A group of Villa and Blues fans have got together to put on a punk benefit gig to raise money for a lower division German football team. Confused? Read on to find out about Brownstock and the new music & football fanzine, Brown Sauce.
The Birmingham Boys in Brown are a band of Villa and Blues fans who also support German Regional League team FC St Pauli. Taking their name from the distinctive colours of the Hamburg club, the fans have organised a punk benefit gig to raise money for the financially threatened team.
The event is headlined by punk band Gold Blade and takes place at the Royal George Pub in Digbeth, on 20 November 2004.
"We'd always known about this mysterious bunch of dockers, prostitutes, punks, anarchists and intellectuals who regularly pack a dilapidated ground in Hamburg docks. A couple of our friends went over and an early evening stroll to the Reeperbahn took them past the Millerntor, the home of FC St Pauli. As they were passing they thought they would pop in for a couple of sherberts in the interests of Anglo-German relations.
"They never made their destination that night as they were distracted by the heady brew of a punk jukebox and a warm welcome from a bunch of supporters who shared their view of fan culture and the modern game. To this day, there is the corner of a Hamburg bar that will forever be Brummie."
|The Millerntor Staduim, Hamburg|
"We kind of evolved across the course of several trips to Hamburg. A couple of seasons ago we wanted to secure tickets for the massive derby between St Pauli and SV Hamburg. To make sure we got them, we convinced the club that
we were an official supporters' club in England. It grew from there."
As the word spread, more and more Villa and Blues fans joined the Birmingham Boys in Brown.
"It's roughly 50/50 Villa/Blues, so there's always plenty of lively debate on the plane. A Newcastle
and a Reading fan have also hitched a ride, albeit a rough one."
FC St Pauli are certainly a unique club with a distinctive character and set of fans.
"How many clubs in the world have a transvestite President? Or a team photo with players in handcuffs? St Pauli are unique because they embrace all that is different. They celebrate freedom. And they welcome just about anybody who shares their ethos and who wants to have a good time. Their liberal, anti-establishment stance is appealing because it reflects all that has gone missing from English football.
|FC St Pauli fans|
"A St Pauli match can be like a scene from Mad Max. There are all kinds of oddballs there. But you get a good mix of people from all walks of life. At one match we spotted a 7-foot skinhead in a Villa away shirt circa 1994. We introduced ourselves and met up for a drink after the game. It's often the little things that make the difference. Like 20,000 people rattling their keys every time there is a corner. Why? Apparently 'it puts the players off'."
In recent years FC St Pauli have found themselves in financial trouble. successive relegations from the top division to the regional leagues have left them on the brink of bankruptcy.
Various schemes have been used to raise money for the club, such as a 'Drink for St Pauli' campaign on the Reeperbahn and a huge fundraising gig headlined by Norwegian band Turbonegro in the stadium.
The Birmingham Boys in Brown approached Gold Blade and asked them if they wanted to play a gig. Gold Blade Frontman John Robb was only too happy to get involved.
"St Pauli are a legend. They are run by anarchists. Their logo is a skull and crossbones and they play in the red light area of Hamburg which is full of squats, brilliant bars a 24/7 nightlife. Unlike the UK, the bars play all kinds of music from punk rock to jazz northern soul and its a great example of what a great weekend out is really about. Its sleazy, edgy and the team sort of sums this up.
"They used to be in the Bundesliga (top division) but are now in division 3 and really struggling so we are proud to play a benefit and raise a lot of money for them."
Although the Blues, Villa and St Pauli fans have a lot in common in terms of their support for their respective clubs, there are still many cultural differences between the two sets of fans as James tells us.
"The only German most of us know has been picked up from various special interest videos and magazines. Luckily, the majority of our German cousins know good English, which presumably they picked up from the Archers on Radio 4.
|Birmingham Boys in Brown on the Reeperbahn|
"One time, we encountered a rather bizarre scene in a bar just off the Reeperbahn. As the bar got busier and busier, one of the locals advised us that we might like to move on because they were about to play German music for the rest of the night. Intrigued, we stayed, and it was fantastic. It's the first time any of us had ever heard an 'oom-pah' version of the disco classic 'I Will Survive'."
As well as organising the benefit concert, the Birmingham Boys in Brown have also produced a fanzine called 'Brown Sauce'.
"Initially, we wanted to produce something we could take away with us to St Pauli matches - something we could all contribute to and enjoy on the journey, but also something we could give to other St Pauli fans in Germany.
"We came up with the name 'Brown Sauce' because St Pauli play in brown and the fanzine will hopefully be a bit, erm, saucy. Of course, the Birmingham connection is very strongly reflected in the title, with its reference to B6's third most famous export (after Aston Villa and Black Sabbath) - HP Sauce.
"The 'zine is dedicated to St Pauli, Hamburg, Villa, Blues, terrace culture, music and generally having a laugh. Like St Pauli - anything goes."