2022: The much anticipated – and unexpected – return of London After Midnite!

Not even Nostradamus or the most powerful seer or indeed the shiniest crystal ball, could have foretold this: the return of London After Midnite! Hey, even I’m surprised by this unexpected and unplanned turn of events.

Isn’t it odd how good stuff always arises out of negative experiences? It’s like a fuckin’ big owl soaring out of the shadows and screeching, “Boo!”. The bad experience being: I was asked to write a gig review for a website run by a casual acquaintance, who took it upon himself to dislocate my carefully constructed paragraphs and liberally litter my article with punctuation and spelling mistakes. The conversation to rectify the matter, sadly, did not go so well. Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience.

The exciting upshot of this debacle is that LAM is back, babies. So let’s step forth, giggling into the soulless internet abyss like juvenile foxes excitedly searching for chicken thighs in the trash.

All written content across site by Mandy Bang.

All photos by Mark Dans L’Espace and Mandy Bang.

Gig flyers/graphics courtesy of the individual bands, details of artists provided where known.

Ghost Car @ The Windmill – 20 May 2022 (Photo: Mandy Bang)

2022 Gig List

1: Ghost Car @ The Grace, Highbury – Fri, 14 Jan 2022

2: Blood Red Shoes @ Rough Trade East, Spitalfields – Mon, 17 Jan 2022

3: Grandma’s House + Nuha Ruby Ra + Priestgate @ The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch – Mon, 17 Jan 2022

4: Howling Bells @ 229 The Venue, Regent’s Park – Sat, 22 Jan 2022

5: Table Scraps + Eyesore & The Jinx + Rich Parents + Scare Tactics @ The Engine Rooms, Bow – Sat, 19 Feb 2022

6: Shattercones + Maggie The Cat @ Paper Dress Vintage, Hackney – Tue, 22 Feb 2022

7: Hex Poseur + Aliceissleeping @ The Post Bar, Tottenham – Wed, 23 Feb 2022
(Hex Poseur – photo: Mandy Bang)

8: Sit Down @ Signature Brew, Haggerston – Sat, 26 Feb 2022

9: High Vis @ Blondies, Clapton – Thu, 03 Mar 2022
Despite a tube strike, the band have a full capacity Blondies crowd in the palm of their hand. A life-affirming and sweaty night captured in full by Merciful Release.

10: Aliceissleeping + Sadface @ The Engine Rooms, Bow – Fri, 04 Mar 2022

11: Marc O @ Rough Trade East, Spitalfields – Mon, 14 Mar 2022

12: Schande + The Other Ones @ The Cavendish Arms, Stockwell – Fri, 18 Mar 2022

13: EMF (secret gig) @ The Water Rats, King’s Cross – Sun, 20 Mar 2022

14: Jowe Head & Friends – Swell Maps live project @ Rough Trade East, Spitalfields – Thu, 24 Mar 2022

16: EMF @ 229 The Venue, Regent’s Park – Sat, 09 Apr 2022

17: EMF @ Esquires, Bedford – Sun, 10 Apr 2022

18: Rock ‘n’ Roll Book Club: Andy Macleod Anoint My Head (The Pointy Birds) @ The Dublin Castle, Camden – Thu, 21 Apr 2022
Andy Macleod reading from his “cover version of a true story” book, Anoint My Head, before treating us to a few songs by his indie band who never made it, The Pointy Birds. The book is well worth a read if you loved – or hated – ’90s Britpop. (Photo: Mandy Bang)
19: Stony Sugarskull @ Blondies, Clapton – Tue, 26 Apr 2022
(Stony Sugarskull – photo: Mandy Bang)

20: Beach Riot + After London @ The Engine Rooms, Bow – Sat, 30 Apr 2022

21: Gene Loves Jezebel + The Priscillas @ Nambucca, Holloway – Sun, 01 May 2022

22: Ghost Car + Pleasure Complex + Astrolabio @ The Windmill, Brixton – Fri, 20 May 2022

23: Dream Wife @ Electric Ballroom, Camden – Sat, 21 May 2022

24: Rachel Stamp @ The Garage, Highbury – Thu, 26 May 2022

25: Schande + Mothercanyouhearme @ The Cavendish Arms, Stockwell – Fri, 24 Jun 2022 (Schande – photo: Mandy Bang)

26: Glitchers @ street gig, Camden – Fri, 22 Jul 2022

27: ARXX + Fräulein + Lusa Morena @ The Shacklewell Arms, Dalston – Fri, 22 Jul 2022

