Category Archives: live reviews

Sugar Coat – VAULT Festival 2020

Theatre review by Lorna S Myles – Sugar Coat at Vault Festival, opening night 10 March 2020.

When I heard that LW faves Dream Nails’ guitarist Anya Pearson was appearing in a punk-pop feminist “gig theatre show,” with music inspired by Le Tigre and Veruca Salt, well, this sounded like the kind of thing I should investigate. After all, I am a woman-of-rock, and my 4real answer to the question “which album first got you into music?” is “The Sound of Music soundtrack.” And I remain a fan of the musical format, and I stand by it!

However, I confess I had some fears as to whether a feminist coming-of-age story was entirely the entertainment I was looking for at the current time. Y’know, what with the world falling apart in every direction, with the failure of democracy, the destruction of the environment, meanness and selfishness and infectious diseases and everything… was I in the right space to listen to stories of heartache and loss and good/bad sex etc? Would it feel trivial? Would it be too earnest? Would I just want to go home and inventorise my tea bags etc? 

It turns out, though, that Sugar Coat was exactly what I needed.

Viewers, I hadn’t smiled all day. But from very shortly after the band started playing, the corners of my lips turned up, just a little bit, and then a bit more, and oh, it was wonderful.

So you have a four-piece band – two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer – all womxn. And you have the protagonist, who occasionally joins them on vocals, and mostly just tells her story, walking around in front of them, talking to us all like we’re her new best friends she just met at a bar and is entertaining us with the story of her life. She’s fucking funny, though her story is sad and painful at times. And the band members double as the voices and faces of people she tells us of – her first boyfriend, problematic shags, her mother, flat mates at Uni and so on.

And, because it’s a “music play”, every few minutes there’s a song. But it’s a song played by a feminist punk rock band, right there in front of you, like you’re at a gig in a subterranean amphitheater. And they move from punk to grunge to funk to pop to riot grrrl, and every song and every lighting decision reflects and enhances the mood, and we’re right there in her story, feeling it, but never getting too intensely-intense. There are poignant moments, there are difficult moments, but before it ever ever gets too earnest or sends you spiraling off into introspection or awkward memories, there’s a beat or a wry look or a comment about toast sliding off your lap and landing peanut butter side down on the floor, and everyone laughs, and everything feels light again.

And I thought about how sometimes, when life feels fraught and on the brink of collapse, what is needed is an escape into a warm room. Not escapISM, not a pretense that everything is OK; but an acknowledgement of pain, through experiences shared frankly and in the context of a hilarious night out with someone you just met.

Anyway, this did it for me.

It’s on until this Sunday 15th March, with performances at 7:30pm each night and a matinee at 4:30pm on the Saturday. And it gets my vote, for an hour and a half of blessed respite combined with an invigorating dose of “fuck the patriarchy!”

Get your tickets here

GIRLI + Matilda Eyre: live review

Words and photos by Keira Anee

Last night at The Social in central London was special. Not only was GIRLI so on fire she did indeed set the fire alarm off, and not only was GIRLI so on fire there was indeed a mini power cut, but the fire of a room full of women and non-binary (only!) singing along and dancing really – can I be this obvious?! – warmed my heart.

Having a night such as this isn’t easy. In even attending, I have had to justify myself and the ‘women only’ criteria to a few people. I’m not going to. 

But I will say, from the atmosphere alone it is well worth having these spaces, that we ourselves I think even underestimate the need for sometimes. 

I was able to speak to Matilda Eyre briefly before her support set. Matilda’s music sounded really big in this small room (Check it out!).

We spoke a little about how in the past there has been this feeling that if you’re a singer, or sing onstage with a backing track, then you’re not necessarily seen as credible as a musician, or even, music maker. In the last few years at least, I’m happy the view on this is changing. With acts such as PREGOBLIN and Lynks Afrikka performing with a backing track and their sets and performances being outstanding; as was the case with GIRLI tonight. I particularly enjoyed her song ‘Hot Mess’. Definitely check that one out. …It’s my new trying to brush my hair song.  

A few songs into her set, GIRLI says she had been feeling down today. The room sat down with her. “I feel like this is a small enough room that we can use this as a sort of therapy session!” And that’s exactly what it felt like.

