I covered the basic principles and wonder of the Punch-Drunk movement in a previous blog, which was also a brief review of events 4 and 5 cribbed mostly from memory. For PD6 I stayed true to my antisocial writer tendencies and took along my notebook.
I snagged a ticket to PD6 as soon as it was announced for the same reason I don’t think twice about picking up my hip-flask on the way out the door – it’s a foregone conclusion that it will lead to good things.
This was the sight that greeted my settling down with the first cheap pint. It might not look like much, but this was a good 45 minutes before anything was due to happen and the atmosphere was already crackling:
During pre-show wanderings I finally met the legendary Gav in person; a big guy with bigger headphones and the biggest heart, who’s always so passionate and enthusiastic about what he’s doing that a hundred years ago it’d probably have been classed as a mental illness. I also met a couple of others I’d only chatted with through Facebook, under the banner ‘The Punch-Drunk Army’, spreading awareness and invites like Hogwarts letters. (Shoutout here to the lovely Leah and Lee.)
At eight sharp, the lights dimmed and the excitement rose as mirth maestro Kai Humphries took the stage for his infamous front row craic with the SAS (‘steroids and sunbeds’) brigade. The excellent work of Punch-Drunk’s marketing team was proven when it was revealed we had both a Londoner and a German in the audience, no mean feat for a social club in Northumberland. For better or worse, ties were strengthened that night, which almost made up for the lack of the next chapter of 50 Shades of Blyth.
Kai’s affectionate mythologising of his town is always fantastic – if he set up a kickstarter for an alternate history I’d be in there. Even for those not from the area, we can all relate to knowing one local that would hold up a travel agent’s with a screwdriver, and it’s in that shared experience that us small-towners find our identity. If that sounds depressing it’s because it fucking is.
Dave Johns then took the stage as the first headliner, with hard nipples predicting good things. He spouts a wonderfully unique twist of surrealism and observational comedy that works really well, and will have you picking gherkins out of your burgers for the rest of your life. As with many other art forms, the best comedy is that which teaches you something about yourself and your life, and the lesson that an older man with a younger woman means spare body parts isn’t one I’m likely to forget. (I’m 23 and my husband’s 43. I hugged my kidneys very tightly that night.)
The philanthropy of the local businesses selling food, snacks and raffle tickets provided its usual heartwarming backdrop. If you’ve ever wondered what a traditional Blyth gift basket looks like, wonder no longer:
Post-interval, nutrition provided by a sweet cone from Sweet Treats and another pint, Barry Castagnola hit the stage like a freight train. There are comedians you can enjoy equally well with your eyes shut, and Barry isn’t one of them; your imagination can’t paint the picture of ecstasy at a Lionel Richie concert half as well as he does. It was also enlightening to hear an outsider’s view of the North-East, supplementing Barry’s regurgitating of the Blyth Wikipedia entry which proved definitively that comedy is at least 90% delivery. When a man can compare himself to Jesus without sounding like he’s just stepped out of Tumblr’s actuallydivine tag (seriously, get stuck into that for a bit, your mind will invent a new vocabulary of insults), he’s something special. Especially when he’s called Barry.
The second interval was passed with a pulled pork bun courtesy of the very generous Premier Meats and lovingly put together by Kai and Gav’s parents (there’s no pretension here, y’all). Doused gorgeously in gravy, it was delicious, and the choice of a tiger or regular bun is a perfect metaphor of how accepting the PD Army is, even towards the bizarre offshoot of humanity who will take an alternative to a tiger bun.
And then there was Phil Nichol.
If you’re not familiar with Phil, imagine Roger from American Dad, the Cookie Monster, Robert Downey Jr and Speedy Gonzales were thrown into a blender with some LSD and drank by a dour Canadian, who proceeded to stumble out the window and bang his head, and was resurrected by Dr Gero and Qyburn. Yes, that about sums it up.
Phil’s weapons of choice are a rapid-fire hodgepodge of one-liners and musical numbers that will leave you crippled, but staggering bravely to your feet clutching your wounded sides for one last standing ovation. While I only attended the Blyth gig, I hear that the Bedlington and Ashington gigs reacted in the same way – remember, this is a gig which hasn’t been starved of fantastic talent.
You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a collection of (mostly) no-nonsense northerners singing their little hearts out to this with the kind of cultlike worship usually reserved for mothers watching their kids play football.
Unfortunately, as I was one of the estimated 60% of attendees who had work in the morning (figure from a brief anthropological survey by Kai), I missed his encore, but maybe that would have been the last rites for my ribs.
Here’s the magazine promoting Punch-Drunk 7 and their various supporting charities and businesses (who raised a combined total of £1014.61 across PD6’s run):
Blyth: 20th July; Bedlington: 21st July; Ashington: 22nd July.
If you’re anywhere near any of these place, for heaven’s sake, stop refreshing Facebook wondering why nothing is happening and get yourself there. Tickets are £10 – hit up Punch-Drunk on Facebook or Twitter for details or text Gav directly (07738663379).
Until next month.