The Blinders, The Novus, Flares, Jess Silk, Ian Marrey – For The Many, Not the Few, Stourbridge 6-12-19
Tonight is a very special occasion if you happen to be both a supporter of great music and also the Labour Party. Inspired by the political leanings of The Blinders, a band never backward in showing their allegiance to the socialist cause, the For The Many Tour is a fund raiser organised by the band for the party who brought that slogan back into the light: For the many, not the few.
There are those who believe music and entertainment should never mix with politics but I think that is horseshit – music is not just entertainment; entertaining yes, but also inspiring, educational and a positive action by its players to galvanise and motivate and inform. We have to remember that mainstream media is controlled and therefore the message pumped out is purposely twisted to deceive: when opinion and truth is delivered face to face, mouth to mind like it is tonight, motivation towards action, even if it is just to place a cross in a box on December 12, or to get involved in discourse, is priceless.
For too many years the right wing media has been allowed to paint Labour Party ministers and its leader as unfit for government, and despite most of the coverage being shit, shit still sticks. The public still think Labour caused the financial crash and always borrow to provide services they can’t afford causing national debt to rise, that Diane Abbott can’t count and John McDonnell endorses Apple products, and time and time again that Jeremy Corbyn is a communist, IRA supporting, anti-Semite… indeed the links between the rise of Nazism and its propaganda machine pretty much follows this right wing media tactic: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”. Essentially this method is more about divide and rule than political allegiance; the rich just want to remain that way at the expense of everybody else.
Tonight we will not be divided and The Blinders have pulled together a pool of musicians and orators to remind everyone to not idly sit and watch while this Tory government lie and cheat and kill to maintain their auspicious position. Our duty as citizens is to always question rather than accept, empathise rather than ignore, and above all show some fucking compassion. The Blinders are leading by example, and as Billy Bragg spoke about last week at his Birmingham show: it’s about the illusion of freedom and personal accountability – you have to make a stand, a decision and choose which side you are on.
Gigs like this may be preaching to the converted but its focus is on motivating those only slightly interested in politics to take action. It helps a government (even with a tiny majority like the current shower of shit) keep the electorate apathetic because they know they have a core following that will always support them, no matter what. Direct action like this Blinders’ tour should reach out to the disenfranchised and inspire them… I hope so anyway.
And now for the show.
The evening begins with two local solo singer-songwriters Ian Marrey and then Jess Silk. There are also three speakers: Pete Lowe (Labour candidate for Stourbridge) Maggie Dunne (of Fuzz Box) and Mark Roberts. Followed by two local bands, Flares and The Novus, and then finishing up with the headliners and organisers, The Blinders.
It is really interesting to watch the dynamic of the performances tonight. Typically the solo artists try and overcome their lack of overall volume with tonnes of drive and passion, so much so that Jess needs to watch she doesn’t damage her vocal chords by singing with that growl. I know from experience that you can actually get more volume with less gravel in your vocal and at the very least you have a contrast of vocal tone, which is better for an audience, and at best you don’t spend the next few days nursing a sore throat. Flares are full of youth and vigour and had a great set of songs; Novus are now in the position the Blinders were a few years ago, that of the main support trying to be noticed.
So whereas the Blinders have now lost the make up and keep their shirts on, Novus lead singer Connor Hill fills that position with gusto with his big crush for eyeliner and takes his top off as the set gets faster and hotter. The Blinders in contrast have to prove nothing and pull off a professional, tight and powerful set, featuring old favourites and new album tracks as well. Also, I guess for them, the gig’s focus is fund-raising for the Labour Party and getting people involved with the upcoming general election, so they humbly take a step out of the spotlight. Still, the Black Country faithful are absolutely in love with the band and the energy in the venue is just as full on as I have ever seen in larger venues.
In fact I spoke to a couple before the show and we played the ‘where did you first see the band’ game, and it turned out we had been at every Blinders’ show in the Midlands area since they supported Cabbage in Wolverhampton October 2017. The band manages to conjure up enormous loyalty from those of us from a working class background who understand and live the struggle they express so eloquently in their music. This is blatantly clear as the audience throw their collective arms around each other’s shoulders for ‘Rat In A Cage’: “Come together, we need each other… come together, put your arms on my shoulders”.
I spoke to Tom at length before the Blinders’ set, discussing brass bands, pit closures, Goole, Billy Bragg and the band’s extensive plans for 2020. What impresses me the most about Tom and his bandmates is the efforts they are going to on this tour right now; never mind next year, new music, new gigs, the fight is right fucking now. It is also not just a case of them turning up, playing songs and moving on, no, the band canvassed the Stourbridge ward in the afternoon with the Labour Party candidate drumming up support for the election by walking from door to door.
We are all sometimes guilty of being inactively supportive and believing liking tweets or wearing a badge or T shirt is making a difference, when really it is not. Tom, Charlie and Matt are very much actively promoting the cause on the run up to the General Election and I have nothing but high praise for them. As Billy Bragg sang during the Thatcher years: “Wearing badges is not enough in days like these”. The Blinders intrinsically understand that you reach people by doing something positive and physical – motivating people to get up off their arses and make a difference to this country before it is irrevocably damaged by this self-serving, out of touch Tory government.
The tour continues up to election day in Lincoln, Norwich and Stoke after already being around the country with different support bands in each city. It is a stunning idea and I absolutely love the fact they are doing this, and more so, how they have gone about it. More power to you lads… and here’s hoping for a positive result on Thursday. But I guess if not, we raise our voices in opposition, because that is what we have to do.