Upcoming gigs

Upcoming Gigs

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Find The Right Words, Leicester : 16th May

The Hovel Session, York: 25th May

Gong Fu Poets, Coxhoe: 31st May

Depresstival Presents..., London: 3rd June

Off Yours!, Leeds: 6th June

Good Shout, Peterborough: 13th June

Supporting Jollyboat, Knaresborough: 22nd June

Brig-Aid Fundraiser, Fruit, Hull: 23rd June

Slam Dunk, Hastings: 28th June

Word Club, Leeds: 29th June

Verse Matters, Sheffield, 5th July

Say Owt @ Deer Shed Festival, 21st July

Say Owt @ Great Yorkshire Fringe, York: 25th July

Working Title, Lancaster, 26th July

Poetry Jam, Durham: 4th October

Saturday, 26 May 2018

I am a poseur and I don't care: Punk & Confidence part 2

I am a poseur and I don't care
I like to make people stare ♪
- I Am A Poser, X-Ray Spex

Someone recently suggested to me that, presumably, I don’t dress as a punk for ‘aesthetic reasons’.

I was wearing my trousers covered in band patches and my hoodie covered in band patches (and an Adventure Time patch).

I’ve always felt like my love for wearing band t-shirts and patches of bands was to turn myself into something of a cloth-billboard.  To represent and give a platform for the bands that I appreciated.  I wrote a blog about it some three years past.

Clothes have always been an integral part of certain parts of punk.  The Ramones uniformity in their leather jackets helped further the myth they were all brothers, and helped stylised the ‘family’ aspect of their music, attracting the weirdoes, outsiders and misfits to their mutant pop.  Of course McLaran and Westwood using punk to plug their SEX wears is well-documented in the history of the Sex Pistols.  The Clash also enjoyed the sloganeering on their clothes.  And this style filtered into the scene, who donned the array of safety pins, piercings, spiky hair and ripped clothes which then rebounded back into the music when those fans became bands. 

The next wave of UK82 punk fitted the generic pattern of painted leather, Mohawks, piercings and patches.   So what you get is a circular pool of style that rotates round.  The style evolves as bands inspire fans who become bands to inspire fans.

There are bands that take their costumes to extended lengths.  Devo’s post-punk discordant music is the soundtrack to their bizarre boiler suit appearance.  Aquabats present as a super-hero squad, and the late great Frank Sidebottom playing all his gigs adorned with a gigantic head like a warped crown.  Famously the Dead Kennedys lampooned the music industry with ties and shirts that portrayed $ signs.  Nowadays bands like Yorkshire’s Snakerattlers and Nosebleed perform in Americana blues get-ups to reflect their musical sound.

There is also something interesting about a rejection of a costume.  The Undertones local lads look of jumpers, parkas and jeans reflected their simple, but beautifully effective, pop-punk.  This uncomplicated honest presentation seems the opposite end of the spectrum to the star-spanglyness of rock and prog bands of the late 70s.  No time for glitter, go to pop down the park for a kick about.

Onstage, punks costume can signify unity and camaraderie (The Specials, The Ramones) or a spiky hotchpotch of influences and personalities (Rancid, The Clash).  It can be a fierce don’t-fuck-with-me-ness using the body with unflinching agency (Bikini Kill, G.L.O.S.S.) or invoke other styles and ideas (Mischief Brew’s romantic troubadour visage).  And of course, that is echoed outside of gigs in the ‘real world’.

The look becomes part of the act, it becomes visual as well as aural.  It becomes a whole parcel of identity.

When I got into punk, I remember owned about 5 t-shirts I loved dearly for a good period of time.  I didn’t put any patches on anything, I had a leather jacket and my love for the Ramones and desire to keep something clean and pure (like books) meant I didn’t want to paint it.

Eventually I went through a good few years really enjoying customising my clothes.  I have a hoody devoted to queer and feminist bands (adapted from an Against Me! Hoody).  I have a ‘nerd punk’ hoody, and folk-punk trousers.  Just like my love for exploring genre and eras, I do like defining my clothes.

The confidence of this look comes from championing these bands (and politics).  There’s a confidence that the Petrol Girls patch and Clash t-shirt and Sonic Boom Six hoody mean that the music has your back.  Quite literally, it’s on your back.

Though I’m very fortune and privileged to have never been verbally or physically assaulted, I do feel like my clothes attract attention.  I want this to be positive, as people clock some bands to check out.  But, of course, this attention can also be negative.  Let’s never forget the tragic death of Sophie Lancaster in 2007.

These days, punk fans tend to stick simply jeans and a t-shirt.  There’s other aspects, beards and converse, but it’s often simple a sea of black with the odd colourful logo at the centre of your stitching.

