Monday, January 18, 1982

Venus Hunters

I was hardly in school at all. I went and got a hair cut, the barber telling me about his "screw" friend and his tales of mother-raping, dog-abusing perverts.

Later on I went to Claire's with Lee and listened to some tape or other.

In the evening Lee and I had planned on going together to the Mill Theatre, near Easterby Poly, to see a poetry/music/art performance by Grant and his friends. Lee didn’t turn up (said he had the ‘flu), so I set off by myself and hurried half-expectantly up Crossley Street for my appointment with Grant's band Venus Hunters.

Two blokes were on the door (short hair, fur coats, earrings) and I gave ‘em my 50p, blundered upstairs, walked along a corridor between a wall and a big canvas sheet that surrounded the stage and seats and bumped into Grant. He was wearing faded flared jeans, an old jacket and a college scarf: Nik was there too, in his usual get up of tight black trousers, black shirt, his thick spiky hair stuck out on top.

On stage was a tangle of amps, guitars, cables, pedals, etc. A long rectangular sheet was draped behind the stage smeared with what I took to be one of their action paintings. Three more sheets hung vertically to the side. Everything was informal and chaotic. . . .

By this time there were quite a few people there, and once the lights dimmed Grant read some of his poetry. He sounded a bit like  John Cooper Clarke–I suppose all punk poets must sound like this–and as he talked his mouth almost touched the mike, blowing on it, and sometimes stumbling over his words. The poems were all short and only took five minutes and although I couldn’t hear all of them, what I could impressed me. Later on he confessed to being really nervous but I admire him for having the guts to do it.

Venus Hunters were up next; three guitarists, Grant on drums and a couple of different girls or Nik on vocals. Their first few numbers were rhythmic and powerful, Grant scowling sternly, his uncoordinated and intense drumming slightly out of sync with the rest, a bit too hollow and loud – but who am I to say? There were two guitarists, one with his hair cut just over his ears at the side but very long at the back, the other wearing a striped woollen skull cap and dungarees, and they produced strange, Tangerine Dream-style sounds or simple clear, loud notes. Occasionally Nik or Grant drifted to the mike, moaning incoherently, their dirges almost inaudible above the howl  of guitars and the harsh, cutting rat-tat-tat of the drums. The guitarist with the short/long hair used a wah-wah pedal or twiddled a knob to make dub style echo which Grant accompanied with a rhythm tapped out on a beer can. When the song ended the delay echoed and died away. It sounded really good.

Part One was over, and Grant was back for more solo stuff, wearing a white lab’ coat. He read something out over a background rhythm of mechanical scrapes, occasionally accompanying himself on the drums. He was jerky and intense, stalking about in front of us with that peculiar pigeon-walk of his, shrieking intermittently and, at one point, jumping up and throwing himself to the ground with his arms outspread, sssssshing into the microphone.

Then back to the music, Nik gliding and pirouetting around the stage while he continued with the dirge or sang. . . . Finally, he announced that they were just going to play and everyone in the audience "should come and join." Grant, who was sitting next to me, rushed up to the drums and banged out an imperfect beat and free associated at the mike, while Dungarees and Nik degenerated into clumsy rhythms that had no real order or coherence. And all the while, someone was taking photos, illuminating the goings on with eyeblink blue flashes. . . Everything fragmented, broke up, people drifting away. . . .

I went home.

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