Five gigs in eight days, as seen by TONY ROUNCE

I won’t lie to you.

I haven’t enjoyed this year.

I’m not much of a one for staying in when there’s live music to be seen, and endless months of watching highly commendable online gigs on my phone or iPad have not really satisfied my craving to be part of a crowd of like-minded individuals, standing in a small venue somewhere watching people on stage and enjoying what they are doing.  

A couple of ill-fated attempts to see gigs during the autumn notwithstanding – don’t get me started about Moles in Bath, a venue I will never set foot in again if I live to be a million – coming out of lockdown a couple of weeks ago brought a real opportunity to get ‘living for live’ back on track. I really have made the most of it, I can tell you… 

Eight recent days of frenzied live activity began with a first crosstown trip since February, and a visit to Hackney’s Oslo on December 3rd. The main bar/restaurant was closed but the music room upstairs was open for business and stringent anti-Covid measures were in place, with the venue operating at around 12.5% of its usual capacity and around 30 tables spread evenly across the floor. “It doesn’t really feel weird at all, though” was delightful Lauran Hibberd’s comment as the Isle Of Wight-er and her band steamed through a joyful 40 minute selection of her always-impressively fizzy poptastic tunes with a big smile on her face that told the full house ‘I’m here, and I’m having fun again’.  Lauran wasn’t the only one having fun, as Hibberd favourites like ‘Bang Bang Bang’ and ‘Frankie’s Girlfriend’ were received with an appropriate if slightly restricted audience enthusiasm (no singing along, no dancing…) LOUD WOMEN has been on Lauran’s case for a couple of years, and she remains one of the ‘most likely to succeed’ once the live music scene is fully back in business.  She played a great set, and we all had a good time…

Lauren Hubbard at Oslo

Back in Hackney two nights later, and literally just across the road from Oslo at one of LW’s favourite London venues, Paper Dress Vintage,  the now almost veteran quintet Oh! Gunquit were launching their brand new vinyl album “Why Haven’t You Watered The Plants” with two separate hour-long shows, both sold out (as indeed were all the shows over the 8-day period covered here). 

Fronted by the irrepressible force of nature that is Tina Swasey, O!G’s relentlessly exciting songs and stage presence falls somewhere between the B52s and X-Ray Spex. I did see them at a socially distanced, seated outdoor gig behind a pub in Abbey Wood back in September on one of the coldest days of the year, but the warmth and intimacy of PDV’s upstairs room was a much better prospect and it gave us diehard O!G fans an opportunity to hear the new album performed pretty much in its entirety, augmented with a few proven crowd pleasers for good measure. 

We don’t cover O!G much here, but I personally owe them a lot as it was a bill I saw them on, more than half a decade ago at Dalston’s Shacklewell Arms and with The Franklys as support, that provided me with my entry point into the DIY scene and opened my eyes and ears to the new Golden Age of gigs and bands that has been thrilling me ever since. If you’ve never seen them you owe it to yourself to do so at least once, if only to witness the spectacle of the unflappable Ms. Swasey playing the trumpet and hula hooping simultaneously through one three minute garage instrumental.

Oh! Gunquit at Paper Dress Vintage

Two great gigs in two days! Why, one could almost have been forgiven for thinking it was this time last year…

Pausing only to make a decision between a Sunday matinee at the New Cross Inn headlined by the manic musical overdrive of A VOID, and the online stream of Dream Nails’ ‘Feministmas’ show – Dream Nails won – the car and its driver were ready and willing to point themselves at Brixton and the Windmill on Tuesday night for one of the very best upcoming bands in the world.  Last December I had tipped Brighton quartet Lime to be one of 2020’s breakout bands, and it’s a tip that I would like to carry over with confidence to 2021.

