Last night (11 May) at the Hope & Anchor was a splendid reminder why LOUD WOMEN gigs are so vital. Four very awesome woman-powered bands from up and down the country, and across the Atlantic (Miss Eaves, TV Face, Feral Five and I, Doris) ; a fun raffle full of awesome prizes (original Bikini Kill poster! records! golden pineapple ornament!); filming for Gaptooth‘s new music video (Post-Patriarchy Disco!); plus the friendliest, most up-for-a-good time crowd you could wish to hang out with on a Saturday night. More of this sort of thing please!
Review by Tony Rounce – Scrounge @ The Windmill, London SW9 – 2/5/19
You may have seen their name cropping up here and there over the past couple of years, but you might not yet have heard South East London-based duo Scrounge. If you haven’t, you really ought to remedy that immediately. Once you have seen them, I can promise that you will want to see them again. Their beguiling music is akin to a siren’s call, and once it has its hooks in you it will not leave you alone.
Alumni of New Cross’ Goldsmiths College, Scrounge is comprised of local girl Lucy Alexander on guitar and most of the singing, and Luke Cartledge (who’s from Manchester, but we shouldn’t really hold that against him ‘cos he’s a nice guy…) on percussion and the rest of the singing. They merged musically a couple of years ago to create a sound that distills a number of subliminal influences to create something original and different. I can’t think of one band to directly compare them to, with the possible exception – musically, at least – of the early Cure (a comparison that they might actually neither see not agree with themselves!)
There is starkness about Scrounge’s music that makes it impossible to ignore. Their songs are not strong on melody, but the riffs that power them come in thick layers, pumped up by Lucy’s judicious use of assorted pedals and effects that make it sound like there are at least two other guitarists on stage with the duo. Her clear, honest voice maintains a healthy balance between plaintive and loud, as appropriate to any given song. And behind his kit, Luke keeps the whole thing going with some hard-driven drum work that never lets the pace drop. Their collaborative efforts are quite unique in the world of two-person bands, and what comes through the speakers is most definitely hypnotically compelling at all times.
Scrounge’s recent set in support of their pals Jemma Freeman and the Cosmic Something, at Brixton’s endearingly scuzzy dive the Windmill, was a typical night’s work for them. They set up, did what they do with minimum fuss and maximum passion, and melted away after maybe half a dozen songs and no more than 20 minutes leaving their audiences hoping for more, which sadly there usually isn’t.
Not for Scrounge the luxury of excessive between-song frivolity and genial audience interaction. There are few-to-no song announcements, and it usually isn’t till the penultimate or even final number of the set that there’s any kind of acknowledgement that there’s an audience there at all. I personally regard this as a logical extension to their intense approach to making music, so wrapped up are they in their performance. They are two decidedly sociable people offstage, and always happy to talk pre- or post-set to anyone who expresses admiration for what they are doing.
At present they are generating new material at a fairly rapid rate of knots, and the set they played at the Windmill was almost totally different to the one I saw when I caught them for the first time at the Finsbury in North London nine months to a year ago. They have been opening with the stark ‘Medicate’ from their “Brace” EP since then, but last night it was gone, along with the other songs from the EP, and replaced by a presumably new number that I couldn’t yet identify and that might best be described as a work in progress, before serving up a coruscating version of ‘Etch’, their first single for 2019.
Their latest single ‘Crimson’ came midway through the set, as any centrepiece should, and if you’ve heard the single it will barely prepare you for Scrounge’s adrenaline-heavy live treatment which, to quote the lyric, really HAS ‘gone ballistic’ since it entered the set. Unfortunately because there are no song announcements and Lucy cunningly works without a printed setlist, the titles of the other numbers in their set must remain a mystery (to me, at least – sorry!) until they get round to recording them.
Which I, for one, hope will happen soon, as there’s some pretty fabulous stuff there.
The Iron Maidens at Fryshuset Klubben Stockholm, 10 April 2019 – review and photos by Stephen Boyle
Having followed these ladies for quite some time via social media, YouTube and other digital platforms and having missed them a couple of times on previous tours, I was excited to see that they intended to kick off their 2019 European Tour right in my backyard in Stockholm. The venue is a firm favourite of mine, as it is a nice intimate space and I have seen several outstanding bands there in the last couple of years. Situating myself at the front, right on the barrier, I had an unhindered view of the entire stage. I didn’t have to wait long before the Iron Maidens hit the stage.