I felt a lot of strength in the room coming from feeling included, and being ‘real’.

Find GIRLI on Facebook and girlimusic.com

Amanda Palmer: live review

Review by Joe Jones – Amanda Palmer live at Union Chapel, 15/12/19

“I could have done a normal tour. I could have done six Dresden Dolls songs and sold more tickets and merch and the newspapers would have come.” 

From her perfectly-lit spot at the helm of the Union Chapel, red roses weaved into her hair, Amanda F**king Palmer is anything but normal. Neither are we. That’s why we’re all here with her in this glorious church on the dark and stormy evening we found out the dreaded election results. It’s our church tonight. And no better sermon could have been delivered.

Palmer has built her career on, with and for her community for 20 years, and it’s a no-brainer as to why she is the cult-crowned queen of anti-pop.  She has been making frenetic, unapologetic, honest artistic statements since before The Dresden Dolls, connecting with her community religiously, and talking openly in her music about some of the more treacherous paths on the human experience.

I first saw one of her tours in 2011, and have been to at least 4 since. I thought I knew what to expect, but this show was a gift unlike any other. ‘There Will Be No Intermission’ is perhaps quite simply the bravest display of exposed humanity I have ever experienced at a gig. ‘Gig’ doesn’t quite feel descriptive enough though. It was more akin to a reading from her diaries. For three hours she delicately weaved a small selection of handpicked songs with stories from her personal life into a tapestry of pain, loss and beauty. Of retribution and abortion and accidentally killing a squirrel (on route to a reformative justice retreat where she discussed it with convicted men on death row). Stories of her teenage self and her horrendously relatable bad taste in men, of the  social media backlash from a poem about the Boston bomber to posts about Taylor Swift.  Several beautiful stories of her best friend Anthony, from meeting him at 15 to his dying in her arms twenty something years later. And then the song she wrote for his memorial.

There was a safe-word kindly given. “If at any point anyone is too sad, please stand up and shout ‘Amanda I’m Too Sad’ and I’ll play you the opening chords to Coin Operated Boy as a pallette cleanser” which she obliged twice. Being the self-confessed theatre kid she is, she managed to both draw and toe the line between comedy and tragedy. Tales of anguish peppered with humour, and a well woven theme of hatred for ‘Frozen’. 

There was a lot of cry-laughing from all involved. I’m not sure I know of another musician who could (or would) be able to explain that they are about to sing a song about disparate feelings towards motherhood written from the point of view of two women (“who are actually the same woman”), a foetus and a vagina. And then stop playing for a second to mention that it’s “much funnier if you actually picture a vagina singing”.

Feminism was a theme well explored; not as a ‘ram it down your throat’ ideal, but more in the ‘the radical notion that women are people too’ way. Palmer spoke at length of womb related issues, of being in Ireland on the day of the abortion referendum, the stark contrast between two New York abortion clinics, and how people with wombs don’t talk about a lot of very important things (note: ‘people with wombs’, not ‘women’ – an artist who is both fiercely feminist and trans inclusive without having to perform wearing a flag) and then talking about those things openly, in songs including the wonderful ‘A Mother’s Confession’ written 4 months into motherhood, with a chorus the entire audience sang with her of “At least the baby didn’t die”. Another notable moment was a deeply harrowing story of a yuletide miscarriage alone in a snowstorm before giving the most heartfelt rendition of ‘Let it go’ (from her much hated Frozen) any of us had ever heard. Her congregation wept and laughed as she played.

The other main moral to her fables was compassion.  She wrote the earworm-worthy ‘Drowning in the Sound’ after reaching out to her patrons (Palmer has been patron funded since her now famous split with her record label in 2010), asking about the afflictions in their lives, and being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of hurt.

Through stories and songs about her compassionate yet gun loving late best friend (listen to ‘Machete’) Amanda Palmer explained why believes so deeply in radical compassion, fierce communal kindness towards absolutely everybody. From the squirrel she accidentally killed, to the convicted murderers she told about it. From parents and children to “yes, even him” … Boris Johnson. And she is right. We are all ‘bigger on the inside’ and perhaps the most important thing we can do in such fractured, terrifying political times, is to commit ourselves to compassion, honesty, art and community spirit. To galvanize our resolve, dig our heels deep and sometimes, come together on dark nights in a well lit church to laugh and cry and sing.

