The Buff Medways - Bethnal Pleasure Unit
The Buff Medways are something to be treasured. In a world where bland pub rock punkers are capable of being hyped as something essential, the Buffs curious blend of punk and blues is a reliable constant in unreliable times. Bethnal Pleasure Unit is something of a contradiction in terms, but tonight it's the perfect venue for Billy Childish and his many friends. It's bursting to the seams with punks, fashion victims and the curious.
Bassist Johnny Barker has departed, and possibly the cover of new album 1914 might give a clue as to what happened to him, but new boy in class, Graham Day, handles the duties with aplomb. New Boy might be a bit of a misnomer, he and Billy played together in The Mighty Ceasers too many years ago and the chemistry is certainly there.
Musically, the Buffs sound like a collision between the blues train and the punk bandwagon. Opening, as usual, with 'Well Well' it's the perfect showcase for a sound that's as muddy as it is unique. The Buff's equipment has seen better days, never using any amplification beyond their vintage Vox PA system but it's that fuzziness that gives them that lovely buzzy guitar and vocal sound. Other bands might spend a small fortune of trying to emulate Billy's guitar sound, but then, more fool them.
The songs are more or less played perfectly tonight. A nice mixture of old and new, nobody can fail to be moved by 'Punk Rock is Nich te' (which needs translating to a puzzled audience member - "It's punk rock is not dead, sir, you're looking confused but it's not a terribly difficult concept") with its two chord simplicity and passion. 'Troubled Times', the top ten single that never was, sounds like an explosion at a Who convention. But the Buffs are less about the songs than they are a combination of Billy's positive fatalism, attitude and a sense of community coming together to experience the spectacle.
Billy has some stories to tell tonight. A ramble about Jools Holland - "That sophisticated fellow who likes a bit of the boogie-woogie" and a hilarious exchange between Billy and a member of the public who took exception to his fine handlebar moustache - I was walking up the street and this bloke shouted at me, "Oi, it's 1990 not 1890". I stopped, and I said to him, "I think you'll find it's 2003". He stopped in his tracks, and said "You cheeky cunt." Maybe it's the way he tells them, but it was funny on the night. And a wild night it was. The Buffs were blessed with pogo dancers, who needed 'telling' after knocking a young lady over, not pleasant and certainly not the usual experience. Anyway, we sang, we danced and had a bloody good time and what more can you ask for? It's terribly difficult to see the Buff's if you live outside of That London given their less than hectic touring schedule but if you get the chance, please do go along. You can't fail to have a good time.