Live Review: Loud Women Fest 2018 ft. Ms. Mohammed, Pussy Liquor, You Want Fox, Dream Nails, The Twistettes, The Franklys, The Baby Seals, Guttfull, Grace Savage, She Makes War, Zand, Jelly Cleaver, Sam Amant, Sister Ghost, Crumbs, Jemma Freeman & The Cosmic Something, Wolf Girl, Drunken Butterfly + Art Trip & The Static Sound

Set up by the ace people at Loud Women, in part as a reaction to the massive under-representation of female and non-binary musicians at major festivals, Loud Women Fest has over the course of its three outings so far gone some way to disprove the theory that there isn’t an audience for female-led alternative bands, having grown from the intimate surroundings of T-Chances in Tottenham for their debut fest in 2016 to the rather grander environs of The Dome in Tufnell Park and its sister venue The Boston Music Rooms just a couple of years later.

On arrival we make our way down the stairs through a sunlit courtyard, set up with a selection of stalls selling tasty treats, including a cake stand run by the local WI, for Art Trip & The Static Sound‘s opening set.  It’s frankly ridiculous to be out watching a punk band this muscular and ferocious at half past one in the afternoon, but singer Melodie Holliday and her band blast away any early-start cobwebs, roaming the audience and imploring fest-goers to scream ‘VAGINA!’ into the mic during ‘Feminine Hygiene Spray’.  As you might expect at an event of this ilk there’s a strong political thread running through the line-up and AT&TSS do a strong line in kicking the appropriate targets squarely in their metaphorical balls, with set closer ‘Negative Energy’ taking a run-up in steel toe-capped boots to do just that.

The day has been structured so that as a band finishes on one stage, the next begins on the other, so we dash up the stairs to The Dome where Bristolian trio Drunken Butterfly are coming on like the raw early demos of your favourite early 90s riot grrl and grunge bands (their choice of cover, PJ Harvey’s ‘Dress’ is a pretty good indicator)They’re at their best when they turn up the rage, particularly in the visceral chorus of ‘Not All Men’, and singer Darcie has a great voice when she really lets it rip, which isn’t as often as it might have been.  The set sags a little as it goes on, but there’s plenty of potential to keep an eye on here.

One of the best things about all-dayers like these is the number of new bands that it forces you into contact with, and with curators as reliably excellent as the Loud Women crew today was guaranteed to throw up some new favourites.  Topping that bill for me were Wolf Girl, taking to the stage in matching monochrome stripes to perform a set of bright, confessional DIY indie-pop packed with charm and catchy guitar lines that would have sounded perfectly at home on the sadly recently defunct Fortuna POP! label, so it’s no surprise to find out that their upcoming album launch at DIY Space for London will see them joined by FPOP! alumni Mammoth Penguins.  Swapping between three vocalists and with a sweet line in setting themes of identity politics to danceable indie disco jangle, Wolf Girl provide a contrast to the incendiary onslaught of the day’s more forceful acts, but are no less powerful for it.

They’re followed the glammed-up bombast of glitter-moustached Jemma Freeman and The Cosmic Somethingclearly loving every inch of The Dome’s broad stage as they smash out chords on their knees, and gritty minimalist post-punkers Crumbs with their elastic disco basslines, who must earn some sort of prize for the excellent song title ‘Stockport Syndrome’.  Northern Irish alt-rockers Sister Ghost are prefaced by an impassioned speech in support of pro-choice charities working to support women in their home nation, and go on to further win over an already supportive crowd by overcoming guitar failure to perform an impassioned set.

Back down the stairs Sam Amant provides a change of gears with a set of loose, chilled electro beats, while back in The Dome Jelly Cleaver, a last-minute replacement for the sadly absent Menstrual Cramps, provides the night’s lowest key set with sparse, dreamy finger-picked guitar and a gentle vocal before Zand takes to the stage in a balaclava scrawled with slut-shaming slogans with a clutch of confrontational alt-pop songs.

She Makes War has been a favourite at Joyzine for some time, and from what we’ve heard so far upcoming album Brace for Impact could well be her best material so far.  Tonight though, shorn of any backing beyond a distorted electric guitar, the songs aren’t quite so impactful as their recorded incarnations.  There’s still plenty to love though, Laura’s between song story-telling is worth catching by itself and when the guitar is put down and replaced by a live-looped acapella, a drop-jawed silence sweeps the room.

