Until now I had missed every opportunity to catch Hands Off Gretel play live, so I had high expectations of this show. Did the band meet my expectations? You’ll have to read on to find out as there were also three other bands on the bill, starting with Witch Of The East. This is the brainchild and solo project of the mightily talented Aeris Houlihan, her sound is heavier than heavy, as grungey as it can get and definitely turned up to 11. Aeris has a blonde version of Marc Bolan’s iconic early 70s hairstyle which allows me to blatantly paraphrase Mr. Bolan and say of Aeris, “She ain’t no square with her corkscrew hair”. Her guitar playing is exquisite and her vocals are really special. Her singing voice is great on the new album ‘Queen Of Insecurity’ but live it goes beyond great. On stage, Aeris was aided and abetted by a drummer that could fit with Motorhead or the Muppets, he was that good! I am not yet familiar with all of Witch Of The East‘s songs, but Aeris gave me a copy of the album so it won’t be long! (Thank you Aeris!). I believe the opening song was “Silence” and my favourite from the set was “When You Fuck Me” which for me was how I would imagine Peaches sounding if she was more metal than electro. Ms. Houlihan made a really stylish and effective crowd incursion towards the end of her set too. I am now a confirmed fan of Witch Of The East and I can hardly wait to see them live again!
Next up was My Wonderful Daze from York, their sound is deep, dark and almost menacing at times. Imagine what band might arise if Florence and the Machine had been kidnapped by DC’s Suicide Squad and the Joker injected them with a mix of a large dose of heavy metal and Kurt Cobain’s DNA. This was not just a simple rock music set it was also a real performance with the band using stage clothes, eccentric makeup and flowing movement to get their songs across. My Wonderful Daze owned the stage for the whole of their set and they captivated a largely spellbound audience. They also keep the punk ethos going by utilising some great stage names (well I am making an assumption that these aren’t their real names) like; Flowers, Eden, and Mr. Jack Sparkle.
As Sirens Fall were the only band without a female member, but they showed true solidarity with the other bands by wearing dresses, well some of the band at least. Singer Mikey Lord I believe will one day become a really iconic frontman. He is highly skilled at engaging the audience and bringing them into the fast lane currently occupied by As Sirens Fall. Mikey has something of Brian Molko about him with some Bowie thrown in for good measure, particularly his powerful on-stage presence. In their five years together the band have released two EPs, both produced by Romesh Dodangoda. Romesh has previously produced Bring Me The Horizon among many others. As Sirens Fall are heavy as hell served with a dash of goth and a shot of punk. They make My Chemical Romance look and sound like Westlife! I can state categorically that As Sirens Fall, have gone straight into my top five live bands! I came to this gig with my good friend Jari, who was here on a business trip from Finland. As Sirens Fall is his new favourite band!
Many bands reach the cusp of greatness but often never make it beyond that, never usually through things that they are able to control. I believe that Hands Off Gretel are about to take one small step for a band, but one giant leap for women in rock. This band has the passion, the skill, and the attitude to take it so much further. I am glad I got to see them at the Fulford Arms, a wonderfully intimate venue. They are surely destined to fill arenas next and who knows where after that. This show came just a few days after the singer and guitarist Lauren Tate’s open letter to the men who come to the band’s shows. It calls out all the misogynistic creeps who sexualise any female in a band or in the audience. What she says is spot on and finally, many more people are taking notice and are ready to do something about this. Ever since I went to my first gig in 1972 and my first festival in 1975 I have loved the camaraderie and care for others in most gig crowds, but sadly there are always exceptions. Lauren was right to call this out and let’s hope it flushes these arseholes out! If you haven’t read her letter yet, you really need to, click here to see it. The band showed great solidarity for this kind of movement. Lauren and Becky, the bass player sported expertly painted on facial hair. At times Becky’s rock god postures were reminiscent of Lemmy in his full-on Motorhead pomp and the added chest hair added to that picture. Guitarist Sean Bon sported a kind of scary red gimp mask, given the heat that night he must have sweated buckets! The band is currently promoting their sophomore album ‘I Want The World’ and most of that collections tracks got an airing tonight. Particular highlights for me were “S.A.S.S”, “Kiss Me Girl” and “Freaks Like Us”. Hands Off Gretel are like a well-oiled punk machine that hits you with grunge licks, heavy riffs, and classy tunes. Lauren’s vocals have been likened to Gwen Stefani before and I get that comparison, but I believe Lauren’s voice is far more at home on the harder, intense styles than Gwen’s might have been. This was a stunning, powerhouse of a performance, the venue was hotter than I had ever known it but the verve and excitement generated by this band drove the heat and energy to molten lava levels. Hands Off Gretel are a long way from their peak but their trajectory is steep and seems driven by the power of a Saturn V rocket. If you haven’t yet seen them, sort yourself out. You will not be disappointed! I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the bands in this review.
Public Service Announcement: All pictures, apart from the gig poster and the pic of Witch Of The East were taken by John Hayhurst of Snapagig (a.k.a this generations Mick Rock)! All videos were sourced from YouTube. If the video is yours and you would like me to credit you or take it down please let me know.
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