LIVE: The Coathangers @ Arts Club Loft, Liverpool, 30.04.19

Why aren’t The Coathangers better known? It’s a question that occurs whilst writing this review. Perhaps, with their self-titled debut coming along in 2006, they emerged at a time when bands were pretty uniformly all-male and ironically pro-choice band names were unheard of. Whatever the case, it’s led them here, to a smallish loft venue in Liverpool on a Tuesday, calling in support from two of the city’s emerging punk acts.

Piss Kitti take to the stage by degrees, with guitarist Dominic, bassist Quinn and drummer Daniel already onstage and set up before lead singer Esme followss. The group are joyously unrefined and uncoordinated, whilst the set is shallow fried DIY punk – all power chords and burps down the mic, shrieks and thuds. But there’s social commentary too: “We always get told off for doing this one because it’s about the lad bands round here that are absolute melts”, Esme announces before the band crash into ‘Bore’.  It’s ironic, and perhaps deliberate, that it has the best chorus of the set.

After Salt the Snail tell us “We’ve got absolutely nothing to say”, we wait for what seems an age for The Coathangers to appear. When they do, they creep on in darkness – so dark, in fact, that the gold lamé hooded dresses worn by all three of them are quite startling when the lights come up. It’s an eerie opening too, with jungle sounds and the bassless lilt of ‘Lithium’ and its tale of medication, sung sweetly by singer/guitarist Julia.

In some ways, it belies the rest of the show, most of which flits between Julia’s vocals and the gritty Wanda Jackson pipes belonging to drummer Stephanie. The set is largely taken from new album The Devil You Know, with several album track highlights that reflect the band’s duality: ‘5 Farms’, a straight up garage slammer that meanders into swing; ‘Stranger Danger’, equal parts creepy and bluesy; ‘Hey Buddy’, a maraca-backed cool AF 70s rocker.

But The Coathangers are more in-sync than in-opposition: bassist Meredith takes lead vocals on ‘Memories’, and towards the end of the set, the band have all swapped roles, with each taking a turn on lead vocals and drums. At one point, the band finish a song and collapse into laughter. It’s an insight into Coathanger World, and helps explain the trio’s willingness to go on making music, for over ten years and across six albums. “We’ve been on tour for five months!”, offers Stephanie, by way of explanation.

There’s a smattering of older tracks for the diehards in the room – the titular track from previous LP Nosebleed Weekend, its lead single and the band’s signature tune ‘Make It Right’, and ‘Shut Up’ from 2014’s Suck My Shirt – before the band close with fan favourite ‘Squeeki Tiki’, featuring Julia playing the song’s hook on a dog’s squeaky chew toy, before they strut off, those dresses flashing gold. There’s no encore, after a set with very little bantering with the crowd and no endless tune-ups. Just 45 minutes of pop-rock, garage and Runaways-style punk performed with a minimum of fuss. It’s worth its wait.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

LIVE: Le Butcherettes (w/ Big Joanie) – Moth Club, Hackney 02.03.19

Fueled by almighty vocals, hefty guitar riffs and commanding percussion; Le Butcherettes‘ powerful sound ricocheted around the glittered walls of Moth Club last week. Celebrating the release of their fourth album bi/MENTAL, the group delivered a passionate mix of old and new material to their London fans.

Opening the night were DIY garage punks Big Joanie, who were in high spirits having just returned from playing SXSW. The trio’s understated and relatable sounds went down well with the crowd, with ‘Fall Asleep’, ‘Used To Be Friends’ and ‘Down Down’ proving to be the strongest songs in their set.

Cited as their most personal album to date, bi/MENTAL is an ode to Le Butcherettes’ frontwoman Teri Gender Bender’s Mother, and the tracks were as visceral and vulnerable performed live as they are on the record. Teri’s trademark falsetto voice was breath-taking. She flitted between screams, cries and authoritative vocals which matched her erratic but focused performance style. Her band mates – Alejandra Robles Luna (drums), Rikardo Rodríguez-López (guitars) and Marfred Rodríguez-López (bass) – performed with equal amounts of energy; switching between off-kilter sounds and infectious, rolling rhythms with enviable precision.

