One Night In Venice
The Aints in full flight: Peter Oxley, Paul Larsen and Ed Kuepper, with Alastair Spence obscrured. Mandy Tzaras photo.
You knew something special was up in Adelaide tonight because as you approached The Gov, heading determinedly back to the carpark was a small group of lone pushing-toward-pensioner men, each clutching the same record: “The Aints Live at The Sarah Sands 1991”. There can’t be too many left of this, they only made 300; get yours at the gig; two LPs, $50.
Ever hear of Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman? Good. Now you have.
The first comic came out, it must’ve been 30 years ago. I had a T-shirt, gave it to Bob, who has cherished that damn thing for about 25 years now. I did my heart good to see Bob bouncing around tonight in that tattered t-shirt. “I thought I told you to SHUT UP!” Fleming bellows from the shirt. It perfectly matches the night.
Harry Howard and the NDE
The Gov, Adelaide
November 10, 2017
Live photos by Mandy Tzaras
Down the front were some of Adelaide’s youngest regular punters - Dimitri and Jeremy. Love seeing these guys. They’re full-on into it; both make regular trips interstate to see bands (I assume they must be members of crime families).
Talking to Jeremy about this generation’s music (he’s 30 years younger than me) we both agree: the punk/new wave stuff is oldies stuff now. It doesn’t register with young people, who seem happier eating and drinking at cafes, or seeing what’s big and popular, because it must be good. I could say - as many oldies I know do - that these days young people don’t seek out adventurous things, don’t compare now with then.
But I won’t, because when I was 20 I recall trying to convince those hardcore punk characters in the black leather jackets with the white writing on the back that, if you want decent, tough punk, you should take a listen to what was coming out of the USA. They were adamant that UK punk was the thing. Period.
So, fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke, ‘cos that joke was on them. No, people like to stay in their niches, they like safety, order and regularity. I’m no different, of course: I just have a music and book collection for inspiration. RIP David Munrow.
One of Reid Fleming’s great lines is: “I am not going bald! I cut my hair this way on purpose!” Fitting because tonight at The Gov was “oldies night”. Grown men with greying, thinning hair gaped at each other; "Fuck! When did you go bald?!"
“ME bald! Look in a fuckin’ mirror! And when’s the fuckin’ happy day?”
“Get fucked, you had a big bastard belly 10 years before I did! We even had a baby shower for it, remember?”
And the pleasantries continued amongst manly hugs, animal yelps and cries of “I thought you were dead!” and “Not again!”
Rather reminded me of an RSL in the ”good old days”.
I mean, yeah OK. There were no Good Old Days. We know that. We just colour the past a little to make it more palatable.
And speaking of palatable, it’s time I confessed to having SECRET WISHES.
Now, everyone who loves a band rocks up and … let’s face it. Fans always want more. We look at what they’re doing and think, ‘I know! they should…’ and, if you’re unfortunate enough to encounter the object of your admiration, out will come bubbling this dreadful wish.
Readers, I am no different. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen an apparently endless line of over-excitable doofi approach the Underground Legend of their ardour and blurt out their fantasy, which comes across as some sort of smart-arse dictat…
It never ends well. For example, Harry Howard. I’ve always wondered what would happen if he took the Nuggets/ Pebbles approach to bubble-gum pop - you know the sort of thing, styles like “Yummy Yummy Yummy” (perhaps via The Driving Stupid or The Hogs) - and then shoved the lot through his personal prism. Thankfully, he’ll never know about this acutely embarrassing fantasy of mine. You won’t tell him, will you?
Oh, good, thanks.
I’ll get to my Ed Kuepper Secret Wish a bit later. I’m cringing already. But first, Harry Howard and the NDE are the support and they go on at 8.30, with only a hundred or so folk milling about.
It’s wonderful to see a band I’ve watched for several years capture a crowd who don’t know them. People started arriving in droves and Howard, Preston, Graney and Moore simply grabbed us all. Even the smokers and cynics came in from the beer garden to see what the fuss was about.
Harry Howard. Mandy Tzaras photo.
There were smiles, knowing nods around the room as each song developed. There was dancing, applause, and cheers. Harry’s distortion pedal stuffed up for a couple of songs - making me wish I’d recorded it because the songs sounded just as good - albeit different. The NDE’s set drew on all three of their current LPs - they’re available through Spooky Records, and as dreadful TV host once said, “Do yourself a flavour”… and click here. I love seeing this band, and can’t wait to see them again.
Now, this ain’t the Saints, it’s the Aints. You should know the story; fantastic band forms, rides a wave, gets to UK in ‘77, Poms gobsmacked and hasten to the studio to make music, later namechecking the cool Ramones but conveniently forgetting the rather shabby Saints’ driving firewall of squall, rancorous intelligence and deadpan humour.
The Saints split in ’78 (London is like that, it seems; careless with our bloody bands, the bastards), Chris Bailey using the name to chalk up … yeah. I’ve seen Chris a few times over the years; I like him and his material but - and this, I have been told, is a taste thing - I prefer what Ed does.
When Ed Kuepper emerged with the Laughing Clowns he gleefully baffled punters everywhere (I was a huge fan from the moment I first saw them in 1981) but they eventually split, Ed then going through a decades-long purple patch and squirting out LP after LP (in answer to your question, I don’t have as many as I’d like).
