Posts Tagged ‘punk rock’

Ari Up, singer for The Slits, R.I.P. (17 January 1962 – 20 October 2010)

November 10, 2010

(Here is a short article I wrote for the RE/Search Publications newsletter:)

Ariane Daniele Forster, better known as Ari Up, died month. It was reported that the cause of death was a “serious illness” but there were no other details available. I was kind of shocked to find out. Less that a year ago she played at The Bottom of The Hill in San Francisco with The Slits and she had looked great, with waist-length dreadlocks that she kept in motion as she jumped around the stage. Ari promised the audience that she’d be back to town soon to promote a new Slits album, which made this unexpected news even sadder.

The Slits were one of the original London punk bands and played many of the same venues as the Clash and The Sex Pistols. (Johnny Rotten eventually ended up marrying Ari’s mother!) But they were the last band from that scene to be signed to a recording contract, and their first album, “Cut”, wasn’t released until 1979. “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” a non-LP single issued at the same time, was popular in the clubs for a while, they released one more album and quietly faded away.

Then, in 2005 Ari and original bassist Tessa Pollitt reformed The Slits. In the following years they played in San Francisco three times. I was lucky enough to see all three shows. Actually I was lucky to even hear about them – like many of the things that the Slits did during their original incarnation these shows were not very well publicized or understood. They played in three different clubs, each one smaller than the previous, and the audiences also kept decreasing in size. At their last SF gig I think most of the people watching their set were from the local opening acts.

But this didn’t stop Ari, Tessa, and their newly recruited band mates from putting on a memorable performance. Much has been written since they recorded “Cut” about how important The Slits were as a trailblazing female-fronted punk band, and that is very true. But I don’t think they’ve gotten enough credit for just how good their songs were. Their lyrics and melodies from the 70s, which had been written while the Slits were all teenagers, still sound fresh and original. And let it remembered that, in her mid-40s, Ari could still sing them with love, and with a big smile on her face.




May 3, 2010

(This blog post is a review of a rock concert I went to last month; it was originally written for the RE/Search Publications newsletter that is edited by my friend V. Vale. I used to go see a lot of rock bands, especially punk bands, before I fell in love with theatre. The Sex Pistols were a very theatrical band – in the documentary film “The Filth and the Fury” Johnny Rotten explains how he got his early punk stage persona from watching Lawrence Olivier in “Richard III.”)

I saw Public Image Limited (Pil) play in San Francisco on Saturday, April 17th, at the Regency Center on Van Ness. I almost didn’t go; advance tickets were fifty bucks and there were an additional 12 or 13 dollars in service charges. But at the last minute I decided to buy a ticket at the door. The show was billed as “An Evening With Public Image Limited,” which meant that there was no opening act, PiL started on time and they played for a full two hours. It ended up being a fantastic experience that exceeded any expectations I had for it.

John Lydon, singer and founder of Pil, looked and sounded great. There are all sorts of clips of this reunion tour on Youtube, including the SF show, but there is nothing like being there in person. Public Image was LOUD, clean and tight. This is Pil’s first tour in 17 years. They played extended, and often danceable, versions of songs from all phases of their career. As I watched Lydon I thought about how he used to look when he was younger, with his spiky hair and sneer; He was sarcastic, insulting to audiences and always seemed angry about what was going on. His hair is now even spikier. But he has a friendly, if impish, grin and seemed happy to be on stage singing again, working with talented musicians and in a town that loves him. 

Lydon, of course, has a long history with San Francisco. On January 14, 1978, as Johnny Rotten, he played at Winterland at what ended up being the final Sex Pistols gig. (Winterland is gone now but was located just 8 blocks west of the Regency Center.) At the end of that night he famously asked the audience, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” No one felt that way at the Regency Center – Lydon actually thanked the crowd for being so respectful! There were moments when he even encouraged them to sing along.

   Lydon has returned to the City many times since then, most notably in 1984, when Pil played at a book release party for “RE/SEARCH 8/9: J.G. BALLARD.” It was in one of dock warehouses at Fort Mason. There were live S&M scenarios for people to check out as soon as they walked in. Further inside there were two wrecked automobiles that V. Vale had procured from a junkyard and mounted on top of each other like copulating bugs. It was a tribute to Ballard’s novel “Crash,” and was complete with a nurse and car crash victims covered in blood. Later a ram-car constructed by Survival Research Labs was brought in to assault the vehicles. The whole time there were multi-media projections of horrific images of forensic pathology on the walls. And then, after all that, Public Image came out and played their set.

Malcolm Mclaren’s recent death revived the discussion of the early days of punk, and of who really deserved credit for the Sex Pistols sound and image. But at the Regency Center on April 17th, all that mattered was that Lydon has survived and continued to grow as a person and an artist, and has remaining true to his punk roots and aesthetics. And for those who were there to experience it, this was yet another historic concert San Francisco. 

 For more info about this and other Pil shows, including live videos, check out the band’s website: