Forever on the list of must-see, must-shoot bands, The Sonics are one of those rare and much sought-after rock and roll gemstones that can often prove to be on the elusive side.
So when we got the heads up from Big Mike in Akron a month or so ago to say The Sonics were not only touring, but delivering some top drawer killer shows, the elite team at Trebuchet put down their pipes and immediately picked up the management hotline.
A plethora of punk, grunge, garage and rock bands past and present have paid homage to The Sonics as being an inspiration to their sound, and rightly so.
Let’s face facts; after spinning their back catalogue of classic 45s on an old Decca turntable, all you really want to do is plunge a sharpened HB through the cone of your practise amp and smash out some distorted and downright dirty chords whilst screaming ‘Psycho’. Or is that just me?
Koko in Camden seemed an appropriate venue to host The Sonics’ London show. The trashy rococo decor topped off with oversized mirrorball felt oh so right for such a grand occasion. This was the first time in a long time I’ve arrived at a gig early, but it’s a rare occurrence that I’m dispatched to cover a band that I’ve been a fan of for over thirty years. Anyway, I knew I’d be able to pass the time by playing spot The Cramps t-shirts, of which there were many.
A troupe of one-legged juggling pigs
DJ Healer Selecta and support band Galileo 7 provided pre-Sonics entertainment and drinking time but it was obvious the crowd were only here to see the trash kings of 60s garage. To be honest, you could have put on a troupe of one-legged juggling pigs and no-one would have been bothered either way.
Sporting a dapper yet reasonably-priced Moods Of Norway blazer (although not quite as dapper as John Lydon in the butter adverts), punk ‘figurehead’ Glen Matlock surprised the diverse throng by appearing onstage and introducing the band with boyish enthusiasm.
After a couple of obligatory words of thanks, The Sonics proceeded to light the fuse on a rocket trip to outer space. Blistering their way from ‘Cinderella’ to ‘Money’, ‘Louie Louie’, and beyond. Not everybody’s choice, but one of my all-time favourite tunes: ‘Dirty Robber’, was smashed out early in the set, all raw and filthy. After that they could do no wrong (minor musical glitches excused).
This wasn’t just another old band cashing in and trotting out the back catalogue. A few numbers from their forthcoming new album were also previewed to the appreciative audience and the hardcore favourites were played with the gusto of nitrous-fuelled angry teenagers looking for girls and trouble. These guys aren’t old, they’ve merely aged.
Instrumentally and vocally The Sonics still have it and boy oh boy, do they give it to you. Every number was another thick layer of royal icing on the garage cake and just when you thought things had formed into beautiful stiff peaks, something like ‘Boss Hoss’ would whip you up even further and take you to a swirling hypnotic extra dimension (which is where all The Cramps devotees went when ‘Strychnine’ screamed through Koko’s rattling chandeliers and gilt plaster scrolls).
See them, as many times as you possibly can, get a hard on for The Sonics, then die happy. Disappointment is not an option.
Big Mike was right; they’re killer.
Photos by Carl Byron Batson and Sarah Corbett Batson. Not to be reproduced without prior permission. The Sonics played KOKO, Camden, on Tuesday 6th April 2014
Photographer, published poet, former party animal, body builder, grave robber
to the stars and renowned chainsaw juggler, Carl can often be spotted on his
Harley Davidson pretending to be in Terminator 2. He is also frequently seen in
the press pits of old London town, camera in hand, avoiding being hit by bottles
of wee and crippling his opposition with secret Kung Fu moves.