Puddle Of Mudd
Mean Fiddler

PUDDLE OF MUDD London Mean Fiddler
Gig Review

It's a depressing fact, but it's now a little over 10 years ago since Nevermind was released. And remembering the day I went out and bought the tape (yes, tape!) like it was yesterday (not literally, but I thought I'd use the saying) makes me realise just how quickly time really has flown.

Personally, and I'm quite open about this, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' is probably the most important record of my life. Almost every teenager tries to find an identity, and that song made me realise that there was something better out there, and that I didn't have to go along with everyone else. If anything, it steered me away from it all.

Unfortunately, like most good things the trendies had to get in on the act, and it was tragic to not only see supermodels walking down the catwalks in 'grunge', but also seeing copies of 'Nevermind' in the middle of someone's primarily dance/club music collection.

Nirvana and the grunge scene paved the way for a whole host of alternative acts to not only make their presence known, but also influence almost every other rock act to follow for the next 10 years or more. Of course, the music press being the music press were quick to accuse many similar acts between 95 - 99 as living in the past or copying.

So things have been fairly quiet for the past 6 or 7 years on the 'grunge' scene, especially in the UK, but in these times of speeding retrospective (it seems the last 7 years have seen revivals of 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s music) grunge has once again been creeping back into the record stores, courtesy lately of Staind and Puddle Of Mudd.

So it was a rainy Friday evening, and having lost my job on the Wednesday I wasn't really in the mood for going anywhere. But I already had my ticket and I really wanted to see this band. 'Come Clean' is one of the strongest rock albums I've heard in a while, probably on par with System Of A Down's 'Toxicity'.

"'He thinks it's a bomb, he thinks it's a bomb' was racing through my mind. I stayed silent."

The ticket said doors were at 7:30, we arrived about 7:10 and they were already letting people in, so somewhere down the line someone had messed up. Ok, so we probably weren't going to get a seat now (the Mean Fiddler only has about ten tables upstairs), but at least we weren't going to have to stand around in the cold for too long.

Tonight was going to spell a new start for eyemachine however, as it was the 'initiation' of the new digital camera. Now I remember reading on a ticket, once, probably a long time ago that not even cameras were allowed into gigs, so obviously I was paranoid about taking this one in. For a start I needed pictures, and secondly there was no way I was leaving a £400 camera with a meathead doorman.

So I removed the batteries and placed them in one of the many secret compartments my backpack has, for the cover story that I was bringing it home from work, and I couldn't take any pictures anyway. Secondly I wrapped it in a plastic bag, mostly to protect it from the rain, but in retrospect this was probably a bad idea as it added 10 points to the conspicuous factor. Thirdly I placed it in the front compartment of said backpack as they never seem to check there, and fourthly I hid it under my wallet.

"Can I check your bag?"
"Certainly" I replied, opening up the main compartment. And after a nice rummage round my hoodie and pack of tissues, he hit me with it:
"Can I look in the front part as well?"
Shit. This was it, rumbled. The gig was off, I thought.
"Erm…ok" I answered, opening it up.
Of course he immediately lifts up my wallet and finds something wrapped up tightly in a blue Argos bag. 'He thinks it's a bomb, he thinks it's a bomb' was racing through my mind. I stayed silent.
Meathead's fat sausage-like fingers start to open up the carrier bag, and all the time I'm thinking, why don't I just say it's a camera? Of course he'd still want to see it. Maybe I should have told him it was a bomb?

Anyway, he sees the camera, and puts it back. I give a sigh of relief, until he does a double-take and gets it out again, looks at the back of it, and puts it back once more. Slightly confused I rush off down the stairs, almost losing the contents of my backpack as in my haste I'd forgotten to zip the thing back up.

It was a pretty good crowd tonight, and quite oddly for a rock gig we didn't feel old amidst the 20-somethings from the first grunge period and only a smattering of teenagers. We were later joined by a small group of fat, loudmouthed Sun reading barrow-boys though, which added a new perspective to everything, if only a strangely demented one which didn't make any sense.

So we didn't get a table, and instead opted to stand near one. In some way this was a reasonable substitute. One fairly irritating thing about the Mean Fiddler though is the UV lighting upstairs. That bloody light shows up anything on your clothing, even the tiniest traces of dust and hair and makes you look like you've got the worst dandruff from hell. Of course, once you realise everyone's the same and there's not much that can be done about it it's not so bad, but still pretty funny to see people aggressively brushing-off their t-shirts in panic.

"Which lead me to imagining the band stood around IKEA before the gig arguing over which rug was prettier, the Gullkrage or the Fakse."

Well we had no idea who the support were, and as always the singer announced who they were the same moment everyone was clapping and cheering after the first song, so for now let's call them Truck-a-pillar.

Truck-a-pillar were pretty good, a very American sounding UK guitar band that were a much more appropriate support to Puddle Of Mudd than Ultraviolence were to The Young Gods last time we were here. Nothing really stood out about them, but they did have some wholesome post-grunge rock riffs cleverly woven into the ensemble. It was good to see a UK band with a bit of an edge though; even if from where I was standing the singer looked like a younger Rod Stewart. However, despite his appearance the young man could noodle pretty well and had a lot more stage presence and attitude than most UK bands.

So they finished-up and cleared-off for the POM roadies to set things up. Nothing too eventful there, except for the lovely rugs that were placed neatly onstage for the pedals to sit on. Of course some bands like to use rugs onstage, but these ones didn't seem like the worn out, dirty, rock-rugs that most bands tend to use; these were clean enough to have been bought earlier on that day. Which lead me to imagining the band stood around IKEA before the gig arguing over which rug was prettier, the Gullkrage or the Fakse.

Puddle Of Mudd are a very powerful live band and their set was pretty tight. A lot has to be said for the sound system and acoustics at the Mean Fiddler, it's far better than the distorted PA at the Astoria and you can actually make out the tunes and vocals very well, which is essential for rock bands as a poor sound system just makes every song sound like one big rumble of noise.

Wes Scantlin certainly has a good on-stage presence, but seeing as he wrote everything this isn't too surprising, and I could only feel at times that the rest of the band, as distinct and lively as they were, (especially the excellent monkey expressions from Doug Ardito, the bassist, and the skipping in circles of Paul Phillips on guitar), were only there to support him. I should mention that they all had wireless radio systems for their instruments too, which seemed strange for such a small stage, but kept reminding me of Spinal Tap.

Most of the time Wes liked to say "Fuck" a lot, which is fair enough for a good rock band and considering he resembled Jay in his beanie and jacket seemed to be expected. And like every US band that comes over here, told everyone how much he "fucking loves London, Man!" which always gets a big cheer. Well, from a London venue anyway, I'm sure it wouldn't go down quite as well in Manchester.

"No messing about and gimmicks, no masks and boiler suits, just good, honest music with a bit of a kick."

There was one quiet moment when Wes had the stage to himself, perched on a high stool with just a guitar and performed 'Piss It All Away' which was a relaxing break from the chaos of the set, but it seemed that the crowd were becoming anxious to get moving again and I'm sure most were chatting amongst themselves. However, it's interludes like this that make for a more interesting set than just bashing out an hour of distortion.

The set ended with the enormous sounding 'Control' which got everyone going for one last time and leaving the venue on a high note. Puddle Of Mudd are one of the most solid rock bands in a while, there's no messing about and gimmicks, no masks and boiler suits, just good, honest music with a bit of a kick. Be sure to check them out next time they visit the UK.

david twomey

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Puddle Of Mudd
Come Clean

£11.99 | Buy It