The last ever gig for Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine was at London's Brixton Academy on 2nd November 2007. As a birthday prezzie, Dwain had bought me (and himself) tickets earlier in the year. Why have I left it nearly two months to write this up? To make a clear headed comment on the gig. But even now, it's not going to happen.
Many people have "The Band" that carried them through their teenage years. For me, it was Carter USM. At the age of 13, I was listening to Pop Will Eat Itself (borrowed Alex's records) and Alex pointed me at Sherrif Fatman, the second Carter single. I didn't like it at the time but soon grow to love the ablums 101 Damnations and 30 Something. We followed them round to any gig nearby, sometimes seeing them twice on a tour. It's difficult to be objective about music when every major event in your teenage life is linked inextricably with a band.
The first sign of the gig were Carter t-shirts on the tube. Carter T-shirts have been a regular fashion statement for years (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and to see them all over the tube started the excitement. The last time I saw Carter as Carter (rather than the spin off bands) must have been about 10 years ago, when they split in 1997. At that time, they had bloated to a large band and didn't play many of the classics. Tonight was going to be the original Carter USM, two men with guitars and a digital backing track.
Sultans of Ping FC were suppoting and they played all the big songs from Casual Sex in the Cineplex and a few others I didn't recognise. Dwain and I positioned ourselves at the front of the pit and you could tell that the expectation was massive. Old T-Shirt dotted around with newer ones, the crowd average age must have been mid to late 30s. Dwain was definitely one of the younger ones.
"I wonder if John Beast will come out?" I remember asking Dwain.
And he did. I can't describe Beast or the explosive start. Here's the video:
The crowd went mad throughout Surfin USM. It was as if years of pent up desire to see them again was grounded all at once in a single charge. The mosh pit was as violent as it ever had been. People went down on a regular basis but were soon helped up. The usual complement of crowd surfers launched into the depth. The gig didn't slow down for two hours. It just ploughed on, hit after hit. With each song, a period of my teenage years tore back into the conscience. Things I'd utterly forgotten were dredged up. I soon lost Dwain in the crowd.
About 3/4 of the way through, I was shattered. I just couldn't handle jumping up and down anymore so I tried heading back out of the pit but it just kept going. People were going mental far back from the stage, so I thought sod it and exhausted myself crushed and barged by sweaty people I'd never met nor meet again singing the songs word perfectly. Middle aged men turn backwards to crowd surf, tired smiles on faces betrayed the way everyone felt.
As GI Blues sounded the final notes of the night, the paired emotions of euphoria and despair washed over me. Dwain found me roughly where he'd left me. I was exhausted, elated and gutted. That was the last time I'd ever see Carter USM live. Like all good things, a good end is better than dragging out over the years but it all seemed wrong. There were hundreds of people there gorging on the 90s punk, why should it end? Was I really reliving the past glories or was this new, different? The songs mean more to me now. I am 30 Something now. I understand some of the lyrics better now than ever. How could I have possible appreciated 101 Damnations at the age of 14?
Was it the best gig ever? Perhaps. If not, it's in the top 10, along with all the other USM gigs I'd been to. It was monolithic.