Our man in Rotterdam has filed this report...
PRIMITIVE VOLUME 4 RECOLLECTIONS by Lenny Helsing
We, that being The Wildebeests, arrived into Primitive at the Waterfront in Rotterdam late on the Friday night, thus missing all of Thursday’s action, where the likes of Mark and the Spies, The Staggers and The Ugly Beats played, the latter having the good fortune to have the great Ronnie Splinter from the Outsiders play a couple of songs with them… all of this was taking place in the main hall. I’m bugged too that I also missed the action from the Café, as it included The Timeflies, a group featuring Robert Muter, vocalist from my old pals The Kliek. Perhaps someone will post something up on the groups I’ve missed out!
…so the last noises we caught of the Friday night came from Spain’s the Del Shapiros, and USA’s Muck and The Mires. Maybe it was the sound that wasn’t terribly inspiring or something, or the fact that I was just getting to grips with being there, drinking beer and clocking some faces I knew… but I was a little underwhelmed by both, though that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy some of their songs. I did. Muck & co were at times giving off a very early ‘80s Boston rock’n’roll aroma, with plenty of harmonies and strong pop moves in the mix. The Del Shapiros came on like a revved-up cartoon version of San Diego r’n’b greats The Crawdaddys ’n’ The Tell-Tale Hearts together, they dressed it too - in finest dukes of hamburg-kaiserthreads but after a few minutes it seemed clear there was very little to make them really stand out on their own.
Kim Fowley was Master of Ceremonies for this year’s event, and could be seen around the place a lot of the time. I passed a few pleasantries myself with the great man after being introduced to him in the main hall by Primitive main man Dave; although I know of a fair few folks over the weekend who could, and did, get out of his way anytime he came near them, ha ha…
For me and Russ (Wildebeests’ guitarist), Saturday began with a walk around a bit of the city, paying a visit to the market down Beursplein way, not to mention a couple of beer stops and coffee stops; dodging in and out of the rain. So, back at the Primitive scene, café style, in mid-afternoon Das Aldi Combo were missed, and we didn’t catch much of the Del Shapiros (again) with Kim Fowley either, as we had to try and sort something out with regard to amps and drums, and checking of the sound in the main hall: The Yardbirds who were gonna play last on the bill, changed their minds late on and wanted to play earlier so’s they could catch some kip…so we Wildebeests were chosen to go on last instead, so we thought we may as well try and get the sound we could be good with.
The Montesas and their particular brand of swingin’ kraut-twang were the first I caught and they were pretty cool. They were certainly getting everyone going in the heaving café and included in their set a pretty wild rendition of the soul classic ‘Uptight’. I also spent some time chatting outside with one of my big heroes, none other than Outsiders guitar legend Ronnie Splinter…and whatta totally great guy he is! His group The Dam were originally billed to play this year’s Primitive but they pulled out, so maybe they’ll play next year?
First up in the main hall Saturday were Sardinia’s garage gang The Rippers. Man, these cats are a pure frantic beat punk riot, an all-black apparition of nervous energy that definitely got feet moving and heads shaking, not to mention beers spilling etc. For some reason to this here old punk they somehow recalled some of the sounds that the very early Dead Kennedys were making, mainly due to the vocal sound and general speedball scuzz of their chosen setlist. The crowd were well up for it too…next to arrive was the legendary sixties outfit from Boston USA, yes, The Rising Storm, introduced not by Kim Fowley, but by vintage beat collector guru Hans Kesteloo. Well, as a lot of you know this group is not your typical garage-style band we’ve become accustomed to in these modern days. The Rising Storm play not so fast, not so hard or aggressive, and are surely best known for the ultra-moody, melodious songs that adorned their only LP ‘Calm Before…The Rising Storm’, a real rare rare rare LP in its original format, but which was heard by us via Eva’s illegal reissue from the early ‘80s.
