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Back in Time Live, Spitz, Spitalfields, London, Friday 22nd June 2007

A personal review by Warren Pilkington (Waz)


Almost two years had passed since the last Back in Time event (which was the intimate but excellent Lite gig at The Avenue in Failsworth, Oldham) and the sense of anticipation before this year’s shindig was something else. There was the launch of the new Reyn Ouwehand CD, the appearance of Jeroen Tel, and indeed a general smattering of live acts to perform for us all with Makke being a host for the proceedings.   As is my usual thing before such events, I was getting worried that my shyness was going to take over and make me not that sociable, and on the Thursday I was actually considering not going at all.   But then I thought that I’d be wasting a trip down as well as the chance to catch up with some old friends and maybe even make new ones, and despite having a rubbish week at work, I could forget about things and hopefully see what happens.


I got on the 11.15 train from Piccadilly to London Euston which arrived in pretty quick time, and then headed out on the 205 bus from there to Houndsditch, so I could literally walk round the corner to the Travelodge by Liverpool Street station I was staying at – and they let me in the room at 2pm, an hour early!   That was a good result.   I then headed out towards Spitz so I could familiarise myself with the route I’d walk to the venue – particularly when heading back at night.   Got there, and it was too early, no one was around, so I thought I’d see if anyone else was in London yet.   Knowing that Dan Gillgrass was that already there, we sorted out a meet up at Kings Cross station as he was waiting for Neil Carr (Tas) and Barry Thompson (Tomsk) to get off their train.   The three of them were already in a pub in the station by the time I’d headed back to Kings Cross on the 205, and it was good to see them before the event and have a good natter and catch up, although the ale in that pub left a heck of a lot to be desired.


They then needed to check in their hotel and drop their stuff off and head towards the venue for pre-event drinks, so I arranged to meet up with them a bit later on and headed back to Liverpool Street station and walked from there to Spitz.   This time people were there, and I timed it just as Chris Abbott and the rest of the organising masses were taking stuff upstairs to the venue.   It was good to see him, Alistair Bowness (Boz), Kenneth Mutka (Slaygon), Andreas Wallström, Paul Hadrill (Skitz), Marcel Donné, Jan Lund Thomsen (Kwed), John Carehag (Ziphoid) and the others, and once most of the gear was carted upstairs it was good to talk to them all briefly and catch up.   However, once Slaygon and Skitz were setting up the gear, there was a small problem: Slaygon had only brought one European to UK power adapter, and it turned out they’d need two if the live feed possibility was going to be reality.   So off I dashed to an electrical retailers in the meantime (thankfully one was down the road) to get another adapter, and the job was a good one.   By this time I’d also spotted Marcus Nilsson (Makke) and his girlfriend Sara, and it was, unbelievably, the first time ever that I’d met Makke.   Thankfully, he was exactly as everyone says he is: warm, friendly and with a great sense of humour.   Whilst chatting to him Dan rang me to tell me which pub they were in: I needed to dash back to Travelodge to shower anyway but I took note of where they were, as they couldn’t find the venue and needed me to direct them onward (my sense of direction, thankfully, is as good as ever.)   Not to mention when Chris opened the door to get the gear in the top door bolt came off in his hand by accident!   Mind you, he then had to dash back home in the rush hour for a working C64 as there wasn’t one for 8Bit Weapon to use – and it was integral to their set!   Thankfully, he made it back later.


After a quick chat with everyone I headed back towards the Travelodge and saw Dan, Tas and Tomsk in The Gun, literally round the corner, so I said I’d get myself sorted and either see them there or in the venue.   At least they’d found some decent real ale by the look of it though, so that wasn’t a bad thing.   As I was getting myself showered and ready, with the green Hey Hey 16K t-shirt at the ready, for hopeful ease of recognition, and went back to Spitz where Dan had said they’d be.   As it was when I got to the venue, Andrew Fisher (Merman) was in the bistro bit downstairs as he was eating in there – good to see him again at any rate and had a quick chat before being sat outside at the back of the place, overlooking Spitalfields Market, with Tomsk, Boz, Marcel, Kwed, Dan and Tas.    A short while later, up popped Mark Hennessy-Barrett (Bog) as well as Steve Barrett as well, and it was good to see them both.   We did have a moment of alarm though as some locals decided the best way to settle an argument in the market was to throw chairs at each other..