28: Lux Lyall @ The Slaughtered Lamb, Clerkenwell – Mon, 25 Jul 2022 (see review)

29: Miranda Sex Garden @ 100 Club, Fitzrovia – Thu, 28 Jul 2022 (see review)

30: Megaflora + Hooga Crow + Schande @ The Cavendish Arms, Stockwell – Fri, 29 Jul 2022 (see review)

31: Colour Me Blood Red @ The Victoria, Dalston – Fri, 05 Aug 2022

32: Ellis-D + Le Junk @ The Shacklewell Arms, Dalston – Fri, 05 Aug 2022

33: Black Doldrums + CIEL @ The Victoria, Dalston – Sat, 06 Aug 2022

34: Ghost Car + LA Peach + Maggie The Cat @ The Victoria, Dalston – Sun, 06 Aug 2022 (Maggie The Cat review and photos on Joyzine and here)

35: Practise Music Showcase: Deep Tan + Blue Bendy + Fräulein + lilo @ Rough Trade East, Spitalfields – Tue, 09 Aug 2022 (see Fräulein review on Joyzine or here)

36: Beach Riot @ Signature Brew, Haggerston – Fri, 12 Aug 2022 (catch the review on Joyzine or here)

37: Mannequin Death Squad + Maya Lakhani + Dogviolet @ The Cavendish Arms, Stockwell – Sat, 20 Aug 2022 (my review is over on Joyzine)

38: The Jim Jones All Stars @ Clerkenwell Festival, Spa Fields, Clerkenwell – Sun, 28 Aug 2022

39: Schande + Apollo Ghosts @ Strongroom, Shoreditch – Fri, 02 Sep 2022

40: Vanity Fairy + Hannah Hu + Maggie The Cat @ The Windmill, Brixton – Sat, 03 Sep 2022

41: Italia 90 + Ghost Car @ The Windmill, Brixton – Thu, 08 Sep 2022

42: Love Parade @ The Camden Club, Camden – Fri, 09 Sep 2022

43: High Vis @ Rough Trade East, Spitalfields – Thu, 15 Sep 2022 (read my review on Joyzine)

44: Drahla + Ġenn @ Bermondsey Social Club, Bermondsey – Tue, 20 Sep 2022

45: Ghost Car + Joanie @ Strongroom Bar, Shoreditch – Sat, 24 Sep 2022

#41: Italia 90 + Ghost Car @ The Windmill, Brixton – Thu, 08 Sep 2022

In years to come, when people ask, “Where were you when you heard that Queen Elizabeth II had died?”, perhaps you’ll have an acerbic one-liner prepared. But if you were lucky, like me, maybe you can say you were at one of your favourite grassroots music venues for a life-affirming and sweaty sold out gig. Italia 90’s intro announces the news and there’s a cheeky guy with a purple mohawk on the front row wearing a Sex Pistols ‘God Save The Queen’ T-shirt. Turns out God doesn’t save after all.

Singer, Les Miserable, shoots a brooding, dead-eye stare that lacerates into the depths of my very soul during opener ‘Cut’. As his monotone vocal style rings out, I’m reminded of Eddie Argos from Art Brut, who once stated in song form, “Yes, this is my singing voice / It’s not irony, it’s not rock ‘n’ roll / We’re just talking to the kids”.

I first encountered Italia 90 on the last stop of a three-gigs-in-one-night race around Stoke Newington and Dalston, when I caught the last dregs of their set in the backroom of The Victoria. That was in August 2019 and the room was packed with rabid fans lapping up every word being barked from the stage by, what appeared to be, a skinhead. I didn’t hear or see the attraction and rather hastily dumped them in with a glut of underwhelming, yet ridiculously popular, blokey indie bands: Fat White Family, Idles, Cabbage, et al. yawn

So to find myself, three years later, compelled to draw a comparison between Italia 90 and the fabulous Art Brut is rather bizarre and I imagine a first for the two (albeit they have both released records on the delightful Fierce Panda label). However, unlike Art Brut, Italia 90’s lyrics aren’t joyfully frivolous tales of their little brother discovering rock ‘n’ roll or a yearning for school kids on buses singing the name of their old girlfriend. If the kids are indeed listening, they’ll get an education for sure, which is arguably precisely how a good band should use their platform. Italia 90 possess clued-up political leanings, honesty and a socially conscious heart which beats through the pummelling that J Dangerous’ drumkit receives tonight.

