It was a night that I had been looking forward to for many months, when I saw the poster advertising the show on their Facebook page, I had to read it a couple of times to make sure it was for real. After nearly a quarter of a century since they last played together, Senseless Things were to perform one last show at Shepherds Bush Empire on March 25th 2017.
As the countdown began, I wanted to get involved, having been a massive fan of the band ‘back in the day’, I wanted to help out and do something to promote the show (not that it really needed any promotion at all but you know, every little helps!) I got in touch with the PR Manager and asked if he could arrange a chat with any of the band ahead of the show and he was happy to oblige…..
A couple of weeks later, I was on the 06:15 coach from Exeter to London where I was to meet Cass and Mark in a member’s bar in Soho just after lunch. Cass arrived and we grabbed a drink, I switched on my voice recorder and away we went. I expected 20 mins of his time for the interview, so I was somewhat surprised when he said he was good for two hours! Shortly after we started, Mark arrived, grabbed a seat and for the next hour and a half, we chatted about the old days, musical influences, side projects and just about anything else that crossed our minds. I won’t go into detail here but if you want to read the full piece, please click HERE and fill your boots.
Anyway, back to the show….
We arrived at the SBE just after the doors had opened and thought we’d head straight in to get a good spot and catch up with some friends ahead of the gig. It was great meeting people that I’ve been chatting to for some time on the Senseless Things Facebook page including the one and only Pete Cole who was responsible for creating the page in the first place! Once inside, I was amazed as to how many people I remembered seeing at various gigs and festivals from back in the 90’s, I could tell early on that it was going to be a messy night!
The room started filling with middle-aged (I can say that now as I too am ‘middle-aged’) fans, predominantly men, donning whatever treasured threadbare band attire they could lay their hands on. We played ‘Indie band Eye-Spy’ for a good 5 minutes with plenty of sightings of Neds Atomic dustbin, Mega City Four, EAT, Snuff and lashings of Senseless Things shirts. The merchandise stand was doing a roaring trade throughout the evening, specially commissioned shirts were on sale along with signed copies of their latest single “Lost Honey” which were snapped up in double quick time!
I’d heard good things about the two support acts (The Tuts and Skinny Girl Diet), two female three piece acts who had been selected by the band to open up for them on this very special evening. As the lights dipped, I was poised in the pit with my camera to capture the action…..
Up first were The Tuts, a DIY outfit from West London who burst onto the stage donning sparkly silver dresses and Doc Marten shoes/boots and for the next 30 minutes, unleashed their blend of feminist punk rock to the swelling audience, vying for the best view in the house. Their stage presence and chemistry fused brilliantly to create a great atmosphere, accentuated with some high energy punk-rock numbers which went down a storm with the excitable and vocal crowd.
After a short break, it was back in the pit for the second support act Skinny Girl Diet, another DIY female 3 piece hailing from London. These ladies took the best of the Riot Grrrl movement, mixed it with an extra-large dollop of sass which resulted in a truly breathtakingly visual and aural spectacle. Their music swung between melodic and unhinged in a Nano-second, plenty of screaming and fast paced action kept the audience locked in throughout their energetic set.
Having been featured on Billboard’s list of “20 All-Female Bands You Need To Know”, they’ve gone on to amass a large fan base and no doubt picked up some new ones after this set.
I forget what time it was, I was too nervous to look at my watch in case I missed anything, after a few minutes of excited banter with fellow fans on the front row, the lights dropped and the backdrop visuals kicked in with the music from hit TV series ‘Stranger Things’ playing out whilst the Senseless Things logo took its form. Once complete, the band strode out on stage and burst into their opening number “Everybody’s Gone”, the place erupted…..
