Yesterday afternoon I was in London. Last night Swedish hardcore punk band Refused played London. Well I messed that one up didn’t I!
I must have been listening to the Umeå band since 1994 (Umeå – now that was a great little hardcore scene – Final Exit, Doughnuts, Abhinanda amongst others and Desperate Fight Records). It was another appearance by a band on a compilation CD that piqued my interest in yet more musical highlights. Not exactly sure what compilation it was, maybe a fanzine maybe a label – We Bite, Burning Heart? After hearing them I tracked down what I could through the numerous distro’s that I used at the time. The era where all CD singles used to come packaged in card sleeves. I have several boxes of card sleeved CD’s!
Roll on to August 26th 1996, New York hardcore mob were doing a few select UK dates and one of those was at The Wheatsheaf in Stoke. I’d seen Madball for the first (and second) time earlier in the year, so playing a 15 minute drive away from home was a given, even more so when France’s Kickback and Refused were supporting.
The first gig on UK soil definitely lives on in the mind of vocalist Dennis Lyxzén, and not in a good way! A lot of the local hardcore “kids” didn’t show up as NYHC wasn’t their thing – and Refused are far removed from that. Those who were in attendance had not heard Refused, (give it a couple more years to the release of The Shape of Punk to Come and that venue would have been heaving) so a shirt and trouser clad hardcore band with smart haircuts was light years ahead of what the narrow minded locals were used to at the time. The majority of the sparse crowd continued their conversations and turned their backs on a band that would later become such a massive influence on the transforming post hardcore scene.
How do I know that night in Staffordshire is still burned into Dennis’ brain? During their set on the second stage at the 2012 Download Festival he brought up the appalling crowd response at their first UK show in Stoke. I enjoyed the band that night and looked forward to them more than the headliners. Spin on 24 hours and you would also find me at their second British gig at Jilly’s Rockworkd in Manchester, with the addition of UKHC godfathers Stampin’ Ground and local heroes Area Effect. I reckon the closest the band have got to returning to the county is speeding through it on the M6 as fast as they can.
Rather Be Dead is taken from 1996’s Songs to Fan The Flames of Discontent album.