There’s a layer of scorn in the punk scene if you don’t dress as a punk outside of a punk/gig context.  As if you’re not maintaining the belief, the scene, the style.  You’ll only wear your heart on your sleeve when your heart’s in it.  But I like the relief of not always being in a turning-heads Punk Mode.  A privilege not everybody has, but one I do exploit when I want to be ‘unpunk’.

There’s a toxicity to fashion, and we should always be wary of peer pressure to dress and present a certain way.  But sometimes I just like black jeans and a classic t-shirt and some anonymity.  Sometimes I like to be a watching quilt of bands.  And actually, that choice is empowering and gives me confidence I have options and not just an uninspiring narrow blueprint.

Monday, 14 May 2018

I Think That I Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Open My Mouth: Punk & Confidence Part 1

I Think That I Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Open My Mouth:  Punk & Confidence Part 1

I’ve felt conflicted and a lack of conviction/
I’d quit drinking but the beer makes me brave/
Here’s the half empty/
I’m always wrapped in thought my stomach tied in knots/
-Block Fort, The Half Empty https://blockfort.bandcamp.com/album/s-t

I’m going to try and write a series of blogs about the nature of confidence in punk.  The obvious arguments and the bizarre oxymorons.

OK, so let’s start with the obvious.  Punk bands own space. 

Whether it’s the sneer of Rotten, the sweaty leg-pumping of Strummer, the macho domination of Rollins or the jarring dance of Ian Curtis.  Whether it’s fiery don’t-fuck-with-me-ability of Kathleen Hanna, the cool-and-sharp-as-ice-ness of Debbie Harry or the gobby-bog-off-authority vibe of Poly Styrene.  Robin Leitch’s ska-spider scampering and Ren Aldridge’s almost back-snapping screech.

What drives this confidence?  In many cases, it’s the fact that out in The Real World, many singers don’t take up space and yet, here, they have a platform to be demanding, to be brutish; to be heard.  Punk is a way to be something you’re not in the real world.

Take Joey Ramone.  If you ever watch interviews, you’ll see he’s a shy guy, hiding behind his massive scuzz of hair.  Joey had obsessive compulsive disorder and his rapidfire mutant pop was a form of expressing his insecurities with the world.

In the superb book Our Band Could Be Your Life, author Azerrad talks about how Beat Happening were a band of “shy, retiring people who would never normally walk onto a stage.”  Lead singer Calvin Johnson would dance, contort and gesticulate comically.  Their sound was a lo-fi jangly spiky noisy indiepop, more Smiths than Stooges.  Bret Lunsford said they were dismissed by some punks because they weren’t macho enough.  But despite the feyness of the bands appearance, sound and lyrics Azerrad tells of a gig where Johnson was hit in the face with an ashtray, yet continued his set despite blood streaming down his face.  At the end of the set, he walked right through the audience who parted like the red sea.

These days, it’s not uncommon for punk bands to not only sing about mental health issues, anxieties and depression, but to talk about them onstage, too.  The Smith Street Band, Caves, Shit Present, Happy Accidents, Chewing on Tinfoil, T-Shirt Weather, Crumbs, Perkie, MeRex, Block Fort, Muncie Girls, ONSIND, Martha, Ducking Punches to name but a few have discussed this openly.  Though I don’t know their work, of course the sad passing of Frightened Rabbit’s singer Scott Hutchinson is a reminder that the essential discussion about mental health shouldn’t just be limited to words in songs.

What is the rough connection between punk and confidence?  How does confidence manifest itself?
It is a comfort, a necessary and important outlet of rage, stubbornness and strength so that, for 30 minutes on stage, you are in command?  And the gig context:  How does the attitude of punk give you confidence in the day-to-day world?

Or are punk songs a way for artists to disguise their anxieties?  Act strong, act tough and act like you own the place as a distraction or disguise from the negativity on your head without really facing that insecurity? 

Over the next few blogs I want to talk about the costume/disguise/character that punk offers, the immediacy of the 2.5 minute punk song and 25 minute set.  I want to talk about my own mental health and the oxymoron I struggle to be in social situations and meet new people, and yet find it very natural to stand before a bunch of strangers and be shouty.  The obvious and the oxymorons, the arrogance and the anxieties, the space-taking and the self-supporting.

What punk artists do you think exhume confidence?  In what ways do you think punk bands own a stage and space?

If you have anything you want to add, please comment or get in touch via henry@henryraby.com.

Thanks x 

Friday, 4 May 2018

Vandal Raptor tour blog #3: Harrogate and That London

Almost a week since we finished tour, here is (finally) my third (and final) blog about our adventure across this fair island.

