On Saturday 25th September I went to see Steve Ignorant (ex singer/songwriter of Crass, Schwarzenegger and The Stratford Mercenaries) at the 02 Academy in Birmingham. This date was one of many on a tour that sees Steve perform (for the very last time) a collection of Crass songs that either he wrote or co-wrote. Nostalgia is a strange beast and where there was to some degree a hidden expectation of this tour re-kindling the atmosphere and zeitgeist of the early days of Crass and anarcho-punk it felt odd watching a combination of both young and old (old enough to have been there the first time round) punks singing and pogoing to perhaps something past it’s sell by date.
Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying as Steve and his band put on a fantastic, visceral and passionate performance that left me in no doubt that he still has it in him. I think what I am trying to say here is that the power, the energy and the edginess of those songs has now been lost in translation through time. When Crass first came onto the music scene, and gave punk a real sense of purpose, their whole approach to music and politics was a rallying call to a whole generation of young people dissatisfied with and discarded by mainstream society overseen by a megalomaniac government that had no time for anyone that disagreed with them.
Crass were a real challenge to society’s accepted practices and with that engendered a lot of media and political attention. My memories of their gigs were ones of both beauty (passionate angry pleading lyrics, libertarian and liberating politics and commitment from a group of performers not interested in playing for profit) and the dark underlying tension (anger and the risk of skinheads and other groups of people storming and trashing not only the gig but the audience and band as well).
The times we are living in today are not that dissimilar to when Crass first started performing (war, high unemployment, disaffected youth) but that sense of coming together to challenge our ‘lot’ has been diluted. Hence the reason that, despite Steve Ignorant’s excellent performance, it seemed to be lacking in power and meaning.
I was hoping to get to speak to Steve after the gig about my research but, obviously not being the best time, didn’t even manage to get backstage to arrange a later date that I could go and speak to him. I did however get a copy of his book ‘The Rest Is Propaganda’ which I look forward to reading soon and I am going to endeavour to speak to him at a later date.
I did however, amongst the loudness of the gig, get chatting to a few old punks that said they would be happy to be interviewed at some point in the future-so all not lost!
Yesterday I also came across an interview Steve gave just before the beginning of this tour to Near FM an Eire community radio station. It gives some insight into some of the myths around Crass but also Steve’s rationale for touring this material. I have edited the musical interludes out but here is the link to the full interview.
Here is the edited version
And here are a few photos i took at the gig on my phone (so not brilliant)