One thing I never expected to hear at a punk gig: a shout-out for ex-footballer Gary Lineker, and more so one well received. Such is the embarrassment of messes the BBC has made in dealing with Lineker’s Tweet of disgust for insidious government policy and terminology, the player I once jeered from the terraces when watching play against Chelsea—I still remember one glorious miss vividly—has become a hero of our times.
Coming from openers Volatile Idea (missing from flyer below), it was not only warning to the fascist elite that their days are numbered—for they definitely are when ex-footballers used to a lavish lifestyle (ish; there wasn’t the same money in football back in the 80s/90s) see eye-to-eye with those that same elite would consider society’s most ‘radical’—but also the first memorable moment from a night full of them.
Going to this gig was completely random. I’d never heard of a band on the bill, the flyer somehow finding its way into my timeline. Having fallen out of synch with live music after lockdown, I really fancied hitting a grassroots gig in a proper punk setting (i.e. a traditional British pub; a rare find these days). If anything, not knowing a single band made it all the more appealing.
In fact, I don’t know a thing about RuPaul apart from their having a TV show. Whether they do music on it their own or otherwise, I have no idea.
I thought I’d been to the coincidently named Chelsea Inn before, and it’s very possible that on a previous visit to Bristol have been taken there in a bit of a haze. But it definitely wasn’t the pub I was thinking of, there being a couple of punk-related gems in that neck of the woods of Bristol.
In a time where pubs are folding left and right, the Chelsea Inn is as traditional and punk as it gets. Fixtures and fittings look pretty much original, while the décor is a vibrant tapestry of graffiti, political statements, pages from comics, flyers and band stickers.
It’s not the biggest pub by any stretch; actually it’s quite small – something compensated for by the bigger and in most part covered beer garden.
With a distance of no more than 5/6 people deep between bar and band—and the stage being a spatial concept in front of the fire place instead of physical thing—when people at the front start to dance, the whole place moves with them.
And when I say dance, I mean mosh; and when I say mosh, I mean without doubt the best natured pit ever encountered. Did Snatch Game call for a Wall of Death? It looked like it the way the crowd parted, but the way it came back together again had far more embrace about it than angst.
There was beer split, and I don’t think anyone left without some of it being on them; in one moment reminiscent of 80s club exuberance, the bar appeared as a luxurious champagne waterfall when two full pints of cider went over in unison.
Things got a bit messy, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. All part of the buzz, and what a buzz. Not just a traditional British pub vibe, but that next level I could talk to anyone here like I’ve known them all my life rarely if ever found and something the punk/metal scene must take credit for, given the only places a likewise vibe has been experienced before are legendary East London metal/punk pub the Ruskin Arms and the Coalition, a grassroots punk/avant-garde/metal hangout in Toronto.
Both of which are now long closed thanks to gentrification/property development, so making a place like the Chelsea Inn—cos there’s no way an atmosphere like that is a one off—all the more special.
Icing on the cake: great choice of quality ales, ciders and stouts; my personal choice for the night being ARBOR’s SHANGRI-LA, a beautifully bodied IPA dripping in citrus and on a par with anything likewise offered in the ‘Shangri-La’ of craft beers, North America.
If beer’s your thing, the pub’s well worth a visit for that alone; just some might prefer to visit when things aren’t so busy . . .
I wish I could say more about them all individually, but in not knowing a thing about any of them beforehand and given the atmosphere of the night, I have no concept of songs played whatsoever, except to say I didn’t stop grinning and each set absolutely flew by, the whole place bouncing along every beat of the way.
Each band was fully on it, oozing energy and spirit in leaps and bounds. I’d hands down go see all again and hopefully will.
Though that does lead to the one downside, and I’m almost loath to mention it as it has nothing to do with the pub, bands, or anyone at the gig at all; getting to and from.
Getting there from Weston was easy. The Chelsea Inn is a five minute walk at most from Stapleton Road train station, and trains ran every hour in the afternoon and early evening. But coming back the latest train was something like 9.17 pm, while the bus station is in the middle of Bristol and the last bus 11.40.
Given the trains run a lot later in the week it’s not like they can’t . . .
Lucky for me, I knew someone in Bristol also going who could put me up, otherwise it would’ve been a no go. The only downside being they live on the other side of the city, something that meant walking into the centre to get a bus further south.
Groups on Twitter such as the National Federation of the Blind UK frequently post images showing electric scooters left laying around in the most obstructive ways, so much so that I will put my hands up and say sometimes it looks like placement for the photo; but I know for sure now that no such need would arise given the abandon with which I found so many left, more than once stopping to lift one out of the middle of the pavement.
And then there was the most obnoxious bus driver ever encountered, but that’s another story . . . Point being; on one hand, the quicker things start to change and good public transport and safe streets for the blind, etc, get sorted the better–though I much favour Ian Wright to lead the revolution, for I believe him to be genuinely good, whereas Gary Lineker more of a weight in the universe to balance out the antics of his brother Wayne–while on the other, none of it could take the grin of my face such was the awesome night had.
I even thanked a pavement scooter rider for getting out the way.
The Full On-the-Night Line-up:
- Snatch Game The UK’s only Punk Rock RuPaul cover band
- People Eater Bristol based grindcore, first gig with a new line up
- Scvmfvzz Brand new punky duo of bass and drums from Plymouth
- Hot Flab Bristol GRRRL PUNKS
- Volatile Idea Bristol D-beat HC punx
Thanks for reading 🙂
N. P. Ryan
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