Do I have to tell you it contained gems such as the rarely paralleled ‘Frozen Laughter’, ‘She Loved Me’ and various covers of Love, Rockin’ Ramrods and The Remains. Again, with these kinda groups that are brought out of the shadows into the bright light once more, years after their formation and initial demise, to be directly in front of you, you have to think beyond the sometimes detrimental sound of PA’s and monitors etc and concentrate on the songs themselves. For me and a lot of folks in the crowd they delivered the goods most of the time; there were technical hitches and glitches and lost vocals and Hammond, but there were especially wonderful moments when they played ‘Mr Wind’, the afore-mentioned ‘She Loved Me’ and, for example, ‘Bright Lit Blue Skies’…Hey, their opening salvo, their cover of their beloved Remains’ ’Don’t Look Back’ was no slouch either. Barring the bassist, it was all the original 1967 group too. Playing bass for them was all-round genuine ‘60s afficionado Erik Lindgren, head honcho of the label Arf! Arf!, and the man who brought us not only loads of great comps. like ‘No No No’, ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’, ‘Sigh, Cry, Die’, but who was also responsible for issuing the Lyres’ awesome debut 45 on his Sounds Interesting label. Now that is monumental! The Rising Storm you will pleased to hear were all real cool and personable guys too, which is always an added bonus.
The Yardbirds were on next after Mr Fowley gave them a short and beat-poetic introduction. This was one of those affairs that I enjoyed… for a little while at least. This was mainly down to the fact that I love the original group’s records I think. There was a definite sense of anticipation to see whether a group like The Yardbirds could pull off something like Primitve. Let’s see…here’s what I remember. The lead guitar really squealed a lot of the time and the player made all those horrendous faces one associates with Ten Years After at Woodstock. The harmonica playing was up to the task, with really enthusiastic playing, etc…but we could have done without the contrived ‘distorted microphone’ sound, well at least some of the time anyway. And the actual playing itself couldn’t have been more over-egged even if it tried. Jim McCarty, the group’s original drummer, should have been limited to one or two tom toms …not 4! He is joined by original rhythm guitarist, Chris Dreja, who I think did a fine job. Singer / guitarist these days is John Idan, and he didn’t do too badly either, especially with all these totally revered songs like ‘Heartfull Of Soul’, ‘Shapes Of Things’. OK OK he ain’t never gonna be Keith Relf – let’s face who is! I hated it most when it just got too noodly, with the guitar going off one on more than a few occasions.
Hey! I know The Yardbirds did go off on one in their prime anyway, ha ha, but it’s one thing for the Jeff Beck / Jimmy Page-era group to be doing stuff like ‘Dazed and Confused’… and quite another to hear something like that being somewhat laboured over …A lot of folks I know were more down on them than I was, saying things like “Pontins” and “Butlins” and “shouldn’t be calling themselves The Yardbirds at all”…but maybe that’s what happens if you spend a lot of time doing these super-solid-golden-sixties-type shows…I dunno. A lot of the songs were played exactly like the records, but somehow much of the feeling wasn’t there.
I can say nothing about The Wildebeests aside from the fact that we played for around 50 mins and seemed to be some kind of saving grace for a lot of the more garagey, rock’n’roll types in attendance…and we played things like Devo’s ‘Mongoloid’, a never-before attempted go at The Milkshakes’ ‘It’s You’, …and of course the ‘Elevators ‘She Lives In A Time Of Her Own’ plus a bunch of our own dimboid creations too. What more can I add…oh yeah I think we maybe winged it a bit here ‘n there, vocals were maybe a bit lacking on several items due to the lateness of our appearance and the provision of lots of beer before, and during our set, which was gleefully consumed…At one point I think there were around 4 or 5 of the Primitive go-go girls onstage with us. How very cool.
There were some pretty great records being spun anytime we ventured into the café area, and in the hall too, between groups and all weekend long with the go-gos giving it all they’ve got… A lot of time was spent catching up with old faces, drinking and talking, and with new faces too…All in all it was a great party and I’m glad The Wildebeests were the group to end Saturday’s main hall proceedings.
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