In honour of this week’s issue on the 100 Gigs You Should Have Been At - order a digital copy here - NME writers have been thinking about the barmiest shows they’ve ever witnessed – featuring blood, balls and Babyshambles, naturally…
Alex Hoban, writer:
I flunked one of my English A-level exams ‘cos I snuck out early to go to London for an 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster gig, where as well as support bands, they had a wrestling ring in the middle of the crowd where fat men tore at each other's titties. There was also a free bar and free hot dogs, and the final support act was a three-piece lesbian sex show.
My abiding memory of that portion is not being aroused or amazed, just really smug that I was leaning into the wrestling ring slapping a girl's arse whilst another girl went down on her and everyone threw hot dogs at them (I'm really sorry to all the feminists out there - I paid penance by reading three years of Judith Butler at university and writing a dissertation on it).
Then a guy in a gimp mask climbed the lighting rig and fell off dramatically. My friend Jack got into the ring and asked out one of the naked girls and a security man dragged him off. During 80s Matchbox I stage dived into a pile of broken glass and got a massive cut up my left arm which I wore like a battle scar at school for the weeks that followed. Also, everyone who went got a free trucker cap - remember when they were popular?
John Doran, writer:
I saw Slayer on the tour where it actually rained blood during ‘Raining Blood’. It was fucking sick. In the good sense of the word.
Laura Snapes, Assistant Reviews Editor:
Monotonix, Penryn Miss Peapod’s Kitchen Café, May 2008. Sunday just gone, hirsute Israeli punks Monotonix played their last ever show, at London’s Cargo. Frontman Ami Shelev said that he was 46 years old, their drummer’s about to have a kid, and that their single guitarist had to get out and sow his wild oats. As anyone who witnessed them will aver, it’s a travesty that they’re calling it quits as theirs was one of the most fucking awesome, unpredictable punk shows you could see these days.
The first time I saw them was in Penryn, Cornwall, playing in a tiny, comely little creek-side café called Miss Peapod’s. We’d heard they were confrontational, so retreated as far as possible from their set-up in the middle of the room. One of my friends was already shit-faced, so decided to go and stand behind the drummer because, in his words, “no-one’s going to fuck with the drums.” Give it five minutes, and he’d be holding a baby’s highchair over the drummer’s head as Ami rode the kick drum over the heads of the audience.
Ami tried to dive into the cake counter, ran up to my other friend and poured water in her beer, and attempted to run off with the till before his mission to lead the crowd outside to jump into the sea was thwarted by a security guard having a heart attack. Then they went back to my friend’s house – he was promoting the gig – asked for a cup of tea, and went to bed just like it was another day at the office. Amazing.
Tom Hawking, writer:
I saw a woman at a SixFtHick show calmly hitch up her shirt and squirt breast milk at the singer. Twice. Their gigs were always renowned for being anarchic, but even they were a bit taken aback by her.
Emily Mackay, Reviews Editor:
Babyshambles, Aberdeen Music Hall, May 2006. It would take a visit to your sister's house in darkest Aberdeenshire to make Babyshambles on a Monday night seem like a diverting prospect. Turned out to be more exciting than I'd expected, but not in the good way. This being about the time that Pete was cancelling right left and centre, when an amp blew, a fire alarm went off and the band left the stage, the kids assumed Doherty was flaking out and went batshit mental.
Pint glasses flying into the balconies, punters getting tackled by security, others outside dancing on the roof of the tourbus... I feared we'd all be going down in Alba. Pete's never had less louche bravado than when addressing a roiling mass of boozed-up Aberdonians with only an acoustic guitar and a plaintive plea of "I've been told to play a song to try and calm you all down.”
Luke Lewis, Editor, NME.COM:
Rammstein, Berlin Velodrome, 2005. Most people have heard about the sex toys, flamethrower-guitars and rubber dinghies that make up a Rammstein live show, but you really have to see them in Germany – where health and safety laws are suicidally lax – to get the full eyebrow-singeing effect. I’ve never seen so much fire in my life. At one point singer Till Lindemann shot a fireball from a crossbow: it flew over the heads of 20,000 Germans, hit the back wall, and came flying back at him. To this day I have no idea how he did it.
Barry Nicolson, writer:
I don't know if this gig qualifies as 'crazy' so much as a spectacularly awful display of the ruinous effects of ten-plus years of crack addiction, but I somehow ended up at the rescheduled Glasgow date of Whitney Houston's infamous UK tour last year. Whitters' face was bloated and sweaty, like a wellington boot slowly losing its shape in front of the fire, her chat was rambling and semi-coherent, and her dancing - after an initial opening-song burst of competence - made her look like she was being cruelly reanimated with short, sharp currents of electricity administered by her tour manager.
Her voice, obviously, was all over the place, and while she handed off a lot of her vocal duties to dancers and backing band members - at one point she even left the stage for ten minutes while her brother Gary took over - she had no way of hiding from ‘I Will Always Love You’, which hung over the set like a guillotine.
She managed precisely one line before having to turn her back to the audience for two minutes, glugging glasses of water while her backing band played on and the crowd had to encourage her with cries of “You can do it, Whitney!!” (This was a £75-a-ticket gig, remember.) Eventually she managed a shortened, near-unrecognizable version of the song, bereft of THAT note, but she was at least still standing.
Incredibly, unlike most other shows on the tour, nobody walked out. Because the gig had already been postponed once, everyone was determined to fool themselves into believing they'd just received £75 worth of entertainment - as I was leaving, I overheard one deluded fan describe it as "almost perfect."
To be fair, having grown up in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, it WAS one of the most spectacular things I'd ever seen; the destruction was both awesome and terrible to behold. But I hadn't paid for my ticket.
Rebecca Schiller, writer:
Of Montreal, Boston Paradise Rock Club, May 2009. It's not unusual to leave a gig covered in other people's sweat and beer. But throw in some fake blood, shaving cream and glitter, and you've got visual proof you've been to an of Montreal show... and a hell of a mess to clean up when you get home. Unfortunately, the live horse Kevin Barnes straddled on stage in NYC didn't make it to Boston, and Barnes wasn't naked, but it was still one crazy show.
Alan Woodhouse, Senior Sub Editor
The Avalanches - London Electric Ballroom, 2001. They'd just released 'Since I Left You', their brilliant debut album. As that had been stitched together by samples, no one was quite sure what to expect. What we certainly hadn't bargained for was a bit of DJIng, then the band coming on and miming 'Welcome To The Jungle' before going on to play a heavy rock show containing next to nothing from the record they were promoting.