Stuart (Meadows). Nicky enjoys reminiscing the big hit as he delivers “Lil’ Red Riding Hood”. The high notes are a struggle these days but it’s still decent. Guy (guitar/vox) takes over vocal duties on “Really, Really like You”, and delivers a confident vocal-clearly masking how he must be feeling inside. They end on 3 biggies! “Emergency” gets the first bit of movement in the crowd while “No Pity” is delivered with added spite and bile. They end triumphantly with “Nasty, Nasty” and rightly take the plaudits. They exit stage right to great applause.

999 12

Having seen Ed Tudor many times we take a dinner break and head into town. On our return we arrive early enough to catch “The Sex Pistols Experience”. The purists might ask why a Tribute Band are on the bill? I however totally get it; they are brilliant in front of a large, energetic audience. “Johnny” (vox) is in fine form, joking and bantering with this crowd. He takes all insults and throws them back harder. From memory, (although I may be mistaken) they open with “Submission”. Sid (bass/vox) is as energetic as ever while Steve (guitar/vox) just gurns underneath that cowboy hat. Paul (drums) is power personified as ever and tonight those drums sound huge. I don’t know if it’s because the room has been split with the introduction of a curtain halfway for the merch stands, but it is definitely loud tonight. Anyway, back to the music – “Liar”, “No Feelings” and “Problems” swiftly follow. Johnny’s first insult of the night – “see that wall over there? It’s like you lot, plastered”! And they keep coming. “Anyone want a tune”? Here, have one (despatches packet of Tunes into the crowd) with a knowing smile!

Sex Pistols Experience
Sex Pistols Experience 1

It’s pure theatre but brilliant with it. “Pretty Vacant” sees a huge reaction in the pit – seeing so many “aged” Punk Rockers jumping around still is a sight to behold. Again, going from memory the set includes “Substitute” before they return mainly to songs from the “Bollocks” LP. “God Save The Queen” gets an early berth while “EMI” is delivered with added anger. The energy in the room now is fervent as they play the big 3. “Holidays, Bodies and Anarchy”. Sid counts in “Belsen Was a Gas” and we go wild one more time. Johnny however has the final word – “a ha ha, ever get the feeling you’ve been tweeted?!” Pure genius. They leave to huge applause before returning for a 1 song encore with Ed Tudor. No need to guess what’s coming; “Swords of a Thousand Men” is delivered note-perfect by the band. Eddie however; overcome by emotion and his own energy, seems to be flagging towards the end. However, it’s great to hear this song in the live arena and Eddie is his usual mad self.

Vice Squad are up next. I’ll get this out of the way early-Vice Squad are a female-fronted band with a stunningly beautiful singer in Beki and an engine room that beats very hard (excuse the pun)! Paul (lead) in particular gives an enigmatic performance, noodling aplenty. “Ordinary Girl” is an early highlight but Vice Squad are anything but. On “Punk Police” bassist Wayne looks concentrated when not gurning and using the stage space well. Django (drums) holds the beat throughout with a thumping power, most notably on “Starvation Rocks”. Beki (vox/guitar) is in fine voice as always and looks simply stunning, smiling throughout. However, they only seem to be getting louder and this 49 year old needs to protect his eardrums! I beat a retreat to the bar and end up talking to Sid from the Pistols and miss the rest of their set. However, huge applause rains around the venue as they leave the stage.

Vice Squad
Vice Squad 123

Penultimate act of the evening the “Anti-Nowhere League” are up next and once again there’s no shortage of volume. They begin in trademark fashion with ‘We Are the League’ and go on to deliver a set of classics. Animal (vox) is in humorous mood, going to great pains in his efforts to apologise to everyone! “Pig Iron” is an early highlight as this crowd responds in a frenzy of moshing. “So What” is as popular as ever, Animal as always playing the part. “I Hate People” gets the first big singalong and it’s like the whole room is singing it back to them. They leave the stage after 30 minutes, only to return 5 minutes later for an extended encore. “For You” is one of many highlights, as is “Woman” which is delivered with real spite. One cannot underestimate how good this band are, both live and on record – they simply deliver. With a new LP to come next month they debut one or two tracks from it, (the titles escape me). However, this crowd are here for the classics which keep on coming. “My God’s Bigger than Your God” is superb but there’s songs in the set even I don’t recognise. They eventually leave stage some 20 minutes later to huge applause. I for one cannot wait to see them at Rebellion in August. If ever a band was suited to a big stage with a big audience it’s this band.

Anti-Nowhere League
Anti-Nowhere League 1234

And so to the headliners. Unbelievably, it’s Cockney Rejects first time in Southampton. They too aim to make the most of their time here with a best-of set which doesn’t disappoint. They open with “Someone like You” and at first the crowd size looks sparse. This doesn’t bother Jeff (vox) who covers every inch of the stage with a stance like that of a boxer warming up. With his boxing past it really is no surprise and he is in incredible shape for a man of his years. “There Gonna Put Me Away” follows the patriotic “Your Country” as Jeff is at pains to introduce each song. His Cockney twang is quite apparent on early highlight “We Are the Firm”, as more punters join the crowd and he seems to relax a little. All the favourites are in the set tonight including the raucous singalong “I’m Not A Fool”, dedicated to Tony (Van Frater). Not forgetting their Thrash/Metal era they introduce “Head Banger” early into the set as one or two people start to move. It’s around this point Jeff introduces the band. With genuine emotion he says a word or two about the late Tony (Van Frater) before introducing his replacement, and original Reject Vince Riordan (bass).

Tony’s memory is respectfully applauded before the other originals band members are introduced. Jeff’s energy shows no deterioration as he introduces a song about “where we come from”! “East End” is delivered with Lainey’s (drums) terrace chant hitting; which are huge, as Jeff passionately bellows the chorus out. A few more in this crowd start to react and the pit grows larger. “The Rocker” is immense before another old favourite “Join The Rejects” gets the customary singalong going once more. During each middle 8 Jeff is literally sparring as he prowls the stage, left to right without missing a vocal. The remainder of their set is the classic Cockney Rejects songs written about their surroundings. “Babylon” precedes minor hit “Bad Man” while “On the Streets” is the perfect warm up to “The Greatest Cockney Rip-Off”. And still Jeff keeps on moving! Crowd favourite “War On The Terraces” invokes memories for those of us old enough to remember the “glory days”, and is by far the set highlight. Jeff introduces their last song saying “we hated the police back then, still do in fact” (with a smile)!! “Police Car” is well received before they exit stage right.

Cockney Rejects
Cockney Rejects 12

They return to a chorus of “Rejects, Rejects” and pay a tribute to the late Lemmy with “Motorhead”. And with that classic ringing in our ears they leave us on the anthemic “Oi, Oi, Oi”. The band take the deserved plaudits and I/We look forward to their Rebellion appearance in August, in front of a huge audience. As we leave the venue Jeff is at the door of the backstage band area. He makes time to speak to every punter who stops to talk to him, giving many handshakes and thank you’s. He comes across as humble as he did when I met him 3 years ago at Rebellion. Clearly Tony’s death is still present in his mind. But the show must go on, and tonight The Rejects delivered. I hope they don’t leave it another 37 years!



Words, Pictures & Videos by Ross A Ferrone,

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