$HAME ACADEMY double header!

Guy Trelford and Sean O’Neill show no shame…

Clotworthy Arts Centre, Antrim – 08/04/2005

Guy Trelford


For those of you who don’t already know, $hame Academy are a kind of Ulster Punk supergroup consisting of Brian Young (Rudi), Greg Cowan (The Outcasts) and Petesy Burns (Stalag 17). The guys were coaxed into forming a band to play at the launch of the Ulster punk bible ‘It Makes You Want To Spit!’ back in Nov 2003, where they received a heroes welcome. They enjoyed themselves so much that they decided to continue and play a number of select gigs, the most recent being in Antrim, (which is where I live) so it’s only fitting that I should put pen to paper (or in this case finger to keyboard) and run off a review of that nights events. So here we go….

After a gap of many years Punk Rock finally returned to my town of residence Antrim, and what a great night it turned out to be!

The Shot By Both Sides Ulster Rock Photography exhibition is on show at Clotworthy and as in Belfast $hame Academy were asked to play a set to help promote / highlight the exhibition. The choice of venue was a bit strange – a small, all-seated theatre within the complex, not the usual type of venue associated with punk gigs and we were a bit unsure of its suitability. The bands approached the gig with some trepidation fearing a rather low turn out, and were expecting the audience to consist of, as Greg said ‘one man with a beard and his dog!’ It was one of those nights where it could have gone one way or another – it was gonna be totally shite or it was gonna be totally awesome. Thankfully, it turned out to be the latter.

It was an early evening kick-off, 7.30pm, but as Roger G (host of numerous punk websites including Rudi, Sabrejets, Outcasts, Defects and others) had flown over from France especially for the gig, I decided to take him over to meet the band at 6.30pm. The venue is only a couple of minutes walk from my house and when we got there, a number of old Antrim punks were already gathering outside (a good sign). We chatted with the band and watched them and Tin Pot Operation soundcheck.

The doors opened at 7.15pm and the venue quickly filled up with 1st and 2nd generation Antrim punks and a healthy contingent of today’s punk kids, complete with mohicans and bondage trousers. First up were a young Belfast band called Tin Pot Operation who I had heard of, but never actually heard before. They played a tight set of original songs, coming across like a hybrid of The Jam and The Levellers, with a token ska tune thrown in for good measure. Politics seemed to be the central theme to their songs, but I didn’t make any notes and can’t remember the titles. They finished off the set with a rousing self-penned punk stomper called ‘Bored With Belfast’ which met with mass approval from the audience, and rightly so. ‘Bored…’ is a killer punk tune and if TPO keep coming up with material on a similar par, then I reckon they have a bright future indeed. Definitely one to watch out for.

A 30-minute interlude ensued to allow the audience time to browse the photos on display in the exhibition hall and to partake of the free beer that was offered as refreshment. It also offered all us old Antrim punks a chance to catch up and reminisce about our shared past.