“We are so much bigger on the inside
You, me, everybody
Some day when you’re lying where I am
You’ll finally get it, beauty
We are so much bigger
Than another one can ever see
But
Trying is the point of life
So don’t stop trying”

– Bigger On The Inside. Amanda Palmer

Long Teeth: Last ever show @ The Shacklewell Arms, 18 Nov 2019

Live review by Tony Rounce. Photos by Keira-Anee Photography.

A wonderful career: the final curtain for one of the finest bands of the past few years …

Once upon a time there were two men and a woman who made a truly joyful musical noise in the studio and on stage. Their fan base was expanding with every show they played, and their future potential was looking limitless.

Then all of a sudden, three became two.  The drummer got very sick, very suddenly, and died at just 30 years of age.  The others missed their friend and colleague greatly. Rather than looking for a permanent replacement, they decided to close the door on that particular chapter of their musical careers, and find new projects to challenge that limitless future potential.

Thus it was that Jade Ellins and Sam Asbury – plus a trio of percussive pals – gave their friend and colleague Alessandro ‘Al’ Salzano a truly memorable ‘going away party’ at Long Teeth’s last ever gig at Dalston’s Shacklewell Arms (with excellent support slots from Gold Baby and Mango that need to be acknowledged, but I hope neither band will feel slighted if that’s all I do here).

It was cold outside, but the venue was filled with a near capacity crowd displaying warmth and appreciation for a top musician – and, according to those who knew him as a friend as well as a drummer, a totally top bloke as well.  If you never got the chance to see LT, let me offer you these musical comparisons: think early Talking Heads with a side order of Gang Of Four and/or their female counterparts the Delta Five. If you caught any of those bands in their pomp you would recognise LT as being kindred spirits, with Sam’s pithy, perceptive lyrics and his urgent delivery thereof being complemented by jagged and all-powerful guitar work – underpinned in a thunderous manner by Jade’s rock solid bass playing and crucial vocal contributions.  If you have ever seen Jade fronting the currently-on-extended-hiatus DOLLS you will be well aware of her own extraordinary abilities as a guitarist and vocalist, and she carries herself as a bassist in a similarly dominant manner.

With the assistance of not one but three of their chums occupying Al’s drum stool at various points, they performed 11 songs in an ecstatically received 40+ minute set with the exhilaration of a band that was just starting out, rather than one that was saying goodbye.

And what of those songs?  Well, the other purpose of the evening was to launch a limited edition, beautifully packaged vinyl mini-album containing 8 tracks that comprise almost their complete discography. Four of those songs had previously appeared on their 2017 ‘Canned Laughter’ CD EP, while four were new and had been completed with Al shortly before he passed away.  It was and is a worthy project that I hope everyone in the Shacklewell purchased at least one copy of, as all profits made on the sales are going to the North London Hospice.

The magnificent ‘Canned Laughter’ and ‘Nice Guys’ got the loud part of set underway in earnest after Jade brought things in calmly with ‘Walk In The Water’. After a brief dialogue from Sam about the purpose of the evening three of the LP’s new tracks got their final public airing, the fantastic and lyrically wry ‘Never Wanted A Job’ particularly stressing what we are going to miss.

‘URA Winner’ from ‘Canned Laughter’ paved the way for a couple of great numbers from the trio’s deep catalogue, their 2015 CD single ‘Famous Girls’ and the even earlier ‘Little Machine’, before the LP’s title track ‘White T-Shirt’ gave notice that the end was nigh – and that it was inevitably going to come with the mighty ‘Pangea’ which – in a truly magical moment towards the end of the song – featured all three of the drummers who had subbed for Al playing simultaneously in a Burundi like manner, while Sam riffed relentlessly from the audience and Jade screamed the chorus line “My Name Is Pangea, I’ve Had A Wonderful Career” like the lives of all present depended on her doing so. It seemed a somehow fitting way to end a final set by a band that really should have had a much longer ‘wonderful career’, had The Grim Reaper not decided otherwise.

