Review | The Shondes + The Tuts + AMiTY

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The Girls Are + Storm In A Teacup present The Shondes + The Tuts + AMiTY @ The Lexington, London

This isn’t just a gig, this is much more important; an event of feminists, by feminists and for feminists; a wonderful form of feminism, an inclusive and embracing type, where women feel free to bring their man or woman, to discuss school, religion, race, parents, health, sexuality, trans issues… This is the girls are live and direct.

The evening doesn’t necessarily start with such sweeping idealism, it’s a grower, but that may just be the grey, chilly weather. It starts with AMiTY’s take on pop, which is surely a complicated process but live, appears simple and frank – as she sings about girls she ‘fell in love with’ and ‘notches on the bed post’ over the top. At times it’s splendid – she is respectful and subtle, since this is truly ultra-modern but minus the ambiguity and pout.

Nadine, The Tuts lead vocalist and guitarist, arrives late, running on stage, full pint of lager swishing and Telecaster in the other hand – and suddenly the band is unleashing that energy and enthusiasm. That’s The Tut message: assertiveness – which can be taken as having no manners, but we reckon that if they were three boys with a rock manager well, they would be heroes – not least for these short sharp guitar pop songs, playing at speed, but especially because of the number of antics they stir in small circles.

Will lead vocalist Nadine be drinking neat vodka from the bottle on stage? Will there be a fight? Will it end up in chaos? Will males in the audience get abuse? Will they be as good as people say they are? Will they ever get that N.M.E front cover?

“She’s young, she’s free/She don’t wanna man” is the chorus message in ‘Beverly’. Here go the song titles: ‘You’re a Lying Lover’, ‘I Always Hear the Same Shit’, and from ‘I Call You Up’ – the classic lines: “I don’t get any answers I want/So I choose to confront/I call you up/But you don’t wanna know/Just get fucking out!” Now that’s how you deal with crap boyfriends!

On stage there is no anger: big bags slung down by speakers, lipstick on teeth, and Nadine’s panic over her hand going dead if she “plays that song”. Beverly has the rock drummer swagger down: vintage shades and leather jacket; Harriet’s bass playing proves she is the cool one. The songs are short sharp and poppy, the vocals are harmonious, jangling guitar chords are simple and precise, occasionally interjected with a discordant solo. Heart.

New Yorker’s The Shondes bring the bravery and inspiration. They’re called a ‘pansexual’ band, a ‘lesbian’ band, a band “playing klezmer modalities and time signatures”, although unless you were knowledgeable about Jewish music, that might easily pass you by. In the flesh, the immediate impression from songs such as ‘Are you Ready?’ is of a thumping good rock-pop band in the tradition of Springsteen or The Go-Gos and if you have only listened to their music on-line or on CD, then you are struck by the sheer power of their sound, as well as the strong, rich quality of Lousia’s vocal, reminiscent of Marcella Detroit or Hazel O’Connor at her peak.

Secondly, it’s the clever incorporation of the violin by Elijah Oberman. This makes what might be mistaken [at least aurally] as a straight-forward rock band, quite unique, although a certain Mr. Zimmerman successfully used the solo violin in Desire playing over the vocal in a similar fashion to Oberman in songs like ‘Give Me What You’ve Got’.

The other brilliant thing: the narrative interaction with the audience, with all four band-members chatting openly in what seems like a well scripted and rehearsed performance. “This chicken soup is awful, and there’s not enough of it,” jokes Elijah.

At one point Lousia recants the story of her first visit to London with a very “WASPy partner” and snobby parents, and promises to write a song about London; the band are all in agreement that London is very grey and very wet tonight, but they love it very much and in unison they all shout “Hooray”.

Ultimately that’s exactly what tonight is about – a celebration, a success and a joyous occasion. But there’s more to it than that; at a moment in time when some of the most heated debates revolve around same sex marriage, abortion, women in the church, the Pussy Riot arrests, and at a time when a young woman was shot in the head by the Taliban, ostensibly for wanting an education, this is a pivotal time to be a woman, a feminist, to be queer or open-minded, an interesting time. Interesting and stimulating. History is being made, a tipping point is approaching and the World is changing.

the girls are is part of this, you are, we all are.

Phil Ross and Ngaire Ruth

 

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