A Gathering of Promises

A Gathering

As many of you may know, my two years at least in the writing volume on Texan psychedelic rock, A Gathering of Promises, is finally being published by Zero Books on June 26th. Though I’ve yet to hold a copy in my hands, it’s looking good; nearly 400 pages, I believe, and telling the story not only of the 13th Floor Elevators and Roky Erickson’s solo career, but that of fellow travellers the Golden Dawn, the Red Crayola, the Moving Sidewalks (later to evolve into ZZ Top), Janis Joplin, Powell St John, the Conqueroo, the Lost and Found, Endle St Cloud, Fever Tree, the Zakary Thaks, Cold Sun, Shiva’s Headband, the Children, the Wig and of course Bubble Puppy, whose classic 1969 album gives the book its title.

A Gathering of Promises also zips forward to the present day, with Austin band the Black Angels just one of many groups still upholding the proud tradition of Texas Psych. The Black Angels and their friends in the Reverberation Appreciation Society also host the annual Austin Psych Fest, which this year has been rebranded as LEVITATION 2015 and will feature over three days and nights sets not only from the Black Angels, the Flaming Lips, Spiritualized, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Tame Impala, Primal Scream etc but closing the Sunday night a one-off 50th Annniversary reunion show from the 13th Floor Elevators, featuring original surviving members Roky Erickson, Tommy Hall, John Ike Walton and Ronnie Leatherman, plus guitarist Fred Mitchin stepping into the shoes of the sadly deceased Stacey Sutherland.

The festival- on 8-10 May- is obviously an ideal place for a pre-launch of my book, and the guys at the Reverb Appreciation Society have kindly agreed to let me pitch up, hang out and generally talk to people and promote A Gathering of Promises at the fest. The only problem is that, uh, it’s out there in Texas and I’m in Brighton, UK. Oh and there’s no advance or promotional budget from the publishers. So to that end I’ve launched a crowdfunding appeal to get me out there. I have mixed feelings about such ventures, but at the end of the day I’m just asking people if they can help and it’s up to them how they respond. I am offering some perks / rewards for donations, but they’re nominal; ultimately I’m relying on the generosity of friends and strangers to help me take coals to Newcastle, um, go tell Texans all about their own incredible music.

A Gathering of Promises is available to pre-order on Amazon UK and US, and should be available in other less morally dubious locations as well. The link for my crowdfunding page is


Here’s the boys themselves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdWXE6La4Os

Ain’t no employee

Just as those victims of circumstance, refugees, are now universally known as needy, demanding asylum seekers, when did all of us who work for a living start to be referred to as ’employees’ rather than as ‘workers’? The two terms are treated as though they’re interchangeable, but the subtle shift in emphasis is telling. A worker is someone who works; the phrase relates to the contribution they make, the value of their actions. It’s active, dynamic. An employee, by contrast, is passive; the phrase emphasises their reliance upon the employer, the person who pays their wages and dictates their hours and their duties. An employee is by nature subservient, whereas the status of a worker is more ambiguous, and therefore more dangerous. The worker does things; they do the work, they make things happen. The employee merely does as they are told.

Then there are the more subjective associations that the term ‘worker’ has acquired, with strikes, militancy, socialism, pride and dignity. With rights. ‘Employee’ is clean, vague, sanitised. One pictures a worker hard at it in factory, down a mine or on a construction site, but an employee one imagines in white shirt and neat tie, sat staring into a computer screen or carrying a file across a bright, antiseptic office space.

The reality is that office workers are workers too. All employees are workers (with maybe a few exceptions), but of course not all workers are employees. Some, like me, are self-employed, for instance. But we are all united in our struggle for basic respect, that includes not only the right to earn a decent recompense for our time and our labour, but the right not to be subjected to newspeak and neologisms the only purpose of which is to keep us in our place. Up the workers- and down with ’employees.’


