@ The 100 Club, London
Words and pics by Captain Stavros
I’ll never associate the idea of heading down Oxford High Street and having a good time but, like the ubiquitous free-living organism Bacteria, even the polished facade of the (failing) Great British High Street has a few spit-and-sawdust sanctums left in and around it’s crevices. This fine evening after a pit stop at one said establishment, Bradley’s Spanish Bar to wet our beak, we head to another The 100 Club to catch Italia 90’s album release party for their latest cut, Living Human Treasure.
Our introduction to this raw and unapologetically political outfit months back was two-fold and quite by chance. While at the Oslo covering label mate Flossing’s gig, which was an absolute banger by the way, we were introduced to Renton lookalike, Alfie; Italia 90’s frontman. A serendipitous happenstance, as earlier in the day we were enjoying the new single, ‘Leisure Activities’. Soft spoken, in contrast with his on-stage persona, his attention’s split between a World Cup match on the big-screen and receiving my compliments on his work. Carelessly, he invites me to their album release which we slightly, only slightly, accept a tad bit over zealously. This just about brings us up to speed, which is to say descending the stairs of The 100 Club.
We make our entrance to Alfie being chastised for chatting during the support act’s set. Press Release’s drummer, Liv Wynter is having none of it. For a notoriously hard to search band, they’re quite outspoken and, upon reflection, perhaps one to keep an eye on. They’re followed by Scrounge, a post-punk duo that reminds us of an early Blood Red Shoes. With the stage amply warmed up and with a full house an extended cabinet of seven band members (strings/keys/saxs and guest singers) march on stage to a Roman Gladiator ballad blasting through the house speakers. Uh-oh.
Although named Italia 90, perhaps they’d consider rebranding to Bosnia in the 90s because as ‘Cut’, the first track of the set and album, kicks off I’m catching a fuckload of shrapnel in the way of elbows and knees across my frail and withering frame. The crowd has completely kicked off, literally. The tune lurks like a dog pressed against a wall. Its shadow spreads across the crowd as whoops and hollers ripple back to the stage. The album is played in consecutive fashion with ‘Leisure Activities’ continuing to stoke the flames, I may add, with zero consideration for the absolute battering yours truly is receiving.
‘Magdalene’ is next and comes smashing over us much like the fists are descending upon my skull by windmilling maniacs in the pit. A George Costanza lookalike to the right of me, after seeing me smashed and splattered across the stage, assures me he’s “got me” as I brace myself against a PA back into a standing position, but soon he too is also swallowed up by the relentless revellers. Moments later, a redhead in a cocktail dress a full foot taller than me in fingerless leather gloves apologizes for elbowing me in the neck. She smiles with a thin stream of blood reflecting back at me from between her teeth, the early stages of gum disease or yours truly falling in love? Will I live long enough to find out? ‘Competition (Cawm Paw Tishun)’, an oldie but a goodie, is a longer tune which thankfully pacifies the crowd just long enough for me to catch my breath and fashion a tourniquet for my arm out of my backpack’s strap.
After taking a knee for a moment, Italia 90 roars back to full steam with ‘New Factory’, a tune like a car out of control on a motorway weaving between lanes. The crowd’s jubilant response is a single undulating wave smashing against the rocks, or in this case myself once more being dashed across the stage. A boot has now found its way across my face from a sole stage diver, none other than the George Costanza lookalike who’d promised to retain my virtue. Up next, ‘The Mumsent Mambo’ introduces guest singer Sam the Plumber, who spits a few bars. I'd later be introduced to Sam by way of more elbows and shoulders in the pit as he shared the mic next to me with Alfie off stage. Sam’s hot, steamy breath splashed back at me, you wouldn’t have thought it, but it was a genuinely pleasant experience. Smelt of cloves, quite refreshing.
The last few memorable tracks to follow were ‘Golgotha’, one that Alfie acknowledges as a commercial weak moment but one that he and the band are actually quite proud of. I agree, maybe not commercially viable, but great lyrics. Speaking of lyrics, ‘Does He Dream?’, is perhaps my favourite of the set so far; “Intervenes stimulation/ production line titillation./ Mandatory consumption/ responses required”. ‘Tales from Beyond’ was the last song we heard as we exited the pit, there would be one more, ‘Harmony’, followed by two more in the encore. ‘Tales from Beyond’ had great flow and energy, not to mention this song was where Alfie’s talent as a vocalist really blasted through. For us, this is where the set (should’ve) ended.
Speaking to Stoya, The 100’s bar manager, between sets about why so many cups were hanging across nearly all the taps on the bar he confided in us. “I hate advertising something I can’t sell, if you see it, we want to sell it, but we just can’t get the product. We’ve been struggling for weeks”. The product in this case being beer. This reminded us of the precarious position music found itself in not too long ago between 2020-2022. Being able to get music but not at a venue, it just isn’t the same. Italia 90’s show left us weak in the knees, in more ways than one, reminding us not take these experiences for granted and that the pain is temporary (in most cases) so get out there. Italia 90s album is out now and they’ll be swinging by London way again soon, wouldn’t miss either if we were you.