New Musical Express: 13 October 1984
Armed with arcwelders, paint sprays, sculpture gear, drills and various
other odd-bod instruments, metallic industrialists SPK were due to take
the ICA stage last Thursday to "create extracts from 'Metal Dance', accompanied
by the spontaneous paintings of an on-the-spot artist, and junk welding".
What they actually created was a riot.
Problems began in the afternoon when the fire officer recognised SPK from a concert last year, claimed they were "trouble makers", and insisted on the most ridiculously stringent fire precautions. All welding had to be done behind boards of metal - completely obliterating audience view - and the crowd limit was greatly reduced. Although the show was theoretically "sold out", inside it was half empty.
Fearing the loss of their licence and still nursing sore memories of last year's Neubauten fandango, the ICA management were understandably reluctant to allow SPK to flout the imposed fire regulations. Nonetheless, SPK began to remove all of the "agreed" on-stage precuations and unexpectedly decided to play only two songs.
Numbers over, SPK left the stage amid a barrage of beer cans and a torrent of abuse. A chant went up for "more", which, when the house lights went on, angrily changed into a chant for "money back". No attempt was made by the management to explain and, consequently, an angry mob poured into the reception area to complain. Once there they overturned leaflet stands and started smashing them up. The police were called, but further pandemonium ensued when the management offered replacement tickets and the announcement was drowned out by chants of "cash back!". Eventually the crowd were given white strips of paper redeemable for money on Friday.
On Friday morning, ICA press Officer Sue Mckinnon claimed that the band didn't tell the ICA that they were going to play only two numbers. "Had they done so the ICA would have given people the choice of seeing two bands and ten minutes of SPK or having a full refund."
Although the ICA allege SPK deliberately played "a perverse set", the band maintain they are blameless for the fracas. And the meeting with the fire officer was "three hours of bullshit".
Ironically, John Peel, the sponsor of the rock week and the only person who might have had enough influence to restore order, left the gig before the disruption began, and before 20 or so of his namesake piled through the Mall doors.