“What’s so fucking good, what’s so fucking good about candy?” asked Pop Will Eat Itself back in 1986 or thereabouts, back when they were noisy grebo satirists questioning the sudden indie obsession with the word. Prime culprits of course were the Jesus and Mary Chain, with their seminal 1985 debut album Psychocandy.

What was so fucking good about it? It was released when I was 14 and pretty much changed my life. It was the beginning of that second wave of indie music, much less twee and precious and middle class than the one that came before, that I grew up on; their screaming feedback wail opening the door for Loop, My Bloody Valentine and Spacemen 3, as well as the House of Love, Primal Scream and the Stone Roses, and the messier likes of Gaye Bykers on Acid, Birdland and the aforementioned Poppies. They briefly made leather trousers cool again, writhed and wailed and threw names like the Velvet Underground, Can and the Shangri-Las at me for the first time in the pre-internet, pre-CD reissue eighties. They were the British, snot and acne equivalent to Sonic Youth and Husker Du across the pond, and if they had one motorcycle boot in Goth and Punk then the other was playfully kicking pure pop and classic rock in the head. They were dark and noisy and romantic and nihilistic and had great three chord Ramones / Ronettes / Beach Boys melodies buried beneath layers of distortion just like our pure teenage feelings of love and joy were buried beneath so much confusion, anger and hate. They had great beat poet alienated lyrics like “how could something crawl within my rubber holy baked bean tin?” and they looked great, all in black, always off balance, mess of unacceptable hair, scrawled words, mumbled loser mythology that was the very antithesis of shiny triumphalist Thatcher-yuppie materialism.

I saw them once at the very end of the 1980s, when they were touring slick third LP Automatic; twice in the nineties, on the legendary Rollercoaster tour with My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr and a fledgling, out-of-their-depth Blur, and then years later in a half empty tent at Glastonbury, by which time the world had turned its back on them and the Reid Brothers seemed like two old bluesmen, still howling furiously into the void. When they reformed in the 2000s I saw them at Jarvis Cocker’s Meltdown and at Brixton Academy, both times playing efficient, career spanning greatest hits sets. And then in 2015 we finally got the album that started it all, Psychocandy played live in its entirety, and last week they turned up in Brighton.

How could I not go? I went. Despite my more-than-mixed feelings about these ‘classic album played live’ shows, that can surely only ever be a nostalgic retread of past glories, a certification of museum status devoid of any of the spontaneity, creativity and danger that makes live rock music great in the first place. But seeing the Stooges play Raw Power at Hammersmith a few years ago remains one of the best shows of my recent memory, so go figure.

It didn’t start particularly well. They opened with a short set of non-album songs, a sort of reverse encore before the main course, like a starter, or an appetiser, or an overture, or a fucking prelude. Or just a warm-up, as it turned out, and a pretty shaky one at that. They came on with ‘April Skies,’ one of my favourite songs ever, and I didn’t feel a thing. We’d been discussing in the bar whether we’d need earplugs, but this just sounded as though I’d cheekily nudged the volume on my home stereo up to 3. Worse, the band- Jim Reid, slim and healthy and not drinking anymore in jeans and jacket up front and William Reid lurking uncertainly in the background stage right like a grey front of drizzly bad weather approaching from the west, plus 3 ringers on rhythm guitar, bass and drums-sounded like they were just going through the motions. ‘Some Candy Talking’ similarly failed to ignite, and it was only when they cranked up the distortion on ‘Reverence’ and ‘Upside Down’ that they really shifted into appropriate gear.

