Love Music Hate Racism
On April 30th 1978, The Clash headlined the now legendary Rock Against Racism Carnival in Victoria Park, London. Between 50 and 100,000 fans turned out for the event, and the gig succeeded in educating people in the dangers of the extreme right as well as bringing the issue of racism and the intolerance of the BNP to the forefront of the political agenda. Just short of twenty-six years later, Mick Jones, guitarist of the Clash and devoted RAR supporter is onstage with the Libertines, just one of the new generation of politically-aware bands as they plough through The Clash's only number one single Should I Stay Or Should I Go.
Opening the night, East Londoners The Others sound like a strange hybrid of Joy Division and Pulp if they had been fronted by a young Joe Strummer. Forthcoming single This Is For The Poor is a class tune, but compared to the agitated onslaught of Miss Black America that follows it seems somewhat mundane.
For full-on, unpredictable punk energy, it's hard to beat Miss Black America. Despite playing a set of just four songs, MBA thrash through their set at lightning speed, mainly drawing on new material, such as recent single Drowning By Numbers although the anthemic Miss Black America also gets an airing. After a frenetic finale of Dot Dot Dot, the chaos culminates with flying guitars, flailing limbs and frontman Seymour Glass manically rugby tackling his bass player to the floor. Marvellous.
Looking as if they've just stepped out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Brighton's Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster could be forgiven for feeling slightly out of place on the bill. However, their idiosyncratic brand of schlock-metal goes down surprisingly well with the Astoria posse. And they gave us their aftershow invitations as well - top blokes!
After witnessing the ill-advised reformation of the Pistols, the writer was rightly concerned at the prospect of watching yet another '70s punk band try to ply their trade alongside today's crop of young angry upstarts. However, the born-again Buzzcocks frankly surpass anything that their anarchy-baiting counterparts did second time around. Frontmen Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle frolic around the stage as if they were eighteen again, and when you have a back catalogue strong enough to exclude your biggest hit single, you know you're something a bit special, as the likes of Boredom and Love You More get a chance to prevail instead.
"There's only four of them, there's a thousand of you!", Pete Doherty the Libertines capricious singer's attempt to start a stage invasion akin to that of the Forum shows in December ends in vain as the venue's aggressive pit crew thwart any attempt by fans to reach the stage. In the end it doesn't matter as after this Clash legend and Libs producer Mick Jones joins them onstage for an four-song encore including Time For Heroes, What Katie Did and Tell The King. After ditching proposed new single Last Post On The Bugle in favour of Can't Stand Me Now, due to the ecstatic reception the song received on the band's recent tour, it's clear that they've made the right decision as it's certainly one of the best things the band have written, effectively happy and sad at the same time.
So, a great gig in front of a fantastic crowd, although not all the bands on the bill are perhaps forthrightly political, all are united in one common purpose, as the message drilled home by the guest speakers including Has Mahamdallie talking about Islamaphobia and trade union and Ethical Threads organiser Geoff Martin demonstrates - to stamp out racial prejudice in all areas of society, and to crush the BNP.