What, you say? The April Scribal Gathering featuring a UK National Slam Poetry Champion followed by Scribal Gathering hosting The mighty Antipoet‘s album launch the very next night? Yes, how spiffing indeedie!
“A great night of entertainment and nobody died …” was how support act Robin das Boot-Illischuss (familiar rock tunes with amended lyrics – the eye of the tiger transmuted into a camel’s hoof) described the evening on his FaceBook page, continuing: “a pleasant surprise considering the audience demographic.” Ouch.
You’d have to say that compared with the exuberant launch of The Bards of Bugger All last year, this was a more sedate (probably soberer – I was), less raucous affair, but come on, we’re still talking about The Antipoet here.
The evening kicked off with ebullient compère Chris Norton Walker; you could extend the meaning of that adjective by way of how it sounds to include his physique, which was, after all, the source of a chunk of his material. He too was a bit puzzled by the Stony audience. I’d tell you his best joke – about a particular nickname – but that would be a bit of a spoiler alert, would it not?
First surprise was the inclusion of some filmed sketches – to give the lads a bit of a breather between numbers, they said (what was that about the demographic?) – in The Antipoet‘s presentation of We play for food . For the evening they were joined on drums by the CD’s producer Marc Gordon. The sketches are also on the CD, listed in red on the back cover, providing (ahem) comedic context and depth to the social, professional and philosophical dilemmas explored in the new material. Which is characterised by energetic bouts of introspection, self-doubt and explication. Sort of.
OK, for those unfortunate souls unaware of the phenomenon that is The Antipoet, in their own words … Paul Eccentric and Ian Newman are “artists of a sensitive disposition“. The pair of them (geddit?):
- Antipoetry is “a poetic movement that merely assumes the formal rules and intentions of mainstream poetry. We’re beat poets; I [Ian] slap the bass and he [Paul] does the talking.” (to quote from Gizza gig?)
- “We are a peripatetic beaty poeting pair with a musical comedy flair /Patent pending genre bending / in offending bondage wear” (Patent pending)
- advice is given more than once: “You need to make your mind up / what it is you’re trying to be / cos you’re not quite poets, musicians or stand up comedy.” (Patent pending)
- Leading to the query whether: “It is never too late to rethink a mis-chosen career.” Nah, it’s too late to stop now (as they used to say in the ’60s). And they are poets; poetry needs them.
- Misunderstandings can occur: “I’m not sure what they were expecting / but it probably wasn’t this /two middle-aged blokes in fancy dress / I think we might have been mis-booked again.” (An awkward moment)
The title track Of We play for food may be a cry of pain, but it’s an infectiously good one: “There’s not a lot of money in performance poetry / That’s why we poets are the paupers of the art world hegemony / But on the plus side we don’t earn enough to pay VAT.” There are limits though: “Don’t try and palm us of with crisps and hummus dips / cos that’s just rude / that’s not food / that’s just fuckin’ rude.” On the other hand, poetry slams (“competitive arts“) are unflatteringly examined in Slammin‘. In the nursery delightfully murders The wheels on the bus: “The poet at the front goes whinge, whinge, whinge …”
The hard driving Pointy dancing is the track that will almost certainly take its place in the ‘greatest hits’ repertoire. “Finger jabbing prancing” – a worrying phenomena at wedding receptions and other celebrations – is nostalgically explored and deplored: “When did jogging round a handbag / get aggressive and alarming?” Various scenarios are visited: “The vicar’s in the corner / she’s [nice touch] pigging out on cake”, which contagion leads to the situation where “now she’s gesticulating from the pew with pious unreserve” (it scans better when they say it). Of course, when set against such rhythmic backing, rants like these can become infectious and dangerously counter-productive; indeed, when a friend of the artistes donned the gimp mask usually worn by Paul later in the evening for the rendition of Gimp night down at the fighting cocks, this was precisely the nature of dance adopted.
Other delights on the CD include a couple of classic Music Hall numbers (see – in another age they would not have had such a definition problem) in Mrs Worthington and the fiercely egalitarian Flesh’n blood; in Miss Adventure they exquisitely describe the selfie phenomenon as being “to validate [one’s] place in this online peer review forum of the human race“, while pointing out that more people die of selfie accidents than shark attacks.
The evening’s entertainment was rounded off with a quick sprint through some of the combo’s crowd favourites. Oh to be a virgin where exposure to The Antipoet is concerned, though it has to be said the ritual audience chanting of Tights not stockings does rather lose the number’s edge without the explanation of it being the strangulated thoughts of a middle-aged lecher who is trying to be good. Those introductory rubrics are worth being there.
There’s another track – You should’ve been there! – on We play for food that regrets a current performance compared to a previous word-perfect on the beat one. Nah, I’m not having it. Part of the charm is the anarchic energy and commitment they bring to every gig I’ve seen (which is quite a few). They are endlessly inventive moralists, a combo full of rhythm, joy and wit, delivering good-natured and/or righteous scorn and loads of big fun. In a rational world they’d have their own telly programme. For more info: http://www.theantipoet.co.uk/ or http://pauleccentric.co.uk/the-antipoet/
Bonus paragraph: there are bonus tracks on the CD – three live performances of older stuff including the rather atypical but wondrous 1420 MHz, about one man’s search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (from which the title of this review is taken), and … The scariest day of the year (unreleasable Christmas single) which is worth the price of entry on its own.
Now, here’s a thing. Both the featured artists at the April Scribal Gathering made reference to JCBs in their respective sets, Sam Deed in his buoyant take on Nizlopi’s The JCB song, and Pete the Temp in a context I can’t recall.
A fine performer, Pete kicked off his set with his compelling and inspirational Keep it lit, a sort of punk and more specific take on Bob Dylan’s Chimes of freedom’s “For every hung-up person / in the whole wide universe” and further inspired and entertained with a lengthy Remember that you’re going to die. In between fun was taken.
Sam is not just remarkable for his youth (16) but is an accomplished singer and guitarist by any token, acknowledging the influence of people I’ve never heard of. Another good, varied and well-attended evening, enhanced by the rare sighting and performing at Scribal of the good ship Naomi Rose.