The main set of course was the album itself, in order: so starting like it or not with a subdued ‘Just Like Honey’ before a somewhat louder take on ‘The Living End’ (“his head is dripping into his leather boots”) propelled me into the sweaty, good-natured, all-ages moshpit. There I stayed- hell, it beats going to the gym- through highlights ‘In A Hole’ and ‘Never Understand,’ reliving the joys of being punched in the head by a young man in a Big Black t-shirt for the first time in 25 years. “I’m 48- I need oxygen!” called out the big guy beside me in a lull between storms, before the set ended, as it had to, with the Mogadon blitz of ‘It’s So Hard,’ the numbing, hammering, machine-like drums and the blanket of feedback like the static of analogue TV from the days when TV actually ended and you could sit up all night staring at the white fuzz of the empty screen, or like your pounding hangover on a Sunday morning when all the shops and pubs were closed and no-one did anything but wait for school and work and all you could really do was dig your own boredom. The eighties were shit. Which of course was why the Jesus and Mary Chain sounded like they did, and why they were so glorious. So is this anti-nostalgia? And are things really any better now?

There were teenage kids slam-dancing furiously to ‘Never Understand,’ spitting the chorus back in the faces of the middle-aged men reliving their youth: “You’ll never understand me.” Just as, I guess, I was able to identify with the anger and passion of twenty year old songs like ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’ and ‘You Really Got Me’ as a kid and claimed them for my own, using them to rail against the by-then complacent generation they originally belonged to. Sun comes up, another day begins. Candy still tastes sweet.

The Ongoing…

This is an update on an 18 month old apology. I’m going to try and get this blog up and running again, but as you can see it’s been basically moribund since the end of 2012. The big news is, my book on 1960s Texan psychedelia,  A Gathering of Promises: the battle for Texas’s psychedelic music, from the 13th Floor Elevators to the Black Angels and Beyond will finally be published by Zero Books at the end of June 2015. Launch events / readings to be announced. I’m also working on a new novel with the working title of Super Freaks, knocking out the odd poem, and still keeping up with the freelance music journalism, mainly for the Quietus. Scroll right down and hit the News link for updates on forthcoming poetry readings etc. And thanks for visiting! -Ben, 7th March 2015.

When They Close Down The Last Squat

When they close down the last squat

will we all be good?

Will we all follow the rules

and choose the paths

we’re meant to choose,

go straight to bed

like nanny says

and brush our teeth

and give up fatty foods,

and trade ambiguous

and unruly philosophies

for self-help books

and advertising

targeted precisely

to our needs

and tastes?

Will we all keep calm

and carry on,

turn the electric fences on

and double-lock the gate?


When they close down the last squat

will the trains all run on time

And the tradesmen know their place?

Will the stars align and somehow

all the answers become plain?

Will men be men

and women girls

and Britain great

and order be restored

and no-one out to spoil the party

(there will only be one party

but everyone

will be invited


must attend

they really




When they close down the last squat

and they have our details

all on file

and everything we do and say

is logged and listed

will we all be happy then?

Will we feel secure and safe

and looked after and glad that someone

knows and keeps an eye on


and makes the baddies

go away?

And will we walk in line

and play the game

and not complain

and will we sleep at night

and never dream

in case our dreams are


never scream

(for no-one likes a scene)

and never wonder

what we’re missing

who is missing



When they close down the last squat

will we cease to fear

the underdog, the outsiders

with ideas unnatural

and unwholesome?

Will we never hunger

for a space that’s free,

will the darkness hold

no promise,

will we take no risks

and never crave

to disappear


And never start


with entertainment on demand

and clear instructions


can understand?


When they close down the last squat

will we all hope for the best

and will the best

be what we’re given?

When they close down the last squat

tell me where

will we be living?






A sun hat and a camera in case both rested on a

Hay bale, Sunday morning, no-one much about yet, I

Sat in shade of mixing desk and looked over occasionally


While watching band on the main stage it had been hot all weekend

I was burnt my crown was thinning, I could very much

Have done with a sun hat. I turned my attention back towards


The band. They finished. ‘The sound of someone losing something’ some

One said. And in the evening, when the last band of the

Festival had just come on, and in the dark and mystery


And bodies entwined on the grass, and crowd all redlit from the

Stage, and striped pyjama children dancing, still the hat

And camera in case both rested on the hay bale.



