On the day of the gig, I found myself goth-spotting in town. “Those guys must be going to The Damned”. Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile. When I first started listening to The Damned, it seemed a remote possibility that I would ever get to see them play.
My heart soared when The Damned arrived on stage. Seeing in particular Captain Sensible in his red beret and a ‘Smash It Up’ t-shirt and Dave Vanian in sunglasses was a reassurance that I was going to see a show with all of the humour, charm and personality that had won me over all those years ago. Part of the reason for this was that Dave Vanian, was the first rock star to don Vampire garb not just for shows but 24hrs a day as a lifestyle choice.
Dave’s whole thing, right from the start, had been that he was a kind of vampire bloke. It wasn’t something he put on just before he went onstage; it was the way he was when he got up in the morning, went to bed, working on the car. He was committed to that look… And that’s why we stuck with him because people would say ‘ah, look at him, he’s funny’; but he really wasn’t. He was probably the most genuine person [in the band] – Rat Scabies.
Vanian has been dressing as a vampire daily for over 40 years, so it did cross my mind as I considered how little he’s aged that perhaps he had been hiding in plain sight as truly immortal.
The music playing as they came onstage was perfectly suited to vibe was were the red velvet curtains behind them; spooky, theatrical, and terribly promising to a goth such as myself. Their first song “Street of Dreams” took command of the crowd, but wasn’t much of mosher. At this point I still had my bag on the ground; it was safe, yet I knew when they began their second, “Love Song”, I’d have to get my elbows out for the chorus. I held my bag under my arm, and when the pit erupted, my excitement was such that I attempted to fling myself backwards, WWE style, into the tangle of moshing punks. Except my aim was way off and I fell right onto my ass, only to be pulled up, instantaneously, by one of the people I would be exchanging bruises with for the rest of the gig. For “Disco Man”, Vanian and Sensible demanded that the disco ball was lit up and this was one of the first moments where the bands’ natural comedy came out as they teased the light technician. I was mere feet away from infamous cheek! Next demand in lighting was to light up keyboardist Monty Oxymoron (wearing printed skull shirt, skull tie and skull trousers) for ‘The History of The World’; one favourite I hadn’t expected on the set list. Eventually Captain Sensible was throwing shade on Malcolm McLaren and Paul Weller.
As fun as The Damned were themselves, this was reflected back by the crowd. I can’t tell you how many great, gas moments I had throughout the gig. From the dude who told me just as “Stranger on The Town” started “I’m from Australia! I’m a stranger on the town!”, to having the pit address me as the Eloise of “Eloise”, to losing my shoe (moshpit Cinders style) twice and having it kindly returned as I bounced on one foot, you certainly couldn’t fault the audience for not getting in the spirit of things. I know for certain that “Neat Neat Neat” was responsible for shoe loss number two. My shoe didn’t stand a chance against that banger. The encore began with their glorious cover of Love’s ‘Alone Again or’, before which Vanian jokingly asked if a member of the audience had a kazoo to stand in for the absent saxophone. And somebody in the front row (who *must* had seen them before this on the tour) did! Vanian and Sensible bossed the security staff to get the man on stage. Even if I attempted to think cynically about it, that made for a pretty daft and magical moment which kazoo man doubtlessly deserved to be at the centre of. My own major fang-girl moment happened when Vanian gave me spooky looks from over his sunglasses and petted my head in a moment which seemed to slow down time.
I got a spooky groove on during ‘Shadow of Love’ but it was during ‘Smash it Up Part 1’ that I believe I invented “the slow mosh” (correct me if I’m wrong) which is pretty self-explanatory. Slow moshing spread like wildfire (or “tamefire”?); punks flung themselves softly in slow motion, languidly. I feel it significantly contributed to the tension in advance ‘Smash it Up Part 2’ which was to follow. I thought of Marc Bolan, who Captain Sensible wrote Smash It Up Part 1 in tribute to, in my fluid glam moshing, but when Part 2 started, it was time to Smash It Up; a killer end to a killer gig.
Follow The Damned on Facebook.