The Dortmunder Bier Keller, Leeds
Part Three: One Down, Two To Go
The mid-March 1984 Wednesday gig saw Beki Bondage’s new outfit, Ligotage, supported by The Curse and, two nights later, my last Assassination Club gig, featuring ranting poet Attila The Stockbroker, left-wing London skins The Anti-Social Workers, and witty singer-songwriter Surfin Dave with his band The Beany T’s. There was a lower turn-out for this gig. Given the outstanding popularity of the Wednesday nights and the all-dayers, I decided to focus on these rather than allow myself to get caught out again trying more risky undertakings. This decision proved a sensible one, as immediately evinced by the high turn-outs for the month’s last two Wednesday gigs: Peter & The Test Tube Babies supported by The Fits and then Chelsea supported by The Enemy and Iconoclast.
The opening April gig featured Hagar The Womb, The A-Heads and Naked. The flyer also lists ‘+ ?special guests?’. I don’t remember who that might have been. If you were at that gig can you help me out?
The following week saw the return of local Leeds favourites Abrasive Wheels. Support act, Magritte The Rat was a puppet, not a band. There will have been at least one support band but, again, I can’t recall them. More help there, please.
Four fast-rising UK bands featured next. They were The Insane from Wigan, External Menace from Coatbridge in Scotland, Reality from East Anglia and Mass Of Black from Bolton.
On Saturday 21 April I put on my second all-dayer, ‘Good grief, Mildred! What’s THAT emerging from behind the dahlias… ? AARGH!!! (Part Two)’, echoed the set-up of its predecessor. There was a day-time session for £1.50, an evening session for £3.50, or just £4.00 to get into both. The daytime session featured The Negativz, Shrapnel, Rebel Christening, Primitive and The Screaming Jellyfish. Protest were billed but couldn’t make it. Unfortunately, evening headliners, The Outcasts, also dropped out at the last minute. The evening gig therefore featured Broken Bones, Omega Tribe, Guana Batz, The Membranes, The Burial and, as a last-minute addition, the Dutch band, Grrr… still an impressive line-up.
April ended well with a Wednesday night gig featuring Fallen Angels, a glam-punk outfit formed and fronted by Knox from The Vibrators. The flyer described the other Fallen Angels as a ‘famous band I’m not allowed to name’. That was for contractual reasons. They were, in fact, members of Hanoi Rocks. The support bands were Screaming Dead and Legion Of Lies.
One of the fastest rising bands on the punk circuit at this time were English Dogs who headlined the first May gig, ably supported by Riot Squad, The Varukers and Avoid. Toy Dolls were originally booked for 9 May, but couldn’t make it. They were replaced by The Exploited, with The Underdogs playing the support slot. For the following week The Angelic Upstarts were supported by Mania and Capricorn.
The following Saturday, May 19, brought my third and last all-dayer which promised to be the biggest and best with two stellar American bands, Black Flag and Husker Du, booked to co-headline… and then things went wrong!
There was a great supporting bill. I’d booked The Cult Maniax, Hagar The Womb, The Newtown Neurotics, Bleed, Rattus, Crucified By Christians, Chronic, Stagnant Era and 13 Horses’ Legs. All of these turned up and performed… but not Husker Du. Of all the bands I booked which failed to turn up, this is probably the one I most regret… perhaps with The Minute Men as a close second, followed by the pre-fame Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
Something went wrong between Black Flag and Husker Du and so only Black Flag turned up on the day. Their frontman, Henry Rollins, was most apologetic and said they’d brought along another band instead. They were Nig-Heist. This ‘joke’ band was fronted by Black Flag’s soundman Steve ‘Mugger’ Corbin backed by whatever musicians were available at the time. In this case, some of Black Flag and their road crew. Nig-Heist had been in existence for about four years and specialised in performing songs with deliberately offensive lyrics. These were mostly deeply sexist and deeply racist, as the band’s name (Nigger Heist) implies. None of this was obvious before they went onstage. And the band was unknown in the UK, this being their UK debut tour.
Having just arrived in the UK and being new to Yorkshire, they were unaware of the British political climate and what was or wasn’t comedy material. Between 1975 and 1980, Bradford’s Peter Sutcliffe, the man known as the Yorkshire Ripper, had murdered thirteen women, mostly in Leeds and Bradford. This terrifying episode in local history was still very alive in West Yorkshire when Nig-Heist came onstage and invited all the women in the audience to come up on stage to be raped. If this was indeed American comedy, then it would be an understatement to say that the humour didn’t translate. The band was booed off and before I could say anything, my friend and fellow political poet, Seething Wells, leapt on stage and gave a short speech in which he ripped the band top shreds.
Meanwhile, I was back-stage explaining to Henry Rollins precisely why this support band was (a) not remotely funny and (b) disgustingly offensive. To his credit, he took it all on board. It was near the end of the gig. With Nig-Heist taken off, Black Flag had to follow. They struggled to impress and worked hard enough to redeem themselves with a section of the audience. Meanwhile, I was refunding money to many of the other audience members who were walking out in disgust. It was a horrible experience.
I paid Rollins the fee for Black Flag’s appearance but refused to pay a penny for Nig-Heist. Once again, to his credit, Rollins agreed that they deserved nothing. Outside the venue, a huger crowd of outraged punks gathered to hospitalise Steve Corbin and his band-mates. Corbin had worn a wig on stage and the rest of the band weren’t easy to recognise. They all got away unscathed but were very lucky to do so. Indeed, Corbin who’d had to hide backstage for more than two hours had been terrified by the experience… and so he should have been. He’d been an ignorant and insensitive bastard. I did several years as a stand-up comic and learned very early in that career that comedy only works when the comedian understands his/her audience and explores/exploits their values. I find it hard to imagine that Henry Rollins’ later career as a political spoken-word performer committed to social and sexual issues wasn’t to some extent influenced by his visit to Leeds.
The following Wednesday I headlined The Adicts, and put on Conflict one week later. And that’s where my flyers run out. There were later gigs at The Bier Keller. The Xpozez and The Instigators were there on Wednesday 6 June, The Fits and Crisis UK three weeks later. Also, Conflict and Icons Of Filth played there on Wednesday 10 October. It’s possible that I’ve lost flyers and did actually organise further gigs including these ones. However, I tend to think that these weren’t my gigs, and that after the end of May I took a summer break before beginning again at another venue. That was Adam & Eve’s where I ran my first gig on Wednesday 17 October, and that’s where this story resumes.
Nick Toczek, October 2018