El Coyote / Ben Reynolds @ The Talbot Hotel, Stoke
(6th February 2004)

It was a strange atmosphere in the run up to the big play off… climate more suited to a polar bear and penguin ice extravaganza, or an evening in staring at grandfathers tattoos in the warm orange glow of the two bar electric, than the climactic setting for a rock n roll match… snow and ice and snow brings the city to it's knees in a clenched teeth gridlock. An atmosphere where only a few eyebrows were raised when a gang of youths set upon a gritter wagon driver…. Ultraviolence in the pemafrost

The match had been cemented by a handshake some months earlier, the result of a thought given wings, inspired by pop, crisps and a set of bruised Bakelite beauties from The Fabulous Nobody…

"Hey Jim.. how's about we arrange a night…. two of yer best from Cambridge… and I'll pick two from Stoke."

I'd first heard The Fabulous Nobody on a mercurial 7" given freely with Jimmy P.'s zine.. Robots + Electronic Brains {Pop fact: A zine voted the Nation's second best zine in Feb. 2004.}

A show to be co-coaxed into life by the musicrooom and the aforementioned Robots + Electronic Brains, the fanzine, an inspiration, an ear opener, an introduction for me to many a new band and label.. written, it seemed by an ordinary bloke, perhaps old enough to know better, who still got the kick from a good song, enthralled by music and sound, not interested in the mainstream, run of the mill things, eclectic in taste, a bloke probably no longer given to jumping around in public, but who feels a profound inner reaction to good sounds, who might still occasionally cut a shape, or bust a break in the privacy of his own home… much like myself…though I wouldn't suggest that my impression of thee writing style is necessarily reflected in any way in the actual Jim P. But I can say that he undoubtedly likes a challenge…

Two of his best bands from his locale; Cambridge…
Two of my best…. From S-o-T.

Hey… I felt like a football team captain.

The players of Stoke jostling in the imaginary line up…who shall I pick….
I knew that for the opposition at hand I'd need to be on the ball, I needed the element of surprise…. chose
BEN REN & EL COYOTE mmmmmmm…..

The first time I got to see El Coyote was at a NoGround night, Dan had eulogised floridly in e-circulars and on flyers, warning of the wonder of El Coyote… "the sound of the decaying industrial heart of the Potteries…" or some such…. Name checking Joy Division and Gang of Four, a heck of a lot to live up to….. they did….. It was claustrophobia at the front, the chug chugging rythms, angular scythes of guitar, Ian on drums clattering and clunking the most hypnotic beats, whilst voxing cautionary tales from life, the dislocation. A funk… Magic.

I'd had a few minor spats with young Brown regarding my use of the term 'dub' in my analysis of the El Coyote sound. He resolved to deface my meticulously constructed posters, spoiling works of perfect A-R-T, obliterating 'dub', inserting the word 'disco', the brigand… Brown and I repaired to the rear of The Talbot to duel. There ensued a gory battle of blood, guts, glass, restraining women the lot… resultant multiple injuries: my dislocated ear, chin graze and split shin, balanced out by the damage incurred by my awesomely accurate, {if I do say so myself} vinyl death star assault. Brown is apparently still picking bits of Lee Scratch Perry platters from his teeth and arse. Diplomatic relations slow to thaw. A go-between employed to negotiate an armistice, on the table, a cup of coffee as bargaining chip, a 'free read' of me Sentinel sealed it… El Coyote would play..

That settled, thoughts turned to running order… Concerns regarding formation were quickly quelled… "Put us on early… before we get too drunk…" game on… El Coyote would form my frontline, my attack….

In defence I opted for the ubiquitous, though recently re-located Squire Reynolds, a chap of skill and power in all departments musical. One half of the twin guitar ghosts known as Girls. A member of the Andrew Robbins experience, now a fledgling solo talent, but perhaps most widely recognised for his bouts of deep electric chaos, as bass helmsman with the mighty THE WOW…. In WOW guise Ben Reynolds' bass swinging and body locking has given rise to health and safety concerns at venues across the land, the front row of audiences advised to wear protective headgear… He'd moved to Yorkshire, but still qualified to represent Stoke with his gymnastical acoustic guitar Faheyness by dint of birth and accent… "What news from York?" Ben will play… good goood… the gameplan was taking shape….

I knew that for such stiff opposition I would have to employ an element of gamesmanship to effect victory

I called upon my memories, musty recollections of the high school nogger team tactics…. Huddled in the van, never knew for certain who you would be playing…. Sir would announce the team and destination during the journey…. The uncertainty of it all, the butterfly stomached trepidation undermined the pre match prep.

