An idea came to us on a cold, wet afternoon in January 1987 out of long conversations about our disillusionment & disappointment in the punk movement, about whether or not we felt we had achieved anything in our respective bands. We talked about the excitement, the energy, the enthusiasm and the dignity that punk was, that appealed to so many people and inspired them to form bands, magazines, fringe theatres, shops, venues, squats etc., and how it all seemed to be disappearing, wasted.
Then it came to us, do a gig! Not the usual credible gig in some squat, it had to be different and over the top, prick up the ears if nothing else and do it in the biggest venue we could get, The Academy in Brixton with a capacity of 5,300.
Colin posed as a Rough Trade representative throughout in order to book the hall, complete with briefcase, greased back hair etc (they hadn’t heard of Conflict but everyone knew Rough Trade). After many calls, meetings and lies from both parties, a deal was drawn up on stolen Rough Trade headed paper. A date was set, Saturday 18th April 1987. A good omen, the Gathering Of The Five Thousand on the anniversary of the Resurrection. The costs were upward of over £6500 with hall hire, security, P.A and lighting, staff, posters, ticket printing and even firemen & nurses!!
The 18th getting closer, we blew the dust off the banners and got the videos in order. We arranged for 10 T.V screens to be onstage to show videos throughout the set and set to work producing a new intro tape. It was when we mentioned this to The Academy that they first warned us that the Police were unhappy about the event taking place, assuring us that plain clothes officers would sneak into the hall and informed us that they would be stepping up security. Our immediate action was fuck this, the gigs off, then it was no, fuck them, lets rub their noses in it.
We rehearsed every day for nearly 2 weeks, I got all the Bass notes from Pete Wright (Crass Bass player) and even rehearsed at home as much as I could. We hadn’t played for nearly 6 months and Steve Ignorant for 3 years and with the mounting pressures it seemed more like going into battle rather than a concert, Conflict on trial? Conflicts last stand?
We were called to our final meeting with The Academy prior to the concert on Thursday 16th April. It was at this meeting that Colin had to meet Police chiefs in Brixton to discuss the plans and aims of the concert and they aid that they would be mounting a full scale security operation around The Academy, and would, in fact, be sealing off certain streets. When asked if they were expecting trouble, they said no, it’s just a precaution. They questioned further and we thought that we had convinced them that Conflict were just a rock band with a few troublemakers in their following until an officer announced that Conflict have a huge loyal hoard of supporters with the reputation of being the most political and violent audience in the land, and their main target was, in fact, the Police. What can you say to that?
When the meeting concluded they still didn’t know who Colin was a member of Conflict, but we still had the feeling that we’d not seen the last of Brixton Police Station. Why didn’t they stop the concert? Perhaps they wanted to take one long look at Conflict and our ilk in one move, were they planning to test their new riot control tactics on us? After all they’ve stopped gigs before, why not this one?
The final agreement was sorted, no meat on sale, stall holders getting in free of charge and no rent on their stalls, films ok, banners ok, cheaper than usual drinks and letting cameras & tape recorders in. Support came from Thatcher On Acid & Benjamin Zephania who quietly & calmly agreed to play. We objected to a barrier but they said no barrier, no concert. We had now covered every angle to the extent that as the 18th grew nearer we ate, shat and slept the Academy.
The 18th arrived, one of the sunniest days of the year up to then, we got there around 11am, picking up vans equipment and people along the way, looking to the front of the stage we saw the safety barrier being erected and felt disappointment at the distance created between stage and audience. Then came the job of putting the backdrops up which started a lot of problems. “You cant put them up” “Why?” was our response, “because they’re not fireproof that’s why”. So we got some flame guard and up went the backdrops. Then it was the T.V monitors, we didn’t have insurance so a compromise was sorted and only 4 went up instead of the impressive 10 that we wanted.
After grabbing a few minutes outside we re-entered the building and found to our horror, Police in uniform, inside the hall taking a good look at our stage and in particular the banners. It was the Academy management who let them in to take a look around. As the stalls arrived they were told they needed to pay £15 rent after we said there would be no charge but the management retorted “bollocks to that mate, we’ve had enough of these dirty bastards already”. So, Colin reluctantly walked around the stalls to tell them the news and it was nothing to do with the band, most were reasonable about it, but then again most people are to your face, as we witnessed when reports reached backstage of how “Conflict were ripping the stalls off”.
Faces looking drawn we met briefly to relax, only to be told the crowds outside were fighting and Police would sure be arriving in numbers. Fuck it, open the doors, get them in off the streets and out of reach of the cops. Trying again to have that 5 minutes to discuss the set , not a chance, door security weren’t taking any notice of the guest list policy. Most people paid anyway just to get in and it was saddening to see friends and others being jostled around outside and not being able to do anything about it! The crowd then became impatient so on went the first band Thatcher On Acid and we got the first look at the crowd and it was huge, with hundreds still outside getting in.
The people helping as our stage security managed to get in to the hall in time for the start of Benjamin Zephenia’s set, and after a brief confrontation with Academy security, took up their positions at the front of the stage, Benjamin blasted through a set of sheer brilliance, and by his finale, had the crowd in a fine militaristic mood.
This was it, this was the moment we had worked and waited 3 months for, our chance, the 18 minute video intro commenced and the crowd let out a deafening roar. We rushed backstage for a final chat and checked over our set, and at the final moment with the hall ringing with chanting, we eventually cracked, the pressure of the day and mixed feelings, frustrations, fear, hate, joy, love, hope and overwhelming response of the crowd finally proving too much. I looked over to Colin and saw tears flowing down his cheeks and had real difficulty holding it together myself, the intro tape faded………….and……………. Paul Hoddy
MORE TO FOLLOW NEXT MONTH!!