Pete And The Pirates

October 4th, Scala London

After years of managing to miss Pete And The Pirates through bad luck, sheer indolence, a bad cold, and simply being in the wrong town or, in some cases, the wrong country, I got to see them twice in two months.

Pete And The Pirates gigs are like buses. You wait ages for one and then when you get on its all crowded and sweaty.

“Its 1979 and Heart Of Glass is playing…”

I take a look around the mosh pit. The cheerful, heterogenous crowd ranges from teenage kids through balding 30-something men who can’t quite kick the gigging habit to, well me. I can’t see too many people who would be likely to even have been alive in 1979 when Blondie were in their pomp, let alone attending the Scala…

This place has memories for me.

I used to go come here often back then with my first serious girlfriend Tessa. She got me into a lot of good stuff art and culture wise.

The Scala was a cinema then, showing art films that triumphantly straddled the line between art and porn.

We saw Jubilee there, Derek Jarman’s legendary punk film which featured a cameo from a young Adam Ant, and a plot involving a just-around-the-corner future Britain in which anarchy reigns and Buckingham Palace has been converted into a giant recording studio. The support bill was a selection of homoerotic porn shorts by the cult film-maker Kenneth Anger, including “Scorpio Rising”, which certainly opened my 17-year-old eyes to another side of biker culture.

Back to the present and a packed and enthusiastic crowd greets Pete And The Pirates. They’ve been around for a couple of years now, touting their brand of tuneful indie, and they’ve built up a devoted following.

They’re from Reading. In their early days they used to go to the Reading Festival every year as punters and plant a Pirate flag in an appropriate location. They would then proceed to play an impromptu acoustic sets and hand round flyers to people. Gotta say, that’s a fantastic marketing idea for any bands reading this.

Unassuming to look at, maybe even a bit reticent to talk to the crowd much, they play a fantastic set comprising much of their two albums. “Come To The Bar” is an obvious highlight. Lyrically they have a way with the wry one-liner lyrics – “Get out of bed, its the wrong one” for starters.

(NB – Incidentally, a quick scout round that Interweb reveals that the Scala I attended back in the day was in fact in a completely different London location. Funny how the memory plays tricks. I’ll never forget “Scorpio Rising” though. And if I ever come across a biker with no trousers on, I always give him a wide berth)

November 22nd, Buffalo Bar, London

The more recent gig was to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Buffalo Bar, and I have to be honest, although the band were great, the crowd were not up to much at all.

Gig etiquette surely dictates that if you get to a gig early enough to take up a position at the front, the least you can do is dance. Or move. Or react in some way to what’s happening on stage, not just stand there in silence.

Don’t get me wrong, each to their own and I know some people like standing and watching quietly. Fair enough. But FFS do it at the BACK of the gig, will you? In the case of the excellent Buffalo Bar, the back of the gig is still pretty close to the stage anyway.

That’s where me and my mate Craig are. Craig is only a couple of years younger than me and another ageing punk. He’s recently come back from four months unpaid leave in LA trailing his missus, looking after their young kid during the daytime and checking out the LA scene in the evenings.

He tells me a great story about his first pilgrimage to the legendary punk club The Roxy.

A large well-dressed man sidles up to him and says “Hey, are you on your own?” “Yes” says Craig. “Well, do you want to come to the bathroom with me?” “No!” he replies. The guy goes to the bathroom anyway and doesn’t come back. Craig spends the rest of the evening digging the bands and not going to the bathroom, ending up having to piss on the wall outside the club. Which I suppose is quite a punk thing to do.

He professes outrage at these events, but I think he’s secretly kind of pleased that he’s still got it. This sort of thing never happens to me, although I did have my bottom squeezed by a woman at the Scala – not in its porn cinema phase but during a Broken Family Band gig – but I suspect she was just trying to annoy her boyfriend.

So, the gig is enjoyable and the band are playing their hearts out but there’s not much to be done about a lot of the crowd. There’s a few people making an effort at the back though.

Afterwards we notice the guitarist outside chatting to a girl. They’re very polite about being interrupted by two large middle-aged men telling him how great the band is. We complain about the audience but he won’t have it and says something like “they were enjoying it in a different way”, which I think shows a tremendous amount of class.

Pete And The Pirates. A great band, and a great bunch of lads.

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