Dream Nails, Wimmins’ Institute & Linus, Veg Bar, Brixton
At one time in the Nineties it seemed the aim of every indie guitar band was to sign to a major label and get on the cover of N.M.E. or Melody Maker. The notion of the term indie meaning either avant-garde or independent was becoming defunct.
That’s one of the many reasons Riot Grrrl had to happen.
The band Linus were an active part of the nineties scene, promoting DIY events, producing fanzines and helping to co ordinate the movement across the UK (1992-2005).
If you were around then this is a Big Deal: three ex-bass players of Linus, tonight a guitar, bass drum trio, playing the early and later songs, which feature on the current compilation album The Course of True Linus Never Did Run Smooth (Hole In The Ground). They even play a rendition of ‘Driven Thing’, off the first eponymous 7” EP, (Bone records, 1993), a song that’s never been played live.
Like peers, Huggy Bear, Linus originally featured girls and boys. In the UK, Riot Grrrl were thoroughly post-modern, using deconstruction, the Marxist and feminist friend, to present a non-phallocentric ideology through music in a way that actually looked like fun.
Two big things haunt Linus’ history: tragedy, (losing member Andy Roberts in a fatal accident in 2005), and tunes which shine brightly: breezy guitar melodies (‘Don’t Forget’) or the swagger-pop (‘Supercool’).
To fresh ears, each Linus lyrical dig is still relevant. ‘Bearded Tomato,’ mocks the beauty myth, ‘Jack T Chick’, from the first EP, pokes at the religious fanatic Pat Buchanan. Jennifer Denitto (who originally formed the band with sister Tammy and Andy) explains the modern equivalent would be Donald Trump.
“Thanks to Loud Women for letting us play,” declares Jen. No, thank you.
Next band, Wimmins’ Institute, unashamedly bring in the pleasure factor; huge smiles and naughty asides included with jaunty choruses and serious guitar swells and dips, all four members singing vocals and swapping instruments, and the wild addition of a trumpet. It’s almost Tsunami meets The Bangles.
A lucky combination of musicality, instrumental ability and rawness (with their mixture of new and experienced musicians), plus their individual personalities and a healthy sense of shared humour, make their women’s viewpoint an irresistible pull for all sorts of fans. ‘Mansplaining’ is a top favourite of Mojo magazine, Steve Lamacq and the Morning Star newspaper.
This is the sort of band Charlotte Church would like to join, for a song or ten. Take your pick Ms C: ‘Nandos’, ‘Boy Rules’, ‘(Don’t Call Me) Sugar’ a spoof of The Rolling Stones ‘Brown Sugar’ anthem, or the more musically adventurous new song ‘Crush.’ The slower ones like ‘Juno’ or ‘Darling Heart’ echo with Galaxie 500’s evocative guitar moods, songs barely held together by a single, shimmering thread.
Headliners Dream Nails normally dance in the margins, being that they’re also members of the feminist activist group Sisters Uncut. They’re not so much about DIY but JDO (Just do it). The band is a mascot for this totally self-motivated and unfunded group, and the motto is: Stay angry. Anger is energy. Ramones meets Bikini Kill, kid you not.
Vocalist Janey counteracts the fury with a joyful performance and crazy dancing, introducing every song with a conversation, because each has an alternative, normally invisible narrative to otherwise familiar story plots. For example, ‘Tourist’, about how people try to latch onto you when you are low and vulnerable, she calls them emotional fetishists. Another song: a curse to people who make rape jokes.
By 10.45, Patriarchy is over-thrown. DJ Debbie Smith (Curve, Echobelly) takes over. And the party starts all over again.