Old Skool SW9 Punk
And so Sunny Stockwell has a s*** hot old skool punk rock boozer right on my doorstep – why has it taken me fifteen years to discover the gloriously anarchic debauchery that takes place at The Governor, SW9? All on a Sunday night as well.
The inaugural Acoustic Insurgency evening was a fundraiser for an Afghan girl caught up in a bombing incident last year. A decent cause and all that, but it was the draw of Attila the Stockbroker that led me to miss the Antiques Roadshow on Sunday.
As I braved a bitterly cold, but beautifully full moon lit Sunday evening, I strolled down the Stockwell Road and actually missed my turn off. I ended up at Stockwell Skate Park, and with a quick check on the iPhone, I retreated back away from the Brixton side of the tracks.
I didn’t know The Grosvenor actually existed. Inconspicuous from the outside, inside the old boozer was like stepping back in time twenty years to the rebel raising drinking dens that I use to frequent in the Fair City.
A geezer with an original (and somewhat repugnant) Clash T-shirt propped up the bar. Jamaican ska was on the sound system and a bloke wearing a Brixton Cycles cap gave me the wink as I wandered in.
With the business of booze attended to, I strayed into the back room bar, which was hosting the bands for the evening. A fiver on the door and a no nonsense cross on my palm with a big fat green marker pen. The door policy was basically if you’re paying, yer in.
The scene within reminded me of all that I loved about the long lost glory years of Selectadisc. A pamphlet stall (something that you won’t see at a Killers gig) displayed political call to arms for a variety of causes. There wasn’t any literature from that nice Dave Cameron, and I struggled to see the relevance of the anti-Poll Tax leaflet. Good effort though.
A bloke was playing slide banjo on stage, with the lead singer asking in an East End drawl:
“Why are some people complete and utter c***s?”
I couldn’t have timed my arrival any better.
I later found out that this was the fading embers of the set from Steve White and the Protest Family, an E10 punk / folk four piece with a passion for all things Leyton Orient. The final song somehow managed to paint Brisbane Road as a superior place to watch football over the likes of Stamford Bridge, White Hart Lane and the Boleyn.
I caught my breath, surveyed the Sunday night carnage and hoped that I had entered into an alternative reality. The momentum of the Poll Tax riots back in ’89 had been realised; the Tories had been toppled and BIG government was shown up for the sham that we all know it is. John Major was a mistake that never happened, and grass roots local democracy was now firmly established. Nu Labour was just a weak sperm count in Peter Mandleson’s pin prick of a member that had somehow failed to be ejaculated.
£3.30 for a pint of Guinness at the bar washed away all notions of the Glorious Revolution. No worries – look, here’s a mad as a wet hen ranting Brixton poet, rapping out his Tell It Like It Is observations from Coldharbour Lane, with the accompaniment of s bongo man and a cello.
Jack Blackburn was actually b****y brilliant. Six, seven minute long rants, all word perfect and paced with a timing that betrayed my own previous sense of the slightly warped SW9 timeline. The street observations were spot on, mixing Ancient Greek mythology with tales of drugs and seediness in SW9. That’s something that you won’t be reading about in Lambeth Life.
And then we came to the main draw of the evening. Nope, not the draw for the raffle, but the draw of Attila the Stockbroker, the legendary old skool one man ranting punk rock poet. Back in the day and an Attila gig for me was like a Friday night out at the pub. We must have seen yer man perform in pretty much every back street boozer across the Midlands.
London dates became less frequent, as well as being pushed out further into the suburbs. How glorious then to see Attila take to the stage, LIVE! in Sunny Stockwell, and performing in a boozer that was next door to where his Old Man once lived.
A bit of comedy strumming on the mandola, and then the set soon changed for Attila. Having lost his step-Dad over the New Year, and with family commitments spent caring for his Mum after her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, the political became the personal, as Attila read out some new poetry with a more reflective angle.
The ranting, boozing and profanities came to a close. The old school punks put down there pint glasses as silence descended over The Grosvenor. It was emotional stuff, and Attila did well to complete his set, even competing with a fire alarm at one stage.
Captain Hotknives displayed no such emotion, opening with a song called I Hate Babies. A one man strumming mouthpiece with a surrealist sense of humour, Mr Hotknives was the ideal act to end the evening.
Songs about racist animals and penguin porn followed. The ideas accelerated as the strumming intensified. This is one weird cool cat that has an imagination that suggests he isn’t spending his Sunday evenings watching The Antiques Roadshow for inspiration.
The raffle at the end was a bit of a flop. But then there’s little you can do to radicalise the drawing of pink coloured tickets out of a Tupperware container. Hey hoe – let’s go.
And so I left The Grosvenor with the full moon illuminating Sunny Stockwell and a huge grin across my face as Super Socialist Sunday came to a close. The proud activism around these parts is alive and well. There’s a fighting spirit around Stockwell that although seems hidden away, is still out there, and still kicking against the idiots that make decisions on our behalf.
Acoustic Insurgency takes place on the last Sunday of every month, which by my basic back of a beer mat calculations, leaves us with three more anarchic SW9 nights before real change can be put in place at the ballot box.