Gigwise: Buff Medways at Dirty Water Club 25 July 03
The Buff Medways are brilliant. Maybe that is a rubbish way to begin a review about them but I had to say it. Surely you are thinking that there is now no reason to read on, as I will most likely spend the next few paragraphs unleashing slobbering platitudes about Mr Billy Childish et al and their inherent greatness. Well, you may be right, but at the same time I will describe to the best detail I can muster their performance at the Dirty Water Club in Tufnell Park, London and hopefully provide an insight into why I think they may be one of the greatest bands around. Please read on.
Billy Childish, singer/guitarist for the Buffs, is a bit of a legend. Not in the 'past their prime' anachronistic way many popular music 'legends' are. No, Mr childish has been producing consistently brilliant records since the late '70's with various music groups, the Milkshakes, thee Mighty Caesars, and thee Headcoats being some obvious examples. His collected discography spans hundreds of LP's and 45's, surely making him one of if not the most prolific musicians in rock n roll history. The common thread linking all of his former outfits is his intuitive ability to write a great tune, and his unflinching do it yourself ethic, shunning the financial rewards of the 'music biz' in favour of personal independence and creativity. His current combo, the Buff Medways, feature Billy and the rhythmic talents of Johnny Barker on bass and Wolf Howard on drums. Combined, they create amazing stripped down rock n roll which proffers a tip of the hat to early Hendrix and the Who.
Appearing in their trademark military tunics flanked by their vintage Vox PA system, the Buff Medways are a visual treat as well as a sonic delight. They kick off the set with a slow, bluesy version of 'No Mercy' from their first LP 'This is This' (Vinyl Japan), which builds and simmers before the band kick the song into high gear. They proceed to follow it up with 40 minutes or so covering their releases so far, playing original songs from the first record and their second LP 'Steady the Buffs' (Transcopic), as well as previewing a number of new tunes from their upcoming LP '1914' (Transcopic). Particular highlights being 'Sally Sensation', 'Just Fifteen', and 'Strood Lights'. They manage a few covers as well, throwing down a blistering version of Hendrix's 'Fire', adding guitar riffs to a-cappella blues standard 'John the Revelator' and covering a part of the Who's earliest rock operas. Indeed, on 'Ivor' they manage to take the 'You Are Forgiven' segment of 'A Quick One' by the Who and outdo the original, placing their own stamp on one of Townsend's greatest numbers, fantastic stuff. The band has an undeniable charisma onstage, and the strength of the tunes and the Buffs delivery make it very difficult to avoid dancing around like a lunatic. Fortunately, the rest of the crowd was with me on that point otherwise I could've looked a bit foolish.
An important aspect of the Buff Medways/Billy Childish experience is the fact that they provide great music within the reach of the masses. They play at the Dirty Water club every few weeks, making it incredibly easy for those in the South East to see them play in a great environment. If you are a fan of good rock n roll, without pretensions, it's highly recommend that you go see them while you can. In an ideal world surely the Buffs would be huge, playing the mega-arenas, but then again that just isn't what they are about. Thank goodness for that.