When I used to go to gigs as a wee lad, there was one person who I would nearly always bump into. His name was Darren Crumpton. As I got older, and some of the friends I used to go to gigs with started to not come along so often, I would still be bumping into Darren. Essentially, Darren was a crusty or a greebo (that is, basically, someone into the Stourbridge scene), but he was into all sorts of music, as was the way at the time, due in part to John Peel, everyone’s favourite music guru, encouraging us to get into everything from happy hardcore to thrash metal. I remember Darren also liking the Pastels, for example. Whether I bumped into Darren at a gig, to some extent would be a measure of how good the gig was likely to be.
A couple of months back, I put up an old photo I’d taken on facebook that I’d found while rummaging amongst some stuff. It was of a group of friends, all with long hair, tie-dyed t-shirts, denims and Doctor Martens. Darren was in the picture, bizarrely holding a 7” of Betty Boo’s “Where Are You Baby” (mine, I think), but probably because we’d just been to see Betty Boo along with one of our favourite bands, Pop Will Eat Itself at a Radio 1 roadshow in Porthcawl.
Now strangely enough, it came to pass that the Poppies should be playing a one-off warm-up gig in Cardiff of all places, on, of all dates, Darren’s 37th birthday. Perfect timing, it would seem, for the man who has seen the band around 10 times, and lists them as one of his favourites, and so of course, I would bump into him once again. And while I am battling with a receding hairline, Darren still has his long brown locks, and looks barely indistinguishable from the Darren of many years ago. He even still kept up the old tradition of nabbing the setlist at the end of the gig.
So the gig, the gig – what was it like? First of all, it was pretty well attended for a very hastily organised event. There had been some grumblings about it not being all the original band members (in fact, just the one, in the form of Graham), but this didn’t worry most people too much, as there were instead members from bands such as Gaye Bykers on Acid, who I never knew much about, but of course, had one of the coolest names in rock.
Any discussion of which songs they would play made you realise just what an extensive back catalogue of quality tunes the band had to choose from. Slightly surprisingly, they elected to go for more songs from their most recent (ie. 1994) album, “Dos Dedos Mis Amigos”, including “RSVP” and “Ich Bin Ein Auslander”, perhaps as they were a bit more rocky, and less reliant on samples. Of the earlier songs, “Wise Up! Sucker” got an airing, but disappointingly for me at least, “Def Con One” and “Can You Dig It?” did not.
One thing PWEI demonstrate is that two MCs work really well in getting a crowd worked up. It wasn’t long into the set before a good number of rows at the front of the crowd were jumping around just like in days of old. Graham jumped into the crowd to dance around with us about 6 times, and I decided I was going to have to lead a stage invasion. With no bouncers, and such a low stage, it was there for the taking. Foolishly though, instead of acting on my first instinct, I decided I’d wait to the end when they played, as I expected they would, either of the above mentioned singles. But as they didn’t play them, I didn’t get on the stage after all! Gutted!
In a way though, this was not my band. I hardly knew any of the words. I have fond memories of a gig at Cardiff Uni when a human pyramid was formed (quite common at Poppies gigs back then), and I was pushed to the top. Undoubtedly, I loved them as a live act, and the way they united such a varied group of fans. But I never had the long hair and biker’s jacket. So I did feel a tiny bit like a spectator at this gig, watching all the more hardcore fans having a fantastic time.
In the encore, they played new song “Oldskool Cool” for a second time. The only band I ever remember seeing before that played a song twice was the La’s when they played “There She Goes” once in the main set, and then once in the encore, but in this case, it wasn’t because they’d run out of songs to play, but because they were filming a video, and the crowd went suitably ape for this (despite lack of stage invasion!). And then that was it really, besides a final pint and a bit more reminisicing. Final thought – old Crusties never die, they just grow a few more layers.