Anyway, Jeroen Tel then came to sat outside and was joined by Reyn Ouwehand, as well as Slaygon.   Jeroen’s choice of smoking material made everyone giggle: it was called Shag (say no more really).   At this time Sara and Wenchie were getting themselves all ready: a really nice floral arrangement in Sara’s hair which would hopefully stay in place the whole evening.   We were then joined by more people, Merman and Mat Allen (Mayhem) – really good to see him again too.   I think he’s about the only person who’s been to every single BITLive event now.   Mat did mention to me that he had the 2GB SD card at the ready so hopefully he could record some footage as well – just hope that turned out.


It was soon apparent that it was getting to be time for the main event and the doors opening at 7pm, so everyone started making their way upstairs to the first floor, to the bar in there and to be ready for the evening’s proceedings.   I actually spotted a few people on my way towards the front of the venue and the stairs, including Leoni. Interestingly the toilets were in the basement, so you had to get your hand stamped to prove you had already registered/paid to get back in after you’d had your comfort break.   The stage and size of the venue seemed just about right: the stage was big enough for most bands to do their thing but with ample room for the audience.   Slaygon and Skitz looked pretty like it was all systems go in terms of the live feed, and everyone made their way in and mooched around, chatting to anyone and catching up before the start of the evening’s proceedings.   I bumped into Paul Hesford (Danceaway) and Octave Sounds, who were staying at the same Travelodge as me, and they told me of their hassle to try and park anywhere near the place – his admission we should have got the train down with you! said all I needed to know: that I’m not missing anything by not driving.


Chris Abbott opened proceedings for the evening’s entertainment and introduced Makke as host for the evening.   He’d already explained to me that he was going to wing it throughout, and that to me would work pretty well.   First up, the 8Bit Weapon set.   Michelle (aka ComputeHer) did some solo stuff first, and it was intriguing seeing her with a Gameboy Color with he photo attachment knock up some pretty decent tunes, before switching to a Chris’ C64 with keyboard overlay so that   she could do some other songs as well, which seemed to go down pretty well with the audience on the whole.   I spotted that Anna Black (she of the 8Bit SIDChip Sandwich Show fame) and her friend Maria had come along too, and they were both enjoying the occasion.   As I peered around the venue, I spotted a couple of people from BITLives of old, most notably Mog, looking as cool as ever (although no Commodore logo in her shaven head present this time.)


After a break to allow Michelle to have a quick breather, 8Bit Weapon returned to stage as a threesome, with Seth Sternberger also joined by Michelle and indeed Melissa (aka Melbot).   Between them they knocked up a mighty fine set of electronic goodness.   Seth also did some really excellent vocals for Last Mission, explaining it was one last mission for various reasons. His voice mic was put through a vocoder and it really did sound the part.   What I didn’t expect was that he’d end up passing the mic around to people near the front and ask them to sing One last mission into it.   He then proceeded to do the same himself but in various positions, including pleading on one knee and then just for good measure lying on his back, almost Morrissey-style (bonus points for that from me of course).


But for them, the piece de la resistance was yet to come, most notably when they kicked things into life on the dancefloor with a kick ass version of Crazy Comets.   Anna started to dance, and gradually people started joining in with air keyboards and everything.   Melissa had what looked like a paddle controller to do some of the stuff, and it was all going very well.   I also spotted Jason Page in the background, and he would tell me later that when he was working in Graftgold’s offices, that he listened to Jeroen Tel’s Cybernoid soundtrack and was just in awe from that moment on, so he wanted to come and meet Jeroen.   And you thought it was just us diehard fans who idolised the likes of JT, huh?