Tuesday and Wednesday we played in Harrogate.  You might not imagine Harrogate to be a city hungry for a show about a riotous punk band trying to smash the system, and yet we had some lovely audiences well up for a bit of shouting and a bit of roaring.  First show we had Harrogate Youth Theatre coming along and joining in with some superb dinosaur impressions.  The next night was a battalion of friendly faces and a great way to finish off the show in Yorkshire.

But London awaited!  And many hours, many Lucozades and many crisps and sweets we finally arrived at the Big Smoke.  And across the run I saw many old friends from Youth Theatre days, University days and modern day punk/activist communities.  We had plenty of strangers too, coming along to see this Northern chap tell his story.

During the run it was announced Trump would be visiting the country in July, which helped with a little ripple of potential trouble-making to coincide with a show about resistance.  I did, of course, take time to pay extortionate London prices to see Avengers:  Infinity War where I topped up some Nerd Points after stacking up on Punk Points.

I can honestly say that every single audience were vastly different.  Some audiences were polite, respectful and really drew in the full story.  Others chatty, forward and became part of the DNA of the show. Some audiences really clicked with the world and characters, others found the Henryness of the show their way into the production.

I’m so proud of what we achieved.  No funding from Arts Council England, touring purely based on generous donations from audiences and the fees of the few theatres we were programmed into.  Me and Natalie have cemented ourselves as Vandal Factory and we’re dead proud of all the connections we made across the UK.  Thanks so much to everyone who programmed us, came to see the show or supported us in the venues.

Keep an eye out for Vandal Factory in the future with our upcoming shows, workshops and PLANS FOR MASS REVOLUTION.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Vandal Raptor tour blog #2: Leeds, Bristol and Derby

So we’re now ½ way through the Vandal Raptor tour.  The show is a story about 4 friends forming a band, playing gigs and going on tour.  Did the 4 teenagers of Vandal Raptor squeeze all their gear, merch and clothes in a tiny Vauxhall Corsa like we’ve been doing?

The show is about growing up and in Leeds we performed the show at the Workshop Theatre, part of the University of Leeds.  I studied in that very building, have performed on that stage and learnt a good ol’ whack about theatre in the building.  It certainly felt like a homecoming.  Although the characters in the play return to a dirty pub, not a well-equipped theatre space.

The show is about reclaiming space.  Few bookshops allow punk bands to play gigs, but Hydra Books is one of the coolest venues in the whole UK.  Located in Bristol, Hydra not only stocks radical books, it also hosts meetings for the IWW, feminist groups and other assorted lefties.  The welcoming crowd clocked a lot of the subtler references to the punk scene.

Finally we did a show at Derby Theatre.  The space a traditional theatre venue as opposed to radical bookshop, the audience in rated seating as opposed to sofas.  This meant we had opportunity to play with the lighting a little more, enjoy decorating the space, transforming it, playing with it.  Possibly the best show we’d done probably because we worked that tad harder to engage, entertain and tell our story of a punk rock band changing the world to a audience who didn’t really know our work or form!

The show has 5 more performances on tour at x2 venues.  Harrogate Theatre 23-24th and Ovalhouse in London 26-28th.  We’re feeling confident, we’re feeling exciting and we’re ready to (once we’ve had a couple of chill days) to get out on the road again.  The show is absolutely for anyone to enjoy, come forth!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Vandal Raptor tour blog #1: Durham & Hull

Durham is legendary (at least, in my mythology) for the Empty Shop, an independent and DIY hotspot which has helped support some of my favourite North Eastern bands.  In fact, I’ve only ever been to gigs and performed at gigs in Durham at Empty Shop.  Until Thursday.

Our first date of the Vandal Raptor tour was through the lovely folks at Empty Shop, but in their new space, the TESTT Space (The Empty Shop Think Tank) is an old office space used as a pop-up art gallery and space for us to flex our claws.

The show is all about rethinking space.  The characters in the play all debate how they can recreate and remould the world around them, how they can think ‘outside the box’.  The audience were a proper lovely bunch, some old faces from the North East poetry and punk scene as well as some strangers.  A lovely friendly, warm energy I always associate with Durham.  Hugely welcoming and huge heartening to kick off tour.

Sunday night we rocked up into Hull.  I’ve always loved Hull, it’s poets and theatre-makers are always gusty and honest, rough but warm.  We did the show at the New Adelphi, the only date on tour at an actual proper punky gig venue (well, there’s Hydra in Bristol but balancing the line between venue and bookshop).  A legend on the music scene, their posters showed bands from across the decades I sadly wish I’d seen (another theme of the show) but also boasts plenty of rad upcoming gigs and events (another theme:  Punk ain’t dead).

