The Dortmunder Bier Keller, Leeds
Part Two: Killer Keller Gigs
Back in the mid-seventies I’d been amused by a cartoon which I believe was by Ray Lowry. In it, an elderly couple sitting in deckchairs were sunbathing on the lawn of their suburban back garden. Coming over the fence from the neighbouring garden was a caterpillar roughly fifty times the size of a python. Instead of fleeing in panic, the two were just staring at it and the man was saying ‘Good grief, Mildred. What’s that emerging from behind the dahlias?’
Remembering this, I decided to call my Saturday all-dayers “Good grief, Mildred! What’s THAT emerging from behind the dahlias…? AARGH!” It just seemed like a ridiculously absurd name for a club night.
While I was planning the first of these events, I happened to be in the venue for a meeting with the two guys who ran it. There was a wedding reception taking place there that evening and they’d laid out a huge buffet on white tablecloths on row of trestle tables. Straight away I knew that I wanted this for the all-dayer. I’d have kids coming from all over the country, spending all they could afford on travelling, getting into the event and buying drinks. Most of them would have little or nothing left for food. I asked the guys if they could do a good buffet without spending much – say sandwiches, salads, hotdogs, burgers, veggie burgers, etc.
They’d taken on board my determination to treat my customers with respect and loved the idea. They could easily provide that and would happily do so. I said I wanted them to lay it all out like the wedding buffet, cover it with extra tablecloths, and we’d pretend that it was for a forthcoming wedding.
At that first gig it worked a charm. We set it all up on one side of the room, told everyone not to touch it because it wasn’t for them, and then, part-way into the gig, pulled off the cloths and told everyone to tuck in for free, adding that hotdogs and burgers were also being served from the kitchen.
Everyone’s initial amazement quickly turned to gratitude. That the whole thing worked perfectly was great but, more importantly, we were looking after our paying customers. This was how gigs like these should be run! And this was treating punks, skinheads and other gig-goers precisely as they should be treated. Without their willingness to come along, these gigs wouldn’t even be viable. We depended on them and the least we could do was thank them. Basic food cost the venue very little, but similar food, bought out there in the centre of Leeds, would have cost our customers a fortune. And my winning gambit to those two guys was that feeding the crowd would keep them all in the venue and stop them all from spending their drinks money in nearby pubs. Basically, the free food worked out at costing a few pence per person. If each person they fed bought even half a pint, the profit margin on that one drink was more than the cost of feeding them. The plan made financial sense for both the venue and the customers. And it also meant that I was looking after everyone. How cool is that?
My first all-dayer was set for Saturday 10 March, meanwhile there were the ongoing weekly Wednesday and fortnightly Friday gigs. Five days after the D.O.A. gig, on Wednesday 22 February, I put on Conflict, Icons of Filth and Vex. As always, this line-up drew a big anarcho-punk crowd. One week later, the last leap-year day of February, there was a similar crowd for Vice Squad (with new female singer, Lia – a.k.a. Jools – who’d formerly sung in Bristol band Affairs Of The Heart, Beki Bondage having left to form Ligotage) supported by Uproar and The Fiend.
For my second Friday night Assassination Club gig, on Friday 2 March, I’d booked another winning not-just-punk line-up in which headliners, New Model Army, were supported by Rasta performance-poet Benjamin Zephaniah and sharp stand-up comedian Jim Barclay.
The following Wednesday drew a huge crowd for two great American bands – Crucifix and M.D.C. (Millions of Dead Cops) supported by D & V (Drums and Vocals) a tough little Sheffield duo on Crass Records.
Three days later came my first all-dayer. And good grief, Mildred, people really did come from all over the country. I couldn’t believe how many punks, skins and more turned out. For four quid, with free food, people got to stay all day and see fourteen bands. Alternatively, they could come for the daytime session (from 11.30am until 4.00pm) and see six of those bands for £1.50: Anti-System, Chumbawamba, Famous Imposters, Patrick, Dan and Blood Robots. Those turning up just for the later session (4.30pm till 11.30pm) paid £3.50 to see the other eight bands: Rubella Ballet, Major Accident, Twisted Nerve, Icon A.D., Cult Maniacs, Drongos For Europe, Spectre and The Awakening.
Unbelievably, I’d now got three clubs – one weekly, one fortnightly and one monthly – all at the same venue and all proving successful. What’s more, loads of bands were now really keen to do these gigs.
Nick Toczek, October 2018