New single, ‘Leisure Activities’, is all jittery drumbeats, eerie guitar echoes and rumbling bass, while August’s single, ‘Magdalene’, is an uncomfortable reminder of the UK’s not-so-distant past. The lyrics delve into the horrors endured by so-called ‘fallen women’ (i.e. unmarried pregnant women, prostitutes and basically any poor/destitute lass lacking any means of support), who found themselves abandoned at Magdalene asylums. The song serves as an all-too-stark testimonial of what can happen when society allows seemingly well-intentioned and moneyed individuals to run rampant under the dark shadow of misguided religious salvation.

The floor opens up as Eccie Homo’s guitar snarls, opening up the doors of ‘New Factory’ and the lad who’s clambered onto his friend’s shoulders finds out the hard way just how low the ceiling is in here. Akin to The Clash, it feels like there are no barriers between band and fans, as Les’ towering physique leans menacingly into the crowd.

A new song (possibly ‘Funny Bones’) from the band’s upcoming debut full-length album sees Ceci, from opening band Ghost Car (and Qlowski), share vocal duties. By the way, if you arrived late and missed Ghost Car then hang your head in shame. They may be London-based but they are a truly international entity, with band members hailing from England, Northern Ireland, Italy and Spain. They have hooks, bounce-along beats, sing-along choruses, a hint of Shangri-Las-esque girl gang vocals and a theremin. Tonight they look like they’re having the best time that any four people have ever had on a stage and, despite the teething problems of Maeve’s new guitar, she positively shreds!

Italia 90 initially set out to never write any songs that lasted longer than two minutes, so there’s an odd irony that the seven minute long ‘Competition’ is by far their most interesting composition. Apparently, the structure is born anew every time it’s played live and this evening’s rendition writhes like a serpent – a delight of angular guitars and a deep throbbing bass groove, like a pissed off Joy Division.

Review: Mandy Bang / Photos: Mark Dans L’Espace

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting the artists directly by purchasing their music and merch at Italia 90 and Ghost Car.

Italia 90 release their album, ‘Living Human Treasure’, on 20 January 2023 via Brace Yourself Records. Follow them on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram for news of upcoming shows.

Ghost Car release their debut album, ‘Truly Trash’, on 28 October through One Little Independent. They headline The Lexington on 24 November. Seek out album pre-orders on their Bandcamp page and follow them on Facebook/Instagram.

#40: Vanity Fairy + Hannah Hu + Maggie The Cat @ The Windmill, Brixton – Sat, 03 Sep 2022

Vanity Fairy is solo performer, Daisy Capri, who effortlessly channels a playful Kate Bush with elements of Tallulah, the speakeasy chanteuse from kids’ gangster musical, Bugsy Malone (played by a very sassy 13 year old Jodie Foster). Daisy glides across the stage in a purple cape, hands out saucy calling cards and leaves everyone in the room with the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen on the faces of any gig-going crowd.

Fresh from supporting ’80s new wave/post-punk group, Altered Images in Brighton, Vanity Fairy will be performing at How The Light Gets In festival in Hampstead Heath, London (01 October) and supports Warmduscher at Norwich Waterfront (10 November). Do embrace her disco delights on Bandcamp and give Vanity Fairy a little follow (but not in a creepy way) on Instagram and Facebook.

My first time seeing the former ‘door babe’ of DIY Thursdays club night and Primal Scream backing singer, Hannah Hu. According to my knowledgeable gig pals, she usually plays with just a laptop backing track, but tonight she is flanked by a full band: drummer, bassist, electric violin player and former Arrows Of Love guitarist, Pip. Hannah possesses a beautiful voice and can be heard singing guest vocals on The Specials’ track ‘Listening Winds‘, from their 2021 album, Protest Songs 1924-2012.

There are delightful 7″ flexi discs ready to be snapped up on her Bandcamp page and you can follow her on Facebook and Instagram for news and upcoming shows.

First artist of the night was the delightful Maggie The Cat, who prowled the stage like a glamourous panther. A wildly confident dream pop performance and a big step up from my last encounter at The Victoria. You can discover more on Maggie The Cat’s plans for disco domination on Facebook and Instagram.

By Mandy Bang

#37: Mannequin Death Squad + Dogviolet @ The Cavendish Arms, Stockwell – Sat, 20 Aug 2022

“It was one of those nights when you turn off the lights and everything comes into view…”. We are a long way from AC/DC Lane in Mannequin Death Squad’s hometown of Naarm/Melbourne but this south London grassroots venue is heaving with like-minded and united music lovers, which is in no small part due to how gig promoters, Get In Her Ears, operate with their support of female and non-binary musicians and inclusive ethos.

