The Garage, London
3 June 2012
– Patti Smith
As Patti said “Everybody says it’s finished … art’s finished, rock and roll is dead, God is dead. Fuck that!” As Neil Young said, “rock’n’roll will never die”. And as Guitar Wolf says, “BABY BABY BABY!!! ROCK AND ROLL!!!”But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s the Queen’s jubilee, a date more significant to most of us for the Sex Pistols‘ bargain-basement iconoclasm, or Derek Jarman‘s hallucinatory filmic revolution, than for the country’s latest rain-sodden prostration before the anachronism of Monarchy. And when I say “rain-sodden”, I mean it’s pissing it down. Absolutely tons of the stuff. London is fucking drenched. Or, indeed, one could say “England’s Dripping.”
But there’s always been a devotional aspect to rock’n’roll, and for some a schlep in the rain to see Guitar Wolf is every bit as holy as any pilgrimage, or any trip to London by a pussycat to look at the Queen. (LOLcat, LOLcat, ware haz u bin?) And the Wolf have found fitting fellow celebrants in their choice of support acts. First on are Los Pepes, another jet three-piece, all 12-bar fur, like a pub band from the fucking MOON, cranked up to eleven and hopped up on goofballs. Next up are Atomic Suplex, whose front-man wears a pilot’s helmet reading ROCK/ROLL (with lightning flashes and anything) and who screams into the helmet mic like the whole fucking thing’s going down and it’s time to kiss your ass goodbye. Back to back soloing, strutting, thrashing and generally rocking their way through their set, by the time they leave the stage the place is going crazy with anticipation.And then Guitar Wolf come on. And all bets are off. They’re relentless for the first ten minutes, and you’re all like “wow, this is about as intense as a rock’n’roll show can get.” And then they play “Jet Generation,” and the whole place fucking explodes. After that it’s no longer really about songs – they just play rock’n’roll for the set. Riffs flow into riffs flow into breakdowns pile into crescendoes and the whole thing becomes, after a point, indescribable, which is a bit of a bitch if, like me, you’re trying to write about the bloody thing. And you get lost in the noise and the sweat and the flailing limbs and the cascading notes and you remember the sacred truth- that rock’n’roll IS rebellion. Rock’n’roll IS revolution. Rock’n’roll IS redemption
Think of Rickenharp in John Shirley‘s seminal cyberpunk novel Eclipse, playing his music in a firefight against fascists in a devastated Paris. Think of Kenji in Naoki Urasawa‘s 20th Century Boys, uniting the disparate elements of revolution through samizdat copies of his song circulating among Japan’s dispossessed under totalitarian rule. Think of how awesome it would be to be THAT dude up on stage RIGHT FUCKING NOW. Think how awesome it would be to be the dude plucked from the audience to play guitar. Think briefly about whether he was a plant, and then think how much that really doesn’t fucking matter, and it doesn’t really look like it, and then BAM, suddenly Guitar Wolf’s stagediving, and then all the members of the support bands are stagediving, and then everyone’s going crazy apeshit mental, and then it’s all over.
-Words: Deuteronemu 90210 (who dedicates this review to the memory of Billy Bass Wolf (1967-2005))-
-Pictures: Emerson Tan-