After that, and before Danceaway would do his disco thing, Makke introduced Chilli_UK to the crowd, but for a good reason.   He on the spot proposed to his girlfriend to ask her to marry him.   Thankfully for him, she said yes and that really was a nice gesture of him to ask, which got some deserved applause.   I think as well that the crowd were supportive and were generally surprised and pleased.


Danceaway did a very neat set of dance tunes mixed in with SID music, although mixing anything with Coldplay can only improve it to be honest so that got a thumbs up (for the record: I detest Coldplay and all they stand for) and cleverly used tunes with some SID samples in, such as I-Ball so that the crowd could join in if they wanted.   He even wore a wig and glasses to make him look like Jimmy Saville in his 1970s TOTP heyday (don’t know if it was the intention, but it worked) and generally people were getting down and dancing, which had to be a good thing.  


Half way through, I spotted MJ Hibbett had arrived, and as I promised, I bought him a drink as a sort of belated birthday present, as it had been his birthday on Tuesday.   He got set up with some CDs and the Hey Hey 16K t-shirts (he had one on himself too) and it was good to catch up with him and chat about all sorts.   He did mention as well that he’d brought along a We Validate! tour t-shirt for me, which was very nice of him all round.   I mentioned to him that there’s one line in Hey Hey 64K which needed a slight change, Lost Ninja needed to be Last Ninja, and he proceeded to write Last on his hand in big letters.   As it was only the second time ever he was playing the 64K version, he had the words on A3 ready to go.   I actually had the words on A4 so I could get people to sing along and had brought them with me, which made us both giggle.


Then came the disco dance off contest.   Anna was a judge, and Chris gave her the binary baby scorecards with 0 having Noooooo! and 1 having Yessssss on them.   Danceaway then selected five people to dance, and they would be judged 0 and 1 accordingly till there was a winner.   And the disco classic that is Village People’s YMCA got it all started nicely.   It was soon apparent that there were only two possible winners: a rather cute woman called Kerry and Eris, who was with Mog and used to be the manager of the band Sheep on Drugs (fact!) – he was into a lot of EBM music like me too and was a great bloke to talk to.   Anyway, it was down to those two for the final dance off, they donned wigs and got down to Karl Douglas’ classic Kung Fu Fighting.   I resisted the temptation to do the kung fu moves myself but it was good fun seeing them really go for it.   In the end Kerry was announced the winner and had a goody bag of all the CDs on offer, which was something else!


After that was all done and dusted, on came MJ Hibbett.   He was doing Hey Hey 64K first, and I had a few people near me at the front, so I got them to share my lyric sheet and we all sang it together, which made it much nicer for MJ as well and set things on the right tone.   Considering it was only the second time he’d played it, it sounded good to me.   He then did another computer-related track Control Alt Delete.   He had posted a video of him playing it on the ukulele but his girlfriend insisted he take it down because it showed an unmade bed (true) but I knew the words anyway, and had a good singalong with Merman, Kwed, and Steve Barrett.   The same trio belted out the words on The Gay Train which went down better than expected and then it was Easily Impressed complete with audience participation bits.   But the killer bit was the last song, his rather cool version of Boom Shake The Room which is so much better and fun than the original, and that just was great.   In face I’m quite sure he wanted to play more but time was against everything as it was in danger of over-run….


Then, on came Jeroen Tel.   He had everything there to deliver a storming DJ type set.   And did he succeed?   Without a shadow of doubt he did!   It was great seeing him really work the equipment that he had and laying down some pretty good tunes at the same time.   In fact he even slipped in stuff like Dan Dare 3, Robocop 3 and Rubicon which had all us diehards recognising it straight away.   In fact the purpose of the carrier bag he had with him was plain to see after a while: he had these rings that glowed in the dark, and he could wave them around to make all sorts of effects, and that just added to the presentation of the whole thing.   It was clear that he had the crowd in his hands and he was just loving playing, and that was very enthusiastic to see, to be honest.   The floor was pretty full and people seemed to be really up for it on the whole.   Words can’t describe the happiness on people’s faces as he snuck in bits of his own stuff layered nicely into the whole thing, and it was just rather top stuff.   The sign at the front of him said it all really: When it’s Jeroen you can always Tel.   Oh yes, you so could.