Teri’s howls and cries cut through the air when she broke the fourth wall and entered the centre of the crowd mid-set and laid on her back. She commanded attention wherever she stood, and spoke fluent Spanish between songs to keep listeners on their toes. As for stand out tracks, it’s difficult to pick just one – but ‘give/UP’ and ‘struggle/STRUGGLE’ stood out among the set list. Both felt like seething, buzzing explorations of grief despite their opposing tempos.

Inspired by the “the death of a living mother”, the duality of life, and the inevitable strife caused by the fluctuation of mental health; Le Butcherettes bi/MENTAL is a cathartic burst of emotive rock designed to clear the cobwebs between your ears – and the band’s live set does exactly that.

Catch Le Butcherettes on their upcoming UK live dates:
Tues 9th July – Boston Music Rooms, London
Weds 10th – Green Door Store, Brighton
Thurs 11th – 2000 Trees Festival, Cheltenham

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LIVE: ESG @ Jazz Cafe, Camden, 01.03.19

It may be ESG’s last UK tour, but the iconic DIY act are going out with a bang…

ESG are possibly the most famous band you’ve never heard of. They’ve been sampled by a list of artists too long to name – including TLC and Miles Davis – and yet they’ve stayed resolutely under the mainstream radar, instead inspiring a generation of female DIY musicians to play by their own rules.

And now, the all-female band, who started making music in the South Bronx in the early ’70s, are on their last ever UK tour. UK fans might remember that this was also what they said of their 2015 tour, so maybe don’t lose hope yet… For the penultimate show, they played Camden’s Jazz Café, with support from Leeds-based funk band Galaxians.

Maybe this really is the last tour, but it doesn’t feel like a sad farewell. The band’s inimitable, sparse mash-up of funk, punk and dance can be unnerving when you’re listening through headphones, but played live, it’s a definite party. Even ‘U.F.O’, whose surreal riff has been sampled by Nine Inch Nails amongst others, is given an upbeat makeover. It can be hard to get a room full of stoic London hipsters dancing, but ESG pull it off easily.

ESG have always been hard to pin down – they’ve been described as everything from proto-hip-hop, to post-punk, to dance – but you get the sense tonight that at the heart of their joyful style is a disregard for categorisation. They’re not interested in being a band who are easy to write about, they’re interested in getting you dancing (whilst perhaps unsettling you slightly at the same time).

The band never found mainstream success – not least because their record label, 99 Records, went bankrupt in the mid-eighties. Since then, they’ve been resolutely DIY. It’s perhaps slightly galling, then, that the artists who sample them, with or without clearance, have often gone on to find greater fame and fortune (though generally lesser critical acclaim). There’s an extra level of irritation in finding that tracks using ESG samples aren’t always ones they’d like to be associated with – as front woman Renee commented in an interview back in 2002, these have included “Really negative, woman-beating type of songs. I’ve been in situations with domestic violence, so I don’t appreciate any song glorifying domestic violence using my music. Go get your own damn music!

They might not be headlining Glastonbury, but they’ve done something arguably greater: they’ve paved the way for female DIY musicians who won’t colour inside the lines. Unconstrained by genre or the pressures of major label involvement, they’re free to enjoy the party.

Frances Salter
@goodcanarymusic

LIVE: Anna Calvi @ The Roundhouse, 07.02.19

The buzz around the catwalk is already palpable. You could cut the atmosphere with a butter knife and anyone who’s seen Anna Calvi live before will know that she can and she will. She’ll forego the butterknife for bright red lipstick, jet black hair, and the bruised Telecaster that’s been by her side since long before she ever found herself screaming into the historic Roundhouse.

Do you think the designers knew that what started as an engine house would end up having the kind of acoustics that could make any audiophile’s expensive headphones melt off their ears? Doubt it, but that’s what happened on 7th February 2019, when Anna Calvi—alongside her band, Mally Harpaz and Alex Thomas—brought Hunter to Camden Town.

Opening the show were two LGBTQ artists-cum-DJs, Austra and Victoria Sin, spinning tracks that both enlivened us queer indie kids and the more seasoned (cis-oned) fans alike. As well as being palpable, it was equal parts emotional. As the stage went dark and screams echoed around the ‘house, there was a strange but enlivened twist in the air: Calvi was home.

