the eighteenth and nineteenth gigs I can remember going to

Click here for a complete list of entries in the series  “the first 23 gigs I can remember going to”.

18. Butthole Surfers, Loop, The Shrubs. University of London Union, 26th February 1988.

This gig was sold out. A few weeks before there had been a mini-riot outside the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden when a bunch of people were refused entry. So clearly the Buttholes had moved on from being the band that two freaks in every town liked to something larger. I had to buy a ticket off a tout, for fuck’s sake! I think that’s the only time I’ve done that – and luckily it wasn’t stupid money or anything.

I’m pretty sure this one was a solo mission. I remember pre-loading with vodka. I’d started keeping a half bottle hidden at the bottom of my wardrobe, which I drank neat – presumably because I was trying to kid myself I was some kind of hard-bitten decadent libertine or something. In my rush to get to the venue and secure a ticket I skipped dinner. Which is obviously about as rock ‘n’ roll as it gets, right?

So I was probably a bit wasted, which I think you’ll all agree is the optimum condition for seeing the Butthole Surfers. And yes, the irony of coming up to London to go to a gig at a University whilst I was stuck retaking my ‘A’ Levels wasn’t lost on me either.

Loop were like the noisier brothers of Spacemen 3. Wal mentioned this to one of the Spacemen at a later gig and they went a bit mental and derided Loop for ripping them off. A point I can kind of relate to, but it’s not like the various influences were particularly obscure or anything. I was well toasted by the time they came on anyway. Lost myself in the wall of psych-droning, eyes closed. Very cathartic and much needed.

I was feeling a bit wobblier by the time the Butthole Surfers took to the stage. I’d probably filled up the time by having a few beers and still not bothering to eat. The blast of strobes and smoke was initially very welcome, but I started to wobble further when the film reels started. A penis reconstruction video shown backwards on a 30 foot high screen is actually a film of a 30 foot high penis being taken to bits, right? It suddenly seemed very hot in there…

I staggered out of the auditorium and collapsed on some steps, blacking out momentarily. I came round to see a girl with her head in her hands next to me. I asked her if she was OK, more out of trying to overcome my own embarrassment than any genuine concern. She was OK, or at least OK enough to get the message across that she didn’t want any more attention from some pissed teenager who had just fallen down next to her.

I can’t remember much after that, I guess I got some water and went back in to catch the rest of it.

The “inky” music papers like the NME and Melody Maker ran gossip columns at the time. I remember cringing when the next editions came out and one of them included something along the lines of “several people were sick and one bloke fainted at the ULU Butthole Surfers gig last week”. I should have kept that cutting – definitely one for the scrapbook. Of course, at the time I felt acutely awkward about it all and didn’t tell a soul.

There was also a review of the gig in the Daily Telegraph which made my dad laugh a lot, so he stuck it up in the kitchen. My Mum made him take it down. An all too rare bit of cross-generational bonding in our house, which proves that stupid band names can create harmony!

19. Spacemen 3. Dingwalls, 28th March 1988.

I made sure I had me tea this time. Kentish Town is about six stops down the line from St Albans so I was there well early and just walked in.

The venue was pretty much deserted, so I sat down and looked unobtrusive. I prepared various scenarios in my head in case my presence was challenged: fanzine writer, friend of the band, meeting someone, not speaking any English, all that stuff. None of that was likely to work, but luckily I didn’t need to test my Jedi skills of persuasion at all. It was a simple case of waiting around – and being in Dingwalls with various people setting up was much better than being at home.

The venue slowly filled and Spacemen 3 were amazing once again. At some point during their set I looked around to see two pissed blokes fighting, which was a bit of a surprise given most of the turnout was floppy-headed indie shoegazer types.

No ticket for this one, obviously. Blagging into gigs, fainting at gigs, not exactly acquitting myself with honour at this point…


  1. Yeah loop are much better if you ask me.

    According to the accountant at my work one of Loop used to work in a sandwich shop in London Bridge after the band split up. They’d have a chat about the Stooges or psych or whatever and then Steve would get a couple quid off his sarnie or a bit of extra cheese. Top bloke apparently.

  2. Oh no, I leave the country and you start to faint at gigs!!
    Loop hitted harder than SP3 for sure, and what followed was much more sonically interesting (Main etc..)
    Funny you mention Loop as I am just this minute approving (or disapproving as is unfortunatlely the case) of a 10″ by Loop/Main member Robert Hampson, that I am about to release.
    You were lucky to see the Buttholes again as they had a curious approach to touring central europe back then, in that they look at their tour dates, and then go to the cities they are booked to play but on the WRONG days. A booking agents nightmare.

  3. yeah I had issues, ho ho. 🙂

    and yes a good point about what followed – ambient isolationism vs stadium psych I guess.

    And yeah – kudos to the Buttholes for not being careerists, but like you say that must have been pretty confusing all round!



Comments are closed.