Rock Garden Revisited came into being after two different paths suddenly joined together. The story begins with the band Penetration.
Penetration were my favourite band, they’d split up in 1979 but had reformed in 2001 and had started doing sporadic gigs which then became more frequent. I was travelling and stopping over at pretty much every gig that they were playing and had got to know Pauline & Robert a bit. I would occasionally ask them to play in Middlesbrough so I could actually see them play and then sleep in my own bed!
I forget how but one night a conversation about playing in Boro suddenly became a suggestion that I promote it. How hard can it be I thought? Well, I’ve been to hundreds, thousands possibly, of gigs and the concept of actually getting a group of people onstage with all the necessary equipment and actually getting people along to watch was totally alien to me. I started looking into the mechanics of actually promoting a show and trying to work out how much it would all cost.
Around the same time Steve Harland had set up a Facebook group dedicated to the venue Middlesbrough Rock Garden which I’d starting going to in 1978 and Steve the next year. The Rock Garden was an iconic venue hosting every punk band worthy, and some not so worthy, of the name. I joined the group and became Facebook friends with Steve and found out that he was in the process of holding a Rock Garden Reunion gig featuring several local bands from “back in the day”.
He had found a venue in nearby Stockton, The Georgian Theatre, where the reunion gig was to take place. The venue was ideal, it was totally self-contained, a large stage, in house PA and they would provide the sound engineer, help with promotion. Everything needed to put on a show came in one package. A plan was falling into place. Promoting my first show featuring Penetration now looked a lot more likely.
I explained my desire to Steve to put on Penetration and we agreed that I would co-promote the Reunion show with him and if it worked out we would co-promote another 2 shows, each of us choosing a headline act.
Steve & myself were soon joined by Gary McGee and the 2 became 3 as Rock Garden Revisited was born. The name decided at our regular meeting haunt in the bar of the Premier Inn on the road to Guisborough.
The first show was a tremendous success and it was a pleasure to meet up with so many people from Rock Garden days, old friendships were rekindled and new friendships made and this was one of the great successes of the Rock Garden Revisited adventure.
I can’t speak for Steve or Gary but I’d suggest we were all equally bitten by the promoter’s bug and equally determined to carry on promoting shows. Over the next 3 years we promoted 20 shows featuring bands from the glory days of the Rock Garden but also bands who came from the post punk period and even a couple of modern bands. The majority of shows sold well and as long as we were not losing money we were happy to carry on and put the profits into the next show.
We had our hearts in our mouths for the first show we promoted featuring Spear of Destiny. The gig was sold out well in advance and when the band turned up to sound check it was obvious Kirk Brandon was not well. He could barely move and hardly seemed to know what was going on. We were panicking a bit that we would have to cancel the show only hours before doors were due to open. Somehow Kirk dragged himself on stage and how he got through it I’ll never know. After wards he went to hospital and ended up spending several months in hospital with major heart problem and it would be quite some time before he fully recovered.
There were a few disasters along the way, not with the bands but sales wise. Very low turn outs to see The Wolfmen & Scant Regard, both bands were excellent but it was so disheartening to see them play to such low turn outs.
20 shows with 41 different bands – where ever possible we tried to use local supports and tried to give as many bands an opportunity to play as possible. We kept ticket prices as low as possible, there were shows we could have easily charged more on the ticket price but didn’t to our own detriment.
Impossible to say which was the best show. For me it was the final one. Theatre of Hate were absolutely tremendous and the Georgian was ram packed with an electric atmosphere. I eventually got to host Penetration and although it was a great night the sound was a disappointment, as they opted to use their own sound man rather than the in house guy. Although this would be corrected in the ensuing years when they played 2 blinding shows for me under my own Minus Me Promotions organisation.
We took a gamble on a late opportunity to put on an absolute living legend for a mid-week gig. We got our fingers burned financially but who could turn down an opportunity to promote a real live living New York Doll like Sylvain Sylvain. The guy was an absolute diamond, nothing was a problem for him and he regaled us on and off stage with hilarious stories from his times in the Dolls and beyond.
Around 18 months into the journey I had desires to do things my own way and promote shows independently of Rock Garden Revisited. I started my own venture and my first show was in May 2012 featuring Pete Molinari. Steve soon followed suit and began promoting shows himself. We both continue to promote live music today. Gary had decided after the Ruts DC show that he didn’t want to carry on promoting and left with the thanks and gratitude of both myself & Steve.
Rock Garden Revisited came to an end in Dec 2013 with our final show featuring Theatre of Hate and an excellent band from Newcastle I’d been recommended called The Exes.
The success of our endeavours was down to the equal efforts of all 3 of us. We each have different personalities and strengths but we each contributed equally to make the shows happen. None of us could or should claim to have contributed more than the other 2, we each shared the financial risk and the work load equally to make the shows happen.
It was fun while it lasted but all good things eventually come to an end. Thanks to all those who supported the gigs and helped out in any way by publicising the shows, selling tickets or keeping me & Gary company on the door 🙂
An honourable mention also for DJ Ian Jackson who was part of the ride all along.