You don’t need me to tell you that Tuesday 8 March 2022 was International Women’s Day.
On a cold school night at Islington’s Hope and Anchor earlier this week, the LOUD WOMEN Club had a real humdinger of an event in store for the substantial crowd that made its way downstairs to the Hope and Anchor’s legendary basement, in order to enjoy a bill of fare that spanned a broad spectrum of the kind of music and performers that we champion at LW Towers. A hand-picked diversity of musicians, and a diversity of music to suit all tastes, was offered and, inevitably, enthusiastically received. Let’s face it, you know what you’re going to get with a LOUD WOMEN Club night and it’s not going to be just any old rubbish, is it?
The night got underway with a welcome return solo appearance of long time LW favourite Gilan, whose attractive personality, beguiling voice and well measured songs have enhanced LW Club nights before – both solo and fronting the late-lamented Brospehine. Gilan’s set was short but charmingly sweet as she held the early crowd’s attention with around half a dozen of her personal vignettes, each one with sung with a charm that made them and Gilan instantly endearing to one and all, whether they had seen her before or not.
Gilan works solo a lot, but she and former Brosephine alumnus Yas Rai’s new band Vulgar Breeds will be playing our 11 June LOUD WOMEN Club.
After the relaxed intimacy of Gilan’s opening set, the jagged, synth-driven electropop of Arch Femmesis could hardly have been more of a contrast. A two-piece that came “all the way from Manchester and London” as frontperson Zera told us before the first of their half dozen half-sung, half-spoken pieces, the first of which ‘Androgynista’ set out their stall in a fairly comprehensive manner (“I’m The Androgynista, Don’t Fuck With Me”) before Zera and musical accompanist Stephen launched into ‘Kali’ – also making its world CD premiere tonight as part of the LOUD WOMEN Volume 4 CD that all paying customers received as part of their price of admission.
By the time they reached their third number (and most recent single) ‘Sapiosonic’ they had the full measure of the crowd, and we of them…
Their set went by in what felt like the blink of an eye, but better to get on, get in and get off than to outstay one’s welcome, and Arch Femmesis certainly made a favourable impression on the majority of the crowd at the very least. With one being based ‘up there’ and the other being based ‘down here’, it follows that they perhaps don’t gig as often as some of their peers, so any opportunity to see them should be grabbed immediately. I asked Zera if I could get a look at their set list, after they had done. You just have to love anyone who writes it on their hand, don’t you?
Piney Gir brought lots of smiles and some lovely music to the Hope’s stage. Piney has lived here long enough now to be as British as the rest of us, but her songs fuse many strands and styles from her American homeland, and she and her excellent long time musical cohorts, including the ever-superb guitarist Garo Nahoulakian and backing vocalists Roxy (Amy) & Roxy (Emma), blend everything together in a heady cocktail of Americana, one minute drawing on swamp pop and the next coming on like the greatest 60s girl group you never heard before. Piney’s vocal style would have been right at home in the halcyon era of the Shangri-Las and Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound and the eight songs that held everyone’s attention drew heavily on her two most recent releases, 2021’s ‘Astral Spectra’ EP and 2019’s full album ‘You Are Here’.
Piney is always a joy to see and hear, particularly in the kind of small, comfortable setting that the Hope & Anchor offers to bands and customers alike. Personal set highlights from tonight’s show included the poptastic opener ‘Dreamcatcher’ from the latter, the slightly-delic ‘Voice Of The Ages’ which opens the former and the set’s final song, the pretty, punchy ‘Keep It Together’ from Piney’s 2015 album “mR. hYDE’S wILD rIDE”– but really it was another case of all killer, no filler and with seven albums to draw on it would have been surprising if things had been any different. Her set was as different to the one it followed as it was to the one that followed it – after a brief break for a fundraising raffle, which the Rounce team of dad and daughter did not embarrass itself too much by winning everything. Piney has played for LOUD WOMEN before and, indeed was a highlight of last year’s LOUD WOMEN Fest. She and her musical cohorts – most of whom, including Piney, have also worked together in the band of former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes – can come back any time they like, too.
After said raffle, ARXX rounded out a fab evening’s entertainment in typically fine style. There’s probably not much I can tell you here about Hanni and Clara that you won’t already know yourselves by now. Hopefully a few of you who are reading this came down to see what surely will become an increasingly rare ‘small club’ appearance, as their meteoric rise to the top gathers increased momentum. Those of us who did were inevitable well pleased and satisfied with another stellar ARXX set.
These are exciting times for these gal pals. Record deals, publishing deals and instrument sponsorship have all come their way in the past few weeks (and all deservedly so) and they have some big tour support slots coming up across the rest of the year. As far as I’m concerned, they deserve all that and more. It’s always nice to see great things happening to great people. They have come a long way, in every way, since I first saw them several years ago now, and just a few months after Hanni and Clara teamed up. Some 50 or more ARXX gigs later I am still arguably their biggest (and certainly most travelled) fan, and will never stop telling anyone who will listen how much I love them, both as musicians and people.
To be honest, there’s absolutely nothing not to love about the two of them. Their musicianship is first rate, Hanni’s songs and her delivery thereof are never less than compelling and what’s more their between-song patter is just so spontaneously hilarious that they could just stand there and talk to each other and their audiences for half an hour instead of playing, and nobody would feel short-changed. But luckily for us their banter is a sideline and their main business is still those high-powered, hooky songs that have immediate and lasting impact. Time constrictions tonight made for a slightly shortened set, but these babes made every minute count and even had the chutzpah to perform two completely new songs ‘Baby Uh Huh’ and ‘What Have You Done’ that were not present when they played the House Of Vans in London a few weeks ago. These two songs started as strangers but already felt like old friends long before either finished, and they fit well beside newer ARXX anthems ‘Ride Of Die and, the singles ‘Deep’, ‘Call Me Crazy’ and ‘Not Alone But Not With You’, as well as pre-lockdown faves ‘You Got What You Want’ and ‘Iron Lung’ and the lone survivor from the duo’s earliest days ‘Stuck On You’, which used to go like that and now it goes like this. I don’t know about you but I would be hard pressed to find nine songs that I would rather listen to in one set. The only (mild) disappointment was that the clock called time on the night before they had a chance to play Avril Lavigne’s ‘Sk8ter Boi’ as their encore.
What ARXX did play was more than worth the very reasonable admission price on its own, and if you haven’t seen them lately or – perish the thought – haven’t seen them at all, you are encouraged to do so before bigger venues and sell-out tours become the norm for Hanni and Clara. That inevitability is surely not far away now, and who among us could begrudge them everything that’s coming their way. However big they become, they will always belong to our scene at heart…
You can keep up with any and all of tonight’s acts on all the usual socials and stream their music wherever you stream your music from – or preferably buy their music and merch via Bandcamp. The next LOUD WOMEN Club night at the Hope And Anchor is on 9 April with a line up of old favourites The Other Ones and LW ‘newbies’ Ynes, Collars and Ode To Sleep. See you down the front!