When the Hull crowd got into the show, they really got into it.  These tough Yorkshire folks are loud and responsive, and afterwards the very cool band Left Ahead did a set which reminded me of late 80s Chumbawamba.  Ace to get the crowd fired up with a punk play and then see a punk band!  Wish we could take them on tour.

Tonight we’re at my old stomping ground:  The Workshop Theatre in Leeds and tomorrow we hit Hydra Bookshop in Bristol for the last of our DIY dates.  Then Vandal Raptor goes upmarket to the sophisticated theatre spaces of Derby Theatre (20th April) Harrogate Theatre (24-25th) and Ovalhouse in London (26-28th).

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Whatever Happened To vandal Raptor? tour!

This week I have been mainly sat, in my car, listening to podcasts, lamenting roadworks on the A59, drumming the steering wheel.

That’s because myself and director Natalie Quatermass have been heading out to Harrogate, come April rain or April shine, to re-rehearsal Whatever Happened To Vandal Raptor?, our how about punk, protest and DIY.

And we have been fully embracing our DIY ethics as, with neither agent, producer nor pot of ACE funding, we have been planning the entirely of our upcoming tour in-between runs and re-stagings.

We’ve taken time to look at the structure of the show, reminding ourselves the audience are going on a journey.  We have 4 characters in the story, each with their stakes and their intentions and their personalities.   We have many locations, and lighting does help us, but so does the power of story-telling.

We’ve been approaching a whole host of potential audiences, from the local poetry and literature groups to the general assorted lefties of Momentum, Socialist and Anarchists in each city.  I genuinely feel the show has a wide range of appeal, it’s about friendship, it’s about love for music, it’s about community, it’s about activism and it’s about growing up.

The show is about to embark on a UK-wide tour and we are thrilled to be visiting not only established theatres, but also DIY spaces. 

Floor 2, 25 North Road,
Durham DH1 4SG
April 12th

The New Adelphi Club
89 De Grey St, Hull HU5 2RU
April 15th

Workshop Theatre
School of English
University of Leeds (open to non-students)
Leeds LS2 9JT
April 17th

Hydra Bookshop
34 Old Market St, Bristol BS2 0EZ
April 18th

Derby Theatre
15 Theatre Walk, Derby DE1 2NF
April 20th

Harrogate Theatres
6 Oxford St, Harrogate HG1 1QF
April 24-25th

52-54 Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW
April 26-28th


Sunday, 11 March 2018

"Who invented the typical boy?": Being a man in punk

A lot of audiences see me, in my band t-shirts, patched up jackets and calling myself a 'punk' and, to be frank, there's a confusion.  You can see the familiar flash of surprise across their eyes.  They don't really see how a man can be a punk.

Most people don't think punk appeals to men.  And I can see their point.  Punk is an aggressive musical form.  It has a sharp playful sneer, a clever subverting of standards and expectations.  The clever lyricism of Poly Styrene, The Slits, Patti Smith and Vi Subversa spring to mind.  Not what you'd expect from men, who make up the majority of Bosses, Supervisors, Managers, Vice Chancellors, Artistic Directors, Police Officers, Prison Wardens and even Security Guards.  Since 1721 there have been over 70 Prime Ministers, but only 2 have been women.  Men make up 2/3s of MPs.  Men are most likely to be figures of authority, so it seems bizarre that punk music attracts the gender that upholds the tapestry of hierarchy and power, something at odds with the savage, subversive punk genre.  I guess it's just in our nature to like keeping structure and systems, whilst punk is about breaking rules and being DIY with your own rules.

Punk can be a screeching, guttural and a hammer stroke strike from the heart.  It's a passionate wrenching that drains the blood from a clenched fist and embodies teeth-gritting determination.  From Petrol Girls to G.L.O.S.S., from KINKY to War On Women it's music infected with a fury.  Typically, as a man, life is pretty good.  What's there to be so angry about?  I'm more likely to get a well-paid job, more likely to be heard & taken seriously, more likely to see my gender as the protagonist in films, more likely to have any art or music I make given a platform.  I'm less likely to have my arse grabbed, less likely to have abuse hurled at me in the street and less likely to have my drink spiked.  Plus I can pee wherever I like.

So with all these luxuries, there's very little to rail against.  No need to be furious, unlike women in bands who really have something to kick against.

And that's why festival stages are dominated by one type of gender, why most sound engineers and promoters are one type of gender, why gigs are mostly attended by one type of gender and it's quite unusual, even rare, to see a range of diversity in music.

But I hope things are changing, if slowly, so that conceptions around gender can change.  Don't assume that people are solely defined by their gender.

Now go check out the documentary So Which Band Is Your Boyfriend In?