Review | Benefit For Pussy Riot

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Benefit for Pussy Riot: CoverGirl + The Ethical Debating Society + Left Leg + My Therapist Says Hot Damn @ Buffalo Bar, London 23 Sept

It’s the first soggy Sunday evening of autumn, but a deluge of determined misfits file into Islington’s dance-cave Buffalo Bar. The cause: a benefit concert for Pussy Riot to raise cash towards their legal fees. It’s been over five weeks since three members of the Russian Riot Grrrl collective were jailed for charges of hooliganism – and hell hath no fury like a worldwide alliance of feminists scorned. Despite the gig’s Facebook event page being subjected to a torrent of abusive trolling, spirits on the night remain high and the crowd seems defiantly poised to dance.

Newcomers My Therapist Says Hot Damn set the appropriate mood with full-throttle distorted guitar riffs and fierce wails of “my body is not for sale!”. A growling cover of PJ Harvey’s ‘Long Snake Moan’ has you believing their influences are firmly placed in the darker edges of 90s grunge – until band members shuffle instruments mid-set and hit us with an array of humorous pop ditties. Their glam get-up coupled with a fondness for vodka-fuelled moshing proves they don’t take themselves too seriously. MTSHD’s repertoire has a lot to offer, and we can look forward to finding out which musical direction they take.

Next up: three-piece Left Leg, who deliver a solid selection of danceable art-punk offerings. Their sound is at once melancholic and upbeat, raw yet measured, and drummer Vicki Butler is not afraid to throw in the odd bit of crowd-pleasing cowbell. All three instrumentalists bring an equally essential layer to the arrangement – a rare dynamic – and the result is captivating and slick.

The Ethical Debating Society, in contrast, are rough, ready and rowdy. Truly embodying the DIY spirit of the evening, lead vocalist Tegan Christmas exclaims, “This is what riot grrrl is all about – everyone can do it!”. Meanwhile guitarist Kris Martin, kitted in his pink “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” tee shirt, takes a moment to pledge solidarity with Pussy Riot and remind us all why we are here. Political and musical clout aside, witty wordplay is this band’s forté, with lyrics to numbers like ‘Kill You Last’ putting smiles on people’s faces. Playful and disorderly, they certainly get the dance-floor moving – sometimes forcibly by twirling the arms of audience members.

Headliners CoverGirl are a veritable supergroup of the London queer-feminist scene – featuring members of Trash Kit, Wetdog and Peepholes – and their set doesn’t disappoint. Combining effects-laden vocals, syncopated rhythms, catchy bass hooks and packing a synth punch, CoverGirl’s sound oscillates between minimalist math-pop and full-powered disco. Each track feels as if it is dissected into its component parts and put back together again. The multiple instrument-swaps between band members, while jealousy-inducing, occasionally slows down the pace of their set, but it’s hard not to be endeared by their sibling-esque chatter between songs. The passionate, twitchy movements of vocalist Rachel Aggs has the audience mesmerised. There’s a sense that CoverGirl are still exploring ideas – but it’s an exciting experiment to witness. Not bad for a rainy school night.

Gianna Goulding

Photographed by Emily Barker for the girls are.

1st October is Global Pussy Riot Day of Action with demonstrations taking place in cities worldwide. Find out more here.

 

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