Having barely had time to remove our jaws from the floor, we’re then faced with the astonishing vocal gymnastics of beatboxer Grace Savage, who by the time we make it down the stairs has a packed Boston Music Room in the palm of her hand.  Regular readers will know that Savage’s mix of dubstep, garage and trip-hop is not our natural territory, but her complete lack of pretense and a captivating technique of breaking her art down into its component parts and building it up again, including at one point performing four layers of sound at once without the use of a loop pedal wins us over without a moment’s hesitation, and by the end we’re joining in with the chants of ‘Bo Selecta’ in her UK Garage mash-up.

Cassie Fox is one of the driving forces behind Loud Women and as well as doing  the unseen hard work behind the scenes and introducing half of the bands tonight she also somehow finds the time and energy to play guitar in one of the night’s most spectacular performances.  Guttfull are phenomenal; a glitter-strewn, poison-tongued carnival of sax-fuelled high energy glam-punk that ignites the dancefloor from the first note to the last.  Momoe stalks the stage with a snarl on her lips and a crazed glint in her eye, every inch the embodiment of the punk spirit as she flicks Vs at the targets of her acid-tipped invective.  It looks at this moment like there is nothing more fun or vital in the world than being a member of this band onstage in front of this crowd, and the energy created by the collision of righteous anger and riotous joy pulses through the crowd.

Just as joyous are the lovingly crafted taboo-shattering, quick witted lo-fi odes being shared by The Baby Seals on the Boston Music Room stage.  Your reaction to titles like ‘My Labia’s Lopsided, but I Don’t Mind’ and ‘Period Drama’ will give a pretty good gauge of whether or not you’re going to love this band.  We do, and so it seems does pretty much everyone else here, dancing like loons with wide smiles matched by those on stage as a request for sanitary products results in a light shower of tampons from the crowd.

Back upstairs, The Franklys, one of only two bands on today’s line-up to have performed at the inaugural LW Fest, are kicking out the jams with a set of spirited vintage garage rock, while Scottish duo The Twistettes provide a call to action with a set of politically direct bare-bones alt-punk.

As a white, fairly middle class male, I’m part of a demographic that is, rightly, the target of a fair number of the more vitriolic numbers today, and Dream Nails provide some of the more uncomfortable moments, starting with opener ‘Tourist’, which makes the smattering of photographers at front of stage, myself included, very much aware of how welcome our presence is (not that this stopps some from snapping away long beyond the three-song limit that has been politely requested by the organisers).  Their set of energetic surfy garage punk hits best when at its most raw and rambunctious, driving home the radical feminist message far better than the between-song expositions which tend to staunch the flow rather than letting the songs speak for themselves.

Poet Janine Booth has been introducing some of the acts with extracts from her anthology Disaffected Middle-Aged Women and her final piece today, based on observations from her job on the night tube, is one of the most affecting.  It’s followed by Nottingham garage rock duo You Want Fox whose fuzz-laden bass and drums compositions are imbued with a catchy lo-fi pop inflection.

With Ren from Petrol Girls struck down with an illness, Pussy Liquor are the last remaining band on The Dome stage, and their wild set of spiky in your face punk obscenity does the job admirably, sparking one last big mosh before we make our final descent to The Boston Music Rooms, grinning and sweating, for Ms. Mohamed‘s closing set.  Describing her sound as ‘Soca-punk’, her set mixes Caribbean and Middle Eastern beats with an effortlessly cool rock strut and purring vocals.

As the final note rings out, the buzz continues to pulse, and it’s a testament to the quality of today’s line-up that it’s only when sitting on the tube home that the exhaustion of ten straight hours of intense, varied and consistently outstanding live music really hits.

Review and photography by Paul Maps
facebook.com/loudwomen

3 thoughts on “Live Review: Loud Women Fest 2018 ft. Ms. Mohammed, Pussy Liquor, You Want Fox, Dream Nails, The Twistettes, The Franklys, The Baby Seals, Guttfull, Grace Savage, She Makes War, Zand, Jelly Cleaver, Sam Amant, Sister Ghost, Crumbs, Jemma Freeman & The Cosmic Something, Wolf Girl, Drunken Butterfly + Art Trip & The Static Sound

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