In 1987 indie rock popsters The Wedding Present were riding high with their debut album, ‘George Best’ and single, ‘My Favourite Dress’ which was voted number 6 in that year’s John Peel’s Festive 50. They also played a gig at the Medway Arts Centre supported by local hipsters, The Dentists. Tonight they returned to play Rochester Castle as part of ME1 – Medway Event One – a whole day of live music staged in pubs, clubs & venues all within the Rochester ME1 postcode.
As rain turned to glorious sunshine there were free music events at participating pubs including The Eagle Tavern & The Nags Head, while tickets were still available for the main event. Rochester Castle Gardens played host to local favourites Kids Unique, Theatre Royal, The Wedding Present and headline act John Lydon’s PiL.
Kids Unique kicked the evening off with their own special blend of dance beats, indie rock guitars and the quick-fire rapping technique of Adam Tilley. I love the way Kids Unique merge styles to create something very different to what’s commonly referred to as the ‘Medway Sound’.
Unfortunately, starting a set at 5.30pm they were greeted by a somewhat disappointingly small, yet very enthusiastic crowd.
Preservation Society label-mates, Theatre Royal were next on and played a commanding set of crowd pleasing psyche-pop tunes that was a perfect accompaniment to the bright sunshine and ancient castle backdrop. Oliver Burgess appeared drunk with nerves or possibly alcoholic beverages, rambling a little between songs. But Oliver, along with the band executed their great pop songs with a typically professional performance, ending their set with the great pop-tastic single ‘If You Could Stand Up’.
The Wedding Present began with that 1987 indie chart hit, ‘My Favourite Dress’ and played a set of songs from their vast back catalogue. The 1987 gig was their last as the original foursome & now only singer/songwriter David Gedge remains from the original line up. 25 years on the audience included the promoter of that gig and members of the support group, The Dentists. While scattered around the front of the stage were fans adorning Wedding Present t-shirts.
By the time John Lydon ambled onto the stage the audience had swelled but was less than I would have expected to see the lead singer of two of the most inspirational & influential bands from the last 35 years. Lydon was relaxed & in jovial mood, while the new Public Image Limited were tight and ultra professional in the delivery of songs from the First Issue, Second Issue (better known as ‘Metal box‘) and later singles such as ‘Rise’ & ‘This Is Not A Love Song’ plus songs from their latest album,’This Is PiL’.
Starting the set with ‘Albatross’ the tone was set. John Lydon asked for “more bass”. The band played a throbbing long version of ‘Religion’ which was one of the highlights for me. But I wasn’t the only one to walk out of the Castle Gardens complaining that John Lydon hadn’t found time to play ‘Public Image’ though raving about a great rendition of his personal Leftfield collaboration, ‘Open Up’.
PiL put on a great show but imagine what it would have been like to see Keith Levine & Jah Wobble with John Lydon.
For those who weren’t ready for bed and hadn’t had enough nostalgia for one day, Vic Godard & the Subway Sect, complete with Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook played an after show gig at the Royal Function Rooms.
Attendance was poor for such a great day of music; and I only hope it won’t dampen any spirits to consider making this an annual event. The Medway Towns has a great history of music and what with two university campuses & one of the largest colleges in Kent, there is a large enough audience to make this work in future.
Phil Dillon is a photographer based in the Medway Towns in England, a place teeming with creative talent. He practices most types of photography, but is best known for his live and promotional work with musicians.