On the 20th and 21st of September 1976, the 100 Club in London hosted the first dedicated festival of Punk. Arranged between Malcolm McLaren and 100 Club booker Ron Watts, the event, which was spread over two nights, brought together the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees (Suzie according to the poster), Clash (no “The” yet), Subway Sect, Stinky Toys, Buzzcocks, The Damned, and Chris Spedding with The Vibrators. It cost £1 to get in and all of the bands were unsigned.
The 100 Club had hosted live music since 1942, but by 1976 and despite its West End location, the club was well past its Swing and Jazz heyday. By then was a typical dingy, sweaty dive, with stinking toilets, greasy walls and worn out carpeting. The Punk Festival became a watershed moment for the new movement, the new bands, and by association the club itself. It was the first time that these bands had grouped together under the new banner of “Punk”.
“I guess we were just trying our luck at the 100 Club,” Siouxsie recalls. “There was never any intention of doing it again and there was certainly no thought of making a living out of it. That would have been absurd.” Siouxsie Sioux
The Banshees, had approached Ron Watts directly for a slot on the bill, as not only had they never played before, but were not well enough associated with McLaren to be on his list of contenders. So what do you play at your first gig….with Sid Vicious on the drums and future Ant, Marco Pirroni on guitar?….How about an extended version of the Lord’s Prayer?
Early punk supporter Caroline Coon reported the event over three pages of the following week’s Melody Maker, ” The creative buzz, the feel that something is happening is infectious” she enthused.
The Sex Pistols, Clash, Siouxsie and Subway Sect did the honours on the first night, and on night two the festival hosted The Damned, Buzzcocks, Chris Spedding and the Vibrators and France’s Stinky Toys.
As well as the bands actually performing, the audience was also brimful of bands and soon-to-be bands including Paul Weller, Shane McGowan and Shanne Bradley of The Nips, Viv Albertine, Chrissie Hynde, Vivienne Westwood, Gaye Advert and TV Smith and Michelle Brigandage who had this to say;
“The atmosphere at the 100 Club Punk Festival was electric. We’d seen the Pistols several times before, and The Clash, they had 5 members then – Keith Levine was their guitarist for a while”.
“It was an incredible two nights but it was marred by a glass throwing incident, which Sid was later blamed for. My cousin and I got small bits of glass showering over us into our face, but it was a friend I’d met at the Blitz – Cherry – I think that was her name, who got it straight in the eye. It blinded her in one eye and I think she was going to be an artist and that put paid to that. So obviously the atmosphere changed suddenly. There was blood, screaming, crying and ambulances. It calmed down after she was taken away but everybody started to leave and Siouxsie stood on the stairs and asked people to stay and watch the Buzzcocks! We couldn’t coz we had a train to catch to get back home. Should have stayed to see them – it was Howard Devoto”.
It was a watershed moment for Punk. Bands, proto-bands and audience alike. The Punk Festival somehow coalesced the movement, from its disparate and fragmented parts, into the same unstoppable force.
If there are any other punk girls with their own memories of the Punk Festival we’d love to hear about it.