Despite it being the opening band’s first ever gig, Dogviolet play their intro to a busy room and there are more gig-goers queueing to get in at the door. They have made informative little zines and each track is introduced by singer/guitarist, Naz, who sketches an outline of their weighty lyrical content: anti-capitalism, violence and possibly vampires too, amongst other subjects, are tackled.

‘Now’ sings of wanting to live in the, er, now and is bathed in Ella’s guitar licks, laced with delicate hopefulness, while Kaoru’s bass brings the menace to ‘In The Flesh’, a song about the creepy male fetishism of lesbianism. A slowed down rendition of Hole’s ‘Celebrity Skin’ is thrown in for good measure and it feels that the empowering, middle-finger-raised-to-the-world line “I’m all I wanna be” resonates heavily within this four-piece.

Far from being too heavy or serious, this is music with a message which stops short of being preachy or too intellectually daunting for a Saturday night. It’s an impressive and confident set of songs which are finely executed and well received by a very appreciative audience.

Dogviolet set list: Intro / Dandelion / Now / Start Again / In The Flesh / Celebrity Skin / Daughter

Dogviolet @ The Cavendish Arms (Photo: Mark Dans L’Espace)

Mannequin Death Squad thrust us headfirst into a Nutribullet blender of raw, energetic riffs, lush melodies and thundering drum beats. Some of their tracks carry serious messages but others are just love songs – the kind you can rage along to. The band have all the bases covered and comfortably straddle rock, punk and metal with a huge pot of anger bubbling away dangerously on the stovetop.

They kick off with ‘San Fran‘, a biting attack on consumerism with an accompanying promo video featuring the band crunching through enough lollipops to keep their dentists in business for the foreseeable future. I suspect it won’t be long before they have huge crowds screaming, “You buy until you die, until you die, until you die!”, right back at them.

Four tracks from their first EP, ‘Eat Hate Regurgitate’, are thrown into a set otherwise dominated by their soon to be released debut album, ‘Super Mental Psycho’. From behind the relative safety of the drumkit, Dan introduces the title track of said album as having been written about Elly having a bad day. Let’s just hope the tour T-shirt on sale, depicting a woman screaming with Medusa-like hair and a complexion that rips away revealing a sickly green skull, isn’t an admission of what happens when people keep Elly hanging on the telephone for too long.

This is the band’s third UK tour, which was hastily booked to coincide with their performance at the highly regarded four-day punk bender, Rebellion Festival. It was London-based Aussie – the louder than life itself, self-styled DIY Mutha and hairdresser on tour – Lyndell Mansfield, who first brought the band to my attention when she put them on at her legendary DIY Thursdays club night in 2017. I’m reminded of this as Elly thrashes around the stage with her guitar, proudly brandishing her pink heart-shaped tattoo emblazoned with its ‘DIY’ logo on her arm – identical to that of sweet Lyndell, who sadly passed away last year.

I adore observing the chemistry of two-piece bands on stage, but often it’s a little too obvious that there’s something missing and sonically there’s enough empty space in the sound to drive a tank right through it. Elly and Dan suffer no such fate: they bring fire, intensity and life-affirming fun, not to mention an impressive pedalboard, to the stage. If I closed my eyes, I wouldn’t even realise there were just two people bashing out these tunes. They even manage to swap instruments twice during the course of their set without allowing it to break their momentum. So the next time Mannequin Death Squad endure the hellish 30 hours in transit journey to the ‘motherland’, do yourself a favour and be sure to buy a ticket before this duo go stratospheric.

Mannequin Death Squad set list: San Fran / Blue / Sick / Seventeen / Nightmare / Van Gogh / Addicted To You / Honey Punch / Sky / Super Mental Psycho / Down

Mannequin Death Squad release their album, ‘Super Mental Psycho’, on 28 September and physical copies are up for pre-order on their Bandcamp page. They kick off their Australian tour at the end of the month and have shows booked throughout October and November – check out their tour dates on Facebook and Instagram.

Dogviolet will be performing with Desperate Journalist and After London at the Rock Against Violence event at Oslo Hackney on 17 November. Follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Keep in the loop with Get In Her Ears‘ upcoming shows and shenanigans on their socials: FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Flyer artwork by God-Awful.

Review by Mandy Bang / Photos by Mark Dans L’Espace 

Originally published by Joyzine on 13 August.

