The Membranes

If you’re a punk fan, you’ll probably know that the Membranes were an integral part of the punk scene in the 70’s (and the post-punk scene in the 80’s).  If it wasn’t for the Membranes, and the other bands that started up at the same time, there wouldn’t have *been* a scene.

The band has always been about as DIY as you can get – to be any more DIY, their lyrics would have to be about plumbing.  Case in point – when the band first started, they didn’t have a drummer.  Not to be put off, they used two bin lids.

How many bands these days would do that?  How many of the school leavers who start a band would care so much about the fundamental soul of music that they’d make their own bass guitar?  Then, despite not knowing how to play, they invented their own chords and tuning scheme so that they could get the sound they wanted.  There’s a lot of people these days bemoaning their lot in life; the attitude of the ’70s was this – don’t wait around for things to happen.  That was the point of Do It Yourself culture.  In their most recent album, they’re reported to have used a plastic bucket, some rocks they banged together, and a fire escape (like, literally played the fire escape itself).

The Membranes embody everything I love about punk.  They don’t conform to anything.

And while I always assumed I’d catch them at Holiday In The Sun (now called Rebellion festival), I actually ended up seeing them at Thursday’s Therapy? gig.

Surprisingly, they were the supporting band.  Given that I’ve also seen Alice Cooper as a supporting band, that doesn’t really mean what people think it means.  Which pretty much sums up the Membranes.  They are deliciously obscure and delightfully inscrutable.  I love that.

The line up is: John Robb as the frontman and singing and playing the bass and mouth organ, Rob Haynes on drums (and apparently anything else he can hit) – there was also something that looked like a large greek vase with a skin stretched over it, which I thought was a stool until he started hitting it.*  There were also two guitarists – Peter Byrchmore and Nick Brown.

*I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about music, but I know what I like and I know that I like stuff that sounds good and I don’t care what instruments (if any) it’s played on.

Here’s some pictures (email invokedelight@gmail.com if you are in the band and want the full size versions of any of these at no charge for use on your website etc, the full size versions have better definition but they don’t fit on my site due to the cost of data):

The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes.
The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes.

What I liked most was the amount of energy they had on-stage.  I mean, they were fizzing with more energy than calcium carbonate that’s had acid dropped on it (which is pretty fizzy).  They seemed to be playing their own thing, as if the audience’s lack of enthusiasm  was inconsequential (the crowd weren’t biting… until they suddenly were).

The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes.

I said yesterday about how when I don’t know the music, I’m quite happy to go along with it as long as it’s sounding good.  Well I didn’t know any of the songs but I was headbanging from my vantage point in the weird side balcony beside the stage.

The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes.

I’ve never seen a warm-up act manage to win over an audience like that… stepping back from my role as a member of the crowd, and going into analytical mode, I was awestruck by the audience’s transformation – at the start, the audience was mostly indifferent, then about halfway through, they very quickly got into it and suddenly there was bouncing and cheering and participating and all that sort of thing.

The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes
The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes
The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes
The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes

Membranes John Robb

Membranes John Robb

My favourite part?  When the mouth organ came out.  I mean, I guess that must be what a mouth organ looks like – I’ve never seen one of those before.

the Membranes John Robb

The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes

So by the time the band finished, I was sad to see them leave.  Before Thursday, although I knew of the band, I didn’t know anything about their music (except that it was recommended by my stepdad who played drums in a punk band in ’77).  I’d only really come to see Therapy? (I hadn’t actually looked at who was supporting, more fool me), at that point when the Membranes stopped, I would have been quite happy if they were the main act or if they’d done a long set.  All in all they contributed to Thursday being a very memorable and outstanding gig out of the long list of gigs I’ve been to so far on my quest to fulfil my Bands Bucket List, despite not actually being on the list because I totally overlooked them when I was writing it.  Don’t make the same mistake I did – they’re not a band to overlook.

Supporting bands get a lot of shit, and sometimes they get too much credit when they shouldn’t have any (the Last Internationale who were supporting the Who really failed to engage me on every level, I couldn’t believe anyone had hired them as a band for such a big event – perhaps this went a long way towards explaining why my patience wore too thin and I ultimately walked out of the Who early and got an early night sleeping on the floor of Dublin airport).  It’s a tricky line to walk, to be a good supporting band, because it takes different skills than being a good main act.  A lot of people think that supporting acts need to be new inexperienced bands who do it for the exposure to new audiences.  Sometimes this works out ok, other times it bombs.  Not many supporting acts understand their role well enough to really run with it.  I think of all the bands I’ve ever seen in their supporting role (rather than their headline act), The Membranes sit up there alongside Anthrax and Alice Cooper as the three best bands you could hire to really get the crowd stoked (and I’d actually say slightly better than Anthrax).