No fences no policemen only friendly volunteers with

Radios, music poetry and butterflies, three

Red-tailed kites all turning parabolas in the open sky.



‘Excuse me, are you busy?’ asked the skinny girl in black aged

Fourteen, fifteen, Reading station as I sat with bags

And packed up tent outside a food concession stand I wasn’t


Eating. ‘Can you get a lighter for me?’ Held a fiver out

And nodded to the general store / off license. ‘Sorry

But I can’t leave all my bags’ I said. ‘If you wait until my


Girlfriend gets back…’ At the table next to me, two youngish

Guys, some kind of business meeting, podgy fellow, tie

And baseball cap, puts down his file, narrows his eyes. ‘I’ll get it


For you, but I’ll take a pound from you, that’s for the service.’ He

Takes her fiver heads towards the shop. She waits. He comes

Out doesn’t look at her. ‘Keep walking’ mutters and back to the


Table with his friend. Gives her the lighter, coins. She goes. ‘That’s so

Illegal,’ his friend says. ‘And she shouldn’t be smoking.’

Shrugs. ‘It’s making money. Two pounds in my pocket.’ And


I realise

Our train

Is leaving soon.

The Midsummer Poetry Ball- a review

poster by Alice Walker.

It was embarrassing the first time someone claimed that “poetry is the new rock n’ roll,” and I’m not about to repeat their mistake. And yet… well, lets look at it this way; the best rock singers have also been poets, and maybe the best poets have also always had a bit of rock n’ roll in them as well. Poetry was arguably the primary voice of the intellectual outsider before rock n’ roll started taking itself seriously; specifically before Dylan started taking cues from Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and Rimbaud and Lorca and Whitman and Baudelaire and all the rest, and suddenly the thing was to get up and sing your visions of ecstasy and injustice, rather than just write them down or read them in some East Village coffeehouse, and so rock happened and changed the world, and the walls came down and the people rose up and everybody got Levis and somewhere along the line rock sold out, and what’s so rebellious and weird about playing guitar in a rock group anymore?

But poetry, well… maybe rock music, that huckster hybrid of old-time blues and showbiz moves, just borrowed a few poets to give it some depth and meaning and freaked out cool, and then the poets all died or got booted out and now rock is just showbiz again. But you know that there’s never going to be a Poetry Idol type show on mainstream TV. Cos that would be too much like giving people a platform to say what they really think and feel. Music can too easily be just entertainment, can be technique and soothing sounds or- just as bad- an undiscerning generator of excitement and enthusiasm for whatever you’re trying to promote, be it a new car or a football game or a political rally. Oh, poetry can fool ya too, along with its wheedling, insinuating cousins, rhetoric and invective. There’s certainly a whole load of dreadful poetry out there, and just as much that is good, technically, but kinda bloodless. Lifeless, polite, anonymous. But a real poet, a real outlaw poet, is dangerous. They give it to you straight, or they give it to you mixed up and surreal; they hold up a mirror, and it might be a distorting funhouse mirror, they might turn everything you believe on its head, they might lose you in an unimagined world of strange imagery and bizarre juxtapositions, but you will see something, and you’ll see things just a little bit differently afterwards. Or maybe you’ll just realise that the world inside your head, with all its dark and dirty secrets, its insane desires, its shameful thoughts and ridiculous associations, has its counterpart out there. Maybe poetry can make you realise that you’re a poet too.

So, I’m a poet. But I’m also a rock n’ roll kid. That’s where I’m coming from. And with the Midsummer Poetry Ball we tried to promote a poetry gig like a rock n’ roll show. It helped that, as a headliner, we had one of the great living rock n’ roll poets, Mick Farren. A published poet from way back, Mick is also founder and singer with The Deviants, not just a legendary rock n’ roll band but one of the few that really understand and embody the demented essence of great rock n’ roll. But we also had a whole load of local talent whose muse is informed as much by music and the culture around it as anything literary and academic; performers each with a distinct personality and style, uncontrived  and individual, writing and reading work that, while challenging, I firmly believe you don’t need any kind of literary background to get and appreciate.