#36: Beach Riot @ Signature Brew, Haggerston – Fri, 12 Aug 2022

Beach Riot brandish hooks big enough on which to catch the sharks in Regent’s Canal, which conveniently reside just a five minute walk from where our entertainment unfurls this evening. Sadly, the sweltering heat seems to have kept some away from tonight’s Fest Shalom warm-up show, which is a great shame, particularly as the tap room boasts fabulous air conditioning and the wonderfully named Crowdsurfer pale ale, which at 8% ABV is considered too potent to be served by the pint.

The cold beer is merely a bonus as Beach Riot gallop out of the gates like trapped tigers escaping a safari park, with the supercharged ‘Medicate For Success‘. This immediately gives way to the Hives-esque opening riff of the highly infectious ‘Tune In, Drop Out’, where Cami’s guitar crackles and pops into transistor radio feedback. Before the audience can even catch its breath, the band are speeding off into last summer’s video single, ‘Wraith‘, with the delightful back and forth co-vocals of guitarists Rory and Cami commanding us to yell back, “Take, take, take it all away”.

It’s only been a year since the release of their debut album, Sub Atomic Party Cool, but we get a trio of new tracks: ‘Soporific’, ‘Tramlines’ and ‘Tell Me I’m Wrong’, before we’re hurled back into more familiar territory with album track ‘She’s A Hurricane’, delivered with punky vim and its shout-along, “I did it once, I’ll do it again”, chorus line. They finish their short but sweet adrenaline-fuelled set with ‘Modern Dinosaur’ and my personal favourite ‘Stuck Inside‘, like mischievous cats whipping around the room, smashing breakables and knocking everything out of place before scooting out the door.

Beach Riot: Rory (left), Cami & Jonny (right)

Beach Riot are one of those bands that constantly deliver, both live and on record. Back in 2017 when I first caught them by lucky chance, Cami appeared to be a timid presence, but tonight she stands centre stage: cool and sassy, crunching out soundwaves of energy bigger than the crashing waves of Brighton beach. This is my second time seeing them since they slimmed down to a three-piece (bassist Jim having chosen to fully immerse himself in his painting career), so Rory now plays the bass parts on guitar. As a result, there’s less of that twin guitar attack, weaving in and out of each other as if wrestling to see who’ll get over the finish line first, but the bass groove is heavy in the mix and it works surprisingly well. Meanwhile, Jonny is an absolute force of nature behind the drum kit – not only powerful but inventive too, guiding tempo changes, throwing in disco hi-hat beats and opening up the vortex into which we willingly fling ourselves.

Queens Of The Stone Age once said, “Rock should be heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls”. If we overlook the patronising connotation of said phrase, it could quite easily have been penned to describe the raw and frantic, yet bewitchingly smooth, and always perfectly executed musical tsunami that Beach Riot bring to the stage. They’ve got the glory of chugging riffs, that whole Pixies loud/quiet/loud thing and the raunchy slow/quick/slow/fast/faster twist. They showcase a masterclass in fuzzy pop heaven with harmonious boy/girl vocals to boot, which makes Beach Riot catchier than, dare I even whisper it, Covid-19.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting the artist directly by purchasing their music/merchandise on their website or Bandcamp. You can also follow them on Facebook.

Review: Mandy Bang / Photos: Mark Dans L’Espace

A slightly edited version of this review was originally published by Joyzine on 24 August 2022.

#35: Fräulein @ Rough Trade East, Spitalfields – Tue, 09 Aug 2022

I may have a 637 day streak on Duolingo learning German as I hit Rough Trade East, but that pesky grüne Eule hasn’t taught me the meaning of Fräulein yet. It’s a good job too, as the definition of an unmarried young woman has changed, you silly owl! Fräulein now flaunt ferocious confidence and effortless efficiency in stacked platform Doc Marten boots.

Drummer, Karsten, kicks off his shoes and takes his place behind the kit. From the outset, singer/guitarist, Joni, delivers breathy PJ Harvey-esque vocals before racing into classy Hole fretboard frenetics. But don’t be fooled by fleeting comparisons, this duo will scramble your brain with spaghetti disco hi-hat beats and swerving guitar tempo changes.

They barely pause to study their surroundings as they fire off into their second single, ‘Belly’, which is accompanied by the crowd letting out a yell of whoops. You’re either with us or against us: negative creeps are outnumbered and outgunned here.

‘And I Go (La La La)’ is a summer festival anthem-in-waiting, although for all its high-spirited, singalong vigour, digging beneath the surface lurk lyrics about submission and the loss of self.

