Two in a Thousand
Vic Godard and the Subway Sect
John Peel Night 2014

The Green Door Store, Brighton - 9th October 2014

Following on from investigating a whole host of new bands at this year's Southsea Fest, our focus hopped into the Tardis to scoot back in time as we lined up shows by Vic Godard & The Subway Sect, The Cravats and The Pop Group, the first two playing this 5th Annual Peel Night at the Green Door Store, with the latter appearing at Sticky Mike's a couple of weeks down the line.

All legendary performers from differing strands of alternative music: the original punk rockers, the later punk contortionists and the post punk pioneers; bands who helped define and shape the music we love and an enticing series of gigs.

Hosted by Alternative TV's Lee McFadden, Spinningchilli lined up an impressive roster to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the legendary DJ's passing, the night opening with The Fallen Leaves, who were just finishing as we arrived, before Vic Godard and his crew took to the stage in front of a completely sold out venue. Having first formed Subway Sect with three other Sex Pistols fans at the suggestion of Malcolm McLaren, the band appeared at the 100 Club Punk Festival in 1976 and recorded a debut album which famously never saw the light of day as manager Bernie Rhodes sacked all of the band but Godard before it could be released. A reconstituted Vic Godard & The Subway Sect finally produced an album in 1980 before a hiatus in the late 1980s and early 1990s ended with the singer returning to the studios to release new material from 2002 onwards.

The band is here tonight to promote the release of 1979 Now!, an Edwyn Collins-produced collection which finally captures the songs Godard wrote under the influence of Northern Soul in that year. It's a heartwarming collection that sounds a little like a Cockney early Dexy's and the current Subway Sect prove no slouches as they open with 'Born To Be A Rebel' as tight as you like and at times all five band members are singing; something we can't recall seeing in a myriad of gigs.

On stage Godard looks like the man who put the 'unk' in 'punk'. Dressed in fawn slacks and a striped polo shirt, he could have just emerged from a spot of light gardening to put the kettle on, but his powerful performance belies his avuncular appearance; this man is still a punk rocker at heart and when he is at his most animated it is hard to take your eyes off him. The set builds up in momentum and bite, sailing through 'Holiday Hymn', 'Happy Go Lucky Girl' (where Godard stops the song to complain about someone playing in the wrong key, before he realises it was himself), 'Stop That Girl', 'Get That Girl', 'You Bring Out The Demon In Me' and 'The Devil's In League With You'. 'Oh Alright Go On Then' begins the change in momentum as Godard grabs the mic and unleashes an impressive roar amid buzzing feedback and the set builds in ferocity towards its conclusion as some of the band's original punk numbers are unleashed. 'Better Not Turn On' is raw and biting, 'Everyone Is A Prostitute' is a reworking of 1978's debut single 'Nobody's Scared', and the night concludes with the bubbling follow-up single 'Ambition', and the breathtaking 'Chain Smoking' from the aborted debut album.

The whole audience is bopping along by now; most in their middle years, but pleasingly with some younger members present who could leave with only fond memories of the night. It's hot as hell and the sweat is flying but Godard and his band depart the stage to a rousing reception and calls for more.

The Cravats
If the audience had enjoyed watching one of the men who helped shape punk rock, next up were the band who helped re-shape it. Veterans of four John Peel Sessions, The Cravats' unique and often bewildering approach to their craft makes them a bewitching band to watch and founder members The Shend and saxophonist Svor Naan certainly find themselves in a good place at the moment, having put together a terrific band in guitarist Viscount Biscuits, bassist Joe 91 and drummer Rampton Garstang. With only Naan (Richard London) remaining in the Midlands, whilst the rest of the band are based in the south, full rehearsals are a rarity but you would never know it as The Cravats tear through a blistering set at full steam featuring a whole host of their singles including the Small Wonder classics 'Precinct', 'I Am The Dreg', 'Off The Beach' and the superb closing number 'I Am The Universe' which is so much more powerful in a live setting than on record, with Shend adorning a headtorch to light up the audience who by now are fully committed.

He may have left the bass behind him these days, but he's an entertaining front man, keeping the audience hooked as he expounds his wry tales while his band storms around him. The three newer Cravats are a tight bunch, driving the music on with considerable gusto, but it is London who lifts them to another level. Just as Keith Levene's serrated edge guitar ripped through the blustering swagger of early PiL, sending their sound spinning in a thousand new directions, London's sax rips through The Cravats' driving rhythms, barely connecting, but imbuing their music with a jagged soul that is both powerful and utterly captivating. His work on Crass Records' 1982 b-side 'When Will We Fall?' sounds like Middle Eastern speed discovering acid; it's great stuff and its partner on vinyl, 'Rub Me Out' is perhaps the highlight of splendid evening's entertainment, which fittingly includes four songs first aired by John Peel.

It is a top night, a fitting tribute to the great man, and deservedly well supported. So enthused is he with his new band that The Shend is hoping to record some new Cravats material next year. We can't wait to hear the results. If you get the chance, go and see both these bands. You won't be disappointed, legends both.

Words: Adam Hammond
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