Support: Skating Polly, Pins
Where: Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
When: 26th May 2015
Reviewed By: Millie Manders
It's not often that you get to see an American punk band formed in the late 80's play here in the UK. It's even less often that the opening support act blows your mind as much as the act you've paid to see does. That happened on this occasion.
Shepherd's Bush Empire was swarming with a sweaty, tattooed, hair-dyed and pierced gaggle of punks looking for their kicks in force and Skating Polly gave it to them.
A sister duo from Oklahoma City aged 15 and 19 years respectively, Kelli and Peyton stormed the Empire's stage and sank their teeth into their crowd. No one expected how awesome they would be, least of all me. It was like watching The Runaways at their first gig, only they were far more sober and even more musically skilled. Kelli plays bass and Peyton plays guitar… Both play drums. Throughout their set they swapped who was playing drums and singing backing vocals, while the other took up their guitar or bass and sang lead vocals.
The rawness of their sound, lyrics with wisdom far beyond their years and a performance that would put most hair metal bands to shame, let alone punk ones, was a sight to behold. The absolute clincher for me as a new fan came when half the drum kit fell over while Kelli was playing. Peyton ran to her aid to pick up the kit mid-song, while Kelli actually carried on playing a drum solo on a floor tom, snare and cymbals. Peyton swiftly returned to her mic and they finished the song. Bravo!
Babes in Toyland had a second support in the form of Pins. Another all-girl band, this time a five piece from Manchester: I can't fault them for their talent. They had their instruments down. Each member has clear talent. They are all gorgeous. But something didn't sit right with me. They had good songs. They had good hooks. But they were so polished it may as well have been the punk version of Destiny's Child. Hipster haircuts, glitter smeared on faces and cutesy jumping about that was so clean cut it was dull. For me, sandwiched between Skating Polly and Babes in Toyland, Pins came off like a lame indie band.
Babes in Toyland however were amazing. They laughed, they teased each other, they played all of their best known songs and a whole load of B-sides and album tracks that only true fans would know back to front.
Lori's toms sounded so beefy I wanted to stick them between sour dough buns and eat them. She looked effortless as she smashed out rocking beat after rocking beat. Kat screamed into her mic and chugged on her guitar in a way that made me wonder if her hands were made of harder stuff than marble. Her vocals were deliciously rough and sometimes a complete juxtaposition to the key of the song and it just worked. It ran through me and I banged my head like I was possessed. Michelle's bass riffs complimented it all perfectly.
These women are road-hardened, travel-worn and rock Hall of Fame worthy. They played a gig that will be stuck in the memory of many for years to come and for me, to see a band that have been doing their thing and doing it well for so many years was a blessing. It is up there with seeing Blondie. Totally epic.
|Babes In Toyland|
You know a true punk gig because there is no violence. There is no animosity. There is always a mosh. Everyone was there because they loved the attitude of the band, the lyrics of the songs and the community of being surrounded by like-minded people. Those that know the real scene know how small it is. I saw friends I haven't seen in years standing in that crowd, and recognised many more. The camaraderie was beautiful, and it was fed by the vibes coming from the three awesome women standing on the stage.
If you don't think there are enough strong female role models in music, this was a night to rethink that. All the bands were good. Skating Polly and Babes in Toyland were awesome. I feel incredibly lucky to have been there.