“And without any warning at all you’re suddenly a fat bastard….You fat bastard, you fat bastard, YOU FAT BASTARD.” Of course I could easily be at a football match in amongst a bunch of grown men shouting at a portly member of the opposition’s team but, no, I am in amongst a bunch of (ahem) grown men shouting at a beer bellied man who is onstage at Glasgow’s Barrowlands wearing nothing save for some black duck tape covering his modesty. A slightly surreal picture I have painted I concur, but one which is 100% real and sadly what is also real is that this will be the final time I, and a packed crowd, will see the mighty Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine.
They were the second band I ever saw live and that gig (Queens Hall, December 1994) was the first I ever attended in Edinburgh so there is obviously a personal poignancy for me being in the audience tonight, I’m only sorry that my friend from school who I went to that gig with 13 years ago cannot make it, as he is away on business. However, I’m here and I’m damn well going to make the most of it.
After a surprisingly enjoyable support set from The Frank and Walters, whose music I am not familiar with at all but still I feel inclined to join in with the chant from the crowd of ‘We are, we are, we are, we are, we are the FRANK AND WAAAALTERS!”
Incidentally, a mention has to go to the crowd, as I swear it feels like it could actually be 1994, everyone here seems to look like they have either dressed down for the occasion or they actually dress the same way as always have. Faded Carter USM t-shirts are de rigueur for the evening and the fact that the venue has probably not changed in 13 years or more adds even more to the nostalgic atmosphere. The music over the PA could not have been more bang on with a host of bands from back in the day played including Neds Atomic Dustbin, Wonder Stuff and Inspiral Carpets to whet the appetite, so by the time Jim Bob and Fruitbat take to the stage, the crowd are primed for a night of joyous celebration.
It couldn’t begin with anything other than the synth metal wigout that is ‘Surfin USM’ and the crowd, myself included, goes ballistic. Drinks go flying, there is unashamed hugging of strangers and more people attempting to crowd surf than I have ever seen.
Theres barely a pause for breath as they launch into ‘My Second To Last Will And Testament’ and it’s pretty much a fantasy set list for any fan from there on in. The bulk of the material is taken from, arguably, their finest two albums ’30 Something’ and ‘101 Damnations’ including the entirely appropriate ‘Sealed With a Glasgow Kiss’ .
Jim Bob tells the audience midway through that they couldn’t have done the gig anywhere else than the Barras despite the fact that the dressing room
“still smells of vomit after all these years” And thank God they did decide to do it here as it is the sort of venue that inspires the crowd jump to about and forget about their insecurities. It has been a fair while since I have indulged in the ancient art of crowd surfing but I felt compelled to do so when they unleash ‘The Only Living Boy In New Cross’ and mercifully I have obviously lived to tell the tale. The self deprecating line “Hello, good evening welcome…to nothing much” pretty much sums up Carter USM, a band who never aspired to do anything more than enjoy themselves, and it was the loss of that goal which led to them deciding over a coffee in Baltimore, USA in 1998 that they weren’t having fun anymore.
The same cannot be said of the band or the fans tonight though as following a raucous rendition of the Inspiral Carpets’ ‘This Is How It Feels’ we are treated to what will surely be their career defining song ‘Sheriff Fatman’.
As I turn round and wonder at the sight of the Barras crowd in full swing to the strains “the toilets ain’t healthy, he don’t give a damn” I can’t help but think how many more nights we will see at this venue as the threat of closure seems to constantly loom ominously over it and so the words of the song do seem worryingly prophetic…
On that rather melancholic note, they finish the night with the haunting ‘GI Blues’ and the same grown men who were so bullish and rowdy little over an hour or so ago are now reduced to tears and the realization that this is the end, my friend. “See you in the next life” says Jim Bob to the crowd as he turns and walks offstage for the final time as a member of Carter USM. The crowd, suddenly bathed in light, comfort each other as on the giant screen behind the stage the crucifixion scene from ‘Life of Brian’ plays out ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’. For those of you who weren’t there, the gig was filmed for a commemorative DVD and it will go somewhere to giving you an idea of what it was like but I will always be glad that I made the journey through to Glasgow on what was a special, special evening.