Live Review: Skating Polly + Hands Off Gretel @ The Sebright Arms

Having hot-footed it across London from another show, we arrive to find the low ceilings and pitch-black walls of The Sebright Arms already quivering from the snarling onslaught of Hands Off Gretel, tonight playing the penultimate show of a UK tour with Oklahoma trio Skating Polly that kicked off three weeks ago in Cardiff.

Chewing up grunge reference points, most notably early Hole and Babes In Toyland, and spitting them back in their own twisted, acid laced shapes, theirs is a heavy, breakneck, punked-up take on the genre, and with her flailing dreadlocks and curled-lip delivery singer Lauren Tate is an alt-rock icon in waiting.

Skating Polly‘s 2016 album The Big Fit was an off-kilter, red-raw gem and the step-sister duo of Kelli and Peyton have since added to their sound, first by recruiting another family member, brother Kurtis into the band, and then by working with former Veruca Salt duo Louise Post and Nina Gordon on their latest EP New Trick.

It all seems to have worked, adding an extra strain of fuzzy melodicism and some perfectly imperfect vocal harmonies into the mix without losing any of the ferocity that made the LP such a treat.  The swapping of vocals between Peyton’s oscillating Kristin Hersh-esque inflection and Kelli’s larynx-shredding howl, adds an extra layer, and towards the end of the set we also get a change of instruments as Peyton takes over behind the kit, as she did on The Big Fit, allowing Kurtis to rip a drumstick sliding solo from the guitar.

Grunge has been pronounced dead more times than I care to remember, but with bands such as these continuing to pump new ideas and energy into the genre and adding their own twists to the angsty, distorted loud-quiet template, there’s plenty of life still to be found.

Review and photography by Paul Maps

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