Friday, May 15, 2009

Harlow Square

Originally published 24/01/05 on my (now defunct) site

About four years ago (I forget precisely when) Junk Culture were favouring gigs at a venue called 'The Square' in Harlow. This was party due to the fact that in Ipswich at the time nobody seemed to be either putting on gigs or going to them. Therefore the offer Ipswich made to us as a town was an empty pub with a handful of over 60s complaining that we were disturbing their bridge game. The offer Harlow made was a lot more glamorous, they offered a real stage, a real pa and with the promise of a professional lighting rig. The lighting rig also offered the opportunity for us to watch our drummer struggle to keep time while a strobe light was on. The Journeys to Harlow gigs were typified by Stuart driving my car at terrifying speed from Ipswich at in an attempt for us to get the best slot by being the first band to turn up at the Square. The first band to arrive got to headline, although in reality this should have been described as ‘going on last when the mates of all the bands that actually brought people had gone home.’ At least we didn't have anything to distract us while we were playing, like people staring at us. We really made an effort for each of our Harlow shows to con the good people of Harlow into handing over some beer money to the grand lady Shane of the Square in order to be entertained by we four minstrels from a faraway place with a strange sounding name (Ipswich). We used to travel up to Harlow the weekend before a gig with fists full of flyers that in reality looked like they had been designed by a three year old on 'my first printing press'. Harlow is what was christened in the 1960s as a 'new town', what this means in reality is that the majority of buildings in this town have all the artistic appeal of a concrete sculpture of a cardboard box. The clubs and pubs in the town centre had no interest in allowing in four weirdoes in parker jackets to hand out flyers that could be supporting sniffing glue or beating up old folk (for all they knew). In fact Yates Wine Lodge even told me that I couldn't come in as I was wearing Doctor Martins, I wonder if they tell the police the same thing? This lack of love in the town centre lead us out to ply our leaflets in the many estate pubs that litter Harlow. Trying to hand out flyers in one of these estate pubs was like trying to make a grizzly bear wear a dress. The bear sure as hell doesn't want to wear and dress and despite your energy and passion for trying to put the dress on the bear, you know that ultimately it's pointless as the bear just will not hop in his souped up Ford Fiesta and come and watch your punk band. We did meet some interesting characters, and some of them didn't even threaten to give us a kicking. One chap in his late forties claimed to be a roadie for Iron Maiden. We voiced a bit of friendly disbelief, at which point he headed out to his Bedford Rascal and returned with a huge clear plastic sack of Iron Maiden guitar picks. We had a few theories as to how he came about these items. Maybe he had broken into the home of a member of Iron Maiden and avoiding the popular theft choices of computer, telly and jewellery had instead gone for the more left field approach of wee bits of plastic. Above all we were sure that if he was indeed a roadie for Iron Maiden then they must be secreted away in a studio somewhere unable to record as this bloke had all their picks! Graham grabbed a handfull of the picks from the bag and later sold them on Ebay for more money than I care to mention.

Through all our efforts we never had even one person come through the door at Harlow Square and claim to be there to see us!

One of the strangely great things about Harlow Square is that is has what must be one of the largest toilet cubicles in this green and sceptred isle. Every time we played at this venue we all took the chance to have a pre gig evacuation in a crapper that was so big you could add in some partition walls and move in! The last time we played at the Square was while we were on tour with our American mates Immortal Alice. We had played in Wales the night before and after an incredibly long van journey (including a very ‘creative’ tour of London thanks to our driver and singer Stu) and several day sof eating the finest food that motorway service stations have to offer, that toilet was foremost in my mind as we rolled into the Square’s car park and I had a turtles head touching cloth!

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