So this is the third incarnation of The Aints - the first released a live set and is the outfit on the above Sarah Sands live set - of Saints stuff; the second released two studio LPs and recorded but never released a third (and apparently did several other records which I don’t have) (dammit).
Tonight sees Ed’s the third version of the band - you guessed that the only mainstay is Ed? Good for you. Yes, the cynics will squawk, this is Ed’s version of a Saints’ set, as opposed to Chris Bailey’s. But fuck that. Chris has been here under The Saints banner often enough; this is the first time Adelaide has seen Ed’s interpretation.
Here’s the first part of the set list:
This Perfect Day/ Prisoner/ Erotic Neurotic/ Story of Love/ Chameleon/ Everything’s Fine/ Swing for the Crime
It was tempting to start this review by asserting that Ed maintained a furious high-octane buzzsaw throughout the entire gig and the place went mental and there was stagediving and pogoing and spitting just like it was 1977, and then explain that that wasn’t what happened. Because, yeah, that is the expectation.
But… this is Ed, and he does things his own way. After the gig, assorted musicians of my acquaintance all said the same thing, that (partly because his voice has changed over the years) Ed had tuned his guitar up high. The musicians were all in something like awe - not because he’d come out and done a fast and pummelling set, but because of the way he’d handled the set, his interpretations of the songs themselves, playing up their meaning, deliberately bringing out things hidden or absent first time round … but only occasionally giving hints of what a huge sound the man is capable of.
Those of you who have the second Aints’ studio LPs know what I mean. I could see tonight’s set list from where I was standing, so I knew they were only going to do Saints material, but I couldn’t help myself from calling out, in a suitable break, for “What’s It Like Out There?”… Ed gave a little smile, and replied, “That’s from The Aints Mark Two. This is The Aints Mark Three… we don’t do our old stuff.” Which raised a chuckle.
Now, omitting five songs, the set continued:
Brisbane/ Nights in Venice/ Messin With the Kid/ Stranded/ Know your Product/ - and encore was River Deep Mountain High
Okay. I omitted five songs because they’re not new, but they’ll be new to most of you. They did one more song, and at this point Ed commented about the nostalgic appeal to a show like this, but pointed out that the last song they did had been dropped from the first LP, so it was new, not nostalgic. Contrary bugger, Ed.
So as the set progressed from this point, we heard four more unreleased songs - incredible when you take a look at the number of songs on The Saints box set “All Times Through Paradise”. The Saints weren’t a band taking a paucity of songs and reissuing vocal takes to pad out a box; that box positively bulged at the seams. Makes you wonder what else is out there, and whether a “deluxe” edition of each LP would be worthwhile. No, that wasn’t my Ed Kuepper Secret Wish. Back to the gig.
Right. So, those five songs were damned interesting - not entirely what you’d expect - but since Ed has clearly rearranged all of the songs tonight to suit, that’s hardly surprising.
(ED: For the record, they were - SOS 75/Demolition Girl Part 2/Church of Simultaneous Ex/Red Aces/Brisbane.)
Herr Kuepper. Mandy Tzaras photo.
“Nights in Venice” was where Ed was able to wig out, and he duly let the cat out of the bag. Personally, I think that Ed’s own big secret is that not only can he do utterly huge feedback rawk, but he does it completely effortlessly. Given that he only rarely pulls this cat out … yes, this relates to my Secret Wish … the crowd were ecstatic and roared like bulls.
In, I think, 1987, at the newly refurbished and now much-missed Tivoli Hotel, that I witnessed the extraordinary Reels by Request tour. Because Mason’s own lyrics were apparently all doom and gloom (and the record company were not best pleased) they decided to do some covers. So they worked up an entire, rather lengthy, set, with their own special quirks.
“This one’s ‘Back in Black’,”, announced Dave Mason, to massive, deafening cheers from the crowd.
“… we’ve added some horns…”, Dave finished, mischievously. All around me grown men doubled over, moaning and groaning. “Noooo! AC/DC! With HORNS!”
Which is when something clicked in my noggin. First, The Saints - their tone was always so important; specifically, Ed’s guitar. And so their last LP; utter stroke of genius to add horns. They make the record so much bigger, broader, special.
Hunters and Collectors may or may not have been influenced by “Prehistoric Sounds”; certainly sounds like it though. And all this shot through my head rather swiftly as The Reels plunged through the rock wall of Accadacca and came up with something rather sublime and special; what if Ed Kuepper decided to approach heavy metal … with horns?
I can hear… cicadas. Damn.
Oh, dear. Have you all gone home already? Oh, well. I’d just love to hear it. One of those things.
The last few songs Ed pulled out that high yowl on his guitar which only he seems able to do (they’re selling the pedals for this at the door) and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Mature, sensible looking ladies lost it and behaved like bonkers 16 year-olds. Mature, drab males jigged up and down and and bumped into each other like a handful of ball-bearings in a pocket.
As far as I’m concerned, these gigs are essential. Hell, Ed doesn’t wheel this stuff out very often, and it’s been a damn long time since The Aints played anyway. If you’re more of an Ed fan than a Saints fan… these gigs will surprise you - after all, not everyone likes noisy rock’n’roll…
The Aints Mark 3.