It started wonderfully, but ended in disaster. Two fire engines, dozens of policemen and women -- and an angry, dissatisfied mob of youths. It was an overwhelmingly bizarre evening, and indeed, seeing Propagandhi in a place like the '02' Academy is itself a bit of a brain pickler -- a bit like, say, seeing a giraffe wondering around the depths of a frozen Antarctic. Infostalls distributing booklets such as 'An introduction to Kropotkin' juxtaposed with corporate advertisements; anarcho punx constrained by a stage barrier; uniformed security guards in 'high-vis' jackets and adorning headsets patrolling with a keen eye for 'rule-breakers' -- it was all as ironic as a squatted Mayfair property.
Sadly, the formal and rigidly corporate nature of the venue was to be the eventual downfall of the show. But not before local scallies Cop Out got the chance to defile the stage with their debaucherous presence. In fact, it's quite amazing the band manage to fulfill their 20-minute time slot given the inebriated state of the drummer. Nevertheless, they prove to be fun whilst completely shambolic, their comedic in-between song banter pulling them through what is an otherwise generic and musically lacklustre performance.
Tour support Random Hand swaggered on, in contrast, like true professionals. Committing punk rock blasphemy in the form of a clearly audible occasional backing track, they sound at times like King Prawn, other times like the Long Beach Dub-Allstars, occasionally morphing into more metallically inflected tones before diving head over heels into a sea of macho rap-rock complete with a trumpet. Ultimately, despite boundless energy, they came off as a musical manifestation of the proverb "too many cooks spoil the soup."
Months of anticipation reached boiling point in the moments prior to Propagandhi's arrival; and when it comes, no one is let down. A surreal introduction/chant of "come, come, come to the sabbat, come to the sabbat, satan's there" was led by cape-wearing, flute-wielding former Black Widow frontman Clive Jones, while security guards, hipsters and people yet to hear Supporting Caste looked on in utter bemusement. Before they had the chance to close their mouths, though, Propagandhi blasted into a blazing rendition of the latest album's title track ("Supporting Caste"), followed by "Tertium Non Datur" and "The Bangers Embrace." Sounding fresh from intensive practise and recent touring, the 'Gandhi were (almost literally) on fire -- coherent, focused, full of energy.
Really getting into their groove by "The Bringer of Greater Things," bassist Todd Kowalski bounced around like a thrashing pixie on the left-hand side of the stage, occasionally victoriously raising his fist and gritting his teeth whilst making eye contact with the audience. "Dear Coach's Corner" got a rapturous reception (Hannah's guitar work on the intro is really a sight to see in a live setting), while drummer Jord Samolesky called out "free Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan" before the band tore into the rousing "Haille Sallasse, Up Your Ass." It was during the latter of this song that things started to go pear-shaped -- smoke leaked from a 'dimmer rack' stage-left and while a beautiful chorus of "Fuck Religion" bounced from the walls, a stage assistant could be seen brandishing a fire extinguisher. Hannah made a quip about the tragic fire involving the band Great White, commenting "plan your escape now" before blasting in to "Back to the Motor League," resulting in the eruption of sheer frenzy. About 40 seconds in, though, Samolesky just stopped drumming. Hannah spun 'round, confused, while it was announced that they had to stop playing due to what was presumed to be a 'fire' of sorts. A cacophony of boos greeted the news that an evacuation was necessary -- due to stringent health and safety regulations -- and the crowd was thus forced outside; instead of screaming along to Propagandhi songs, they now bellowed chants such as "we want in" and "put the fire fucking out."
The police arrived, and behaving like clones of Judge Dredd waded into the crowd -- provoking a torrent of insults and almost inciting a riot by huckling one youngster down the stairs. It started to get messy as testosterone-fueled confrontations bubbled up right, left and centre between crowd and authorities; when we were told the gig had been canceled, an immediate feeling of intense devastation was overpowered by a genuine fear of violence; it was then remembered, however, that this is England -- not France. Instead of smashing police cars and storming the venue, we decamped to a nearby pub to contemplate our woe -- and rather than witnessing the performance of anthems such as "Purina Hall of Fame," were greeted by overweight middle-aged women singing Robbie Williams on a karaoke machine. It was all a bit much, and the wounds were deep (a 660-mile round-trip, the expense of a hotel) and about to get deeper.
Taking a detour past the venue on the way back to the hotel, it was discovered that its doors had been reopened -- as queues of fashionably dressed men and women lined the entrance -- this despite claims by security and police that it was too unsafe for people to enter only an hour earlier. Suspicions were thus confirmed that far from being a result of any genuine public safety issues, the gig's cancellation was actually motivated by the mechanics of monetary gain. Rather than allowing the gig to run over into the timeslot allocated to the after-show club night, someone at the venue decided that the gig be canceled. Easier to put out hundreds of gig-goers who have already spent their money than hundreds of club-goers who have yet to spent theirs, the final brutal irony being that in choosing a corporate venue like the Academy to play, Propagandhi and their fans unwittingly fell victim to corporatism -- bureaucracy, the profit motive and rule-crazy authoritarians. A set that begun surreally -- with a satanic chant led by a flute wielding man in a cape -- thus ended similarly, the band departing in the same puff of smoke they had metaphorically arrived in.
- Come to the Sabbat (chant led by Clive Jones)
- Supporting Caste (complete with extended intro)
- Tertium Non Datur
- A Speculative Fiction
- …And We Thought Nation States Were a Bad Idea
- Bringer of Greater Things
- Dear Coach's Corner
- Less Talk, More Rock
- Rio De San Atlanta, Manitoba
- Haile Sallasse, Up Your Ass
- ¼ of Back to the Motor League