Composer and producer Brendan Canty remembers his favorite concert well.
“[It was] just unhinged and surprising, and welcome, and immediately seared into my memory for the rest of my life,” the former Fugazi drummer recalls. “The Mummies played very loud unsophisticated garage rock in Mummy suits. They jumped and humped the instruments and screamed at us. But it really was glorious—and being surrounded by old, jaded bikers in a biker bar in Calgary made it all so surreal. The singer lost his balance on top of his Farfisa organ and fell on his arm and broke it. A biker lady wrapped herself in toilet paper to mock them and stood in front of the stage flipping them off. It warmed my heart.”
“It was, shall we say, unscripted,” he adds.
Canty contributed this vivid memory to Great Gig Memories from Punks and Friends, a compilation of close to 200 musical recollections from members of the punk community, with all proceeds going to the help the brave healthcare workers in the U.K. through NHS Charities Together’s COVID-19 Appeal. The book was compiled by industry veterans Niall Hope and Michael Murphy.
“I’ve lived in Ireland all my life, but the concept of the NHS has not escaped me,” explains Hope. “Public health for all, and a country that looks after its ill, is something we all want to see. Michael Murphy came up with the idea for the book. He is living in the U.K. and has personal experience with the NHS. He is from Dublin but hasn’t been home since March, when we first had the idea for the book. Dave Greenfield, keyboardist for The Stranglers, had died. We wanted to honor him; we wanted to honor punk rock, and we wanted to honor the idea of a health system that doesn’t cater for people depending on their earnings.”
Hope and Murphy are part of Dublin’s do-it-yourself, not-for-profit Hope Collective, which has been active in the punk scene since the late ’80s, when they arranged gigs in Ireland for the likes of Fugazi, Chumbawamba, Jawbreaker, Green Day, The Vandals, NOFX, and Babes in Toyland.
As Hope explains, the book is a response to the COVID-19 crisis, and includes memories of shows written by members of The Cure, Fugazi, The Adverts, New Model Army, The Fall, Teardrop Explodes, Gang of Four, The Ruts, Chumbawamba, CRASS, The Members, The Membranes, UK Subs, Black Flag, Babes in Toyland, L7, D.O.A., and The Levellers, amongst others. Hope says he was “blown away by the response” from these artists.
“We were blown away by the positive response,” he says. “We went through our record collections and contacted people directly. Punk rock to me is about community, and this was a great way of the community coming together.”
Canty says it was an easy decision to contribute to this worthy book and cause.
“I believe in supporting our healthcare workers,” he says. “My wife, Michelle Cochran, is a nurse, and our country is in really dire straits. Living through a time of crisis with zero leadership in our high office has led America to look towards our brothers and sisters on the front lines for hope and help. Anything I can to support them at this time of need will secure my place in heaven for sure.”
There is some poetic justice in the fact that this book of concert memories is helping fight a virus that has stopped concerts and most live music from taking place across the globe.
“I just miss the community of it all,” says Hope. “A place to share ideas as well as to be entertained. I can hear a chord, and it puts a smile on my face. I miss the energy of live music and can’t wait to hear it again.”
“I miss people very much,” echoes Canty. “The ritual of effortless communion, rewarded by good company, is what is missed most. I have to go to all sorts of effort to see other adults, and that has led me to be very self-pitying and lonely. It’s really very stupid of me because everyone is feeling the same way. ‘I’m as lonely as a single blade of grass in a field’ is I think how the saying goes? But yes, it’s tragic not to have the energy at your fingertips anymore. Hopefully, it will come back in a way. Probably never the same as it was, but in some ways, maybe better.”
You can buy Great Gigs and Memories from Punks and Friends here.