Suitably refreshed we returned to the theatre at 8.00pm and eagerly awaited the appearance on stage of Ulster Punk heroes $hame Academy. When Brian, Petesy and Greg appeared from behind the curtains they were greeted by some good natured heckling which they took in good spirits before bursting into the first number, the old Rudi favourite ‘Excitement.’ The set that followed was pretty much the same as their last gig at the Empire in December. Midway through the second song ‘Teenage Rebel’, local punk nutter Warlicks (ex-Dirty Noise) was making his way past the stage on his way to the bog when he was overcome with an urge to let it all go and gave us all a fine display of pogoing and idiot dancing. Well, that was the catalyst for the crazy scenes that accompanied the rest of the set. A mad rush of bodies onto the floor stagefront ensued, in a strange mix of 40 year olds and teenagers, slamming and pogoing in complete harmony. Fired up by the dancing, singing crowd the band put in a blistering set of punk rock classics. The sound was perfect, the atmosphere – electric. $A fed off the audience response and delivered their best ever performance to date, no question! It was absolute mayhem stagefront and those of us in the front row seats were living dangerously as bodies kept crashing into us. My 8 year old son Scott was with me and, concerned about his safety I asked if he wanted to move back a couple of rows. ‘Its alright Da, I can look after myself’ was his response! He was mighty chuffed when Brian dedicated ‘I-Spy’ to him (as that is his favourite Rudi song). All the Rudi and Outcasts favourites followed – 14 Steps, Self Conscious, Magnum Force, Pressure’s On, Crimson, 7 Deadly Sins etc plus the usual crowd-pleasing covers – I Wanna Be Your Dog and These Boots Are Made For Walking. Big Time and You’re A Disease really got the place jumping with bodies crashing onto the stage, which resulted in Greg getting a bang on the mouth with his own microphone. The organisers were starting to worry that the place was gonna get trashed and called on the audience to calm down and stop dancing. The band responded with ‘fuck that, this is punk rock, dance away!’ so when the opening bars of ‘Cops Are Coming’ were heard the crowd went fucking mental! Then it was straight into (I Hate The) Cops and the noise was deafening as the chant of SSRUC reverberated around the theatre. The stage was invaded for a mass singalong as both band and audience went into overdrive. Then it was over and the sweat soaked bodies made their way back to their seats to catch a breath, while some just lay where they fell. A couple of minutes later and $A were back for a well deserved encore and treated us to fine renditions of Born To Lose and Sheena Is A Punk Rocker which ended the night in fine style. I’ve enjoyed every $A gig I’ve attended so far, but this beat them all hands down. This was up-front and in yer face punk rock at it’s best. I haven’t witnessed scenes like it since the halcyon days of the Harp Bar and it was without doubt the greatest punk gig ever to have taken place in Antrim!

Afterwards, a crowd of us Antrim punkers, young and old, some bloodied and bruised, made our way to a local bar for some much needed beer and to discuss the sensational gig we’d just attended. My brother reckons this was one of the best gigs he’s ever witnessed! I tend to agree!

Long live Shame Academy! Up the Antrim punks!

Guy Trelford – tMx 19 – 04/05

Sean O’Neill

Shame Academy Live

N. Ireland needed PuNk just as badly as anywhere else in the UK, if not more! Intolerance, brutality and boredom, not a good mix. The kids on my street had heard enough from the monsters of stadium rock, all bombast and overproduction. When punk hit Ulster, it arrived with a bang! The kids were just waiting for their own music, played by their bands and seized upon it quickly. The Sex Pistols embodied the whole new punk package, youthful energy coupled with the cool natural way that they embodied the anger and frustration of a new generation that had no hope and no future, made them the leaders of the pack. This isn’t even taking into account their image, which we all tried desperately hard to emulate in our own way. The Pistols expressed in both their music and in their interviews their disgust at all the overpaid, bloated rock bands and we loved them for it. When people discovered the Pistols, at the same time they also rediscovered the generation gap too! Yes, old farterdom trembled and scorned. Who cared if punks used and reinvented other people’s ideas and that our bands had contradictions and compromised, so what, we didn’t care! When I caught all these great bands via John Peel & Mike Read on my tiny transistor radio, I was permanently damaged!

Punk quickly became all things to everyone involved in the movement; artistic, political, expressive, anti – establishment, iconoclastic, dangerous, individualistic and above all else, fucking good fun and my definition of fun is pretty expansive! OK, some say punk choked on it’s own vomit, and some of our heroes did simply spiral down the grooves of their own vinyl until they vanished through the black hole in the middle, but I believe that punks’ aftershocks are still being felt today. In our little part of the world we had Rudi, The Outcasts, Stiff Little Fingers and countless others. Perhaps our bands didn’t change the world, but they certainly changed our tiny part of it. For the full low-down on the Ulster punk scene, buy our book ‘It Makes You Want To Spit! www.reekus.com

Fast-forward to Friday 8th April 2005, Clotworthy Arts Centre in the heart of the Castle Grounds in my hometown of Antrim. Currently running at the Arts Centre is a photo exhibition that depicts images of Ulster Rock music. It starts with the emergence of the PuNk scene and moves gradually forward to more recent times with acts such as Ash, Therapy? & The Devine Comedy.