The four young and extremely personable women were due to support Malady, but a last minute cancellation by the latter gave Lime to opportunity to play their first London headline gig. They did not let themselves or anyone else down and made the most of their 40-minute set, highlights of which included their compulsive opener ‘Simon Said’ and their 2021 single ‘Surf And Turf’. Never exactly shrinking violets, the band has grown hugely in confidence since I last saw them on a wet Tuesday night in February at a small venue near Hoxton, and once again delivered their jagged, spiky perfect pop in a manner that suggests my faith in their destiny to succeed is not misplaced.  The handful of people who returned their tickets after Malady pulled out missed a treat. The rest of us had plenty to savour…

Lime at The Windmill

..And it was back to Brixton and the Windmill for two gigs on Saturday – one matinee, one evening.  Brighton-by-way-of-Malta’s ĠENN were the afternoon’s headliners, and if you know me at all you will know that I am very fond of this band, both as musicians and as people.  Before their set, all four women confessed to me individually that they were nervous about appearing live for the first time in almost 11 months. The minute the music kicked in the self doubts disappeared – and a cheerfully aggressive set that blended old favourites such as ‘Let’s Go Suki’, ‘Damaged’ and ‘Duda Dance’ with recent single ‘23rd March’ and several other new songs written and rehearsed during the year more than proved that it was business as usual in ĠENN-land. They will be playing LOUD WOMEN Fest 5 in September 2021, so if you haven’t caught up with them by then you will be able to judge for yourself just how great they are. And that’s pretty great in my book.. 

ĠENN at The Windmill

The Windmill kicked us all out at 1700, and kicked us all back in again at 1900 for a triple bill headlined by South London/Manchester ‘power duo’ Scrounge, of whom more later. Another sell-out show, it was opened by a woman who looked like she had just stepped out of the cover of a 1960s French EP cover, and who sang with a compelling soulfulness that didn’t so much invite your attention as threaten to beat you up if you didn’t surrender it.

For about 20 minutes, Bradford’s Hannah Marsden performed her beguiling, ethereal songs and music to the accompaniment of backing tapes, but such was the magnetic power of her presentation that you would not have noticed the presence of a band if she had brought one. It takes some skill for a solo artist to make one feel that they are singing just for one person – in this case, me – but Ms. Marsden was absolutely riveting. I looked for her after her set because I wanted her to know just how profoundly her music had affected me, but she was nowhere to be found and it almost felt like she had materialised out of nowhere to perform, and dematerialised as soon as it was over…

Hannah Marsden

The opportunity to see A VOID was not missed this week. The French-English power trio took no prisoners as singer-guitarist Camille Alexander and her cohorts Aaron Hartman on bass and Darryl Hannah lookalike Marie Niemec on drums steamrollered their way through a grunge groove’d 45 minutes that drew heavily on their recommended “Awkward And Devastated” 2018 album and climaxed with its best (well, my favourite) track ‘She Threw Her Baby From The 7th Floor’.  Ms. Alexander is as formidable a frontsperson as any band could wish to have, and her livewire jumping, crouching and dropping to her knees during each number more than ramped up the energy level after the quiet and perfect storm of Hannah Marsden…

A Void

Last band of the night was the aforementioned Scrounge (or ‘Scroonge’ as they will now forever be known, following Ms. Alexander’s endearingly Gallic mispronunciation of their name at the end of A VOID’s set…).  I’ve been a fan of Lucy (vocals & guitar) and Luke (drums and vocals!) ever since I caught them early in their career at the Finsbury a couple of years ago. The ferocity of their music, particularly when played live, is totally at odds with the sheer niceness of the duo as people.  Loud, urgent and at times quite scary, it has so far come over better on stage, where its adrenaline-fuelled rawness seems less confined on songs like ‘Purpose’, ‘Etch’ and particularly ‘Badoom’, an almost unfollowable set-ender and night-ender for that matter.

There may only be two members of Scrounge, but they play with enough volume and energy for ten.  Having also told me beforehand that they, too, were nervous about playing live again, they powered through as though it was something they had been doing every week during 2020. It’s my hope that they – and indeed, everyone I have seen during the past fortnight – will get plenty of chances to do so once we are all jabbed up and ready to resume something resembling ‘normal services’…


I know we still have a long way to go before ‘the good old days’ return, but the success of these events, and anticipation of others that are slowly rolling out as 2020 draws to a close, prove that a socially distanced live scene is viable for now. If Father Christmas doesn’t bring me anything else whatsoever, the eight days and five events of early December have been the best gift I feel I could have received this year…

Keep watching Facebook/Instagram etc. for further news of live activity by all of the above.

All rubbish photos by T. Rounce…

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