So we flyered the show at alternative music gigs. We contacted music magazines and websites for publicity. We sold tickets in independent record shops. And we won out; roughly 70 people gathered in a 100 capacity hall, and they were not your usual poetry crowd (though we made sure they knew about it as well). They were old hippies and punks, curious kids, alternative music types, a smattering of literati, rockers and ravers. And they sat down, and they listened to, as the blurb put it, “three generations at least of outspoken, outsider counter-culture poetry.”

Lisa Jayne: photo by Andrea Shamlou

Due to some last minute technical and organisational problems I won’t go into here we kicked off about half an hour later than planned, in a chaotic rush to catch up with ourselves before the strict 11pm curfew. Lisa Jayne performed two short sets comprising her customary visceral surrealism; images you could cut yourself on, rushing past like a just-missed train made up of sense-memory and dream association, and the conflict between the outer appearance and the inner world. Dan Belton looks at life with a black sense of humour and a bitter, laconic, disappointed romanticism; again, the gap between the deal and the ideal is very much his stomping ground. Mick Farren laughed in recognition at Dan’s world-weary observations on reaching an age where there’s “no sex, few drugs and precious little rock n’ roll” -and though a second set saw Dan sharing his deceptively tender lyrics for his first teenage metal band (very deceptive, given a chorus involving shoving a severed arm up your arsehole), in fact it seems a notable nature poet may be emerging, surprisingly, from Belton’s crusty punk chrysalis.

Dan Belton. Photo by Andrea Shamlou.


Alice Walker. Photo by Andrea Shamlou.

Alice Walker also performed twice, her second set notably more animated and urgently sensual than the first. Not that one was better than the other; both demonstrated Alice’s preternatural grasp of emotional consequence and the significance of small moments, and her ability to shift these into several dimensions at once; the ordinary, the mythic, the artistic, everyday objects vibrating at a higher-than usual frequency, Van Gogh-like in their rich significance. Due to the constraints of time, Mydget Submarine was only able to perform three songs, fusing classic 1960s-derived melodies- power pop psych- to vocals that had more of the desperate fervour of post-punk, with traces of Husker Du and the Meat Puppets lingering in the mix.

Mydget Submarine. Photo by Andrea Shamlou.

Gary Goodman seems to have quietly ascended to the next level as a poet and performer, his initially unassuming diary-style confessional pieces in fact all carefully wrought and delivered with a keen sense of emotional pacing, each building up to an affecting climax as images and sensations collide, feelings mount and conflict and Gary’s delivery becomes more impassioned, the dry intellectual wit giving way to a torrent of anguish or, occasionally, joy. Crucially, Gary’s soul-searching never seems self-centred or isolating; he casts himself as a Chaplin-esque outsider, foolish, defeated, drunk, an adult waif but railing against an uncaring, brutish and stupid world in a way that his audience can immediately identify with- hence his growing popularity as a performer. Another recurring theme is fatherhood and his unconditional love for his two daughters through all the difficulties and missteps the role involves, again detailed with an unflinching honesty that listeners, be they parents or not, cannot help but recognise and appreciate.

Gary Goodman. Photo by Andrea Shamlou.

Finally, to Mick Farren, performing a forty-minute set accompanied by electric guitarist Andy Colquhoun and percussionist Jaki Windmill, both current members of The Deviants. And indeed, what we get is in some ways a stripped-down Deviants set- lacking the sterling rhythm section of Russell and Sandy, of course, but this augmented recital still feels like a rock show. Seated on his customary stool, a black clad Farren lunges and gesticulates while delivering his sardonic, gothic verse, leading us into a surreal sci-fi western universe of improbable sex and leather-clad siren seductresses, where esoteric drugs still open the doors to the palaces of wisdom and the hope of somehow evading the implacable advances of our arch-enemies time and mortality. At 68, Farren links back to an era when outlaw giants like Burroughs, Thompson and Morrison still strode the earth, and rock n’ roll and outsider poetry were linked, along with wider and more amorphous notions of youth-as-rebel-culture and drugs-as-shamanic-tools, standing firm against the rapacious advances of the military-industrial greedheads and all who served them.