Playing songs from Hunter and her self-titled debut, there wasn’t a single soul in the crowd left uncaptivated. Even at the bar, people were being coughed at by bar tenders when they’d forgotten to order; too busy watching art unleashed on the stage in front of us.

The synergy between Calvi, Harpaz, and Thomas lead to the kind of artistic improv Marina Abramović could bathe in – and while I say these things as a fan of both, if you don’t feel nauseous at at least one point of a great gig, your Stendhal moment is still there waiting.

Anna Calvi is an artist to remember. She is, in my humble (gobby) opinion, the greatest living guitarist we have. And she left her mark during every second of the Roundhouse show; from beginning to end. Some cried, some came, and most of us would willingly live through that concert again and again.

Em Burfitt
@fenderqueer

LIVE: Laura Gibson @ Queen Elizabeth Hall, 13.11.18

Having first fallen in love with Laura Gibson’s delicate, soaring vocals upon hearing 2016’s Empire Builder, it was an honour to be able to catch her live at one of my favourite London spaces last Tuesday.

Upon commencing her set at Queen Elizabeth Hall, a humble Gibson takes to the stage along with a trio of musicians, thanking us all for being there and revealing that when she creates music, she’s at her “most alone” but now – sharing her creations with us – she’s at her “most connected”. Immediately oozing her trademark spellbinding charm, and looping together layers of twinkling musicality, she treats our ears to a selection of offerings, from both her new album Goners and 2016’s aforementioned collection. From the majestic, folk-strewn melodies of the likes of ‘Slow Joke Grin’ and the sparkling splendour of ‘I Carry Water’ to the gentle, stirring emotion of ‘Damn Sure’, each poignant track tugs at the heartstrings in all the right ways.

Despite issues with a broken cable , Gibson remains calm, maintaining her charming rapport and endearing humour with the crowd throughout – “Well, the cable has been around the world with me, I guess London will be its final resting place”. And, when recalling the difficulties of touring Goners in certain European countries where the word doesn’t quite translate, her gentle wit continues to shine through.

With the majority of the set seeing Gibson at the helm of the keys, with her new material having generally more of an eclectic, musically varied sound that older offerings, she reveals that “… it’s been good to be free from the guitar strap”, before placing it over her head once more and breaking into the gritty whirring hooks of ‘Tenderness’. Succeeding in casting her spell over the crowd, Gibson’s sweeping vocals and heartfelt emotion is showcased at its more raw and spine-tinglingly powerful in (personal favourite) ‘Marjory’; a beautifully intimate offering complete with heady, soul-stirring strings courtesy of Kyleen King.

Following the closing two tracks from Goners, ‘Thomas’ and ‘I Don’t Want Your Voice To Move Me’, Gibson draws the set to a close with the glistening, uptempo sounds of Empire Builder’s ‘Not Harmless’. And all at once it becomes crystal clear that she is perfectly suited to playing in a venue of such prestige; the exquisite cinematic splendour of each and every offering matching its subtle grandeur completely.

Although I unfortunately had to make my way home before Dan Mangan took to the stage (and apparently played some wonderful songs with Laura too), what I did see of Gibson I am extremely grateful for. In a world that’s so swamped in darkness and fear at the moment, I couldn’t help but be filled with a certain sense of hope witnessing her heartfelt, exquisite grace and dreamy allure.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

LIVE: Skating Polly @ Sebright Arms, 10.09.18

As a rule, especially now I’m fast approaching mid-thirties-dom, I generally try to avoid Monday night gigs – they tend to set a precedent of low energy and enhanced apathy for the rest of the week. But last Monday, I decided to make an exception for my favourite sibling punk-rock trio, Skating Polly. And I’m extremely glad I did.

Kicking off the two-band line up at Bethnal Green’s Sebright Arms are GIHE faves The Menstrual Cramps. Delivering their topical tongue-in-cheek wit and immense, politically-charged force, they succeed in astounding the crowd. With their refreshingly uncensored, genuine passion, they seem to have refined their seething set even since I last saw them play for us a couple of months back; they’re a band who are now more relevant and necessary than ever before, continuing to refine their musical prowess to blast their message into our ears.

