Live at The Refectory on Wednesday, 31st October 2007
To my left a group of student girls are dressed as cats. I feel 'elf conscious and try not to stare. Instead I search behind, there's a chap who must be at least seven foot tall. But is he dressed as Garth out of Wayne's World or J Mascis from Dinosaur Jnr? To my right I catch view of a cleaver being waved, and Darth Vader, above on the balcony a posse of toilet roll mummies dance and jig. Halloween eh?
The crowd is made up of a 50-50 mixture of old and young. Judging by their reaction the old came here to see their heroes, the young to hear Girl From Mars, Goldfinger and other Ash greats. The set is made up with wind blown trees and reddened lighting - all very appropriate, as ghoulish cackles and laughter circulates the filled refectory.
The evening's openers The Dodgems are signed to Poptones. While Alan McGee's band radar may have been misfiring recently, this lot show he hasn't lost 'it' completely. Their sound and look is very Razorlight - choppy, fashionable and bluesy. But they have a deeper, dirtier, more Northern gritty sound than Johnny Burrell's southern fashionista scenesters making them both look and sound more credible. Most important of all in front man Phil Goodwin they have a leader with voice and personality, gurning and chiding the crowd to join in on their final number - Come on!
The Dead 60s, are second up. They take to the stage to the blaring of an air-raid siren. "WOOOO wooo WOOOOO woooo", all clothed in black. Their set is tight, punk/ska in the vein of the Clash, or more recently The Sunshine Underground. Lead singer Matt McManamon sneers, pouts and growls into the microphone. Within four songs they launch from the still smouldering ashes of their previous track into their most recognisable, radio friendly single: riot radio. The crowd goes, relatively, mad before the track disintegrates into a premeditated ska-dub jam, where McManamon beats a cow bell and guitar-elf Ben Gordon jams a drum stick across his frets. These guys - crazy eh? The Dead 60s seem to have two speeds - very fast, tight punk, and very slow dub. They may be served in future to develop a third, forth or maybe even fifth gear? The big conclusion of their set, ghost face killer, erm doesn't happen. Quite literally. After five minutes of pansying about "overweight Mexican" Matt declares the keyboard... well 'fucked' was the official diagnosis.
Finally, after many more ghoulish Halloween howls the audience get what they want and a huge cheer goes up as elfin guitarist/singer Tim Wheeler, bassist Mark Hamilton and drummer Rick McMurray arrive. Mark setting a carved pumpkin lantern on his amp. With no further ado Ash rush into their first track of perfect punk pop. The crowd jumps and sings, Mark puts his foot on the monitor and hammers away. As the band launch into the muscle bound Orpheus Tim bawls out "All the summer", then rolls back and lets the crowd follow "I did nothing" grinning all the way. This is followed by 'You Can't Have It All', 'Shining Light' and personal favourite 'A Life Less Ordinary'. Track six, 'Clones', is dedicated to The Dead 60s.
Ash thrash through the set, Tim Wheeler getting more and more sweat caked as he moves from rockstar-with-guitar posse to rockstar-with-guitar posse making the ladies swoon all the way. Ash make good their pre-gig promise to play not just the new album, but also much that went before. The set of 24 songs includes half a dozen tracks from twilight of the innocents, with little from their second album nu-clear sounds, but all the classics. Throughout the set the crowd get hotter, sweatier and bigger for the bigger, faster, more rocky older singles - 'Goldfinger', 'Girl From Mars' and 'Oh Yeah', all getting the cool young things to the front. 'Kung Fu' meanwhile is extended with a noodely jazz guitar solo from Wheeler. Then the climax of the set the still, and graceful twilight of the innocents, then Ash disappear, leaving a crowd baying for more, more, more. Two minutes later Rick reappears to monstrous applause, and the band power through a Halloween themed encore: 'End Of The World', 'Vampire Love', 'Halloween' and 'Burn Baby Burn'. As a final gambit Tim makes the crowd an offer they can't refuse: "If you go to the after show in fancy dress, you can have sex with Rick".
I've got my ticket, where's my werewolf costume?