This was the first show on their European tour and their
first time in Sweden and they got a rapturous reception from the crowd as they
thundered their way through Iron Maiden classics from the 1980’s. The band were
impressive on stage, with every member looking comfortable and confident in
Being a guitarist, my interest lay
with watching the twin guitar attack of Courtney Cox and Nikki Stringfield. I
was not disappointed as both guitarists tore through the set with ease. My
position at the barrier meant I was in direct line of fire of Courtney Cox’s
amp, and when she kicked in her boost pedal for her solo spots, it was almost a
religious experience as I could feel every note pass through my body. The entire
sound was very good and, apart from a few opening show teething problems that did
not impact on the quality of the band, the show seemed to go off without any
major issues and, in my opinion, was a great start to their European Tour.
After the show I got the chance to meet the girls and I have
to say, they were the most down to earth and humble people I have had the
pleasure of meeting, even down to sharing very weird jokes about Wales with
After following the band from a distance for several years,
my first encounter with them live was a terrific experience and one I will be
repeating again just as soon as I am able.
Live review by Tony Rounce – Currls at Hope & Ruin, Brighton, 4 April 2019
On their Facebook page, Brighton trio Currls describe themselves as ‘a new kind of retro that you will want to love’. They’re right, and I do. I first saw them just a month or so ago, playing in Hastings as part of the Fat Tuesday line up on a miserably cold, wet and windy Sunday night. It was infatuation at first song, swiftly turning to a full-blown love that made me angry with myself that I hadn’t found them earlier.
I’ve since seen Currls at every available opportunity. Thus it was that on April 9th, on another cold, wet and windy night, I found myself at Brighton’s excellent Hope And Ruin pub with an impressive turn out of fellow fans, attending the launch gig for their new single ‘Let Down’.
There’s great camaraderie in Currls that seems to be a recurring factor in Brighton-based bands. Between songs, lead singer/guitarist Holly and equally gregarious, perpetually-smiling drummer Maddy talk to each other, and to their audience, continuously. They exchange banter and laughs, and let the audience know that they are having as good a time as we are. The two occasionally let tall, dark and mostly silent bass player Lawrie get a word in edgeways, but I get the feeling he is a man who knows his limitations…
If the between-song banter is relaxed and easygoing, Currls’ actual performances are anything but. Frontwoman Holly Blake is a genuine force of nature; her fantastic husky vocals jumping from a beguiling whisper to a full-throated roar at will, and fully owning the highly emotional content in the trio’s repertoire. She also plays guitar in a choppy, funky way that feeds off the tough rhythms of her two band mates, who also contribute vocal harmonies to reinforce just how melodic the group’s songs are.
Currls’ current eight-song set is full of impressive words and mostly up-tempo music. Holly can deliver a hook in a manner that would impress boxing’s Nicola Adams, and the earnest power in her delivery brings ‘instant anthem’ status to the likes of set highlights like ‘Nerve’, ‘Green Man’ (which may or may not be about aliens and my money’s on not) and their fab debut single from last year ‘April Fool’ – the penultimate performance of an April evening that inevitably concluded with a triumphant run at that powerful new single.
After 40 minutes of perfect poptastic brilliance, the trio left the stage full of smiles and to huge cheers, of which they deserved every last one. Holly said afterwards that she had been worried that her voice was not at its best – but of course it was and this lovely, enormously-likeable woman had inevitably been worrying about nothing.
Even in a town full of great bands, Currls stand out as one
of the greatest. Please do check them –
and both their singles – out at your first available opportunity…
Live review by Louise Goodger – Jelly Cleaver at The Canteen, Bristol, 22/03/19
In 2016, Erin Wehr, feminist and
author of ‘Understanding
the experiences of women in jazz: A suggested model’, put to paper a model
underlining the issues all too many women face in collective musical
environments and the music industry as a whole. When placed in a mixed group,
music women enter into a constant battle with tokenism, the fear of confirming
negative stereotypes and resulting swipes at their self-efficacy and -worth; in
all-female groups, a battle against ingrained competition. While addressing the
issues faced by women in jazz, this is by no means exclusive.
