Reading Calling – A Night Watching a Clash Tribute Act!

Posted on April 13, 2024

I headed off to watch a Clash tribute band last night. Sub 89 was the venue, meaning a train from Whitchurch to Basingstoke and on to Reading. I met some fellow Clash fans at Whitchurch who were a good bunch.

Saved by the Hobbling Punks

We shared a drink on the train and parted ways as I was off to another pub to meet friends, some I hadn’t seen for decades. I arrived early, so I sat outside and had a drink with some young, musclebound  neo-fascists from the West Midlands who liked talking about money and cars. They were a bit scary if I’m honest and it’s the first time I have heard anyone say they’d like to shoot Jeremy Corbyn in the face. 

I escaped unharmed and it was something of a relief when an eclectic array of Tadley punks hobbled into view. After a few more drinks we crossed the less than attractive inner district ring road on to Sub 89 where the tribute act were already well into their set. They were performing tracks from ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’, the tricky follow up to The Clash’s faultless debut album.

A Patchy Start that Got Better

In my opinion, it is a patchy album and as a consequence, the cover versions were even patchier (if there is such a word). I love ‘Safe European Home’, ‘English Civil War’ and ‘Stay Free’ but the rest I can happily leave well alone. I’d go as far as saying ‘Drug Stabbing Time’ annoys me and ‘Guns on the Roof’ isn’t much better. 

Still there are only 10 tracks on the album, so the gig moved onto to performing some classics and doing it rather well. I moved near to the front where some sixty-somethings were forcing their knees and hips into what appeared to be one last pogo before they met their maker. It was heart-warming and tragic at the same time. I retreated when some silly fucker tried to throw me into a geriatric mosh pit I didn’t want to be in.

Back to the Bar

Back by the bar, I mentioned to Derek that the band appeared to get better as the evening progressed. Derek, replied that I had also had more to drink, so they would sound better as a consequence. I hadn’t thought of that. I was drinking gin as beer means I would have spent the night either having a piss or battling against having one. The problem with Gin is that it feels me with melancholy; if I had heard ‘Stay Free’ later in the evening I might have cried.

The last half an hour or so was spent catching up with people and being matter of fact about morbid ailments as age catches up on us. It was all done with light humour but hearing of people surviving strokes, heart attacks and god knows what else, was quite jarring. It reminded me that it’s 20 years since Clash frontman, Joe Strummer, croaked it, and that was 20 years after the band’s chaotic break-up. 

I am not a huge fan of tribute acts but I’m glad I went and glad Del thought of me when getting the tickets. It was also good to see people I hadn’t seen for so long, picking up on conversations that ended in the fog of stale pints in the Fox & Hounds some 30 years ago.

The Precarious Journey Home

I declined the offer to go back to the pub as I my gin tank was full and I didn’t want to wake up in Yeovil. I meandered back through an alarming amount of homeless people and swerved a minor scuffle outside the Three Guinneas at the station. I got to Basingstoke without alarm but didn’t have enough faith in myself to get on the Whitchurch train without being woken up by ‘Salisbury, this is Salisbury’, coming through the tannoy system. It wouldn’t be the first time.

So, I got a taxi instead. The driver was a northern soul aficionado from Wolverhampton. He was also a big Wolves fan, who kept me awake with tales of outrageous away days that were only plausible because he described them with such detail. It was enough to keep me awake against all odds, so fair play to the bloke.

I got safely through the door, bastardised a lump of cheddar and contemplated a raid on Jennifer’s gin collection . Fortunately, I drifted off to sleep before waking with a jolt and retreating to the spare bedroom to avoid waking Jennifer up and getting hefty punch on the arm.

A good evening.

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