Our new reviewers Seb Lewis and Ally Katkowski went to see the iconic punk band, Alternative TV play at the The Acorn Theatre in Penzance, Cornwall.
Firstly I suppose we should introduce ourselves. We are Seb and Ally, partners and new additions to the Access Cornwall team. We both have a shared passion for all things events, from intimate grotty gigs and large festivals, to evenings at the theatre.
I, Seb, am a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy who has very limited mobility and Ally suffers from chronic constant pain and as a result uses a walking stick. Cornwall has been a beautiful home to us and our family for many years, but it has not always been the most forgiving place to live in terms of finding accessible places to visit, so we were absolutely thrilled when we discovered the cracking resource that is Access Cornwall. We both hope to make valuable contributions with the goal of making this incredible county 100% inclusive to everyone.
As with the rest of the world, we haven’t really done much in the past two years and we have missed it! So it’s with great coincidence that our first review also happens to be our first proper gig since COVID hit.
Alternative TV at The Acorn Theater Penzance.
ATV were formed in 1977 by Mark Perry, the editor of legendary punk fanzine Sniffin Glue. ATV would quickly establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with, pushing boundaries as a post-punk band, synonymous with progression and a hint of the avant-garde. With progression in mind, that led Mark to strive to create a new incarnation of ATV, known fondly as “ATV PZ”. This new outfit is made up of local talents with the aim of bringing what they do to the South West. The gig at the Acorn was the band’s first ever gig in Cornwall, but many more are on the way.
The Acorn Theatre is one of Penzance’s hidden gems, a former Wesleyan Chapel which was donated to charity. For nearly 50 years it has been hosting a wide and varied range of events from community-based efforts to larger touring productions.
This being our first gig in two years and given that myself and Ally are anxious people at the best of times we thought it would be a good idea to contact The Acorn ahead of the gig to have a look around and familiarize ourselves with the space ahead of time.
We contacted the venue one afternoon and we were welcomed in straight away which we found amazing. We were greeted at the disabled access door by the theatre manager Richie. He was extremely friendly and made us feel really at ease. We were able to access the whole site and we had all of our questions answered with a smile.
The disabled access to the venue can be found in the Greenmarket car park and is ramped, this door is also the stage door. As you arrive at the venue there is an Intercom to alert staff, but we would suggest ringing ahead as it was broken at our time of use (call 01736 363545).
You enter the venue directly into the main theatre, the auditorium seemed to us to be that perfect mix of ample in size yet still able to provide an intimate atmosphere. It is completely flat, with hardwood floors.
Because you enter directly into the performance area once the performance starts you will not be able to exit the venue as it is in a residential area, however, the lift which is placed at the back of the theatre will take you downstairs where you will find the cabaret bar which during performances can be used as a quieter area if need be.
Also, a rather neat addition is the live sound of the performance being played in the bar quietly so you won’t miss a thing if you need some time out. The Cabaret bar has recently suffered a flood which means there is a temporary bar in operation, but it is still accessible as it is on a low trestle table.
You will also find the disabled toilet downstairs. It is not the biggest toilet but is fully accessible, it also has handrails, all the appropriate signs, an emergency pull cord and a baby changing table.
The Acorn is also extremely proud of their lift. They spend thousands of pounds a year on its upkeep as it has to be silent and it virtually is. This is important to remember if you have anxiety or a fear of lifts as it is so quiet that it doesn’t sound or feel like it is moving at all. The buttons are well lit and there is an emergency bell.
Just outside the auditorium is the main lobby and box office. During performances, it acts as a small bar and you are also able to purchase tickets for future shows. The kiosk window has a low bar. A hearing loop is also in use if you need information it is available from the box office kiosk. The only completely inaccessible area is the balcony seating as this is up a thin, sharp flight of stairs in the main lobby. However, if you don’t have mobility issues this area could serve as a less busy place to be with a great view directly over the theatre.
Gig day approaches and usually, before any gig this is my most anxious day, but given our previous extensive tour of the venue the anxiety didn’t really come because I knew where we were going was entirely suited to our needs. As we entered the venue it is already filling up, we are greeted by DJ Steve Junkwax, owner of Junkwax records and newly appointed ATV manager.
He played a mix of weird and wonderful tunes including punk hits and obscure rarities. A proper way to start the evening and to allow an atmosphere to build. As we stood in the venue anticipating the headliners’ arrival there was a definite palpable atmosphere, whether this was because of it being most people’s first post COVID gig or the feeling that something impressive was about to happen is possibly too close to say
ATV got to the stage a lot earlier than most standard gigs because of the venue’s curfew, but this didn’t stop a warm reception from the audience. They opened with the corker that is Viva La Rock and Roll and as if it hadn’t even been there, all the tension in the room disappeared because it was met with the same furious energy.
This was followed by Negative Primitive and Her Dark Places, intense and angry songs received well from an increasingly mobile audience. The set went on with a whole host of new weird and wonderful songs, hitting home the fact that this is not a band afraid to do things differently and not a band scared to offend.
One particularly memorable moment for me was the introduction of a xylophone, the first time in all my time attending punk gigs that this has ever happened. It’s obvious that this is a band trying to move forward, away from nostalgia and trying towards art, and fairplay. The set was capped off by classics like Love Lies Limp and Action time vision, meaning that those who came for straight-up barebones punk classics didn’t leave disappointed.
After the gig, I spoke to Mark Perry, lead singer of Alternative TV asking his perspective on the evening.
You’ve lived in Cornwall for a while but the gig at the acorn was ATV’s first ever gig here, what kept you away?
I’ve lived in Cornwall for about 8 years but most of the band lived in London. So, we concentrated on doing gigs mostly in the London area, with me travelling up there to rehearse.
What bought about the creation of “ATV-PZ” and how did you come to choose the new band members?
After the COVID lockdown when no one could travel, I decided to form a new Alternative TV down here, as I really missed playing music with real people and not just over the internet (I’d done some virtual recording with the London guys). I knew Alan Burton, our new guitarist, through my wife Lyndsay, who went to school with him. For bass and drums, I put the word out through various friends and ended up with Mark Tempest on bass and Jimmy Jewell on drums. We clicked straight away and it’s been great to play music regularly again.
The Acorn gig was scheduled for two years ago, how does it feel to have finally achieved it?
Great to finally played the Acorn, which was postponed from June 2020 because of Covid. Considering it was this lineup’s first gig I thought it went really well. The crowd were great.
The world has changed so much in the last 2 years, what’s it like playing live music in a “post covid” world?
It was brilliant to finally get out there and play without any restrictions. I think people have realised how much they’ve missed it, so they’re really up for having a good time.
As someone who has a long history within DIY culture, it must have been great to play a sold out gig at a wonderful independent venue and see so many friendly faces. What can we expect from ATV in the future?
I love the idea of playing in a local scene with other like-minded bands and audiences. Too many venues rely on tribute bands at the moment and don’t give new original local bands a chance. This new version of Alternative TV is going to concentrate on playing the South West, plus maybe Bristol and Bath. We’re aiming to play about once a month for the foreseeable future. Our next gig is at the Cornish Bank, Falmouth on the 7th April.
And most importantly, should we expect more Xylophones??
Xylophones, bells, whistles…the lot! Lots of experimentation next to the 3 chord thrash.
The gig was a cracking experience, made even better by feeling comfortable and calm. ATV at The Acorn made for one hell of a return to live music in a post covid world.