“This should be easy…”, laments Joni, as she plucks out a menacing undertone whilst standing on tippy-toes during ‘Breezy’.

The grand finale of ‘Golden Boy’ receives a hero’s welcome as it lurches and sputters forth with razor-sharp drums and Joni’s melancholy vocals, lyrics arguably picking at the scab of deflation and sadness as one feels powerless to keep their lover from slipping away from them.

All 4 tracks from their A Small Taste EP are aired this evening. It was released digitally in May but those snaking queues at record pressing plants have delayed the physical 12″ release until November (pre-orders are almost sold out on their Bandcamp page).

There’s a sense of foreboding, uncertainty, darkness and anxiety gnawing at the band’s lyrical core. In short, the perfect combo for our social media-obsessed and dystopian present, because even our existential crisis needs great tunes with which to laugh, cry and sing together.

Review: Mandy Bang / Photos: Mark Dans L’Espace

Originally published by Joyzine on 17 Aug 2022.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting the artist directly by purchasing their music/merchandise via Bandcamp and follow them on their social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Vielen Dank!

#34: Maggie The Cat @ The Victoria, Dalston – Sun, 07 Aug 2022

“I’ve never killed anyone… but give it time”, smiles Charlotte, aka Maggie The Cat, before launching into her autumnal debut single from last year, ‘I Think Last Night, I Killed A Man‘. Perhaps she’s being tongue-in-cheek, but given that in a parallel universe her second single, ‘I Love You & I’ve Got A Gun‘, is the kind of song that would have smashed into the upper echelons of the Top 40 and made it onto the A-playlist of every radio station from her native south London to Mumbai, it could swing either way.

It’s day three of the Roadkill Records Weekender: the sun is shining on the beer garden as we slide on through to the other side of the all-knowing bookcases of The Victoria and slink into the cool darkness of Maggie The Cat’s dystopian lair of glitter. Fatigue and hangovers may have captured some, but for those mainlining coffee (or Buckfast) and with a hunger for something new, we are duly rewarded with enough catnip to keep us wide-eyed and purring contentedly into the small hours. 

Maggie The Cat is the solo project of Charlotte Aggett, whose previous musical outpourings casted mystical shadows within the psychedelic and raucous witch prog world of Madonnatron. In truth, a shy performer – think a young Kim Wilde awkwardly performing ‘Kids In America’ on Top Of The Pops in 1981 – she holds eye contact as if with her reflection bouncing back from the rear of the room. Performing relaxed dance moves barefoot whilst singing sweetly about tearing out a man’s heart with her bare hand, Maggie The Cat is a TinkerBell bedroom diva character prowling in the gutter but clawing at the stars. 

Gracing the stage with a Farrah Fawcett flick and MacBook backing track, Maggie The Cat mixes inspired flashes of disco and mysterious glimpses of synth pop to create a potent cocktail of music from the future. Sharpen those claws, for she knows not her own powers: this is the soundtrack for weekend escapists who lose – and find – themselves on the dancefloor. 

Review: Mandy Bang / Photos: Mark Dans L‘Espace

Originally published by Joyzine on 14 August 2022.

If you enjoyed reading this review, please consider supporting the artist directly by purchasing their music and merch at Maggie The Cat. Merci.

#30: Megaflora + Schande @ The Cavendish Arms, Stockwell – Fri, 29 Jul 2022

A Friday night spent in the bosom of what is fast becoming my favourite grassroots music venue south of the river is a fine way to spend any evening – even better on a warm summer night with great live music waiting to be discovered.

The opening two songs of Schande‘s set feature Jen playing her 12-string Gretsch guitar to great effect. The 3-piece conjure the soundtrack of a road movie; a better Thelma & Louise where our heroines receive a triumphant finale which doesn’t involve a suicide pact.

Schande are like a less proggy Sonic Youth with warm and sweet Kim Deal-esque vocals and, as their tongue-in-cheek Bandcamp bio states, “sounds like the best thing you’ve ever heard”.

Schande @ The Cavendish Arms, Stockwell – 29 Jul 2022 (Photo: Mark Dans L’Espace)

Tonight is Megaflora‘s final gig. In truth, I’ve not heard of them before and part of me wants them to be really awful, just so I can helpfully say, “Ha – good riddance!”. On the contrary, there’s something lovely and quaint about this 4-piece. The lead singer/guitarist’s vocals have a tiny touch of Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks) about them, particularly noticeable as he sings, “I’m a mess – I’m so anxious”, on the memorable ‘Anxious’.

