Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Viv Albertine @ the 12Bar Club

As you might remember, I backed Viv Albertine's PledgeMusic campaign to fund her first solo album and it was released in November 2012. I was more than happy to support Viv and was delighted with the result. Viv offered us the opportunity to support her at a showcase to promote the record and the autobiography to be published later this year and I jumped at the chance. The showcase was last night at the 12Bar Club on Denmark Street (also sometimes called Tin Pan Alley) in London.


After a long day at work I finally left for the gig and arrived at Denmark Street just before the start time, gave my name at the door, had my hand stamped with the date (it's a long time since that's happened) and the bloke on the door said to go straight on through. So I did. 

My heart fell slightly when I walked in since the place was dingy and small, but I went to the bar to order a Guinness to celebrate seeing Viv, my first Guinness of 2013. The bar staff just talked to each other in Polish paying no attention to customers so it get's a minus mark for service. Then I walked on and found a small maze of rooms with bare walls and walls covered in ska and TwoTone posters and found the gig room which is about the same size as my living room with bare brick walls and a teeny stage. I stood at the back, roughly in the centre so I'd have a good view.

At first I thought, 'o dear' but then I travelled back in time to the late 70s/early 80s and remembered this is exactly the kind of club I used to go to way back when - small rooms, brick walls - this one just seems to have survived over the last 30 years! It was perfect for a showcase for Viv and I felt strangely comfortable. The stage was about 3 feet tall and just big enough for four people. The room probably holds about 50 people and it was full. It was gloomy with a few lights on the stage and that was it, with the band setting up their instruments (keyboard, violin and a bloke sitting on a wooden box as drums).

Shortly after 7:10pm, someone got on stage in a coat and scarf, carrying a few bags, someone with shoulder-length brown hair. Off came the scarf, coat goes on the stage at the back with her bags and up stands Viv, putting on her guitar before turning round to say hello to the crowd. She wore a white pleated skirt, orange shirt with big collars and a tight suede jacket and said she hoped we didn't mind that she was dressed as a yummy mummy. I didn't mind at all.

The three-piece band came on and, just as they were about to start the first song, Viv's mobile phone went off! She said 'It's probably just Mick...' and crouched down to rummage for her phone and switch it off.

Viv and her band played four songs: 'Don't Believe', ' Becalmed (I Should've Known)' (a song for when you've cocked up big time), 'I Want More' (which is what Viv thinks about before bedtime) and 'Confessions Of A MILF' (I love the line when the little wife sings 'I chose being an artist over being a wife so now I'm going to lead a very lovely life'). They're all favourites so I was happy. I sung along and tapped my feet and nodded my head in time to the beat (man).

There was a slight moment of annoyance during 'I Want More' when a late arrival decided to push past behind me to get to the other side of the room and the bloke politely said 'sorry'. Co-incidentally, Viv fluffed the words and stopped the song to start it again and do it properly so I got the full song and could focus on it and thoroughly enjoy it, joining in to sing, 'No compromise, I want more!”. The bloke? O yeah, that was Mick Jones. I've never met a Clash before (I know it's not quite meeting, but y'know...).

After the four songs the three-piece band left the stage and Viv picked up her MacBook to read from her forthcoming autobiography. She joked that she'd increased the size of the text (and showed us the screen to prove it) to avoid having to go to Specsavers. She then read out the chapter about the White Riot tour with the Clash in 1977 with references to Mick Jones and how they split up at the end of the tour. It's remarkably honest and Viv is terribly brave reading it out knowing that he's in the audience. She also got a lot of laughs as she told the tale of Norman, the tour bus driver, refusing to drive if the Slits were on board and having to be bribed, of locking Ari Up in the toilet so she didn't dance in the aisle of the bus, and the support bands getting together on the final night of the tour to jam a version of the Velvet's 'Sister Ray'.

Part of what Viv read aloud was to do with the gig in Newcastle. Viv recalled it as being and looking poor and grey. My memories of Newcastle in the '70s are definitely on the grey side, lacking in colour and life, so I share her views. I found this blog about the gig (that I didn't attend since I wasn't a student but I bought the record) and it shares some of Viv's recollections.

Then it was all over. Viv said goodnight and we did the clap-clap-clap thing until the background music started playing again and Viv put her laptop away. People started moving away, space cleared and that was it. I didn't take any photos since it didn't seem right.

I moved to the side of the stage thinking, 'I'm not leaving without saying hello' and, of course, Viv was chatting to someone she seemed to know, then someone else came up and someone else for a hug. I'm standing there. Then I thought, if I don't say something I'll miss my chance so I said, 'Hello Viv, loved the show' and she started chatting to me. Asked my name and, after I told her she replied with 'O yes, you're one of my backers, thank you' – I was quietly delighted to be remembered!

I said I was pleased she'd played 'I Want More' since it's one of my favourites and that I agreed with what she'd said about Newcastle on the White Riot tour. She told me to pick up my freebies (that I think of as presents) from the desk at the front and told me to get a poster, a handwritten setlist and a CD single. I said 'bye' and she said 'bye'.

On the way out I had to squeeze past Glen Matlock. I think he's stalking me … After meeting him a few times at gigs over the last year or so I've decided he seems to follow me round (the cheeky fellow, but he obviously knows that I know the best places to go).

Then I went up to the front desk to pick up my presents, carefully rolled up the (numbered) poster to carry home as a trophy and left the club with a big smile on my face and lots of memories to cherish as I headed to Tottenham Court Road station. I felt a bit like a teenager again, seeing a hero and rushing home holding my trophies carefully. I listened to Viv on my iPod on the way home (a big difference from being a teenager), thinking and reminiscing.

Viv was fab. She sang songs, she did riffing, she did chatting, she did reading, she did laughing, she did intense honesty and she did loveliness. She is a hero. She's playing at Nambucca, a club on Holloway Road on 23 February so I've bought tickets to see her. It is my job as a fan.  As I've blogged before, it's the job of my heroes to tell me about new records, books and tours and it's my job to get them, attend gigs and tell everyone I can about them. It's a sacred deal, y'know.

1 comment:

pinkpressthreat said...

Thanks, that was interesting. I've just finished reading Viv's book, which was really excellent. Ashamed to say I didn't back the LP - making up for that by buying the book and album...finally got to see her play the songs live in Brighton last year. I would have loved to have seen those earlier, nervous, tentative gigs where Viv's punk attitude got her through (with a little help from fans like you!).
Cheers :D