This was my first visit to The Water Rats since it re-opened under new ownership and management and since it has undergone major restoration and renovation work to turn it into a gastro Pub/cafe/music venue.
I have to say wow no longer does it smell of stale booze and cigarettes. Instead it smells of charcuterie which was a bit of a shock - as was seeing the place with new sound and light systems that all work really well. More importantly, the place sounded better than it has in years if not ever. So now they can put the awful Moto years behind them and rebuild the venue's legendary status as a watering hole where the likes of Stalin and Lenin used to like drinking.
This was the first time I have seen the legendary jazz punks The Cravats and wish I'd seen them a good few years ago as we all need to see bands who have a member whose sole job it is to sit on stage reading a book.
They made quite an entrance before launching into The King Of Walking Away, the opening track on the recent album Dustbin Of Sound. It sounded harder live with The Shend looking like Crocus Behemoth's younger slimmer brother in tailcoat and Derby-style hat.
Batterhouse sounded good and dark with some great squalling sax that went brilliantly well with a masterful page turn or two from the on-stage reader, while Rampton Garstang drove everything along with his powerhouse drumming.
The song I guess was Blurred (but I thought might be called Blurt) was next and it could easily have been a song by Blurt themselves - full-on angular guitar and sax breaks and some rather manic lyrics. Jingo Bells upped the paranoia stakes a little and had Joe 91 frantically playing his bass.
Power Lines felt like a jolt of electricity was going through the Water Rats as the mirror balls kept trying to hypnotise us. Bury The Wild featured Hvoor Naan's most manic James Chance-style sax solo but also the finest page turn of the set: a thing of grace and beauty that got the odd gasp by those of us who were as transfixed by the book reader as by the band's music.
I Am The Dreg was the first of the band's classics to get an outing and, damn, it sounded great: full on jazz-punk dystopia brought to life with the Shend's passionate vocals. Not sure what the next song was called but it was one of the ones for which The Shend needed his book of lyrics to help out on as they pummelled us with some really taut post-punk.
I guess the next song might be called Postcards, but whatever it ramped up the intensity nicely in time for them to close the set with a great version of I Hate The Universe: a full on angst fest that saw the band depart the stage one at a time; first the Shend and as the guitars and bass were put down the amps were set to distort and we were left in a welter of expiring guitars. Finally, the book reader got up and turned the amps down - a great way to end a really brilliant set.
Then it was time for me to see Folk Devils for the first time since either 1985 or maybe '86. It was certainly a year or two more recently than the last time they played this venue back when it was still called The Pindar Of Wakefield. Obviously they have a new singer as Ian Lowery died back in 2001 and has been replaced by a guy whose name I don't know. I'm sure I've seen both the guitarists playing in other bands in the last year or so too but don't recall which bands.
They opened with the ripped at the seams post punk anthem Beautiful Monster, which went down a treat that was followed by a great version of Where The Buffalo Roam, during which a good slice of the audience sang along.
I guess the next song might have been called The Virus. It was certainly pretty infectious with a great taut riff and some really pounding drums. I guess the next song was Nothing Is For Ever which felt like Wire on some really strong amphetamines.
The English Disease sounds as nasty and contagious as it ever did and the new singer really made us feel like it was something we should all apologise for. Back to the guesswork on song titles as the next song was about "the Jury being out" but really everyone in the Water Rats was convinced by this point that Folk Devils really are great live.
The Sun Is Black was wonderfully dark and distorted and fairly angry with it. Not This One was probably called something far cooler but had loads of angsty guitars and the pin-sharp drumming driving home the message.
This Traitor's Hand was a real brutal highlight as we can all think of a few people who may be classed as traitors these days. That was followed by a nameless song that just kept the intensity levels way high.
Brian Jones' Bastard Son was a real highlight, during which most of the crowd sang enthusiastically with the band. It might have been It Drags On next but that's a guess. Either way, nothing dragged in this set and they closed with what I guess was I Had Nothing: more than enough to ensure they got recalled for an encore.
The encore seemed like it had to be Evil Eye as it was the one song everyone was screaming for. It didn't disappoint from its slow rumbling beginnings it sounded great and was followed by a song about Peacocks that sounded really good and left the audience wanting some more.
Apologies for all the guess work but it really has been about 30 years since I heard the Folk Devils. I hope it will be a lot less before I see them again and the same goes for The Cravats.