Live Review: Black Mekon, Cherry Pickles + Prima Queen at The Windmill, Brixton

Walking through the doors of The Windmill I got the rush of familiarity and I realised it had been far too long since I had to been to one of South London’s best small venues. It has the feel of a venue that would have had ‘exotic dancers’ back in the day but now resonates with every band that has let an amp feedback on its bijou stage.

Opening act Prima Queen may have been a little at odds with the two other bands on the bill but friends Louise Macphail and Kristin McFadden played a great set mixing dream-pop and indie-folk. Normally a four piece with Heledd Owen and Kitty Drummond they still delivered great harmonies and a fine line in wry lyrics observing relationships and tristes “does she know the smell of shampoo in your hair, does she lie next to you in her matching underwear?”. I will be looking out for more London shows from them in the future.

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Second on and Cherry Pickles had set dressed the stage with a fine selection of props (a cardboard coffin with plush toy occupants, an oversized carboard tequila bottle, an eye cushion and more) and had changed into their stage outfits: a white vestal virgin dress and boots sporting the phrase BOYS and SUCK for Brazilian born guitarist and vocalist Priscila B in a hot pants two piece with cherry motif for drummer Mimi B. The dressing of the stage and band seem to draw a line from their friendly offstage personas and allow them to unleash the voodoo and rip through a set packed with tracks from their debut album Cherry Pickles – Will Harden Your Nipples all piled high with booming drums and fuzzed-up riffs and enhanced by a Black Mekon guesting on guitar.

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Black Mekon are a band as skinny as the drainpipe trousers on their matching suits with white shirts, black ties and Kato-style masks which finish off the magic and mystery of the band and it’s great to see a both bands create some theatre around a performance. In my album review of Destroy Nostalgia I said they had two speeds ‘out-of-control-drag-racer and drunk-slow-dancing-with-a-lover-at-2am’ and tonight they burned enough rubber to send Firestone’s profits souring. Normally a two-piece there were three masked Mekons to fatten the sound: two guitars and drums. They prowled the stage in their thin, razor-sharp suits and cut shapes so angular that the air must have been in agony. I wished I could remember more songs in the set list (I think ‘Ghetto Bug’, ‘300 Ghosts’ and definitely remember ‘Koz’) but I was swept away by the transcendent joy of Mekonomania.

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Both Cherry Pickles and Black Mekon were bolstered by a large number of friends and fans who had travelled down from their native Birmingham, an entourage which included members of fellow Brum bands Swampmeat and Chemtrails. Black Mekon are one of the best live bands I have seen this year. They are missionaries delivering fierceness and ferociously good music from the outer limits. Go, seek out their music and above all, if you can, see them live.

As an aside I wanted to give kudos to the Windmill’s excellent bar staff, especially Luke, who demonstrated what good bartending is all about: keep an eye on the punters and acknowledge who’s next and let them know so you don’t stand there frustrated that you don’t know you’re turn is coming up.

Review & Photography by Paul F Cook

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