Whitehouse - Live Action 93, 28th September 2001 Red Rose, London, UK.

Halfway through the sound check and I can smell burning. So can Peter. We decide it's probably the red gel on one of the spotlights melting. Nobody seems worried. William and Philip are preoccupied wrestling with Philip's amp. The technician is busy plugging things in. Meanwhile some asshole from the support band has just changed into a nazi uniform. He didn't even have the balls to wear it in the street. the only thing more stupid than a nazi? A gutless fake nazi.

The air stinks of burning. I glance over at the PA and smoke is pouring from the pre-amp. I shout out a warning and somebody at the far end of the hall kills the power. It's only the sound check and the PA appears to be fried. Gaya (the promoter) calls the PA company who guarantee to come and repair it. The doors open in an hour and a half.

We sit around on the stage sipping beer and chatting. Nothing else to do. Whitehouse write their set list. Philip worries about remembering the lyrics. Stories are told, everybody is tense but trying to relax. The fake nazi comes and stands on stage, but doesn't join the conversation. He just stands there, straight, arms folded behind his back, looking smug. not only is he wearing a dumb uniform but he has god-awful hippy-dippy long hair. This really offends Peter and Philip.

With half an hour till the doors open the PA company arrive and make hasty repairs, although some of the speakers are definitely not working, we compensate in the mix and volume. Thank the predator gods, it's still going to be loud. Whitehouse finally get to complete their sound check. I vanish to the bar and buy a round. The group split to the off-licence.

Fifteen minutes before they're due on stage and we're in the dressing room. Drinking beer, and discussing potential problems, my role is, according to William, to check that the mix is okay, and, according to Peter, to help out should any audience / group violence get out of hand. I'm fairly convinced Peter's joking, at least, I hope he is.

Just before they're due on stage I place beer bottles and an opener on stage. As I'm doing this I realise quite how nuts some of the audience appear to be, screaming and howling abuse, waving fists, splashing beer at me. Peter is first on stage and even above the roar of the PA I can hear some people shouting "Cunt!" at him. By the time Philip has joined him some members of the audience are hysterical. Baying for mayhem.

The show starts well, but within minutes the first glasses fly through the air. it seems as if they're not actually aimed at the group, but the amount of glass on the stage is phenomenal. The crowd are screaming, William and Peter douse them in beer. Peter screams abuse back into their fleshy pink upturned faces. At least a couple of people at the front appear to be genuinely trying to start something, and one shaven headed individual actually seems willing to take Peter on in a fight. Peter slaps somebody so hard that his hand hurts afterwards.

By the time William starts shrieking "Do you believe in rock and roll?" it becomes clear that some of the audience do, enjoying the spectacle of violence - their own rather than Whitehouse's - above the vicious sounds emanating from the PA.

Everything seems to be going according to plan, until Philip is grabbed and tugged into the audience. I'm on my feet and all I can think is "oh shit, now I've gotta dive in a pull him out." But Peter and William don't appear concerned, it becomes almost immediately apparent that the whole thing is overzealous excitement rather than an attempt to beat Philip senseless. Long seconds later he's back on stage, and Peter is patrolling the front pouring beer into upturned faces, gobbing lumpen phlegm into open mouths. The first few rows of the audience actually appear to love this - they're pleasures are ultimately masochistic. They want to be threatened, slapped and caressed by Peter, they like being spat on.

Somebody throws a glass high above the band, smashing it into the ceiling, sending down a silver rain of broken glass. William and Philip are just screaming. Peter clapping monstrously, like some demented beast. demanding the audience applaud, the PA is howling and all I can hear is "cunt" chanted mantra like by the first few rows of the audience, accompanying the lyrics of A Cunt Like You.

When it ends in a whine of feedback the air is electric, then everything is silent, like an airplane plummeting from 30,000 feet as it lands, the pressure in my ears changes, pops, and I can hear the applause.

Ten minutes later I'm in the dressing room. Discouraging unwanted visitors and welcoming friends. Beers all around. Everybody smiling. You asked for it. You got it.

Jack Sargeant

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