Gipsy Hill eh? Giiipppsssy Hill. Nope can’t think of anything funny to say about that, besides the fact it evokes thoughts of an uphill struggle to a fortune teller’s house. The thing is, around here, you are much more likely to get your palm stabbed than read. More Crystal Meth than Ball. More… well you get the picture. Tucked away in the imaginary borough of ‘Upper Norwood’ (You’re more likely to find Narnia on an Ordinance Survey map) The Gipsy Hill Tavern boasts a stage 75% obscured by the bar which doesn’t really help when you have come to see a band of Ash’s magnitude. Nevertheless, as we walk in (everso slightly late) Ash are already halfway through the first song and the room is heaving. Tim – wearing a t-shirt with SHIT! Emblazoned in big letters on it – is energy personified, jumping around the tiny stage, as drinks fly in the air and spill over the eager crowd. Hat-wearing Rick provides backing vocals while keeping steady beat, preparing for a hypothetical solo project I’ve decided to call ‘PAPER SCISSORS RAWK’, while Mark – almost out of sight in the L-Shaped puzzle box of a room – steadily plugs away at his bass like a man in a straightjacket; deprived of room to fully rock out and instead lets his rock hard fingertips do the talking.
Realising the futility of trying to get a decent view in the main room, we decided to explore the rest of this establishment. I adopted a stance last seen in ‘No Retreat, No Surrender’ as we ventured into the surprisingly good beer garden. Thoughtfully, the gig was projected, almost life size onto an outside wall, for all of those that couldn’t see inside. Well, I assume it was a projection of the gig inside. It could have been a video tape of one of the other gigs, played simultaneously in an attempt to show foresight. This thought quickly dissolved as I could see a few boarders on the front row covered in beer, jumping up and down with hands permanently in ‘rock hand’ mode singing along to every song like Tim had their families’ hostage Funny Games stylee.
The crowd were a strange mix of characters; looking very much like an internet dating site gone wrong. There were teenage girls (that’s fine), teenage boys (take them or leave them), Old guys that looked like Richard O’ Brien (saw at least 3 of these), frumpy 20-something girls with vomit-inducing floral print blouses (only saw one of these but she made a lasting impression) and everything else you can think of inbetween. Ash certainly do have an eclectic looking bunch of fans. Don’t get me wrong; They’re all brilliant; I just wouldn’t let any of them look after my cat. Most of these oddballs could be found in the secret room adjacent to the main room, which doubled up as another room with a big projection screen in it. A duplicate of the projection outside filled up the back wall, splashing oblongs of colour against the upturned furniture that also populated it. Were they not expecting guests? Anyway, this was also the ‘Dance Room’ as there was a little more space for our rag-tag ash fans to get down and cut some rug. We had the aforementioned frumpy girl, twisting along to every single Ash song like she’d fallen into a fridge in the 60s and only emerged on the release date of Free All Angels; We had one of the Richard O’ Brien looking guys slam dancing to ‘Sometimes’ when everybody knows that’s what ‘Kung fu’ is for. How do you slam dance to ‘Sometimes’? I hear you bark. With great difficulty I answer. He didn’t care; he just wanted to freak out to a mid-tempo chorus.
I realise I’m not talking a lot about what songs they played, but hey we are nearly at the end of the alphabet (U) so you probably know what songs they played. I’m not going to insult your intelligence as that’s what Panama Kings songs are for. Of course I jest… Uh huh. It’s just I’d rather concentrate on feelings and people and… Holy fuck they all look like zombies. Everyone on the screens that is, as a heavy dose of ‘night vision’ is employed, perfectly emulating that last 15 seconds of ‘Rec’ and every audience reaction movie trailer you have ever seen. Its like watching an Ash gig down a rabbit hole on Autumnwatch…. Which brings me nicely to ‘Return of White Rabbit’ (smooth). Now, I know this song sounds great on record, but it’s a whole other beast when its played live. Seriously, it’s a behemoth. It turns a higgledy-piggledy collection of near-do-wells into a rabid bowl of snarling dance freaks. FrumpyGirl28 nearly knocks a pint out of a startled man’s hand as she throws her hands out wildly, and pagan dances ecstatically presumably for the memory of Edward Woodward. Just when I thought she was going to explode, ‘Jack Names The Planets’ comes on and she can’t quite get the rhythm right as she’s possibly not heard it. Anything pre-FAA was mostly met by her with a casual sway and a sit down. Which is fine with me.
“That was our last single which came out last week, this is our new single which comes out next week…” Tim declared, announcing the arrival (and only second time played live) of ‘Tracers’. It’s a lovely little song which I believe harks back to the FAA days as it’s a lot softer and mid-tempo than previous singles, but still possesses that ingredient that has been an Ash mainstay since the beginning. I am of course talking about the killer chorus. Roars of approval from the crowd confirmed it’s winner status and I personally give it the thumbs up – which is like winning an Oscar or something.
As Ash triumphantly finishes another gig with ‘Burn Baby Burn’, I ponder how they can keep the enthusiasm up playing the same songs every day, but then I realise its because there is an everlasting supply of fans out there, eager to feed off Tim’s killer riffs – hostage situation or not – and as long as people want to hear them, Ash will keep playing. You will won’t you? It was also nice to meet a few boarders I hadn’t met before, so hey to you.
It’s probably going to be a long time before I’m next in The Gipsy Hill Tavern, possibly never, but at least the time I spent there was productive, and I wish Frumpygirl28 and Richard ‘O Brien a happy happy life. For those who are interested, on the way home I read feminist literature and drew hearts in my spit on the train window.
Words: Jed


Added on 17/11/2009 by Jed