Such an era may seem quaint and discredited now from our lonely 21st Century beachhead. And yet we at the Midsummer Poetry Ball still broadly advocate and stand behind such principles. Poetry as naked self-expression, as the unspeakable visions of the individual, as call to arms, as a scrambling of the neurons, a psychic antidote to mass media brainwashing- rock n’ roll borrowed these associations, then dropped the ball. We’re picking it up again. And we’re throwing it over to you.

Jaki Windmill, Mick Farren, Andy Colquhoun. Photo by Andrea Shamlou.

The Midsummer Poetry Ball

The West Hill Hall, Brighton, Friday June 15th

7-10.30pm. £4 on the door or in advance from Resident Records and Rounder Records in Brighton


Mick Farren with Andy Colquhoun and Jaki Windmill

Gary Goodman

Dan Belton, Ben Graham, Lisa Jayne, Alice Walker

Plus live music from ‘Mydget Submarine’

The legendary writer and performer Mick Farren will be headlining the Brighton Midsummer Poetry Ball, with a rare spoken word set. For this one-off occasion, Farren will be accompanied by guitarist Andy Colquhoun and percussionist Jaki Windmill- both members of Farren’s legendary rock band, The Deviants- and joined by a full supporting cast, including one of the South-East’s leading performance poets, Gary Goodman.

Brighton and Hove has one of the most vibrant poetry and spoken word scenes in the UK, and this unique event brings together some of the city’s most exciting talents, celebrating at least three generations of outspoken, outsider counter-culture.

About Mick Farren

A leading light of the aforementioned counter-culture since the mid-1960s, Farren (aged 68) is one of the few surviving legends from the alternative society’s heroic golden age. Perhaps best known as the singer and driving force with proto-punk freak band The Deviants (with whom he still performs, recently selling out London’s Borderline club), Farren is also a successful author, journalist and poet: his latest collection, Black Dogs Circled, was published earlier this year by Sea Urchin editions, and doubtless he will be reading from this volume at the ball.

In late-sixties London, The Deviants were the freaks’ freaks, opening the 14-hour Technicolor Dream at Alexandra Palace alongside Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd and Robert Wyatt’s Soft Machine, and playing the last of the Hyde Park Free Festivals. Before morphing into the equally infamous Pink Fairies, The Deviants were also the support band for Led Zeppelin’s first UK tour. Farren’s 1970 solo album Mona- The Carnivorous Circus is a cult classic for its unhinged depiction of the post-psychedelic meltdown.

As memorably chronicled in his must-read memoir, Give the Anarchist a Cigarette (Jonathan Cape, 2001), Farren was the doorman at London’s 1967 psychedelic hub the UFO club, and became editor of the counter-culture’s house newspaper IT (International Times), before moving on to write for NME in the early seventies, where he was one of the first to flag up the impending sea change of punk with the seminal article ‘The Titanic Sails at Dawn’. As editor of the underground comic anthology Nasty Tales, he won a precedent-setting obscenity trial at the Old Bailey.

With the 1970 Phun City Festival, he brought William Burroughs and the MC5 to his childhood home of Worthing, and was instrumental in bringing down the fences at the same year’s Isle of Wight Festival. He has published over 40 books, including Watch Out Kids, The Tale of Willy’s Rats, The Feelies, The Song of Phaid the Gambler, and the DNA Cowboys and Victor Renquist series. His past musical collaborators include Wayne Kramer (MC5), Wilko Johnson (Dr Feelgood) and Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders), and he has written lyrics for several Hawkwind and Motorhead songs.