From here, they took the entire building back to the early 90’s with songs such as “Is It Too Late”, “Ponyboy” and “Andi in a Karmann” proving firm favourites with the healthy audience who were bellowing the words back to Keds on stage. I was looking forward to “Got it at the Delmar! Which came and went in a flash but I did manage to see how Morgan played the bassline, something that has been puzzling me for the past quarter century! The start of “Shoplifting” caused a few issues, they kicked off and a few seconds in, Cass called a halt to it as he was playing it too fast! Judging by the sheer pace of the first dozen tracks, I failed to see how he could have even played it in the first place but, being a professional, he started again at a much more leisurely pace (sounded just as fast to me) and in came the rest of the band to join the melee that was over in less than 90 seconds….
When I chatted to Mark and Cass in February, I asked if there were any songs that were definitely going to make the final set-list, whilst they bickered between themselves for a few moments, I suggested that “Back to Nowhere” and “Teenage” were kept together to ensure that the spirit of the tracks conveyed on their 1987 release Postcard CV was kept intact, imagine my surprise when they kicked into the former track. Come the end, Ben held the final guitar chord, letting it ring out for as long as he could prior to screaming in with the classic riff from “Teenage”, the beer flew, crowd-surfers breached the barrier and the whole place went off again like a Chinese firework factory!
“Hold it Down” saw fellow Deadcuts member Jerome Alexander take to the stage to perform guitar for Mark who by this stage looked like he could do with a chair and some comfy slippers….. Jerome did a brilliant job, not surprising as the calibre of the Deadcuts output is insanely high. The initial set came to a close with “Homophobic Asshole”, which, at the time of its release caused radio stations across the country to ban any airplay, whether this was good or bad for the band at the time (It never did the Sex Pistols any harm!). “Started cursing gays with hate, like you're not alright if you ain't straight” belted out Keds whilst the band steamrollered through this classic track that has stood the test of time perfectly and is still as relevant nowadays, 22 years after it was penned!
After a short break, the band were back on stage for the final 3 numbers, I think deep down we all knew what the final track was going to be so we discussed the other 2 between us for a few minutes, I was struggling to think of any classics that would have made the list over any of their other work, I did suggest that their latest track “Lost Honey” hadn’t yet received an airing and it was this that they stormed into when they took to the stage once again. “Tangled Lines” was the penultimate track which drifted by far too quickly prior to the final track of the evening….
Mark introduced ‘Too Much Kissing” and invited revellers on stage, causing a logistical and health and safety nightmare for the security crew but there was one guy who managed to vault the barrier and take to the stage, dancing like a loon until he was joined by another male, closely followed by a security guard who manhandled the second reveller and causing the first to take a dramatic stage dive back into the crowd! It wasn’t long until he was back on the stage accompanied by a couple of females who spent the last few minutes of the song jumping about, hugging the band and taking in the experience. The final words rung out throughout the venue, “Ain't the place that I'll always return”, everyone singing along (very loudly).
As a special treat, here's some footage of "Too Much Kissing" from the show;
The house lights came up, the band stayed on stage lapping up the waves of pure adoration being thrown their way by the crowd. It took me a good few minutes to take it all in, was this really going to be THE last time that we’d ever see Senseless Things perform together? I know it sounds strange and most of you will no doubt disagree with me, but if this WAS the last time they ever played together as a band, I wouldn’t have minded. It was perfect!
These guys helped to shape my musical landscape and I have so much to thank them for, so many friends who I would never have met had it not been for following them around the country, watching them perform in the shittiest, the sweatiest but always the BEST venues that the UK had to offer! For this, I salute Mark Keds, Morgan Nicholls, Ben Harding and Cass Browne for doing what they do and boy do they do it well!
So, will there be more? Whilst we were waiting for Mark to arrive for the interview we did back in February, I asked Cass if it was the start of a new chapter for the band, whilst he never gave me a definitive answer, he did say that they thought that the way things happened back in 1995 (when they disbanded) was no way to thank the fans for their years of support and loyalty and wanted to get back together for a final show to show their appreciation to each and every one of them. Towards the end of our chat, I asked Mark the same question, he sneaked me a sly wink and said “never say never”, I’ll leave you to decipher that one!
Review and Photography by Steve Muscutt