I think we can all agree there is
still a long, long way to come. Nonetheless, you can feel change in the air.
Through listening to each other, our stories and those of our musical
predecessors, nurturing each other in supportive environments and simply
gritting our teeth and pushing like hell to break the cycle, the resulting
power is tangible.
Last Friday I witnessed a performance in which this power was palpable, a positivity and optimism for the future of female performance mingling with the absurdly complex strings of chords. Performing at The Canteen, Bristol, in light of the release of her critically acclaimed single ‘VI II V’ and in anticipation of her upcoming album, the charismatic JellyCleaver joined forces with some of the brightest new faces behind the London Jazz scene. Accompanied by the multi-instrumental and -skilled Kapurna on the bass, the sublime Berlklee-attendee RoellaOrlo on keys and Tomorrow’s Warriors’ TashaKeery on drums, Jelly Cleaver brought into being an hour of not merely the highest musical standard but a reverberating positivity.
For a band’s first outing, they
were unbelievably slick, transitioning seamlessly between gems from her
upcoming album, her unconventional
reharms of classic jazz standards and her mic-dropping ‘VI II V’. Consistently
communicating with and applauding their fellow band members and allowing
freedom of expression, trial and error on the stage not only created a stage
environment in which the musicians and their talents positive self-efficacy are
nurtured but one that drew The Canteen’s lively Friday crowd into the group
themselves. All the while, Jelly’s endearing charm and gently political musings
were lapped up even by those leaning by the loos at the back.
Especially during the dire days of British politics we keep finding ourselves in, it’s an exciting thing to feel the hairs on the back of your neck tingle with a little hope. While aiming to assist our understanding of the issues music women face in a male-dominated environment, Wehr’s model projects the building-blocks by which we can nurture each other and use the power gender wields to drive performances and each other. Just five minutes of Jelly Cleaver is enough to keep a little faith.
Skating Polly and the Menstrual Cramps at the Sebright Arms, Shoreditch, 10/09/2018 – live review by Vicki Thompson
I arrive to find an almost empty room when I potter downstairs to the basement venue at the Sebright Arms – but I’m too early. I head upstairs to kill time, and find that I’m in a classic London public house – stained glass above its beautiful wooden bar, fairy lights and hanging ivy in the corners, a good beer selection on tap or by the bottle, plus a few nice whiskies if you’re partial, too! I meet a stranger at the bar who I make idle chit-chat with, and I ask her when the band starts, to which her reply was, “Oh, not until half 9“, meaning Skating Polly. I tell her the support act are really great and worth watching too, to which she replies, “Yeah, I really want to check them out!“, proceeding to order a plate of cheese fries that will almost certainly arrive during their set.
I dive back down the rabbit hole to find that the venue is now beginning to fill up. I move in close to the front to get a good view, and singer Emilia is already on stage, crouched down. She asks a friend in the crowd “Is it time? Should we start?“. Within moments we’re dancing away to the first track of the Menstrual Cramps set – Hashtag Sad Penis, which features on their last release, We’re not Ovaryacting. Emilia is sporting a hand-drawn shirt design to further drive the point home, featuring a crying aubergine with the words “No more dick pics” emblazoned beneath. The first track sets a high energy bar for the night and captivates their audience. I was at their very first show a few years back, and every time I’ve seen them since that debut, they’ve never failed to replicate the same energy they had that night. You can’t help but cheer them on.
I love how much of themselves they throw into their music. Between songs, they talk about the rejection they’ve had from the old-guard of the punk scene, particularly from Nazis (but who’d want their acceptance?!) who’ve told them they have no place to be making this music, that they “weren’t there” and they have no business existing. This I can relate to a lot, as a performer in the black metal scene. The rejection and estrangement I’ve felt from other artists who don’t believe a woman should play this sort of music (and have no problem telling you this), the idiotic elitists who idolise some of the more questionable roots of the genre, and the struggle to make yourself heard against the vitriol. I salute the Menstrual Cramps for taking the backlash against them and turning it on its head; for using their voices and subverting their negative experiences for the creation of great art. They turned all this into a song called Neo Nazi, which went down a storm.
