Friday, 26 February 2016

What happened to the Shiny Phantom Pearl?

There’s a website – Gigwise – that was just starting out when I found myself in Liverpool in 2000. It was and still is a mix of reviews, news, internetty stuff: largely a local music focus with an increasing amount of touring acts covered. It was started by Andy Day, Mike Davidson and I think a dude called Simon doing the programming.

I think it’s fair to say that at least at the outset it was finding its audience, which was the Liverpool music scene of that generation. That would be bands like Iconoclast, the Inner City Sumo bands like Flamingo 50, etc, Ji, and loads of other Merseyside acts looking themselves to bloom and spread their wings, which is a good trick if you can do both cause it’d make you a flying flower. I remember accessing the site on dial-up in Jon Hall’s house, to his chagrin because he was paying 1p a minute for it and it was well slow. The reason I was doing it was that I was – like loads of others – addicted to the forum.

Forum fuck's sake
The Gigwise Forum, to gig-goers of the time, was one of the funniest places to be. It was full of in-jokes (‘What is punk’ was a recurring thread, as was the consequential, ‘Is this site on some sort of a loop?’ as it was in the way of these things essentially self-referential.) Through the site and the boards, though, people would actually meet up in real life: there were loads of friendships made/strengthened, bands created or members invited (I once auditioned for Iconoclast as a bassist, which was a terrible fit and never went anywhere) and generally the forums served as a real meeting point for the community. It was excellent. You’d go on there and people would be pitching in on all sorts of subjects; veering off-post was pretty much guaranteed.

Amongst some of the regulars were Moly, who was I think an Iconoclast dude. I do remember him starting a thread called ‘I drew an ace’ after he had a shit and didn’t need to wipe afterwards. Kearnsy, who was always sending letters to parking officers etc claiming that he was ‘a legal fiction’ and as he didn’t exist, he didn’t have to pay. He was also a music maker into da bass and electronica. There was also Jules from Liquidation, invicta Hi-fi label etc, who would take on various personas and once he’d reached 5,000 posts abandoned them and started a new one. Gobbledegook, I think, was one of his [Edit: It was Chockablock. Close though eh.].

Chief amongst them was the wonderfully gnomic Shiny Phantom Pearl, who’d write in CAPITALS and format his submissions carefully, each one a pronouncement of situationist art as much as it was engaging with the thread. I wish I had some archived but sadly they’re all gone to the ether. But he’d come on in a thread about, say, The Maybes? And proceed to slander and single out individuals for their perceived lack of vision, foresight, talent, musical emotion. These pronouncements often did actually skewer people extremely accurately and Shiny was both loved and hated for it. It was silly to argue with him because he was simply there to tell you stuff, not discuss it. In that sense, he prefigured all the below the article commentators of the present day: I AM ANGRY AND I WANT TO TELL YOU I AM ANGRY (what about? It doesn’t matter. Facts? They don’t matter either.)

Gout-ridden swami

So Shiny was like this gout-ridden swami somewhere halfway up a mountain, eating stardust and casting his furious gaze over the minions of the Liverpool music scene day after day, and day after day lasering into Gigwise forums to tell people that they were basically inadequate, always missing the point, and furthermore he had 20,000 songs written that would show the world exactly what was right, true and would blast all this wannabe nonsense aside.

Inevitably, calls came for Shiny to show himself. In the way of all gods, the challenge became in itself and of itself a dynamic and iconoclastic response to his commandments sent from on high. For a while, Shiny could deflect these by ignoring them entirely and creating another wise and weird lightning bolt for his minions to consider. But not forever.

Is this the real life?

And it was a Wednesday, and I was there. As were (my memory says) about 20 others. Shiny’s band played: first or second support so about 8pm at the latest. It was a disappointingly normal setup – guitars, bass, drums. I think he might have been wearing a helmet; my mind plays tricks.

What I did know is that it was a cacophony of inadvertently Fall-like rough-edged post-punk that lasted about two songs before first the guitarist walked off then Shiny himself raged offstage.
I’m both glad I saw it and sad it happened. Better by far for Shiny to remain an untarnished, teasing pearl: well-named, because at the root of the pearl is grit. A phantom, because he was both there and absent. Shiny, well, because why the fuck not?

It knocked his pronouncements a bit. Now he’d come down from the mountain and like the Wizard of Oz was shown to be mortal. Less than mortal, in fact: wizened and out of touch. He continued to post, I think, til the forums were knocked on the head in about 2007.

Irony: who is Shiny?
Fast forward a couple of years and the now London-officed Gigwise has overtaken NME quite easily both in readership and credibility.

I wonder what Shiny is up to now. And I also wonder, truly, whether he existed at all or was the alter ego of Andy, or Jules, or a collective and entirely virtual provocateur consciousness that became self-aware after constantly indexing itself day after day, contemplating punk and looping through itself, again and again, faster, faster and forever.

I don't want to know, either. Live long and prosper, you beautiful fucking lunatic.

Edit 2: Here is the gig in question. Fucking great line-up, too. I am pretty sure I had one hell of a time that night. Ace.

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