Marking themselves out as favourites when we caught them a couple of years back, putting on an immense live set at The Lock Tavern, Skating Polly‘s Kelli and Peyton have since recruited brother Kurtis on drums, to create an even bigger, high-octane sound. Delivering their trademark combination of honey-sweet melodies with gritty, whirring hooks, 2016’s ‘Pretective Boy’ starts the set. And immediately they draw in the packed out venue with their immense buoyant energy and understated subtle power.

Although I had been blown away seeing Kelli and Peyton as a duo, with the added volume of one extra person, they’re able to blast into the eardrums with a fuller, all-encompassing sound that hits you with a sublime force from the start. And it doesn’t make it any less impressive or immersive either; the two front women continue to swap vocal responsibilities and instruments throughout the set, with Peyton and Kurtis swapping roles for one song too. Skating Polly are a band who continue to keep us on our toes, showcasing their exciting, multi-faceted sound and unique, impassioned stage presence.

Treating us to an eclectic mix of songs new and old, each and every moment of this jam-packed set is full of raw emotion, with this band’s intense snarling energy and ferocious vocal delivery blowing me away throughout. From new tracks such as ‘Free Will At Ease’ (inspired by a “shitty ex boyfriend”) and the seething grunge-fuelled power of ‘Camelot’, to 2016’s ‘Perfume For Now’ (about a guy who accused Kelli of being a creep when she was just 13) and the immense grit of ‘Stop Digging’, each and every offering is an exciting, intoxicating sonic delight.

Fiercely staring into the crowd and shouting “throw your mother-fucking hands up!”, Kelli tops things off by launching into the sweaty (and incredibly smelly!) sea of fans for an epic surf, bass and all. A glorious end to a glorious night of live music. Once again marking themselves out as going against the grain, Skating Polly deliver an empowering sentiment, uniting anyone who doesn’t want to coincide with the confines of society’s limitations.

Definitely worth venturing out on a Monday for; far from apathetic and energy-less, the night leaves me feeling motivated and refreshed, having been in the presence of such formidable women in music.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

LIVE: The Joy Formidable – The Lexington, 22.08.18

Almost six years to the day since they last played the venue, The Joy Formidable made a triumphant return to The Lexington to perform to a sold out crowd on Wednesday night. Ritzy, Rhydian and Matt are masters of loud-and-quiet alternative anthems, and despite being absent from the London live scene recently; the trio have lost none of their momentum.

Opening their set with the riotous and rarely played ‘Greyhounds In The Slips’, the band tore through the song with impressive precision and energy. ‘I Don’t Want To See You Like This’ followed, before the all-encompassing ‘The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade’ took hold – filling the venue with foot-thumping and chants of appreciation. At the close of the song, guitarist & vocalist Ritzy, and bassist Rhydian addressed the “familiar faces” in their crowd, and banter about her “mountain troll” clumsiness – as well as drummer Matt’s intake of walnuts and whisky – drew hearty laughs from their loyal fans.

After this brief hiatus, the trio eased in to ‘Ostrich’. Unlike the recorded version, this rendition hosted a calmer intro; reflecting Ritzy’s words about the song’s theme of “moving on and forgiving” people. The pay-off was still every inch as powerful, so nothing was lost in the translation. With their fourth album AAARTH due for release next month, the band then showcased some of their new material – including their latest single ‘The Wrong Side’ – which rang out with trademark Joy Formidable intensity.

Hitch single ‘This Ladder Is Ours’ thundered through shortly after, before the band briefly left the stage, returning for a knockout encore. Between the blur of ‘Buoy’ (which was given similar treatment to ‘Ostrich’) and final track ‘Whirring’, the band took some time to remind fans that next year marks the tenth anniversary of the release of their debut EP, A Balloon Called Moaning. Ritzy promised TJF would be celebrating the occasion with some intimate acoustic shows, then promptly apologised for not playing the acoustic dates she promised last time she was in town, when the band played at Oslo in Hackney.

In one final six minute frenzy of riffs and raucous drumming, the band threw themselves and their instruments around the stage during ‘Whirring’, leaving their crowd fired up with the promise of seeing them in town again soon. The Joy Formidable have been on the musical radar for almost a decade, and last night’s performance proved they’ve got another decade’s worth of raw live power in them.

Support came from the wonderful Bryde – who performed with a full band – who TJF heartily praised.

Pre-order your copy of The Joy Formidable’s AAARTH here.
Follow the band on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut