London Tufnell Park Dome

[B]Billy Childish[/B] is the most garage and most punk rocker alive.

So farewell then, ye (very) olde Headcoats. The dream is finally over. Tonight the Tufnell Park Dome, this crucible of rock'n'roll grime, witnesses the final gig of Billy Childish's horribly brilliant Headcoats. So... what?

Do we applaud? Do we boo? Cry? Cheer? Is it a shame, or about time too? They've been serving drunk customers throughout north London and the Far East grumpily for over 11 years and now, with a collective age of around 120, the trio of Childish, bassist Johnny Johnson and drummer Bruce Brand must be due a rest from playing Link Wray's 'Comanche' forever (not that Childish and Brand's previous group, The Milkshakes, were adverse to knocking it out too).

Then again, when music stopped in 1965 with the release of The Beatles' 'Help', as it did for Billy Childish, only to start briefly again in 1977 with the first Clash album before stopping again around that Christmas, why suddenly bow to the sands of time? Thee Headcoats could remain the undisputed garage punk kings OF THE WORLD until Childish's last breath for the simple reason that Billy Childish is the most garage and most punk rocker alive.

We're not talking about punk as a style, a tattoo, or an excuse to act like an infant. We're talking about punk meaning doing whatever musically or artistically you want even if you don't know how to do it, self-sufficiently, for love not money. No sell-out, ever (except for this gig). It just so happens that Childish likes playing '60s garage rock and R&B, as well as painting and writing. He does it no better or worse than anyone else, but he does it very, very differently.

Anyone can play standards like 'Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut' or 'Brand New Cadillac' but few can invest in them the snarling, charming, towering charisma that Childish does tonight or any other night. It's what elevates him and his musical art above anyone else dabbling in these ancient disciplines. He is what's kept Thee Headcoats vital for so long even though what they're doing is so outdated.

But he's not going to do it any more. So lots of old people came tonight to see some other old people and some guest old people (The Downliner Sect and Thee Headcoatees) play some old songs in an old-fashioned way. And it's sad, funny and as exhilarating as ever. Who knows? Maybe Billy'll start a new group and they'll play these same old songs, or maybe he'll go trance. He can do anything and that reminds you that you can too.

He may well, in fact, have done a closing 20-minute hip-hop jam but NME is unable to report on the night's finale as we spent it spark after an unprovoked and hopefully random headbutting, which is fitting really. All farewells should be sudden.

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