Upcoming gigs

Upcoming Gigs

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TESTT (Durham): April 12th

The New Adelphi (Hull): April 15th

Workshop Theatre (Leeds): April 17th

Hydra Bookshop (Bristol): April 18th

Derby Theatre: April 20th

Harrogate Theatre: April 24-25th

Ovalhouse (London): April 26-28th


London Book Launch at Ovalhouse, April 26th

York Book Launch at All Saints Church, April 29th

Small Fry DIY, Warrington, 2nd May

Spoken Weird, Halifax: 3rd May

Born Lippy, Newcastle 9th May

Shaken In Sheep Town, Skipton: 10th May

Find The Right Words, Leicester : 16th May

Queenie’s Coffee Nights, Huddersfield: 21st May

Gong Fu Poets, Coxhoe: 31st May

Verse Matters, Sheffield: 7th June

Slam Dunk, Hastings: 28th June

Word Club, Leeds: 29th June

Poetry Jam, Durham: 4th October

Saturday, 16 July 2016

20.16 Blog #15: Roll me through the gates of Hell

A friend commented on my Facebook wall asking if I knew where to get tickets for Mischief Brew’s Leeds gig this August, and 5 hours later I was posting an R.I.P. to Erik Petersen, the lead singer, writer and essentially the brains, voice and heart of Mischief Brew, the best folk-punk band ever.

I don’t say that lightly, but after all the Andrew Jacksons have Jihaded and all the Mice have Ghosted and all the Ramshackles have been Glorious I’m afraid it was always the Brews, spiced with Mischief, which were left bubbling into my ears.

Mischief Brew was the folk-punk collective from Philadelphia, USA headed by Erik Petersen who wrote a huge number of songs across various EPs, albums, splits and collaborations.

I discovered Mischief Brew, along with the seedy world of folk-punk, around 2008 when I saw Al Baker perform with Suicide Bid in London.  Al covers Old Tyme Mem’ry on hisfirst album, and it’s easily on of my fav MB songs.  It encapsulates everything wonderful about Erick’s writing.  It’s has a lovely playfulness with the lyrics “We're lamenting about yesterdays sad ending about the water in your whiskey the brass passed off as gold” and Erick’s delivery is unashamedly punk with the snarl of “luxury boxes where your stored in what was country”.  It’s a messy, rattling song that exists on a shabby guitar, sung with a sore throat and a wild glint in the eye.

I never got to see Mischief Brew, and certainly never met Erik, but my rustic eulogy to this artist is his incredibly ability to be consistent.  I don’t just mean consistently a writer of quality, but don’t underestimate the fact he never wrote a bad song.  Some songs are surely better than others, I can’t deny that.

But I mean Erik is able to wave an entire world with recurring images, themes and ideas.  This isn’t the case if you’ve heard one song you’ve heard them all, because he writes on a number of topics.  Bang-Up Police Work is an ode to oppressive cops, Every Town Will Celebrate is about gentrification, Dirty Pennies homelessness, Punx Win about community, the Midnight Special the prison system and Watching Scotty Die the sad failures of the American healthcare system.

But within these songs are the same smells of squats and cigarettes.  The same sounds of railroads and barking dogs.  The same taste of strong coffee.  The same touch of wood, coppers and the feel of a campfire.

Like my blog earlier this year about the play-wright Harold Pinter, the art is world-building.  When you enter into a Mischief Brew album, it’s got the same recurring feel like being immersed in a tale. It’s about rambling and rebellion, grit and guts, dusk and the dark.  It’s very old-fashioned, or appears to be, swathed in the 1920-30s world of Woody Guthrie, but the post-70s grit of punk is very much the driving force.

But mainly, Erik’s writing was romantic.  For all its corners that stank of anti-authority bitterness, he played uplifting music that was celebratory as much as it was dangerous.  He wrote old-fashioned songs because those songs have stuck with us, not because they wallow in despair, but because they grab despair by the scruff and take it dancing with the goblins, witches, trolls, punks, gypsies, comrades and rebel children.

 When you offer pink or blue I'll take the blackest.
When you offer only two I'll offer three.
When you point me in a direction I'll run backwards.
And at the border of utopia I'll toast to anarchy. 

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