Steve Ignorant (All Photos by Daniel Ahrendt)
Before embarking on his various Crass forays in the last five years, Steve Ignorant was a little anxious. In the interview session before his show at Neumos on Tuesday, he said that he received many comments about how he was going to, “ruin the f*cking legend of Crass.” Obviously that didn’t stop him and we should all be glad it didn’t. The audience was the kind of rambunctious you’d remember from old punk shows in your friend’s basement, except the kids were moshing to about the best (and only) live rendition of Crass they’d ever experienced.
Ignorant began these shows in 2007 when he performed Feeding of the 5000 in its entirety with a backing band of special guests. Those individuals followed him on this tour, The Last Supper tour, around Europe and finally the United States after some passport squabbles. Initially Crass co-founder Penny Rimbaud defined Ignorant’s touring of Crass material a “betrayal of the Crass ethos.” However, as of an August 2010 interview of both musicians on the literary stage at the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool, England, Rimbaud has officially given Ignorant his blessing to perform the material live.
Technically, these shows do appear to be at complete odds with the anarcho-punk roots of Crass, a group that set the benchmark for the genre from 1977-1984. The group ended their existence in the face of problematic court proceedings against Margaret Thatcher’s government following the war in the Falklands. In the face of prosecution under the UK Obscene Publications Act, the group dissolved after performing their last set in Wales in 1984, a benefit for striking miners. A tour that includes the marketing of Ignorant’s autobiography, The Rest Is Propaganda, newly pressed t-shirts, and only one of the original members naturally raised plenty of eyebrows. However, after more than 25 years and the growth of a fan base of all ages all around the world that never got to experience a semblance of Crass live, who really cares?
Anyone who has listened to Crass knows that theirs is a brand of punk that is not easy to play if you aren’t Crass. None of the original members were musicians. As a result the music they made is nothing that a group of musicians in their circumstances would come up with. The rhythms are random, the guitars slide around like broken metal lathes, and the vocals bounce on top of it all like vomit on an escalator. To play so many Crass songs so faithfully, these guys had to practice a lot. Ignorant said himself that the touring drummer Spike Smith had to practice for months to figure out Penny Rimbaud’s style. This is no walk in the park for any musician, but with the assistance of guitar player Gizz Butt, bassist Bob Butler, and vocalist Carol Hodge, their mission was accomplished with impunity.
Outside of the stellar musical integrity, a few elements of the show were questionable. The effect of the projection of a Crass compilation slide show behind the band came off as rather cheesy and self-aggrandizing, distracting from the actual members right there, right then. For instance, while Hodge was spitting out G Sus‘s verbal venom from any of the songs off of Penis Envy, all of a sudden there would be the album cover in question presented behind her, or even the face of Sus herself. While this tour is very much a tribute to Crass, this visual element almost distracted too much from the musicians’ own performances. Also, I’ve never seen so many kids kicked out of a show so quick for trying to stage dive. Ignorant wasn’t having any of their staple punk antics. The scorned sat outside and chain smoked, occasionally yelling at the doorman.
Goldblade: John Robb (Above) and Pete G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S (Below)
Seattle’s Countdown to Armageddon
Both openers were quite enjoyable. Manchester’s Goldblade was a classic punk rock peach, fronted by ex-Membranes member John Robb, who has to be one of the happiest punks on earth. Locals Countdown to Armageddon (CTA) replaced original openers The Estranged due to distance issues, which was for the best. CTA play a loud, sludgy kind of gutter-punk that Seattle didn’t even know it still has and are a true head banger’s delight. Musically and environmentally, this show was a gut buster from start to finish. Ignorant’s touring band did the Crass material justice, clad in brand spanking new black shirts with neat Crass patches on them. Steve Ignorant’s polo seems like the perfect punctuation for the tour. What better way to piss off all your black jacket en”crust”ed fans?
On the topic of the following videos: Sorry about all the shaking. I was in front and everyone was kind of indirectly molesting me.