I decided to employ a similar tactic with Robots, their team choice announced well in advance, I kept location details and musicrooom team choice close to my chest… until the very last minute…. Too late for abandonment, too late for varuka excuses…..
no going back…

Back in the day, collective groans would rumble around the van as Sir announced certain dreaded destinations, certain unworthy opponents.…. a juvenile 'total football' soccer machine, a tight unit of 13 year olds in a polyester + nylon Carlisle away kit mumbling oaths and profanities in response to the declaration..

"This week we're away at Burnwood in the Sentinel Cup…"
oh no….
"Speak up lad, if you've got something to say… Let's all hear it… no….. o.k… you're starting in goals …"

The fear starts….

Fear turns to panic. The imminent welcoming party, what awaits? girding our tenderloins in anticipation… What would we have to endure ? Burnwood, no, not Burnwood…. they took the concept of 'welcome' to extremes… Burnwoood High had a ritual known fondly, as the 'Rocking of the Van', well…. Known fondly by them : a gaggle of schoolkids would rush the stationary minibus and rock it violently… Their team would be having a kickabout on the pitch… a warm up… all calm like… we'd have to run the gauntlet, boots part laced…. When the ref blew for kick off, we were seasick and shitting it, unprepared…
unprepared for a drubbing and a back hander from our PE teacher…

I needed to recreate THAT VIBE…. The FEAR…. Imagined Bouvier and The Furious Sleep cramped in the van, mid M6, dark, cold, Friday night…. A tracksuited Jimmy Possession twists in his seat, leans into the back……

"This week it's Stoke… musicrooom, away…." Cue collective groans and swearage from band members…

Meanwhile back at the Talbot… gloves on… the musicrooom team were preparing the 'welcome'…..

"ok… lights down… turn that fire off…. It's freezing, it's pissing down…. Good…. Remove bog rolls from loo… put some Robbie on that jukebox… right…. Bar shut ? ok… hide that tea and coffee, hide that kettle…… ok… take down the posters for tonight….. sshhhh.. pull yr hoods up…. That's them I think…."

Indeed it was, the arrival of the first cohort of the Cambridge posse greeted by a nonchalant 'who wants to know ?'-style disinterest…

Though the gameplan was not destined to last….

A tide of bon homie began to swell as all participants found food and liquid. The flickering lights of Jimmy P.'s comical Robomerch display unit, and his attendant glow of pride soon put paid to lingering thoughts of gamesmanship and skullduggery, fair play….
With a conciliatory hug for Brown, I declared

"ON WITH THE SHOW! Play up musicroooooom…."

First up…..

Ben Reynolds… seated, entwined around acoustic guitar, weaving beautiful structures that wrapped me up and tickled me under the chin with an albatross wing feather. How's that for mixing up metaphor, and splitting infinitives ? Ben's set felt all too brief, fleeting past. I flunked at music, been faking it ever since… nod sagely when folk offer technical insights…. Nod sagely, do I like how it sounds ? the extant of my analysis… then grasp for some personal reference points… I really liked the sound that Ben created.. folky, earthy, plucked and strummed acoustic guitar, instrumental, like a British take on Flamenco…. "this one's called a million years" … was there a momentary tremble of nerves ? certainly the most fragile of Ben's guises… deprived of fellow stagehands to bounce off… in the spotlight…. ace

A brief interlude, some recorded tunes….

Then…

Up step….

El Coyote…..
A pincer movement, three pronged sensory assault, a triumvirate of bass, guitar and singing and drums {and occasional second guitar, singing, no drums}
Littering the stage with pert contemporary comment, "this one's called 'Insania'", El Coyote attacked, sweeping me longitudinally towards a punked up funky garage rawk dub, sorry, duck, disco nirvana… chug chugging at me lapels, clattering me around the head…. dance…. Dashes and splashes, new wave reference points…. Moments of post-something guitar quietitude, 'Complicated Sex is Better Than No Sex' simultaneously hot wiring knees and noddle…a swaggering 'When Computers Speak' affirming it's high ranking in my personal rock 'n' pop chart, a stayer, a goer…. Creating an eerie, urgent, dislocated vibe. Like Go4 'At Home He's a Tourist', strapped to the back of JD 'The Atrocity Exhibition' by Wir…… Mint…

Half Time: Two Nil.

(John, www.themusicroomstoke.tk) Read the Robots side here.


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