It was getting to around 11pm at this point and it was clear to me some people were leaving, probably to get transport home.   And that was a real shame.   Because they missed the best act of the night, Reyn Ouwehand not just playing, but playing everything and building each track from scratch, and live!   He’d record a drum beat, then do some keyboards or a bass guitar or whatever, and he would then just gradually build it until he could play the keyboards live and get everything sounded just nice.   And did it ever!   Parallax was an absolutely majestic tour de force, Garfield was absolutely spot on, and it had all the wonderful feel that it does on the album, and cranking up the volume for Arcade Classics just made that sound really good, and the keyboard build up for the spooky parts of Ghosts and Goblins just showed what an absolute genius was at work.


I’m quite sure if he could, Reyn would have played all night and no one there would have cared.   As it was, he did a brilliant version of Skier, ska style, and both Misser and I decided to do mock skiing impersonations just to have a bit of a giggle really, but it seemed to just have so much fun in that element that there were smiles everywhere on people’s faces because of how bloody good Reyn was.   In fact, good job he had a spare drumstick or three because they were being spilt out of his hand and towards the front of the stage, he was going for it that much.

He got a few requests, and eventually relented and played Deflektor.   Now for those of you who don’t know, often when Reyn’s version gets played on SlayRadio, it’s customary for people to sing Dayo! Dayo! at appropriate times, just to give the song a bit of participation.   Sure enough, as it’s being played, a few of us start to join in at the right point, but it just didn’t sound like everyone was in on it.   And so, completely unplanned in any way, I decided to hit the stage, sing the first chant of Dayo! at the right point and then gradually got everyone up to volume to sing along, before whizzing around the stage handing the mic to people assembled so they could get the lead Dayo! in with everyone else belting it out: my many thanks to the likes of Misser, Leoni, Merman and Slaygon for being four of a few willing to take that on.   I don’t know if Reyn kept the version a bit longer just to allow a bit of indulgence, but I was relieved I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself and then just let Reyn finish it off in his own brilliant style.   Thankfully Reyn was surprised but pleased that I did that, as in his own words it was bloody great!   Thanks Reyn!


And Reyn was far from done, as well as a bit of self-indulgence (we allowed him to, he was so good) by doing a storming version of Last Ninja 3, and even a rather nice bluesy version of Flimbo’s Quest loader.   The fact that Reyn could just build a tune with various styles and be so professional, and also just to be able to do it improvised showed how accomplished it was, and it kept being one more song till about 12.30am when Makke finally announced it was time to buy CDs and then f**k off!!.  


I obviously purchased Reyn’s CD, and that according to Ziphoid was doing a pretty good trade in terms of sales, and by the sound of it from Chris all had gone very well indeed.   Before we all knew it, it was 1am and closing time for the Spitz, and Octave Sounds, Danceaway and myself helped Chris pack the CDs into his car, directed Leoni and friends back to the nearest taxi rank at Liverpool Street Station, and said a last sad goodbye to Boz and Wenchie before teaming up with Danceaway, Octave Sounds and Merman for the walk back to Travelodge, which didn’t take that long whatsoever.


To say that the event fulfilled all expectations was an understatement.   It was just great fun, as these things should be, and in fact there were a few people who’d never been to one before and had enjoyed themselves.   The bar is raised constantly with these events, but suffice to say it was yet again a wonderful experience and something I’m glad I decided not to let my persona get in the way of.   Full kudos to all the acts for their great performances, for Makke for being the host with the most, to Slaygon and Skitz for getting that feed out there to the masses, Ziphoid for his sales person mode for the shop, and most of all to Chris for getting it all together – he seems to be enjoying it so much more these days.   And if you were there, kudos to you for being there and proving that retro game music never dies – it just gets re-born.