I’m upstairs waiting in the tiny sweaty venue that is the Black Heart. A hand is placed on my shoulder. I turn to see Phil Ross, guitarist, looking at me, eye makeup already smeared down his face.
“How come you’re not headlining tonight?”, I ask him, but he just points to his ears, which are stuffed with heavy duty ear plugs.
He pulls one out and bends forward. The difference in our height meaning that I have to stoop to hear him over the PA, which is blasting out punk classics. “It was a last minute thing. Duncan (of Duncan Reid and the Big Heads) is launching his album and we’re using this as a warm up before our German tour”. I know that Phil’s band are a tough act to follow. I think, “Good luck, Duncan!”.
Five minutes later, Phil is on stage with the rest of Spizz Energi, going through a tried-and-tested set led by the mercurial Peter Pan of the post-punk genre, a man they call Spizz.
Spizz isn’t quite in full prop mode – no light up trainers and the mouth LEDs only make an appearance as they guide his way onto centre stage. However, he still carries his trusty laser gun and the LED belt continues to announce the names of songs from under a belly that may have seen a few too many ice-creams. At one point tonight, he will sing through a Spizz Energi bandana and raise the Spizz Energi flag. There is no escaping who they are – even though the band once tried to get into the Guinness Book of Records for releasing the most singles under the most band names.
Spizz knows how to promote, and how to act out every word of every song. He’s the ring leader and the stage is his.
His bleached blonde hair stands to attention, as does Phil at the start of “Soldier Soldier”, and his eyes flicker around the room. He takes time out during one song to kiss a woman in the crowd and uses the gaps between songs to remind us that their new single, “Here Comes the Machines”, is available on the merch stand and if the 50 or so people there were to buy it tonight, it could even chart. Don’t forget that Spizz has been there before – “Where’s Captain Kirk”, made it to number 1 in the UK Indie Charts in 1980 and was later covered by REM!
As a warm up act, Spizz Energi raises the temperature and reminds the passive collection of aged fans that they were were once angry youths. Spizz asks us to shout “Virginia Plain” at the end of an energetic cover version, repeating it twice to raise our volume from the murmer he gets back first time. The call and response continues as he declares in his proto-punk twang, “Clocks are big”… to hear us reply, ”Machines are heavy!” – the cue to the band to launch into their final two songs.
True, some of Spizz Energi’s set is 35 years old, but songs like “Amnesia”, “Red and Black” and “Central Park” continue to be earworms. The band Luca, Ben, Phil, and Jeff look the part – not a tribute act revisiting glory days gone by, but more a tribute to the fact that Spizz continues to keep on rocking in his black Spizz Energi t-shirt (always available at the merch stall).
And if you want to buy the single…….
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