Steve Ignorant is best known as the vocalist and co-founder of Crass, undoubtedly one of the most influential punk bands England has ever produced. Steve performed at the Exeter Phoenix on 13th April 2017 with his new project ‘Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life’ headlining a show cross-promoted by Exeter Cavern and Old Hat. The crowd was made up of punks of all ages and our own resident punk was on the scene to report on the events of the night.
51st State, also known as Old Hat, the show’s co-promoters are first up on the stage and from the moment they arrive it’s an onslaught of chaotic anarcho punk. The two piece comprised of bass and drums with shared vocals have a unique sound that continues to change throughout their set; the reverb on the bass and vocals almost borders on pyschedelia for brief moments but the fast paced, in your face punk rock is never far behind. Mid set they launch into a grindcore song whipping the young punks in the crowd into a frenzy. At other times the bass is traded in for another drum leaving a stripped down rhythmic backdrop for the bands political lyrics. The lyrical content is compounded when they’re joined on stage by local poets Si & Sniff who do readings while 51st State lay down some heavy grooves. Talk of resisting fear and the necessity of unity fits perfectly with the views previously expressed by Crass and sets the tone of the night.
During their closer they incorporate a didgeridoo, what more could you want? 51st State are a must see for anyone in the Southwest with an interest in punk, their experimentation with sounds means you’re certain to see something you’ve not seen before when checking out this band.
Si & Sniff
Fresh from their cameo in the opening set, Si & Sniff provide punk rock poetry during the changeover of bands, offering their political musings and unique critiques of modern living.
Virus (not to be confused with American punk band The Virus) are an anarcho band from Dorset first formed in 1983 they’ve gone through several lineup changes and breaks before permanently reforming in 2006. I wasn’t alive at the time of this band’s inception but I think it’s a safe bet that they had a similar sound then to the one they have now. This is straight up punk rock, the riffs are reminiscent of UK Subs and the vocals owe something to Johnny Rotten’s iconic snarl. While some of the slower sections feel a bit drawn out, this band are at their best when playing in top gear, shared vocals give the frontman an opportunity to perform across the stage and guitar solos give needed breaks in the 4 chord punk riffs. It’s clear how much the show means to them as long time Crass fans and they dedicate the song "Butcher" to Steve Ignorant for turning them on to vegetarianism in their youth. Virus aren’t breaking any moulds but for a fun live anarcho punk band look no further.
Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life
Many of the punks in attendance that I spoke to before his set were unaware of the style of music that Steve plays these days. However all that I spoke to afterwards went away with a great appreciation for his talents as a songwriter and performer. Far from the abrasive anarcho sound that Crass pioneered back in 1977 ‘Slice of Life’ is in its essence, performance poetry. An acoustic guitar, keyboard and bass give a mellow musical backdrop to Steve’s words which wonderfully convey a full spectrum of emotion. This is undoubtedly a departure from Crass, the vocals are certainly less confrontational however no less intense, Steve acts out every line and while the tone changes between comedy and tragedy the set is in its entirety, inescapably engaging.
Steve’s personality is at the core of everything and his charming wit and fantastic use of language takes the crowd with him through autobiographical journeys of heartbreak and hardship. He briefly goes into sections of Crass classics "Do They Owe Us a Living" and "Banned From The Roxy" inspiring sing-a-longs from the captivated crowd and even throws in covers of "Five Years" and "Sweet Thing" by David Bowie.
While many from his era play greatest hits sets and rest on their laurels (as they have every right to do) Steve Ignorant continues to create and innovate, reaching new audiences to teach old lessons 40 years after Crass began. A charming man on and off stage and while lines such as "I’m just like you, just another human being" make clear that he rejects any icon status. If Steve is a punk hero of yours he is one you should certainly meet should you get the chance.
Words: Hena Larkin
Pictures: Arturro Misiek