Legendary punk band Gang of Four is playing a show at Black Cat on March 9, and lead singer Jon King says it’s going to be a wild one. Founding members King and Hugo Burnham (drums) will be taking the stage with returning bassist Sara Lee, and for the first time, with guitarist David Pajo of Slint and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to perform songs released during the band’s golden era between 1977 and 1983.
Gang of Four is touring all over North America throughout the month of March to celebrate the release of the “77-81” limited edition vinyl and CD box sets as well as new reissues of their iconic “Entertainment!” and “Solid Gold” albums. The sold-out box set curated by King, Burnham and founding member Dave Allen, serves not only as a complete remastered discography but also as a documentation of the original Gang of Four’s history with never-before-seen photos, posters, flyers and other memorabilia.
King says before curating the box set, he hadn’t listened to their music in decades.
“Like most creative people, I don’t like listening to anything I’ve ever written after the event because you hear, in your mind, what might’ve been instead of how it was,” he says. “But when I did listen to the stuff, I was surprised at times of how it sounded.”
But the lead singer does enjoy playing it live, and playing “with people as talented as Hugo, Sarah and David is an absolute thrill.”
The original band formed in Leeds in 1976, laying the groundwork for a style of punk rock that favored “tense rhythms, percussive guitars, and lyrics that traded in Marxist theory and situationism,” as described by the website of their record label, Matador.
Since then, Gang of Four has gone on to inspire generations of punk musicians. While King says that’s always nice to hear, he and the rest of the band only set out to make something original and authentic that would “move the conversation on.”
“You want to do is work that has artistic and musical merit and that’s got its own vocabulary and way of doing things,” he says. “Probably the worst thing would be to make music that you couldn’t identify what it was you ever did. The majority of people sound like someone else, don’t they? And the greatest challenge is to sound like yourself.”
Gang of Four’s identity, then, focused on avant-garde and radical subject matter dealing with important issues, like racism and the threat of war. With the state of the world as it is today, King says he, unfortunately, thinks the music is still relevant and wishes it wasn’t.
“I think that’s why to some extent people look to our work and our music and get something from it. It’s not about unimportant things,” he says. “It’s got a quality to it that makes people feel they’re part of progressive ideas.”
Pajo is stepping in for guitarist and founding member Andy Gill, who died in February 2020. There is some speculation that his cause of death was Covid-19, but this has not been confirmed. King says Pajo “approached the catalog with great respect and energy” to the memory of his lifelong friend.
As for the show at Black Cat, King says he’s looking forward to playing with a talented group of musicians for an energized crowd who’ve been deprived of live shows for the past few years.
“I hope the audience is really hot and sweating and joyous,” he says.
Tickets are $25 advance and $30 day-of, available for purchase here. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9.
Follow Gang of Four on Instagram @gangoffourofficial.
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