After a three week gig drought, I’m absolutely stoked that Girl Band are gonna be the band that kick off my 2017 season by drenching me in their unique, post-punk rock noise.
When a musician you admire is raving about another musician’s work, you check them out, and that is how I discovered Girl Band’s debut album Holding Hands with Jamie. Some of the harshest, most creative punk rock I’ve heard to date, I was blown away. It’s like nothing I’ve heard before. Tonight would be my first time seeing them live. A sold out show in the larger 250 capacity room of the Hare and Hounds, there is much excitement in the air as I head to the venue in King’s Heath. A stunning listed building with two bars and two music venues upstairs, it’s another favourite haunt and gem of a venue in Birmingham. No queues either means it’s straight to the bar, then straight upstairs to catch first act Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam.
Local to the area, these psychedelic punk-rockers have been around a few years and I’m not quite sure how they’ve slipped under my radar. I’m hearing good things so I check out a few tracks on YouTube, I like what I hear so I decide to let the live show speak for itself, and speak it did… in a kind of grabbed me by the throat and screamed down my ears kinda way!
They waste no time launching into their set. Loud, poppy punk swills the room and it takes me a while to realise there is no bass player amongst these three guitarists, so dense is the noise they create. Punchy vocals and hard rock riffs are complemented by their fun, energetic stage presence and has the crowd jigging along in approval. Highlights for me were “Paradise Telephone”, a song introduced simply as “Fuuuuuuck” and “Teeth”, which built into the most immense drone sound that could fill any arena. A great opener for the night. I didn’t want their vibrant punk set to end.
Next up Goat Girl, and an immediate shift in atmosphere. Dark and grungy, this four piece from London take to the stage. I was immediately taken back to my 16 year old emo self, lying on my bed hating the world and wanting to write about it, do something about it.
Scuzzy guitars and catchy hooks, mirrored with haunting, snarly lyrics had the room nodding along. This band seem pretty angry at the world right now and that feeling of angst is at the forefront of their performance, particularly in latest singles “Scum” and “Country Sleaze”.
It was, however, encouraging to see young females taking a well deserved slot on an all too often male dominated punk bill, and deliver a tight, well-rehearsed set. Lighter hearted “You’re the Man For Me” (sorry, Goat Girl – not sure this is the track title?) got the crowd jumping around a bit more. Well received melancholic punk, but in all honesty I feel they would have been far better suited to the first slot of the night as I was left feeling somewhat morose after the buzz the first band left in my head.
The place is completely rammed now and I’m in my spot, you know the spot where you can’t take a deep breath without your ribcage coming into contact with the person next to you’s ribcage and then this guy and his gal come along and stand in said spot with me! You get the picture here…. The unmistakeable intro to “Um Bongo” showers out from Girl Band’s debut album and Dara Kiely (vocals) swaggers out, looking dapper in his shirt and jacket, set list scrawled in marker pen on his left hand and a shot of something in his right; a barrage of drums and the most intense shriek from a guitar I’ve ever heard commences, and I know I’m not gonna breathe for the rest of the set now anyway.
As alternative as they come, Girl Band refuse to conform, no ‘slick riffs’ and ‘bass grooves’ will be heard tonight. Their instruments are more like construction tools creating a monumental wall of noise. Daniel Fox on bass has perfected that punk stare, making you feel like an uninvited guest to his party as he scrapes away using a beer bottle for a slide, daring you to drop eye contact. Guitarist Alan Duggan is at the top of his game. I’m spellbound by the tortured squalls that emanate from his amp over Adam Faulkner’s perfectly timed, miss-fired, feral drumming. I’m in aural ecstasy, then Dara takes to the mic.
Known for his openness about his own mental health, and the psychotic episode he went through that led to the writing of this album, Dara’s struggles are palpable as he howls down the mic. The lyrics are random, tongue in cheek even, but the performance… wow! Fear, angst and pain ooze through every pore. It’s the most passionate, visceral execution of vocals that I’ve seen to date.
As the show progresses Dara is dripping in sweat, clothing coming off layer by layer, until he gets stuck in his own shirt, giggles pursue and even Daniel cracks a smile as he saves the day. The setlist has well and truly smudged off his hand now and we’re told “there’s a few left” a huge cheer and a sense of great connection with the crowd, this being only their second visit to Birmingham.
Highlights for me were “Pears for Lunch”, “Fucking Butter” and “Paul” from Holding Hands with Jamie, “The Cha Cha Cha”- guttural screams and a thunderous racket, for all 30 seconds of it – and finishing the set with a Blawan’s cover “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under my Garage” techno infused scuzz punk from EP The Early Years, the place was bouncing.
Blown away, I was straight on my phone seeing if I can hit more dates before the tour is over, so far I’m looking at flights to Dublin and Japan……
They play Edinburgh (26th Jan), London 28th, Stowmarket 29th, and Dublin 17th Feb before heading out to Japan.
Goat Girl: facebook