Words by Abi Whistance / Pics by Steven Cook
It’s 15th April and the holy trinity of Stourbridge are steadily attracting the masses on a Sunday night, pulling nineties indie veterans out of their local legions and into the doors of the O2 Academy in Birmingham.
Veterans like my own dad, and it didn’t take much more than an invite for him to pull out his Adidas Gazelles and a wad of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin CD’s for the car journey there – and back.
Of course, there are the younger admirers of the West Midlands indie heavyweights like myself, but Love from Stourbridge is ninety-nine percent over forty with a sprinkling of those barely legal that they’ve hauled along with them. Not to bash the nostalgia train though; tonight is the final lap of their grand tour of the UK, ending where things kicked off thirty years ago.
First of the gang is Pop Will Eat Itself’s very own Graham Crabb with his eclectic DJ set, hopping from The Prodigy to Arctic Monkeys at a pace that requires rapid auditory adjustment. But hey, leave the kid alone. “Let’s fucking have it!” he shouts over a questionable dubstep tune, one hand punching the air to the fast-paced rhythm and the other firmly planted on his headphones. Crabb’s having the time of his life, and although no heads are turning away from the direction of the bar it’s pretty clear that he probably won’t notice.
Thrashing like a six-foot fish out of water, Jonn Penney flings himself onto the stage accompanied by the rest of the cohort as they begin their set – 100% Ned’s Atomic Dustbin style. With no signs of age other than the loss of Penney’s mane (rest in peace, you’ll be sorely missed) Ned’s storm through tunes like ‘Suave and Suffocated’ and ‘Until You Find Out’ leaving barely any time for this crowd to rise for air.
Like a Pogo stick on a shed load of coke (if such a thing were possible) eyes can’t help but to follow Penney as he goes up and down, up and down… and then up and down again. “So, here’s the prediction, you get an affliction” he belts, dangling his lanky torso over the audience and finishing fan favourite ‘Walking Through Syrup’ with a menacing smirk spread across his face. “You’re all very old, to remind you all of that.” He smiles even wider, but despite a middle-aged crowd this clearly isn’t a softly-gently warm up, this is a powerhouse.
There’s not much time to gather yourself when ‘Terminally Groovy’ isn’t far behind, anticipation generating before the line we’ve all been dying to hear since we got here. “So, come on…” is all it takes to set us off, a thumping bassline carrying the crowd right through till the very end.
Six minutes of dancing, shouting and cavorting is all we have left of Ned’s for tonight. An encore consisting of iconic tracks ‘Kill Your Television’ and ‘Selfish’ is deemed necessary to rejuvenate an exhausted crowd, somehow breathing life back into those gasping for air and gagging for another beer and a fag before the final power chord rings out.
Hard to beat? Sure. Impossible to beat? Not according to The Wonder Stuff on a Sunday night. Frontman Miles Hunt is on top form, and the rest of the gang follow suit with the addition of violinist Erica Nockalls as a rather attention-grabbing counterpart. An interesting addition at that, with tunes like ‘Red Berry Joy Town’ and ‘Don’t You Ever’ getting the barnyard treatment thanks to her country-esque style.
It doesn’t take long before beers are flying, shirts are removed and tossed above heads, and Hunt has something to say about it. “Are you the guy who didn’t get the selfie in the pub earlier? Bit pissed off are we?” he jeers at the crowd, but essentially just prodding the bear who’ll more than likely just chuck another beer and a middle finger your way, sorry Miles.
Blasting through the next handful of hits, The Stuffies manage to cram ‘Circlesquare’, ‘The Size of a Cow’ and ‘Cartoon Boyfriend’ into about nine minutes and thirty seconds; an impressive achievement and potentially a new record time for them, well done lads and lass.
Social media paves the way for a much-anticipated poll result regarding the next track. Will it be ‘Radio Ass Kiss’ or ‘It’s Yer Money I’m After Baby’? Trick question, the answer is both. The result of the poll did mean that it should have only been the latter, but this wasn’t what The Stuffies wanted and, after all, they’re clearly the ones in charge here.
After a solid eighteen track set, a conclusion in the form of ‘Unbearable’ seems inevitable for the majority, but the rest are happy following up with ‘Ten Trenches Deep’ to say adieu. It’s been as wild of a night as possible for a Sunday, reminiscent of most of the crowd’s teenage years back in 1988 when Ned’s were still normal and the Eight-Legged Groove Machine was still grooving without the responsibility of a mortgage.
For more on The Wonder Stuff, visit www.thewonderstuff.co.uk
For more on Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, visit www.nedsatomicdustbin.com
For more on Pop Will Eat Itself, visit www.popwilleatitself.net/pwei
For more from the O2 Academy Birmingham, including further event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academybirmingham