Stepping in last minute for fellow Leeds contemporaries Scritti Politti following their singer’s sudden illness, Mekons 77 extended their support set to headline a show that promoted the launch of Gavin Butt’s book ‘No Machos or Pop Stars’, based on the late 1970s Leeds experiment art scene. The band is formed of its original lineup of Jon Langford (drums, vocals), Mark “Chalkie” White (vocals), Andy Corrigan (vocals), Tom Greenhalgh (guitar) and Kevin Lycett (guitar), with Ros Allen absent on bass due to other commitments.

Mekons 77 played a mixture of old and newer material, with many of these songs focussing on living in Leeds in the ’70s-’80s. They performed from their latest release ‘It Is Twice Blessed’, which saw Chalkie, Corrigan and Langford on alternating vocals. Chalkie mentioned the relevance of their material 40 years on before playing punk anthem and single ‘Fight The Cuts’, with Langford reminiscing about the 3-day week.

They moved from cuts to powercuts with their single ‘Stay Cool’; a stripped down track with underpinnings of bass, scratchy Bauhaus-like guitar and rustling cymbals, alternating noise and quiet interludes which distinguished the band’s rare ability to play slow as well as fast, what essentially was post-punk before its time. Chalkie jokingly remarked that, “Back then we thought we were changing the world – it still seems to be roughly the same.” The band then played the slow jagged guitar of ‘Corporal Chalkie’.

They returned again to their latest album release with ‘Still Waiting’, which after two mis-starts they eventually got through. Chalkie sang a spoken word version of ‘The Building’, which the band joked that DJ John Peel did not care for at all but did for ‘Telvira Trousers’ from their debut studio album ‘The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strnen’, which saw Langford’s stripped back drum solo. The band finished their set on their early track ‘Dan Dare’ also from their debut; a Sex Pistols influenced punk song about the working class, the band having done a rare performance at Leeds Polytechnic on their ‘Anarchy In The UK’ tour.

Mekons 77 returned for an encore of their first single, 1978’s ‘Where Were You’, and as friends of fellow Leeds art college students Jon King and Andy Gill, they also performed some Gang of Four covers, with ‘Armilite Rifle’, which they tributed to the late Gill, and ‘Elevator’, finishing the show on a sample of ‘Anthrax’.

27/10/22: Mekons 77 @ 229 The Venue, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.