I was recently asked what my worst gig was.
Having organised, managed, reviewed and photographed hundreds of gigs narrowing down the very worst of those is a tough call. There are at least two, three if I include one show I organised that managed to attract seven punters.
The second most awful was a Neil Hannon gig that was somewhere between pathetic, pitiful and painful. Because, what I would do is come on stage to play an album I hadn’t released yet from start to finish and not utter a single word to the audience.
The encore was a hastily arranged solo affair where he played some of the hits, badly. It was as though he hadn’t rehearsed them and panicked at the crowds reaction.
Most of us left mid way through as the pain had become too much to bear.
If I had to pick just one disaster of a gig it would be the Cucumber Punk Incident of 1992. Picture the scene. The setting is a hall attached to a beautiful 200 year old church in a rural town in Ireland.
Now, at some point someone in the church decided that there was a need to get young people more involved in the community. After having swung the doors open to all manner of events I hear on the grapevine that a Punk night has been organised. Punk nights in Church halls?.
Being a wayward 16 year old with very little to do but wander around the local shopping precinct in the hope of entertainment, the idea of a punk gig anywhere was very intriguing. A few of us got together, pooled our modest resources and bought the cheapest booze with the highest alcohol content we could lay our collective hands on and set off. Most of the evening passes by in a blur but there are two very clear memories that will remain with me for a very, very long time.
This being a church hall in rural Ireland the expected thing to do if someone is calling is to lay on a bit of a buffet. On arrival we were greeted with four trestle tables bursting at the seams with cocktail sausages, sausage rolls, salad sandwiches, gallons of tea and buckets of orange squash. These were roundly ignored. We had Strongbow to drink, what did we need with sandwiches and cheap orange juice.
Now, given that I had never really drank before the booze did exactly what it was supposed to do fairly rapidly. I remember one or two bands, I don’t remember any names, I remember lots of feedback, not much in the way of in tune sound, lots of leather, some motorbikes in the car park and the crucifix hanging over the ‘stage’.
By the time the blurry vision and wobbly legs set in I called it quits. That’s when I decided to follow the often repeated advice from my Father to never to walk home. Never.
This was the early 90’s. We lived in a town that was a little troubled by the troubles. The ‘never walk home’ warning was very serious, as walking home involved walking through areas where you may not be entirely welcome, certainly not dressed the way I would have been at any rate.
Over the years quite a few friends had been beaten up for being from the wrong side of town. I had no desire then, or now, to swell their numbers.
This is where the two memories clash violently. As I stood there calling home, weaving sentences through the fog the most remarkable food fight erupted in the foyer. As my father answered the phone with his usual post 10pm greeting of ‘Hello Flacks Taxis’ I distinctly remember a cucumber sandwich smashing into the door beside me and slowly creeping down the glass.
It was around that point I had decided I had made a terrible decision.
The sight of your 16 year old son climbing into the passenger seat, drunk, smelling of cheap booze and hand rolled fags and covered in the buffet was enough to send my father into a bit of a rage. My Mothers response the following morning was much worse.
That my older brother was able to recreate my mothers reaction the day after, word for word, movement, tone, everything, said all I needed to hear. He’s made the same mistake too. Once.
It was a while before I got to any more gigs, punk gigs in church halls or otherwise.