Staring into the flames with an iPod blaring Culann, two silhouettes cast tall ominous shadows against ruined bare brick walls. Dust kicked up with stones and dirt as glass bottles land, swirling and dropping as the wind whispered through dilapidated old fences around the perimeter. The figures stood long, animated, excitable, the only motion in this desolate scene – as the darkening waste land slowly lost its colours of the day, piece by piece until the only colour left was the eerie fire light flickering against the gable end of a partly demolished building. The only sounds – dull voices in conversation, an occasional twisted laugh echoing around the site followed every ten minutes or so by the random launching of a void glass drinking vessel skelping off rocks and dry mud in the shadows.
Chris passes me a bottle of Wild Turkey, by this time near empty, laughing, asks me if I remember the first time we covered Culann… I do of course but for now I grin and guzzle a fat swig from the intoxicating bourbon and pass it back. I roll a smoke as Chris recalls the ‘End of the World’ gig when Culann headlined King Tuts on 21/12/12… I found it quite an awesome story as we each retold various versions of our exploits that surrounded that event and how amazing Culann had been that night.
This was of course the very first official collaboration between me and Chris as The Gonzo Division, his initiation as a review writer and holy fuck did he nail it. He had a part to play in a previous article from Kelburn Garden Party that summer that had spiked his interest in New Hellfire Club but this Culann gig had been his first official assignment and was the beginning of The Gonzo Division as you know it now. Swaggering through the swing doors in King Tuts we were confronted by two huge bouncers with a fairly menacing demeanour and I start off with:
“Will Johnstone… and this is Chris Herron… We’re Journalists. I think you’ll find we have press passes allocated.”
“Aye that’s us”
It was so effortless that it took Chris aback at first, with a wild grin that said –
“Holy shit are they actually letting us in?!?’
I remember him perking up just as we are being adorned with our wrist bands saying something like:
“This is amazing!! I usually get kicked out after an abrupt bout of sarcastically seeded vituperations and satirically vehement utterings of disgust that run rings round the usual level of dull wit that you’d expect from an average Joe night club bouncer, which has mostly, until now, got me kicked back out before I’ve even gotten in hahahaha!”
The bouncers just glare at him. I slap one of them on the shoulder and suggest that he’s just messing with them because he’s excited about the gig. They don’t seem keen but they turn us loose inside nonetheless…
I was laughing at the memory thinking back to that night, but suddenly I felt the vastness of the expanse of time that had elapsed since that night until now. Nearly four years had somehow escaped us, eluding us with smoke and mirrors… All the work we had done, the parties, the gigs, festivals, weddings, funerals, fall outs, new friends, old friends, holidays, different jobs, failed relationships, projects, band after band, more gigs, random nights out, 12 day benders… Madness… Chris downs the last of his Wild Turkey and launches the bottle into a pile of bricks shouting –
‘You hear me talkin’ hillbilllie boy!!!!’
The noise brutally loud in the stark ambient back drop of our vacant locale, echoed around the few remaining brick walls surrounding the waste land where we were standing by the fire. City lights glimmering in the distance, no one else around.
“Let’s get the fuck outta here man. Culann gig kicks off in half an hour.”
We decided to consult Drittewelle’s Eros and dance with Mandy for a little Gonzo flavour and stagger away from the light of the fire into the darkness passing a spliff as we descend from the hill in the direction of the city skyline, laughing, screaming out random noises like two escaped lunatics… We were now on top form and ready for Culann to blow our minds out the water! All we had left to do was make it across town before we started raving and jabbering like a couple of random 90’s Japanese anime cartoon characters with no subtitles…
We arrive early, which was weird, we are never early. The cider tap isn’t working, they tell us the keg needs changed but they feed us this line at various stages of the night while pushing ultra-expensive Kopparberg bottles at us. Tenner a round for two people is scandalous in what is meant to be a student friendly venue. We are pissed off at first, but quickly realize we can get pints of cider for 3 quid a jar up the stair so for now, we’re happy as pigs in shit and pretty fucked up. We were hitting that sweet spot of wreckedness. The kind that launches me into one-man-mosh-pit mode. I am now salivating as it has been a whole year since I last saw Culann live. I can already feel those high end vocals wrenching me up out of the crowd into a maniacal musically induced meltdown as the rocker in me – akin to an eczema-ridden pus-filled itchy spot head ripping under a ragged nail – breaks out uncontrollably like some kind of Beehive Pinata at the mercy of the entire batting division of the New York Yankees baseball team on steroids! That isto say, I am buzzing and mildly explosive…
Culann launch into their set like ancient Nordic Viking warriors, mad with hallucinogenics, seething with blood lust. The battleground is the low-roofed, ever tightening moshpit as more and more revellers revolt and rejoice in reclammation and “I Am The Red” sends me off the edge and my fist smashes through a part of the ceiling. Blood everywhere. I carry on screaming along as the music carries us afar like war drums beguiling our morale like the ascension of zen in some melded pre-emptive strike against some hidden enemy attacking our utopian dream… The kaleidoscope vortex swallows us all and the last thing I recall is laughing hysterically on the subway back to The Brox, being covered in my own blood from my wounded right hand and Chris laughing asking why I am covered in blood while some freaked out people moved away from us further up the carriage… I tried to tell them I was away to see Culann but I think they thought I said something about ‘kill him’ and they got off quite hastily… The rest is a blur at best, but the feeling that Culann gave us in that packed out underground club will remain etched in stone like an epitaph of greatness carved into the very walls of our minds…
https://www.facebook.com/events/1312548718773655/ – Gig poster is on this link