About Gary Goodman

In addition to being one of Sussex’s best-loved performing poets, Worthing-based Gary Goodman is an internationally exhibited painter and visual artist. His work has been shown at the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal College of Art, and recent exhibitions include Everything is Everything (London Centre for Psychotherapy, 2011) and Dogs and Eyes and Feathers and Bones (Monkey Cage Gallery, Ramsgate, April 2012). As a poet he has been published in Poetry South-East, Poetry Life, Java Monkey Poets and Sussex Poetry, and has read in London, Norway and the US. Acclaimed for his honesty and integrity by the likes of Billy Childish, he was recently the subject of the Empire State documentary Dark Night, Bright Day.

Dan Belton has also worked in tandem as a painter and poet; his first collection, Self Hate in a Phone Free Heaven, was published by Hangman Books in 1992. He is the main Brighton representative of the Stuckist movement, and his work was included in the Punk Victorian show at the Walker National Gallery in Liverpool.

Ben Graham was co-founder with Gary Goodman and Anthony Murphy of the poetry and multimedia salon Everybody’s Got to be Somewhere, which ran at the Prince Albert in Brighton from 2009 to 2011. He is a regular music writer for The Stool Pigeon and The Quietus, and performs as a poet in London, Brighton and elsewhere. He has published two autobiographical, beat-style novels, We Are The Bad Rabbits and We Shall Overcome, and Nowhere to Go.

Lisa Jayne is another painter who has begun to make a name for herself on the Brighton and London poetry scenes. Recently published in US anthology Love Notes (Vagabondage Press, 2012), she has described her pictures and writing as ‘naive surrealism’ in their balancing of the extraordinary and the everyday.

Alice Walker may be the Brighton poetry scene’s worst-kept secret; reading rarely, but stunning verse-hardened audiences with her ability and audacity every time. Still only 18, she exhibits a talent and maturity beyond her years.

Plus music from London-based, lo-fi psychedelic guitarist Mydget Submarine.

The Westhill Hall is an old-fashioned village hall / community centre on Compton Avenue in the Seven Dials area of Brighton- postcode BN1 3PS- and an alternative music venue run by a not-for-profit booking collective. It is an unlicensed hall, so guests are welcome to bring their own drinks; this also means that the Midsummer Poetry Ball is an all-ages event. Please respect our neighbours by adhering to the strict 11pm curfew and leaving quietly.

Your Host

Ben Graham is the author of two novels, We Are The Bad Rabbits and We Shall Overcome and Nowhere to Go, published by Bleeding Cheek Press in association with www.blurb.com. He has also published several collections of his poetry, and as a journalist is a regular contributor to the award-winning music website The Quietus. Alongside Gary Goodman and Anthony Murphy, he was co-founder and a regular host of Brighton’s succesful poetry, performance and multi-media club salon Everybody’s Got to be Somewhere, which ran from 2009 to 2011 upstairs at the Prince Albert pub. He has read at many literary nights in Brighton, London and around the UK, including the Book Club Boutique, Hammer and Tongue,Thisisnotabar, Ace Stories, Tight Lip, BEAT, Horseplay and many more, sharing stages with artists as diverse as Mick Farren, Salena Godden, Keston Sutherland, John Hegley, Esben and the Witch and drum n’ bass DJ LTJ Bukem. As a music writer Ben was formerly a contributing regional editor for The Fly and assistant Arts Editor of The Brighton Reporter. His work has also appeared in Stool Pigeon, Shindig!, Mojo, Music Week, the Brighton Evening Argus, the Halifax Evening Courier, the Forest Clarion etc. His interviewees include Roky Erickson (the 13th Floor Elevators), Andrew Eldritch (the Sisters of Mercy), Simeon (Silver Apples), Lemmy, Bill Drummond, Luke Haines, Michael Moorcock, the Strokes and Jane’s Addiction. Ben was the only previously unpublished author to feature in the notorious ‘Chemical Generation’ anthology Disco Biscuits, alongside Irvine Welsh, Alex Garland, Alan Warner, Jeff Noon and Steve Aylett. In the mid-90s he wrote and edited the music zine News from Nowhere, and has written, sung and/or played guitar in the Mumbles, Spectre, Guilt Trip, Mad Dogs Lick Forks, The Disney Twins and Jude the Obscure. His book on the 1960s Texan psychedelic music scene, A Gathering of Promises, will be published by Zero Books in 2015. He lives in Brighton.