And, as with Anthrax and Alice Cooper, I was left wanting to see, hear and know more about this band.  I particularly liked the part when John Robb said to the audience “ask me any physics question” (I know for a fact that there were at least two physics teachers in the audience).  So someone asked something like “what’s inside a black hole” and the whole audience went silent.  Everyone’s attention was focussed on John Robb.  Everyone was waiting, thinking “what’s he going to say?”  He had clearly thought about all this stuff a lot and knew what he was on about, and I thought his answer was pretty impressive, especially since it was a random question asked by a member of the audience.  I like randomness (all my Youtube videos end with “subscribe for more randomness”), and I like thinking about the nature of the universe.  So I thought that was an excellent lead-in to the next song.

If the universe is being destroyed and remade from one moment to the next, then I never actually saw them because the past no longer exists.  Which means I need to go and see them again.  But when I see them again, they will be different and so will I, because you can’t cross the same river twice.  Hmm…

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a testosterone-fuelled shoutfest using three (established) chords, go and see Agnostic Front or someone similar.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that side of punk, except that everyone thinks it’s the *only* side to punk, which just isn’t true.  If you’re looking for a thought provoking, entertaining, wide variety of music that defies definition (and thus becomes what punk is supposed to be about), the Membranes are for you.  Or you could take the blue pill instead.

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…And now I’m deaf (Therapy? Band concert).

Last night I saw the Northern Irish band Therapy? (the cryptic question mark is part of the name) supported by The Membranes, in Leeds. My Dearest and I managed to get right to the front at one side where there were a couple of seats because everyone else assumed someone was sitting there already (thanks for the tip, Stanley Milgram). Naturally we didn’t sit down.

This meant we were standing right next to the speakers, and they were deliciously LOUD. I should have paid attention to my ears at the point where I was getting ear pain, or the point when I was getting dizzy. But I didn’t. So now it’s the next morning, I have a loud whistling noise in the ear that was closest to the speaker, a quieter whistling noise in the other ear, I can’t hear a lot with my right ear, but I do have some PHENOMENAL PHOTOS to share with you. If you’re a Therapy? or The Membranes fan, you’re in for a treat (and if you’re in one of these bands and would like any of the full size pictures – in higher definition – for promo purposes etc, drop me an email at invokedelight@gmail.com and I’ll work out a way to get them to you).  I’m going to split them into two posts, one for each band, and this first post is for the Therapy? pictures because that’s who we went to see.  I’ll link The Membranes when I add their pictures tomorrow.

Yesterday’s Therapy? concert was the first time I’d used my multi-shot function on my camera and I was quite pleased with the results.  Today I’ve spent a lot of time going through the 625 pictures and choosing the best ones then resizing them because I can’t remotely afford £89 a year for the unlimited storage option on WordPress.

We were actually originally going to see Therapy? back in 2014, when we went to Sonisphere two weeks after our wedding, but because we were both working on the Friday and the Monday, and it was the middle of exam season, we could only get down to Knebworth for the Saturday, and I believe they were playing on the Sunday alongside Metallica.  So when I came up with the Bands Bucket List, they were one of the first bands I added to it, not because they were in any danger of kicking the bucket any time soon (hell, they’ve got at least another 25 years before it’d become urgent to see them), but rather because we both really wanted to see them and felt we’d missed out by having to work before and after Sonisphere.  As teachers, you can’t really book a long weekend off.  Ever.  So anything you want to do outside the holidays is tough shit (and anything you want to do *inside* the holidays has to be so squeaky clean because there’s kids everywhere).  Work seems to get in the way of music (I was in before and in the next day after Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Motley Crue and Megadeth, both of which I haven’t written about yet), but I do want to get back to work again – especially since we’re broke and no immediate family members have died for 3 months straight.
For a Thursday night gig in Leeds, the venue was still pretty packed and I wasn’t sure how everyone had fitted.

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

It started out like this, the odd perspective of the venue made for some interesting shots.

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

If you’ve never heard of Therapy?, they’re classed on Wikipedia as a “alternative metal” band.  I would say they’re a bit more DIY (as in; punk-like, not as in; goes on stage and shows off plastering skills) than your average metal band though.  They generally play big crowds so this concert was nothing like I expected.  They were playing through their Infernal Love album, which included Epilepsy, Stories, A Moment of Clarity, Jude the Obscene, Bowels of Love, Misery, Bad Mother, Me vs You, Loose, Diane, and Thirty Seconds.  Had we gone to Sonisphere, we would have heard these tracks there, as they played the whole Infernal Love album then, too.  I think we got a better view at Leeds though.

