It’s big news any time a legendary first-wave Oi! band comes to play your town. When it’s Sham 69, however, things get a little shaded. You see, they’re one of those bands with a convoluted and contentious history involving infighting and shifting alliances that has resulted in multiple touring groups claiming the same name. If you’ve got an especially investigative interest in rock & roll soap operas and a shitload of free time, look it up.
The Sham 69 that came here (Sep. 26, Backbooth) is the “Tim V” version. As opposed to the so-called “original 1977 line-up” that features three OGs, this one’s historical bona fides boast original member Neil Harris (guitar), longtime member Ian Whitewood (drums) and singer Tim V, whose official association with the band began in 2007 as a replacement for the notoriously elusive Jimmy Pursey, who of course now fronts the 1977 line-up. Not confused enough yet? Well, the band that showed up here didn’t even contain all the aforementioned. After inquiring with their publicist, I was able to confirm that Harris had medical issues that precluded him from touring and Whitewood was actually refused a visa, but both are still official members. So in terms of seniority, all we’re left with is the post-millennial Tim V. I’m cross-eyed at this point so I’ll let the punk-rock scholars debate the legitimacy of all that. It was reason enough, though, to go out and maybe catch a distant vignette of history and run with the bootboys for a night.
This was a true skinhead scene, which evokes a lot of bad connotations around here because of the white-power hijacking of the subculture back in the ‘80s. But from the telltale signs and the familiar faces I saw, this was a gathering of the pure, non-racist heads. To hopefully further dispel some of the negative baggage, I’d like to note that Tim V stopped the whole show at one point because a girl in the front row lost her glasses. The violence and merrymaking halted, a search ensued and the specs were located and returned. See? Fucking sweethearts.
What can I say? It was a competent performance and a fun show. I miss this kind of punk. We’re not talking Emerson, Lake & Palmer here. This is rock & roll at its most rowdy and rudimental. So when the crowd’s there and the spirit’s right, sometimes that’s all you need. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go order me some Oxbloods.