No Them And Us - Manchester Apollo - 26.4.03
In a Utopian Existence there simply wouldn't be a need for events like Unison's No Them And Us. The fact that this comes after 6 months of Love Music Hate Racism events organized by the Anti Nazi League goes to show just how prevalent racism is in today's society. Each and every one of us will have met a Ron Dixon character in our workplace or in the pub ranting about losing our British Identity and the threat of Asylum Seekers - ask them to back up their arguments and in most cases you'll be met by silence. The problem is that these ideas are then passed on to their offspring and it's a knock on effect spanning generations. As one member of Unison says "This is a life times work and while were here to enjoy the music. Take the message back into your communities that racism and fascism are not acceptable".
No Them And Us' line-up reflects this multi-cultural diversity and brings together Asian, Black, White and mixed race musicians to show the racists Real Great Britain. RDB, or Rhythm Dhol And Bass to give them their full title, are three Sikh brothers from Leeds and mix Bhangra with the urban sounds of hip hop, dance and garage. Virtually unknown to the public at large in the past year their five albums have all topped the UK Bhangra charts and 2003 looks set to be the year they take a Punjabi MC style leap over to the mainstream. With a stripped down crew for the Manchester show it's hard to gauge a true representation of the band, but these guys have got the tunes and charisma to break through big style...and bonus points for the 2 female dancers who appeared to be choreographing on the spot in a punk stylee.
It's been a long time coming but eventually I get to see Chumbawamba 10 years after I first heard their Anti-Fascist Anthem "Enough Is Enough". Slightly older, but no less radical, the band kick off their first show in Manchester for 7 years with "Mouthful Of Shit" from the bands 1994 Anarchy album. It's hard for me to be objective with the band because in my mind they'll never do wrong and to my surprise they span their whole career from "I'm With Stupid" through to the recent Anti-War version of "Jacob's Ladder (Not In My Name)". "Passenger List" is a typically Chumbawamba move with a hook straight from the Teletubbies and a list including Blunkett, Straw, Blair and Bush amongst the list of people they'd happily see dead, but naturally "Tubthumping" gets the biggest reaction of the night. It's a pity they didn't change the lyrics as they famously did on the Brit Awards ("New Labour sold out the Dockers, Just like they sell out the rest of us") to something fitting with the evening.
Choosing to end their set with three Anti-Fascist songs shows why bands like Chumbawamba are so important. For every person that knows the band for "Tubthumping" there w'll be another person who went out and formed a band, wrote a fanzine or campaigned on the streets for what they believe in because hearing a Chumbawamba song was the spark they needed. "The Day The Nazis Died" is a tale that racism and fascism didn't simply just end after the second world war. Whereas in the past the stereotypical image of the skinhead racist was very visible now the same racists wear suits and offered thinly veiled comments about the flood of immigrants with David Blunkett being a contemporary Enoch Powell. "Enough Is Enough" tonight lacks the rhymes from Credit To The Nation frontman Matty Hanson, but is none less confrontational with the refrain "give the fascist man a gunshot" ."Bella Ciao" is European Anti-Fascist song of the Italian Partisans who were underground resistance movement fighting the rise of fascism and racism in Europe. Their parting message really couldn't have been more appropriate.
Un-Cut are a band who's very existence is a political statement in itself. Jenna G (Vocalist, Mixed Race) Darren Lewis (Keys, White) and 2D (Producer / DJ, Black) are tipped to be Manchester's answer to the Urban Scenesters in the Capital and already have seen comparisons to everyone from Ms Dynamite through to veterans such as Stevie Wonder. "Midnight" is their signature tune with smokey jazz fuelled drum and bass, but if you're expecting another 10 tracks from the same melting pop think again. Soaking up everything from dub ("No Way") through to torch song ballads ("Senseless") they've moved away from beat-centric mindset and decided to write an album which will stand the test of time 20 years later.
Alabama 3 are a band forever straddling the fence between the mainstream and cult band status. Known for recording "Woke Up This Morning", the theme tune to the Sopranos, the band are also keen to point out that the song was originally about a women who was abused by her husband for 7 years before taking revenge. They also take their name from the Alabama 2 (2 black men accused of raping a white woman in the deep south) and are involved in the Miscarriages of Justice Organization. Headlining tonight's show they kick off with a song dedicated to protest singers. "Woody Guthrie" aligns the scapegoating of Asylum Seekers with the similar treatment of Marilyn Manson in the US post-Columbine, while the KKK and BNP are seemingly innocent parties in the eyes of the media and politicians. Over a country techno soundclash they sing "Don't need no country. Don't need no flag. Gonna cut no slack for the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes got me jet lagged". "Ain't Going To Goa" ,off the bands first album "Exile In Cold Harbour Lane", tells a tale of middle class white boys going to foreign climes and patronizing the locals by living in a cloud of weed and not exploring other aspects of their culture. It says a lot that Alabama 3 are comprised of two frontmen, one Welsh and one Scottish, who live in Brixton at the heart of multicultural Britain.
As the diverse crowd of all ages, genders and races walk out of the Apollo it sends one clear message - racism and fascism are simply not acceptable.
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