The Star and Garter, Manchester
The Cravats are a legendary Punk band hailing from Redditch – although to my ears they fit more in the Post Punk bracket of bands like Wire, Pere Ubu, Blurt and Magazine. Sham 69 they were not – not least because they had a Sax player and a big dash of Beefheart, Bonzos, psychedelia, garage rock and Jazz influences but infused with the violent energy of Punk. I first picked up on them via Jon Savage’s ‘There is No Such Thing as Society’ Punk compilation, and I’m a sucker for that combination of squealing Sax and loud guitars so I wasn’t about to miss this – not only presenting their first new material in 30 years but also, amazingly, their first ever gig in Manchester. It’s also an unusual gig in that there are no advance tickets, and it’s an early start and due to end around 9pm (well it is Sunday). The Star And Garter is a Manchester institution, a lovely old pub (which used to open at odd hours to quench the thirst of workers at the nearby railway station and parcel depot) with an upstairs room, with the walls painted black and specialises in Punk and metal gigs (and legendary club nights) – it’s currently a blot on the landscape of property developers who are looking to transform the area around it – I don’t get dewy eyed about gig venues but I hope it survives as there’s something delightfully unpretentious about it’s almost completely un-altered. No “craft ales” – but they do sell Seabrook Crisps (the king of crisps) and I don’t recall ever coming here and not having loads of fun.
The Cravats now are the legendary ‘The Shend’ on lead vocals (a man who is not only namechecked in a Half Man Half Biscuit song but is also a jobbing actor with an extensive CV – check his IMDB page – he plays a significant part in the first episode of ‘Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge’) along with original Sax genius Svor Naan. They’re joined by Joe 91 on Bass, Viscount Biscuits on guitar, and the mighty Rampton Garstang on drums. The sound is immaculate, loud enough to have impact and grab everyone’s attention but not deafening, and the first thing you notice is the soaring sound of the Sax – like a million angry bees, or a siren warning of something terrifying over the massive wall of guitars and ferociously robust rhythm section of 91 and Garstang. It’s a joyous thing to behold – and The Shend makes for an imposing and enigmatic frontman. I’m completely hooked from the off. The set is largely drawn from the new album ‘Dustbin of Sound’ – but that’s no problem because it’s staggeringly good and I duly purchase a copy signed by The Shend after the gig. It’s not a Punk nostalgia show, it’s an incredible band firing on all cylinders and it’s fucking brilliant. Shend attaches one of those flashing bike lights to his bowler hat for the last tune and the set ends in a colossal hail of noise and feedback with each member leaving the stage having added their FX pedal madness (Kraftwerk stylee). No encore but everyone seems happy and as I leave I hear someone say “how fookin good was that?”. He’s right. Wow.
Pretty much full come showtime. Your post-punk audience I always find are immaculately dressed so I’m glad I put smart shirt on. There are younger people here too – curiously digging into the further corners of punk culture, so that’s good.
It made me think..
The Cravats should really be better known.