Tonight was opening night and Shame Academy were playing live. Connoisseurs of Ulster punk will realise that Shame Academy are a conglomeration of ex Rudi, Outcasts and Stalag 17 members who formed especially to play at our book launch back in November 2003. I approached this gig with a certain amount of trepidation because of the venue, but also with excitement, because of the location. I’ll explain. The venue, an arts centre, all seated, poor advertising, no bar etc. Location; outside the venue, the darkness and expanse that is the Castle Grounds, old ruins, canal ponds, graveyards, a regular haunt of the ghosts of Antrim PuNks past. Most nights out when I was a kid invariably started or ended there with a carryout and the place is synonymous with all the old punks from my era. Antrim isn’t exactly steeped in a rich history of PuNk gigs, though Stiff Little Fingers did play the Steeple Inn on 14th April 1978, a gig the bands’ bassist, Ali McMordie recalls “ All of the early gigs in N. Ireland evoke memories of occasional warnings of paramilitary “consequences” to pub owners, banning pogoing and (ineffectively) demanding cover songs and second sets. The audience varied from early DIY punks to bemused farmers. I seem to remember Antrim and the Steeple Inn less than overjoyed we were kickin’ up a racket in their wee pub”. Because we’ve had so few punk gigs in Antrim over the years, you could literally count them on your stiff little fingers! This makes them all the more special though and the crowd always shows their appreciation as Henry Cluney of SLF recalls of their 1978 visit. “ It was one of the best gigs on The End Of The World Tour. Might have been a day gig, Saturday, but as the young guns say, it rocked”

Inside the Arts centre the opening act Tin Pot Operation were already running through their paces as I take my seat. Definitely a Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party influence on a number of tracks that I caught with a ska feel on others. I really enjoyed their jerky buoyant guitar sound and they clearly owe more than a passing nod to tonight’s headlines too.

Shame Academy were greeted on stage by a barrage of good-natured abuse, my favourite being someone shouting, with more than a hint of sarcasm, “Busted”. This interaction between band and crowd continued for the duration of their set. The band was fast and furious tonight. They charged headlong into their set and played all the old wonders completely refreshed and put them across with the same energy as I remember from my teens. I actually felt sorry for all the old fans that missed this gig, stand up Joe Donnelly! Shame Academy whipped through their set and managed to keep their pistons pumping for the entire time that they were on stage. They scored high on my clap-o-meter anyway, if your old enough to remember such a thing. This was the real deal, not an MTV neutered and mass-produced version of PuNk. The audience contained a plethora of old punkers from the Antrim scene of my day and a considerable amount of teenage punks. There was a good-natured turf war for supremacy of the dance floor between the two generations and judging by the injuries reported to myself the following morning (broken spectacle leg, twisted ankle, bruised ribs etc), I know who ‘won’. It was fun to see the organisers looking on anxiously in the wings with fear in their eyes that something was gonna get damaged. The band was thriving on the atmosphere too. Their set also benefits from the inclusion of more of their own material at the expence of some of the covers. Easily their best outing since their debut at the book launch. Oh! And free red wine and beer in the foyer, between bands helped set a good ambience too!

I genuinely believe that many of the English bands that had record companies throwing money at them hand over fist back in the 70s, didn’t even come within spitting distance of our bands such as Stiff Little Fingers, Rudi & The Outcasts. For me, tonight was just further proof that I am right. Almost 25 years to the day from the Stiffs gig, Antrim proved that it still rocks!!

Sean O’Neill – tMx 19 – 04/05

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