I was a big fan of James Ray. I had albums from a variety of his bands (James Rays Gangwar, James Ray & The Performance, The Sisterhood, etc) and several regularly made the turntable or CD player at home. This was the third time I was seeing him live, with the previous times being a headline gig at The Bull & Gate pub in Kentish Town (GIG 123) in July 1993, and before that as the first support to Ghost Dance at the Town & Country Club way back in 1989 (GIG 030).
First up were Suspiria, a goth band from Nottingham that had formed in 1993 and had an EP and album behind them. I knew the name but don’t think I had any of their releases. I found them ok, but certainly not a “captivating live performance” that wikipedia says they were reknown for during this time. That said, never judge a book by it’s cover, or a band on one live performance. I’m not entirely sure if I caught them again as I did see a lot of goth bands and many of them blended into a vague Frankenstein Monsters mash of blackness, smoke and drum machines, and vocals that seemed to rarely deviate from the same tone range. Some really stood out, but the sad truth is that many blended into an overlapping ocean of similarity in the same way that the bulk of bands from any musical genre do.
If Suspiria were a bit lost in the vast ocean then James Rays Gangwar had claimed some channel, river, or lake, as his own. He had staked his territory out and made himself an individual entity above the nameless and formless ocean drops that flooded the scene.
He was brilliant live and one of the acts that I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to see live not only once but on more than one occasion.