Jayne County And The Electric Chairs
Honest John Plain And Amigos
Devilish Presley
Underworld, London
Friday March 25 2005
~ review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

It's punk night up the Underworld. And a slightly unusual setting in which to see Devilish Presley, in that for once they're not playing within the goth and/or deathrock scene. I suspect the band have realised it's time to branch out and move on. They've established a name, a reputation and a fanbase among the deathrockers, but the limitations of playing to a 'scene' audience are obvious. Even the best bands risk ending up as big fish in a small pond, while the real opportunities lie elsewhere. So, here come Jacqui and Johnny, taking on the punks with a beat box, a bucketload of attitude, and ten strings between them. They seem entirely undaunted by the sparse crowd, for only a handful of punters are in the venue at this early hour. Significantly, the band's deathrock fans have almost entirely failed to show, a fact which in itself demonstrates how unwise it is to rely on a 'scene' crowd. If the gig ain't in the scene, the scenesters won't be seen! But the trademark Devilish Presley rock 'n' roll blast is as loud and raucous as ever, and even if there's a mystified silence when Johnny dedicates 'Hammer Horror Glamour' to '...the deathrockers!', the dense, guitar noise rush of 'She's Not America' and the full metal rattle of 'Prick Up Your Ears' come across well. I suspect this gig won't go down in Devilish Presley's history as the easiest they've ever played - the punks certainly required more work than, for example, the primed-to-party Dead & Buried crowd - but nevertheless I think this kind of show represents the way forward.

Honest John Plain has a murky punk past in second-string 70s bands The Boys and The Lurkers, and an amiable, undemanding present with his current band, the Amigos. They've got a good, chunky sound and a set of accessible, power-poppy songs in which covers of vintage rock numbers - Roky Erikson's 'I walked With A Zombie' and Tommy James and the Shondells'  'Crimson And Clover' - figure prominently. It's all clearly intended to be an exercise in good-time rock 'n' roll, and on that level it works. Nobody's in the business of pushing any boundaries here, or battering head-first at any musical barricades. The band are clearly having a fine time on stage, cruising through music which it's obvious they know well, and their good humour communicates itself to the audience. It's all unpretentious power-trio riffing, neat melodic songs, and an easy-going demeanour from the chaps themselves. Nothing jaw-dropping, for sure - but nice.

Jayne County, on the other hand, definitely doesn't do 'easy-going'. With a sharp wit and sardonic gaze, and wearing an outfit that can only be described as Elegant Gothic Grandma, she strides about the stage like a wicked witch at a wedding, holding forth on such subjects as sex, God, and punk - and woe betide anyone who's foolish enough to heckle. She has a hundred crazy tales to tell about the early skirmishes of the Punk Wars, first-hand accounts all, because she was there: Wayne County and the Electric Chairs were one of the original New York punk bands of the 1970s, and possibly the most notorious of the lot. Thirty years and one gender-rearrangement later, Jayne County is back with some new Electric Chairs and a set that isn't so much a music performance as a surreal spoken word show punctuated by some splendidly fuzzed-out interludes of low-slung sleaze-rock.

We get lurid tales of long-ago nights at Max's Kansas City (followed by the song Jayne wrote as a tribute to that legendary NYC venue), large quantities of bile and vitriol poured on the head of George Bush, plenty of pointed remarks about religion ('The only thing wrong with Baptists is they don't hold 'em under long enough!'), and some unflattering speculation as to the size of a certain audience member's, er, member. At times it's hard to follow Jayne's freewheeling anecdotes about the early days of New York punk - at least, not without a thorough working knowledge of such arcane details as Dee Dee Ramone's ex-girlfriends - but we're never far from a suitably acerbic punchline or humourous put-down, and, of course, the songs come just as frequently as the laughs. The band, three punky types who do a fine job of following their leader's whimsically erratic path through the show, crank up a good old glam-punk racket, and such songs as 'Rock 'n' Roll Resurrection' remind us just how good Jayne County is at writing sleazoid rock 'n' roll anthems. The one song everyone's waiting for, of course, is the mighty 'If You Don't Want To Fuck Me Baby, Baby Fuck Off', and naturally it's the climax of the set. A distilled slug of rock 'n' roll firewater: spiky, spunky, attitude a-go-go. And after that, Jayne really does fuck off. It's the end of the show, and there's a general feeling that we've seen something special from a genuinely unique performer. Three decades on from what most would consider her heyday, Jayne County is still ripping it up like a stilletto heel in a badly-fitted carpet.

see all photos from this concert here

Jayne County:  http://www.jaynecounty.com

Honest John Plain (apparently no website, but info can be found here): http://www.theboys.co.uk

Devilish Presley: http://www.devilishpresley.com

The Underworld:  http://www.theunderworldcamden.co.uk