Ruby Lounge 25/02/17
This week would’ve been Kurt Cobain’s fiftieth birthday. When he voluntarily checked out of this plane back in 1994 (depending on what you read), I wasn’t vaguely interested in grunge. In fact, I was more interested in massive moussed hair, white jeans and Cotton-Eye Joe by the Rednex. However by the summer of 1997 I was well-versed in the importance of eyeliner, having strategic holes ripped into the cuffs of my cardigans and kissing moody-looking boys with floppy hair (nothing changes).
Tonight, I am squished into a sweaty sold-out gig at The Ruby Longue, Manchester to watch ‘Elvana’ – a Nirvana tribute band fronted by an Elvis impersonator. Wait, what? Yes, that’s right, folks. This sounds like a musical car crash waiting to happen.
This is akin to putting tomato ketchup on your ice-cream.
This should not work.
I arrive just as Danny Cobain, Rob Novoselic and Bobby Grohl burst onto stage in smart suits, and I scan about looking at the faces of my peers. We all look confused as fuck. When a Memphis jump-suited Elvis (Elvis Kell) appears on stage, doing all the obligatory kung-fu moves you’d come to expect, I wonder if maybe I’m having an acid flashback. It reminds me of the time where David Hasslehoff stepped out of my bedroom wall to let me know that Maude (the old washer woman) had finished the mopping.
But we’re not laughing at them, we’re laughing with them. Here is an absolute quality covers band that somehow manages to deliver more punk-rock ethos than any tribute act I’ve ever seen. They play slick renditions of Nirvana’s classics spanning several albums, occasionally dropping in a well-timed Elvis bomb. Mixing ‘Rape Me’ with ‘Love Me Tender’ for example is a genius move… oh the irony.
Our grunge King tonight isn’t the best Elvis impersonator in the building, but it probably wouldn’t work if he was. He is a punk-rock Elvis. This is messed up and this is brilliant. There is a decent-sized swirling mosh pit at the front of the stage and people are throwing their bodies around with very little concern for health and safety. My mate Josh loses a shoe in the ensuing carnage, but expertly weaves in between the stomping feet to jubilantly reclaim it like Excalibur the magical sword.
At one point, our Elvis comes down from the stage into the crowd, only to be swarmed by the iPhone generation. “No!” he bellows, “Just put your phones away, let’s do this fucking properly!” He is obeyed and revered. He is rewarded by the crowd lifting him into the air and crowd-surfing him around. At that point I see he is wearing Converse. Nice.
After the set, I wrestled my way backstage and found Elvis Kell slumped on a toilet eating cheeseburgers and doing lines off the body of a nubile young thing. Any comments, Elv? “Great balls of mother fuckin’ fire! That was one real swell show! The walls were dripping and the atmosphere electrifying. The energy going around the room was spiritual y’all. Manchestershire, you sure know how to shake rattle and roll shit up!!” Of course we do.
I arrived tonight worried that this was going to be a big cheesy pile of gimmicky horse shit which wouldn’t respect the artistry. I leave piss-wet through, scuzzy, frizzy-haired and slightly shell-shocked. Surprisingly, this is literally one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. They’re definitely not taking themselves seriously (they hail from Disgraceland, after all), but this is far from a novelty comedy act.
After the gig, my friend calls her mate to tell her what she’s just seen. “It sounds shit,” she said. Yeah, it should be. Five filthy stars.