The rest of their set continues the trend – they play magnificently, wearing their hearts and their politics on their sleeves as ever. We fling ourselves about to their anthem I like that top inspired by the gentrification of Bristol. We are told not to separate art from its artist, and not to idolise our Idols – words which cause a stir in me, and ring a parallel once again to the black metal scene that is often guilty of both charges. Unabashed, unashamed and a real entertainment, the Menstrual Cramps go out to thunderous, well-deserved applause. A fun and thought-provoking set, featuring a mix of songs from their previous release and their new album, Freebleedin’.
A quick dive up and back downstairs later, Skating Polly haven’t even started yet but I’m already in awe of their stage outfits as they set up. Red silks and collars, white fringe, hearts tattooed on knees and so much rock n roll glamour! They’re just as I remember them from Bristol, supporting Babes in Toyland about three years ago. My hype builds as much as the lime and soda I was given on the house upstairs bubbles in my hands. I’m near the front again, but with not quite as clear a view as I had for the Menstrual Cramps. And the demographic of the crowd around me has changed somewhat. For the Cramps I had a gaggle of other young (mostly) women dancing with and around me, but for Skating Polly I note that I am surrounded by older dudes. One of them has terrible B.O.
As Skating Polly start playing, it dawns on me that nearly all of them are photographers, and they’re really quite tall. They mob in front of me, and being fairly short I have no choice but to climb onto a nearby step at the side of the stage to be able to see at all, which sucks. “Oh well, three song rule.”, I think to myself.
But they don’t leave after three songs and stay put, taking photos for the entire set.
I try not to let it dampen my enjoyment too much, and it doesn’t, for sisters and brother (a new addition!) trio Skating Polly are incredibly entertaining, playing a super dynamic show for us. Their star power shines over any technical issues (“it wouldn’t be ‘Ugly Pop’ if everything fucking worked!” cries Kelli as the snare drum breaks), and their vocal talent and instrument-swapping dazzles throughout. Everyone sings along and it’s a little bit magical. They wow us with another high energy start to the set, just as their support act did, and tell us that a new video of theirs for their song, Free Will At Ease has literally just dropped over in the States, which they then play for us. This one’s a song led by Peyton, about healing from a shitty past relationship, something that anyone could relate to.
Once again, I admire how much of themselves they put into the music. Kelli tells us a story as she tunes her 3 string white Fender bass, about a guy back in Oklahoma who said he hated her music, especially “that screamy shit she did”. So in defiant retaliation she wrote the “most screamiest, most shittiest song she could”. She plays it and screams wide-eyed and furious into the microphone as she high-kicks the air, everyone eating it up. Their pacing is on point, giving the audience a chance to mellow down between high energy numbers with quieter, more thoughtful tracks like Little Girl Blue and the Battle Envy from their new album, The Make It All Show. Towards the end of the night, Kelli dives into the crowd to crowd surf almost against the roof of the sweatbox venue as she continues playing, which was badass as hell.
And that says it all really. Overall, a fantastic night! A bit of a shame about the photographers obscuring the view thoughout Skating Polly, but it didn’t ruin the night. I would urge any London promoters to enforce the “three song rule” more strictly in venues without especially elevated stages. And you, dear reader, if you ever get the chance to watch either band, you should. I picked up both bands’ latest releases at the merch tables and neither fail to impress.
What a gig! It was an absolute treat to host these 4 bands last night at DIY Space for London last night.
The evening kicked off with Brighton’s ARXX. Since they last played for us, they’ve changed drummer, and added a lot more power and groovy samples too. Hannah’s voice is a-mazing and their songs are worldclass punkpop anthems, and the world needs to hear them! Find them on Facebook.
Next up were T-Bitch from Southend, who brought massive portions of glamour, vitriol, and banging punk rock – all our favourite things in fact! They gave a brilliant performance that had us all grinning and dancing from start to finish. They were also absolutely lovely people to gig with – a model band! They turned up early, helped out other bands with equipment loans, watched all the other bands and stayed to the end.
These might seem like small gestures but they make such a difference to the night, and bands who follow this punkrock code of etiquette are welcome on our stages any time. We hope to see lots more of T-Bitch soon!
Next up were Quim Smashers, who also played live on the LOUD WOMEN Radio show on WRS last week.
Time constraints meant no raffle at the gig (we’ll do an extra big one next time).
But finally our headliners Basic Bitches were a huge treat – a gloriously loud garage rock duo on tour from the US. Perfect end to a great evening.