The Cribs / Retarded Fish / The Black Belles
JD Roots, Theatre Royal,
16th May 2012
A polite queue of anticipation blocks up the pavement on an unusually busy Wednesday night in
home town of The Cribs.
Almost ten years to the day since their first gig, barely 100 yards away at the
once legendary dive bar McDermott’s, the Jarman brothers have returned to play
a ‘homecoming gig’, their first in the city in over five years.
Despite the corporate sponsorship and the fact that the show is taking place in a sit-down theatre, it is clear from the start that this is a deeply personal affair for the band. Main support Retarded Fish were one of the first bands the young Jarmans saw and if the legions of fans want to trace their lineage to square one, this is it. The band, now older but likely not wiser, hammer out some of their mid-nineties post hardcore indebted punk to rapturous response from an overwhelmingly local crowd. Their smiles at this most bizarre situation (the band split in 1996) are infectious and are only beaten by those of Ryan Jarman, bouncing around side stage with his cameraphone, once again the star-struck teen.
That boyish wonder is all the more evident when The Cribs finally take to the stage. The quick one-two of Chi-Town / I’m a Realist has the crowd attempting to mosh considerately around velvet seats and sees both balconies threaten to collapse under the shifting weight. It’s clear immediately this is not just another show. The vital energy from stage to crowd is returned ten-fold and the barely 400 capacity venue is in thrall to every second, from first single Baby Don’t Sweat to tracks from their most recent record In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull. The shout-outs from the band span their career; Little Japanese Toy who organised their first gig, local practice room owner ‘Clink’, Squirrel Records, Lee Ranaldo and local legends Pylon, their A Million Thousand Giant Steps becoming an ad hoc intro to Men’s Needs.
But this isn’t a nostalgia trip. Sentimental; undoubtedly, but the core feeling is one of celebration. Ryan Jarman’s histrionic guitar displays are pure tongue in cheek, acceptance of his own childhood air guitar dreams made true and of those the band continue to inspire in others. For a band initially so inspired by Nirvana, it is the sense of the absurd as much as the punk rock / DIY attitude that has been key to their survival. It’s this lack of ego and sense of pure fun that avoids the event seeming self congratulatory; we are all part of this celebration.
The hardcore fanbase are treated to some rarities. The Lights Went Out and To Jackson are joyously received, and that their newest album in some ways returns to the sound of those earlier records means that, with choice Johnny Marr co-writes included, the band now has a ‘greatest hits’ set spanning ten years that could go head to head with anyone in the world.
There are still no encores but that’s another ideal well worth sticking to. Instead they hang out with their fans and friends at the pub across the road. The Cribs have come home and with the band truly returning to its roots the future for them looks very bright indeed.
Words: Dean Freeman
Photos: Dan Stringer
*There will be an article by Dan Stringer, drummer with Retarded Fish in the next issue, detailing the experiance of their reformation