The two guitarists barely look at each other during their set and I begin to dramatise their break-up: does everyone loathe each other with the kind of seething hatred usually reserved for callously inept and dishonest politicians? I decipher a couple of lines which the guitarist/co-singer screams across the room: “3am – I’m still waiting for you” and the telling “Get another visa”. In reality, one of the band members is moving to Sheffield and I’m assured they all do really get along swimmingly. Their split is a great shame as they pull an enthusiastic crowd, amongst whom is Jemma Freeman. Unsold band merchandise is flung across the room in the direction of anyone who can name a Megaflora song and to the best dancers during a wood block solo. All in all, it’s a delightful way to bow out. RIP Megaflora 2014-2022.

Megaflora @ The Cavendish Arms, Stockwell – 29 Jul 2022 (Photo: Mandy Bang)

Review: Mandy Bang / Photos: Mark Dans L’Espace & Mandy Bang

If you enjoyed reading this, please consider supporting the artists directly by purchasing their music and merch – Schande / Megaflora

#29: Miranda Sex Garden @ 100 Club, Fitzrovia – Thu, 28 Jul 2022

‘Without MSG I Am Nothing’, once proclaimed Welsh, post-hardcore noiseniks, Mclusky. They may have been speaking of the Michael Schenker Group or monosodium glutamate, but I like to think it was a dedication to Miranda Sex Garden.

MSG are hard to pigeonhole. Originally the omnipresent Katharine Blake, along with Kelly McCusker and Jocelyn West, formed a madrigal trio, which blossomed into a delightfully expansive vision: drinking in elements of gothic rock, folk music and dark wave, amongst other genres too numerous to mention.

Their last album was released in 2000, so to witness this live performance some 22 years later is a real treat. Fans have travelled from far and wide to be here, so there’s a genuine air of anticipation: it’s less of a gig and more of a life-affirming event. I overhear a fellow gig-goer greet his gaggle of friends exclaiming, “This is great – everyone’s dressed up”. Former NME hack and Stay Beautiful club night aficionado, Simon Price, whose mantra was simply, Dress Up!, would be pleased.

Led Zeppelin‘s ‘When The Levee Breaks’ plays over the PA and gives way to several minutes of intro music consisting of wind chimes and the sound of a haunting breeze. The musicians flow on to the stage to rapturous applause and play the crashing intro to opener, ‘Ever & Ever’, before Katharine appears centre stage to ask, “How can it last for forever again?”.

Second song, ‘The Wooden Boat’, has the band moving in unison like a coming storm to whip the crowd up into a shamanic frenzy. Ms Blake, wearing a blue summer dress, may well be the only person to have ever made a child’s recorder not sound like a shrill instrument of torture.

The vast majority of their set is culled from that final album, Carnival Of Souls, but there’s a healthy spattering from Fairytales Of Slavery – the album that apparently soothed Courtney Love‘s grief as she listened to it on repeat after her husband died.

There’s a cinematic feel that ghosts many of the songs aired this evening. ‘Wheel’ sounds as if it wouldn’t be out of place on a Disney film soundtrack, as Katharine looks wide-eyed into the audience singing with a child-like innocence. I begin to envisage in my mind’s eye a monochrome private eye film noir unfolding as the band perform ‘Tonight’, resplendent with its femme fatale club singer who leads her victim to a watery grave.

‘Velventine’ is introduced as a new song (the band have never played live before), though admittedly it was written 20 years ago, leaving one hopeful that there may be more unreleased songs in the vaults, with a new record and more shows on the not-too-distant horizon.

Katharine works the stage relentlessly, acutely aware of the ill-placed pillars in the the midst of the 100 Club dancefloor, separating the crowd and blocking stage views. All eyes are of course on her, particularly when she returns to the stage after the Celtic-flavoured and delightfully-titled instrumental, ‘Escape From Kilburn’, wearing black lace arm warmers and a saucy black mesh negligee. The epic ‘A Fairytale About Slavery’ is next on the itinerary and despite its singular verse and repetitive question, “When did you realise that you’d never be free?”, it’s quite possibly my favourite MSG song.

Katharine Blake, Miranda Sex Garden – 28 Jul 2022

A further costume change occurs when the band leave the stage briefly ahead of the encore. Katharine reappears in a body sculpting white and black corset with white thigh high socks. Ms Blake seemingly revels in the attention – and why not, it has been a while. Her stage presence is engaging and playful with a vocal performance that could have been sent from the heavens.