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

The current line-up includes Andy Cairns pounding the guitar and singing the lead vocals, Michael McKeegan wielding the bass guitar and contributing extra vocals, and Neil Cooper smashing the drums.  To be fair, they haven’t got much of a history of line up changes.  The long and short of it is that they struggled to find a drummer hardcore enough to hack the tours, but not necessarily with the drama that you’d think that implied.  Their original drummer quit during the first Infernal Love tour in ’95, and since then they got a replacement who quit in 2001 and was replaced in 2002 by Neil Cooper who’s been with them ever since.  I’ve said it before about replacement members from when I went to Dublin to see The Who, but when a replacement member has been with the band for longer than the original member, why do they still get called a “replacement” instead of just “the drummer” or “the flugel hornist” it’s like it implies they’re second rate and I’ve seen time and again that this isn’t true while I’ve been to performances for my bands bucket list.  Consider Dave Gilmour as a perfect example (although I’ve not seen him). Regardless of your stance on this, it’s undeniable that Cooper is a phenomenal drummer who’s more than capable of punctuating the bold phrases of Cairns’ guitar and McKeegan’s whitewater rapids of bass.

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

They played great and I was over the moon to finally use my DSLR to take photos at a concert and the pictures came out quite well (but I can see room for improvement) and my Dearest got high fived by Andy Cairns and at some point my ear became very painful and I haven’t been able to hear properly all day.  I went to about 15 concerts last year and this has never happened before (said the bishop to the actress) so maybe I’ll have to get a hearing aid.  I’d totally go for one of those long trumpets.

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

They could probably have just played Infernal Love and two or three hits from Troublegum and gone home (which is what NOFX did when I saw them in Birmingham) but that wasn’t Therapy?’s style.  In addition to the Infernal Love tracklisting, Therapy? also played Teethgrinder, Screamager, Knives and Nowhere, amongst others.

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

All in all, if you want an excellent night of entertainment you should go see the band.  In fact, if you want music for a road trip, check out their back catalogue.  I can’t think of a bad album they’ve ever done, and at no point in the proceedings last night did I feel like I was adrift in a bog of “wtf are they playing?” unlike when I went to see The Who and ended up leaving.  Or Megadeth, which I also ended up leaving early (which I haven’t reported on yet because I’m still trying to work out whether I can be bothered) .  If I don’t recognize a tune, I tend to not even care as long as it’s good.  If it’s not that good, I’ll give them two more songs to sort it out, if it’s still crap I tend to leave.

At no point during Therapy? did I consider leaving.  Which puts them as better than The Who and Megadeth for a live act in the past 9 months.  And tickets are a fraction of the cost, and we didn’t get oppressed by door staff either, which was great.  So go and see them already!

The supporting band The Membranes were also pretty good, I quite liked them (my stepdad recommended them when we saw NOFX actually, we had a flyer for Blackpool Punk Festival and he was telling me all the ones he liked, so The Membranes’ve got the Someone-Who-Was-Actually-Doing-Punk-Before-Sid*-Died Seal Of Approval). *Vicious, not Barrett.  Barrett is not punk.  But then, The Membranes are one of the original punk bands so this gig was like that time we saw Alice Cooper supporting Motley Crue.

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy14.png

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe
This is possibly the best picture I got of the drummer. Maybe if I ever used Photoshop I could splice his face in somehow?

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe Towards the end of the performance, the audience really sort of lost their shit so some of them climbed onstage to try and find their shit again.  Then stagediving and crowdsurfing happened (which is one of my favourite parts of any good concert – whenever I’m at a venue and see a “no crowdsurfing” sign part of me dies inside (despite having no intention of crowdsurfing).

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

Therapy? band 2016 3rd March Leeds The Wardrobe

The two people above the audience have been pushed off the stage by the bouncer, who as you can see turned up after the stage got mobbed by crowd.  The band were thoroughly professional and continued playing.  And that was the end of the show.

It was so nice to see such a well-known band in such an intimate setting, I never expected this event to be this good when I bought tickets.  I also liked how close we got to the band and I left utterly deaf, but happy.  Maybe the deafness will subside with time.  We drove home and despite my lack of hearing, it was apparently in all the wrong places so I still ended up sleeping in earplugs.

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