There have been many friends, bands, books, zines, writers, films and other assorted folk and publications that have helped to shape me as a music fan and a writer, and as a result had an impact on these very pages, but none have left quite so indelible a mark as Caffy St Luce, chief Love Pirate of Rocklands, The Zine UK, Artful, the Music Tourist Board who helmed the wonky passage of the good ship Pop of The Tops – the legendary New Cross gig night at the now sadly defunct Paradise Bar, which gave an early leg up to bands including Bloc Party, Art Brut and many more back in the early days of this millennium. It was also the spot where we first crossed paths two decades ago – I can trace a direct line from half of the bands I love and the people I hold dear back to that encounter and cannot imagine how different life could have been had I decided to stay in that night.
A real life musical fairy godmother and the perfect advert for the life-giving powers of live music, her enthusiasm for discovering new bands and shouting about them to anyone who’ll listen has only grown with the passing of the years and it is only fitting that tonight’s celebration of 20 years since the first Pop of The Tops, relocated just a short stroll up New Cross Road to The Amersham Arms, should feature a mix of long-term favourites and more recent discoveries.
Kicking things off are Jean Genie’s Massive Hugs, who may well have graced the stage of more of Caffy’s shows than any other artist, and with good reason. As all-encompassing a sonic cuddle as their name suggests, the warmth that radiates from the stage is infectious and it’s not long before broad smiles are spread across the faces of everyone wise enough to turn up early enough for the duo’s bright indie pop set. Performing in front of a slideshow spanning two decades of live music, they end with an impromptu tribute to Pop of The Tops that has everyone, the band included, cracking up.
Hot on their heels are The Outers, who we first came across as part of Rocklands’ picks for last year’s Joyzine Advent Calendar. Mixing anthemic Britpop tunes with a hefty dose of the groove that era so often sorely lacked and a singer who spends almost as much time in the front row of the crowd as she does owning the stage, they’re one of the latest in a seemingly endless stream of top Rocklands recommendations to look out for.
Bringing the night to a suitably sparkly conclusion is Mango In Euphoria, whose space-age dark disco tunes and glitter studded baseball bat entrance the late night denizens of The Ammo.
Of course though this celebration can’t be allowed to end without us giving thanks to the person who’s brought us all together, and before the lights come up Caffy receives her dues with a rendition of happy birthday and a novelty caterpillar-shaped cake. To the surprise of no one who knows her, it’s shared with anyone who wants a slice.
A night of laughs, tears and fantastic new music, spent with old friends and new, tonight was a perfect celebration of twenty years of sharing strange and wonderful sounds.
Find out what happens next at The Zine UK and Rocklands Artbeat
Review and photography by Paul Maps
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