Tying up the loose ends of a life in hardcore from 1986 until yesterday lunchtime

'Punkier-than-thou' - The Wire, June 2013.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Degraded in Chelsea: my DJing stint at the American Hardcore 1978-90 exhibition

'Yes, but how much can you take'... DJing at the American Hardcore show
“Welcome to the final nail in hardcore’s coffin,” was how I greeted my friends who stopped by to say hello. Sweaty and harassed, hauling a box of old HC 12s and 7s from South Kensington tube to a posh side street, I’d barely had a chance to register my surroundings before being led up to the glass-fronted DJ parapet overlooking the gallery, other than that the place seemed pretty bloody swank. But the looks of bemusement from those that trudged up the stairs to ask me what the fuck I, of all people, was doing here consolidated the uneasy feeling I’d had since I walked in – this had the makings of a weird fucking scene, and a significant distance from the "Hey, let’s get pissed and play some raging old hardcore records" party I’d deluded myself into thinking I’d signed up for.

The first half-hour was fine, because the place was basically empty, and I got the chance lazily switch between Rodney On The ROQ and Let Them Eat Jellybeans comp tracks and then amuse myself by playing songs that, to me at least, commented on the stupidity of trying to reframe hardcore as an antiquated gallery exhibit in the posh part of town: Flipper’s Ha Ha Ha – “Isn´t life a blast/It´s just like living in the past” – or Urban Waste’s Reject – “Cos they’re really the rejects/for liking music from the past.” The gallery staff were awfully nice – and made sure my beverage requirements were attended to with haste. But as the place filled up, I could tell something was wrong - so terribly, terribly wrong. For every familiar (albeit confused-looking) face, two dozen moneyed Made In Chelsea extras swanned in and swooned as Toby Mott, the artist behind this exhibition, greeted them at the door. These were clearly his target demographic – Prada-clad west London fuckwits so far removed from punk’s milieu that the irony of a high-class gallery show dedicated to Crass’s seditious rage (one of Mott’s previous projects) wouldn’t occur to them in a million years. The angrier I got, the more obnoxious my music choices became – Reagan Youth (‘Sieg Heil!’), Angry Samoans with the Hitler speech intro, Vile’s 5 to 10 (‘Rape little girls? Not me!’), and to round off my section of the evening, SS Decontrol’s endurance test How Much Art? I wasn’t expecting a riot (although, in my wildest dreams, I would have loved one), but I was kinda sorta hoping that someone might accost me about the off-colour nature of my selections. But nothing. It was every punk’s nightmare: impotent rage being met with indifference, or worse, smug indulgence.