Taking a page out of Dr. Sebastian Von Gerkruldhaar’s playbook, I too went to a punk show. Or did I? We don’t really want to get into what ‘punk’ means because it’s a whole lot of stuff from a beer to an adjective and a genre. It’s just a lot of things. Dumping things into manageable categories is reflexively human, but you can’t fit Chubby and the Gang into any one category and they’re anything but manageable. That, in my opinion, is punk AF.
Usually, we’d like to give a bit of a back story on who we’re covering but we feel in this case Loud and Quiet’s article already did a great job of that. We will say this though, we’re confident that, if in the first few bars of any of Chubby’s songs you’re not instantly hooked like we were, you do not have a pulse and should be considered legally dead. Our staff are St John’s Ambulance First Aid Responder certified so we’re pretty confident in making the former statement as medical fact.
Entering the Scala for the first time in nearly two years, about 40 minutes after doors, we take the familiar path to the stage. The scene feels straight out of Scott Pilgrim with a very battle of the bands vibe and an audience made up largely of what seems to be a cross between a skate park and a Weezer gig. To our surprise, the venue is largely empty, even though a strict vaccine passport policy has been put in place. We guess nobody wanted to take any chances just before the holidays, but you know what they say, no risk-no reward. The vibe, nonetheless, is electric. You know, like before one of those storms that flips the sky inside out and full of psychedelic colours? The last time it felt this way in the Scala, Sports Team tore the place a new arsehole, and a giant papier-mache shark as well. A perfectly styled Ethan (@johnny.hellride) Stahl lopes out for soundcheck before their set. Like with their music, within the first few strums, I know. I just know.
As the hair on the back of my neck transitions into plank position, I realize my mind’s been wandering again, big surprise. Around this time of the year, some of us are spending a lot of time in church, although I wouldn’t go so far as calling this crowd ‘Punks for Christ’, I would say we are in a place of worship. The pews, the barricades in front of me. I pull my hands from them and in lieu of aromatic incense burning from a thurible, the acrid smell of corrosion, clearly visible in the dark and through the black paint, rises off them. In place of carols and holy water, we’re all about to be baptised by song and fire. Unceremoniously, Chubby Charles Manning Walker and the Gang spill out from backstage. I don’t think a second goes by from here until the end the of the 14-track set where the band doesn’t relentlessly rain hot fire down upon us all.
I’m going to stop here for a second. Everyone has told me ‘I need to see them’. They are promoters, the internet, unsupervised children seemingly underage by the side of A-roads drinking Stella with their friends, even the band themselves. Chubby and the Gang rule, O.K.? Everyone. I don’t like getting polluted with all that, if I’m being honest, I want to be pure going into the show. I want to be that white sheet with a hole in it keeping the noise out while I peep through; everyone's noise about what I should and shouldn’t do sullies my soul and frankly ruins my good time. I don’t much care for it. That said, heed my words, ‘You Need To See Them!’. The band is less of a flesh and blood organism than a collection of finely tuned mechanisms, more machine than persons, pumping like a piston kicking in your ear drums (kids, wear earplugs tinnitus is a thing). They have been on the road five weeks, going on 500. They are honed and tuned, a shaky needle on a gauge that’s about to explode. They are, by all accounts, a controlled demolition circumnavigating the globe. Go, right now I mean it, go look at their tour dates, seemingly never ending! Halfway through their set Chubby, a man who runs his finger across his throat so many times throughout the gig and is seemingly unafraid to meet his maker, he leaves permanent red line scorched across it. Minutes later, he makes us all far too aware of our own mortality. Straddling the fine line between this life and the beyond, “I’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, we’ve been touring for five weeks, the GP told me I need to slow down, take it easy”.
"People don't really like hearing you admit mistakes. Although I'd never wanted to dump on the musicians that were involved in that."- Joe Strummer.
It’s hard to catch the essence of what a punk show, or punk for that matter, even is. To me, it’s simultaneously a siren’s call and a lighthouse by the jagged cliffs of life. I wish I could’ve heard more of the lyrics because the vocals were either turned way down or drummed out but the music was crisp, fast, energetic and as incredibly appealing as it was harmonious.
"For me the music is a vehicle for my lyrics." - Joe Strummer.
Yea I know, two Strummer quotes in a row, grin and bear it, my dudes. Everyones look and rhythm on stage were on point. The performance was hard hitting, solid and pulsating. The group, a swirling ball of gas born of a culmination of beliefs and ideas, came together through a counterculture narrative, the fair practices as a fundamental truth, labour unions, unjust crimes against humanity and social justice, 'Grenfell'. To me, personally, this is why I was hoping to hear more of those banging vocals. Niggling details like these were quickly washed away by thrilling and sweeping guitar solos when ‘Pressure’ was played or the harmonica whipped out on Uxbridge Road which was the finale in the set. Although, I wish it were ‘Take me Home to London’. Again, just a personal preference.
The band, their struggles, their wins, their bright spotlight on a voice which normally doesn’t have a soapbox of its own to stand on and their seemingly endless metamorphosis throughout their individual careers and as a unit is a living testament to these words.
“You only live once? False. You live everyday. You only die once” – Dwight Schrute.
With that, I leave you with my last live review for the year, and what a note to go out on (Chubby’s not mine). So, from us and ours to you and yours we say, Oi to the world, Oi to one and all.