It was an emotional night, but in a happy and positive way. A great send off for a great musician, and a great group.  I did suggest to Sam afterwards that they should make it an annual event, but he was adamant that we had all seen the last of Long Teeth and that there would be no repeat performance, ever.   He and Jade now have their relatively new project Big Sea Creatures, while just the night before I witnessed Jade’s great debut gig on bass with the excellent Abjects at the Windmill in Brixton.  DOLLS may be on hiatus, but that concept is not done and dusted either. The pair have plenty to occupy them going forwards.  Whatever the future brings they can look back on this part of their past with extreme pride – and an exit that concluded Long Teeth’s own career on the highest of highs.

Big Sea Creatures have upcoming gigs in December at the Hope & Anchor on the 4th and the Finsbury on the 9th.  Hopefully there will be more Abjects gigs to come soon, too…

If you were not there last night and would like to buy the ‘White T-Shirt’ album please find LT’s Facebook page and proceed accordingly!

Cocaine Piss: live at The Dome, London, 12 Nov

Words and photos by Keira Anee

Having seen Cocaine Piss once before, around this time last year, I was definitely eager to go again. They played at The Dome, supporting an equally brilliant band name (the poster really pops…) Mannequin Pussy.

My mum is spending a few days with me and she was happy to come along. I’m pleased to say, she loved it! I quote:

“I never understood all that jumping and head banging before, but now I think I do. It’s a release!”

Julie, Keira’s Mum, and total badass

Cocaine Piss are a band I would love to see play for Loud Women, not just for the release and the great time they provide, but also a great mother/daughter activity! The whole set feels so free and carefree, I don’t think i stopped smiling. Mum even bought a T-shirt!

Find Cocaine Piss on Facebook

Saint Agnes + Soeur: live review & photos

Live review and photos by Keira Anee @ Dingwalls, 25 Oct 2019

Last night was the first time I’ve seen Saint Agnes in a long time, maybe even a couple of years. From the beginning, a friend of mine recommended them highly and back then interviewed singer Kitty for one of the first issues of the photo journal, 98 Wounds.

Six years later, and it was fantastic to see them having sold out Dingwalls, and I hear other dates on this tour, too! I remember a while back speaking to the band about music they were listening to, and them telling me about times they would sit around together, in silence, listening to a whole album by The Doors, or Metallica. Their live set certainly suggests these phenomenal influences – all, of course, opened with bassist Ben, in a bunny costume, staring menacingly at the crowd. That is, before the rest of the horror clad zombie band stepping out and showing the room insane amounts of energy!

It was also fantastic to finally see support band for the Saint Agnes tour, Soeur. With a lot of great stuff coming from Bristol at the moment (I love No Violet) they make my home city look, if I may, ‘bangin’.

It’s only a day later and I want to see them again, perhaps a Loud Women show…?

Miss June + Pretty Sick: live review and photos

Words and photos by Keira Anee – Miss June + Pretty Sick at the Lexington, London, 10 October 2019

Openers Pretty Sick are from New York, and playing live tonight with double bass. 

That is, 2 x bass equally distributed amongst two bassists! I think this is probably the first time I’ve seen a band use two bass, especially without guitar? Which I think definitely deserves a mention.

The band look like they’re having a great time and I was so happy when for their last song they covered ‘Hooch’ (i think?) by The Melvins. I love this song, and singer Sabrina tore it up perfectly. You can listen to some of Pretty Sick’s music here

It goes without saying that I should probably end this by saying that Pretty Sick were… Pretty sick.

Wahh! After missing Miss June earlier this year, when their debut album came out at the beginning of September (and I loved it), despite so many great gigs happening last night (Ghum, anyone?) I had to be at The Lexington. From the start there was so much energy, the band members were friendly and personal with the audience, and there was also a pretty incredible one woman stage invasion. I wanted to be that woman, she looked ecstatic and I can see why! Miss June are here from New Zealand, they play all my favourites from the album and singles Twitch and Best Girl get a really, really overwhelming reaction from the crowd. I’m going to stop rambling now and dedicate this gig review (?) to the word ‘wow’. 

Get the album, and be happy like me.