Summer’s almost gone…

Eternal Bank Holiday Weekend in Brighton… Mods and Beat Poets. The New Untouchables crew put on their regular Mod weekender in town, and we went to the usual Saturday afternoon of free music at the Volks, mainly to see The Higher State, featuring ex-members of garage legends The Mystreated and our good friend and former Brighton resident Mr Daniel Shaw on guitar. Very good, very Byrds-y, with a moustachioed Daniel playing David Crosby to Marty Ratcliffe and Ben Jones’ McGuinn / Hillman front line.

Then it was across town to a mystery location known only as Studio Ping Pong, to catch an evening of words and sounds hosted by Gary Goodman and featuring Sierra La Point, Jeff Sheppard and Trey Blake.  In a dark, ramshackle space somewhat resembling the old junkyard hangout of  The Double Deckers, from the TV of my youth, but with projections of typewriter porn showing behind the performers, Gary opened proceedings with a set no less moving for it’s familiarity; deceptively simple pieces of blank verse that read like diary entries, yet carefully constructed to twist the knife in your heart at just the right moment, juxtaposing emotional states and memories in surprising conjunctions, such as life and the mind do anyway and Kerouac and Ginsberg captured well on paper too…

Sierra La Point is a young Californian poet who was apparently making her British debut this evening; well I for one felt priviledged to see it. Ms La Point is an exceptional performer, no less of an actress than a writer I would say, though not for one moment to question her authenticity or passion, both of which came over strongly. Working in what I guess you’d call a slam style- rhythms and rhymes somewhat derived from hip-hop, though not obviously so- addressing issues of cultural identity, social engineering, freedom and family, and not least love- captivating and charismatic and fiercely intelligent, I have it on good authority that she’ll be performing again at the Horse and Groom in Brighton on September 15th.

Jeff Sheppard is another Californian poet who we are priviledged to have in Brighton in this present moment, though one of an earlier vintage; his first collection was published in 1967, when he was just seventeen, and he’s read alongside authentic first-generation beat legends Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Lew Welch and Richard Brautigan. Mr Sheppard is also a published children’s author, and he concluded his set this evening by reading an unpublished but treasured story he wrote for his daughter- one that was rejected (by publishers, not by his daughter), for being “too dark,” concerning as it does the cruel treatment of an elderly flower-tending clown by a rather overbearing bear, though everything works out okay in the end.

Before that though, Mr Sheppard read for us a selection of grown-up poems in his characteristically charming, laconic manner, including the powerful and perfectly constructed anti-war piece, ‘Nagasaki was just for Fun,’ and two very strong poems, both technically and emotionally, relating to his work with autistic adults.  Other evocative poems recalled the California of his youth, mountains and forests and outdoor communes made glowing by the psychedelic assistance of those times and the even more enhancing embrace of memory since.

It was left to Trey Blake to close the evening: a contemporary folk-blues singer in the mould of PJ Harvey, Patti Smith and (less obviously perhaps, but certainly in my opinion), Comus. Accompanied by a guitarist, she played mandolin and sang in a distinctive croaky wail, unnervingly gothic like some witch’s croon, pale and stick-thin beneath her partly-dreadlocked mane of dark hair. Songs of obsessive love, death and revenge worthy of Nick Cave tumbled forth; harking towards the autumnal equinox ahead.

As we walked home, out on the streets, the boisterous bank holiday drunks wrestled and roared; they did not know. Their time was almost done.