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The Europeans’ knack for culturally nourishing rebellion

On the road with Attila the Stockbroker

Amsterdam is always a pleasure to visit, and the Paradiso club — once a squatted church — is a legendary presence in the scene. 

Did a gig there, solo poetry and with my band Barnstormer, as part of a vibrant and wide-ranging evening of spoken word and music and then headed to Peine, near Hannover in Germany, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their autonomous centre, the AJZ.

When it comes to independent music, politics and culture generally, much of mainland Europe is a completely different world compared to Britain. 

Autonomously run venues emerged from the squatter movement years ago and are now legal and run independently by local left-wing activists — there are literally hundreds of them, dotted across many different countries, which guarantees performers like myself a network of ready-made places to play, run by like-minded people. 

For someone whose British network consists of fairly mainstream arts centres and rock venues and sympathetic pubs that let people put on gigs in an an upstairs room, it’s always a sheer pleasure to see how things can be organised differently. 

Highlight in Peine was a blistering performance by Canadian punk legend and activist Joey “Shithead” Keighley and his band DOA, whom I was to meet again a few days later at last weekend’s annual Rebellion punk festival in Blackpool.

For many years now, thousands of punks, young and not so young (!) have taken over the Winter Gardens there for a four-day celebration of the music we love. 

As usual, this year’s event was a blast and I had a wonderful gig on the Almost Acoustic Stage on the Friday. As for whom I saw on stage, well, here goes… 

My mate TV “Adverts” Smith and his band the Bored Teenagers were fantastic. So were The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Peter & The Test Tube Babies, John Otway, Ruts DC, The Cravats, Roy Ellis aka Mr Symarip (doing “Skinhead Moonstomp” and reminding us that real skinheads have hated racism since 1969) and The Outcasts and The Defects from Belfast. To name but a few.

But it’s absolutely wrong to think that Rebellion is just about the old guard, and among the new breed I must single out acoustic singer/songwriter Louise Distras, who is the sharp, angry voice of her generation of punk rockers and a real breath of fresh air in the scene. Her set was a masterpiece. 

We have to beware the impostors though. Inside the Winter Gardens there was a real sense of unity, but outside I came across a group of fascists, some with tickets, some not, intent as always in spreading hate and causing trouble.  

I had a verbal altercation — I’m 56 and was on my own, I’m glad it stayed verbal — and soon realised that many of them were from eastern Europe. Cue the ironic rant! 

“Brain dead morons from mainland Europe, coming over here, singing crap English songs, crap English fascists wrote in stupid accents... We’re full up, mate.  

“We’ve got our full quota of racist cretins with IQs smaller than their boot size. Piss off back to where you come from!”

It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.  

Next stop Guernsey, and a rather different festival. Happy holidays to one and all. 

 

www.attilathestockbroker.com

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