At the end of a show in 1967, Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire. It was an audacious publicity stunt, probably one of the coolest publicity stunts in rock ‘n’ roll history. Since then, there have been many more memorable moments written into rock ‘n’ roll’s history books, with one in particular serving as the inspiration when recalling the events of a recent San Francisco performance by a four-piece from Coventry UK known as Pint Shot Riot.
It may be worth mentioning, that this gig almost didn’t happen; following a near 7-hour trip from L.A., the lads were told upon their arrival, that the band playing at the time would be the last act of the evening. However, following a bit of cockney haggling by their London based manager, it was decided the show would in fact go ahead, along with free drinks for the band!
As it transpired, this initial brush with near-disaster would prove to be the first of many setbacks thrown at the band during the gig. Setbacks that, thanks to sheer perseverance and dedication, simply set the stage for the memorable experience this proved to be for the crowd squeezed into the Laundromat’s front room.
Once the Union Jack was tied to frontman Rocket’s mic stand, visibly declaring their homeland and the origins of their music (as if we couldn’t already tell by the skinny jeans, suede shoes and tight leather & denim jackets), the band launched into the first three songs of the set.
‘Somebody Save Me’ and ‘Not Thinking Straight’ open what is a blistering debut album (‘Spell It Out‘), together with ‘Starting to Fly’, clearly one of their stand out tunes. The songs exhibit the trademark sound of warm, deep and flying Flea-like, low frequency bass lines of Baby Dave, as well as Rob Clement’s pedal driven, soaring lead guitar sounds, cutting through like a weed whacker on a mixture of red bull and vodka.
As the three songs signalled what should be expected for the next twenty-five minutes to the already raucous and adoring crowd, those of us with a more trained eye had begun to notice more problems developing; the beautiful harmonies normally undertaken by Rob and Mini Rocket were not present. In addition, Mini’s drum kit had moved precisely two feet from where it was originally set up (slippery, sweaty concrete floor to blame), and Rocket couldn’t hear his own amp. There was no use in asking the sound guy for more in the monitors either, because there were none.
The frontman then gave his short introductory speech, describing where they are from and the inspiration behind the music and the excessive touring here in the USA, before they re-launched into an older song from the ‘Round One’ EP.
‘Start Digging’, ironically and quite clearly, seemed to signal these musicians’ burning desire to make a living making people sing, dance and laugh themselves into a state of joy – something that happened almost instantaneously on this night.
Ironically because the song is about getting out of Coventry and making something of yourself, as evidenced by the opening line “…this town’s bringing me down, locked inside, better get out…”. But also because, as the song progressed and the mic stand continued to get knocked around by Rocket and the front row in equal measure, the Union Jack fell to the ground as Rob began a lick that ended with him tripping and falling over Mini’s tom (which had moved another foot), knocking it and the crash cymbal over and splicing his guitar lead in the process (with the cymbal!) – just another minor setback…
It’s believed Pink Floyd had a show at the old JFK Stadium ended prematurely as power was cut to the stage after a thunder and lightning storm. Fast-forward to the present day, and what else could possibly go wrong for these four Brits struggling on through their own perfect storm? Nothing. The lads simply embraced it and ploughed on.
As Rob went in search of a replacement lead, the band invited Musik, the drummer from the massively impressive Fifth Nation, to freestyle on the San Fran crowd replete with green and gold side by side Mohawks, sporting the Fifth Nation trademark – all white uniforms of love and peace. Musik finished his rap to a still adoring and charged crowd as Rob plugged in and picked up where he left off, finishing the track standing on a table with the wah wah wailing and cameras flashing. Punk? Perhaps. Rock ‘N’ Roll? Fuckin’ right.
Not one’s to stand on ceremony – well, we are at a Pint Shot Riot gig…in San Francisco…after a 7 hour trip from L.A…hungover, we roll into one and a half minutes of unbridled Coventry punk rock with ’10 Different Ways’ and as Rocket sings “…look at you with your skinny jeans, polka dots, pearls and beads, have you had your hair done? With a fitted Mack and a bag to match and an attitude that’s bound to cause a problem”, trouble herself could be imagined ordering a drink at the bar but getting nowhere, as the bartender was hopping about with everyone else in the place.
They finished the gig just as they had started – with fast-paced, hard-charging working class English rock ‘n’ roll, complete with a punk flair – giving the crowd two more quality tracks from the album in ‘Come Back to Me’ and ‘Twisted Soul’. Wow. WOW!
OK, perhaps this wasn’t The Who Live at Leeds, or Pink Floyd in Philadelphia during a lightning storm. Nor was it Jimi’s guitar in flames. What it was, however, was a band lighting up an unsuspecting crowd, sending them off into the night knowing they had just witnessed a Pint Shot Riot that, after a week of touring the West Coast of the USA, were absolutely on fire and loving every minute of it.
For those in favour of a return to guitar music, look no further.
(Photography: Liz Lomax)
Pint Shot Riot’s debut album, ‘Spell It Out’, is out now on iTunes through their own label, Life in the Big City Records.