The last time I saw drummer, Trevor Sharpe, he was playing in Deadcuts. His hair has grown considerably longer since then and he appears unaged since the band photo that gazes from the inner sleeve album artwork of Fairytales Of Slavery. His skillful playing creates a tribal rhythm to many of the songs and flirts with a jazzy style on others. Meanwhile, Teresa Casella’s Rickenbacker bass drives the songs and possesses a throbbing, primal heartbeat. Former Cardiacs guitarist, Kavus Torabi’s playing throughout is masterful and doesn’t overwhelm the band dynamic, yet is noticeably gnarly in places.

Teresa Casella, Miranda Sex Garden – 28 Jul 2022

The final thrust of the home straight sees the throng of middle-aged men in front of me break into energetic bopping – their enjoyment truly palpable. During the final song of the evening, ‘Play’, Katharine bellows, “I siiiing…”, before holding her mic aloft, biting her lip and dramatically dropping the mic to the floor in triumph. Let’s hope it’s not another 20 years before this lot are wowing rabid crowds again.

Review: Mandy Bang / Photos: Mark Dans L’Espace

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Miranda Sex Garden: Set list @ 100 Club – 28 Jul 2022

#28: Lux Lyall @ The Slaughtered Lamb, Clerkenwell – Mon, 25 Jul 2022

Lux Lyall @ The Slaughtered Lamb, Clerkenwell – 25 Jul 2022 (Photo: Mark Dans L’Espace)

Lux Lyall is a class of lady who dons blood red lips, Ray-Bans, a faux fur and six inch Jimmy Choo heels just to saunter down to the corner shop to purchase her cat a tin of Whiskas. After all, the only ‘man’ a girl can ever truly trust is her cat, dog or reptile.

Lux’s carefully crafted promo videos drip with the kind of glamour usually reserved for high profile artists who sold their soul to a global corporation for a sniff of success. The imagery Lux conjures boasts a nod to the glamour of 1940s’ Hollywood cinema, but tonight Lux is cast as Alfred Hitchcock’s blonde leading lady: misunderstood and always underestimated. This is a rare live performance of a wayward girl searching for paradise in a heartless city.

Red light washes over the intimate basement room as Lux, her former Sister Witch conspirator, David Ryder-Prangley (Rachel Stamp) and guitarist, Alexander Anthony (Callimico/Gold Baby), take their seats beneath the glowing pentagram (a clear decor homage to this bar’s namesake in the 1981 film, ‘An American Werewolf In London’).

This evening is a stripped-back affair, bookended by Lux effortlessly adding some edge to Lana Del Rey’s ‘Get Drunk’ and ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’. Summoning a picturesque Californian sunset in her cut-off denim shorts, cowboy boots and hat, Lux implores us to “trust no one”, on ‘Wayward Girls and Wicked Women’.

Stripped of the strings which bathe Lux’s 2020 debut album, Vamp, ‘Kitty Collins’ seemingly muses on the infamous Rita Hayworth quote, “Basically, I am a good, gentle person, but I’m attracted to mean personalities”. Lux eloquently reads between the lines to produce a heartfelt refrain, “sick of falling for the wrong guys”. Unlike Rita, who sank to alcoholism to counteract the psychological abuse of all those “wrong guys”, Lux appears far from her Sister Witch days. Reigned-in is the nervous, tottering-on-the-edge-of-the-stage, cocktail-in-hand, as if staggering on a knife edge. Lux is in full control tonight: keeping on-stage chit-chat to a minimum and maintaining an air of mystique.

Throughout, David’s acoustic and Alex’s electric guitar compliment Lux’s vocals perfectly. Neither guitarist competing for attention, nor allowing each other to overwhelm Lux’s poetry turned into whispered song. The boys turn in some dreamy vocal harmonies too – particularly on new songs, ‘Baby, Don’t Worry’, ‘Draw Blood’ and ‘Branded’.

L-R: David, Lux & Alexander @ The Slaughtered Lamb – 25 Jul 2022 (Photo: Mark Dans L’Espace)

A short but ever so sweet 8 song, 40 minute set – which sadly omits ‘Switchblade Baby’, ‘Teeth’ and Lux’s turned inside out, filthy cover of The Stooges’ ‘Dirt’. The captivated, all-seated audience could happily have enjoyed a far longer performance had the werewolves of The Slaughtered Lamb not been snapping at our heels.

Review: Mandy Bang / Photos: Mark Dans L’Espace

If you enjoyed reading this, please consider supporting the artists directly by purchasing their music and merch: Lux Lyall / David Ryder-Prangley