You have to feel for Mark who does such a great job putting Hell Hath No Fury on. The seven band line up has had two late pull outs due to illness which has meant a later than planned start and some last-minute rescheduling. The remaining acts soon rally round though and with such a fantastic venue playing host to the event you just know it will still be a memorable night.
Promoted to playing at half five because of the pushed back kick off means Desensitised have a good crowd to watch them. Clearly very young and looking just a little bit nervous they soon get into their stride delivering a short, simple but rocking set. Sandwiched between Hole and Joan Jett covers are self penned songs that stand up well alongside their well-known peers. While you don’t get much in the way of frills this three-piece are tight and benefit from Charlotte Radfords naturally superior vocal. Tonight Desensitised show more than enough promise to place them in the ones to watch box.
Brum four piece Kerosene Queen epitomise all that is good about the re-emergence of riot grrrl bands. While feisty and free of easy labelling they retain the melody and discipline needed to engage with a wider audience. This is a true team effort rather than a vehicle for any one ego. Charly Malone may take centre stage and does a great job at the mic but it’s noticeable that the beats are slick, the guitar work is well judged and the bass, well the bass is simply sublime. Kerosene Queen’s Babes In Toyland meets the Distillers sound is the perfect early fillip for tonight’s event warming up the crowd nicely for what was to follow.
What did follow was Hate Fuck. Like a well-known wood preservative they pretty much do what it says on the tin. Sporting the only male vocals (loose term) of the night this is less math core and more raw attitude. There’s obvious talent and a willingness to not just push boundaries but question their existence altogether. The drummer is nuts like Animal off the Muppets but keeps time perfectly along with a solid bass. The guitar is a mass of feedback and clever chords, the foundation to which Captain Chaos up front screams his lungs out between offering observations on all manner of social issues. His words on Nigel Farage brought the biggest laughs of the night. Eradicate the pauses between songs and formulating an actual set list would see Hate Fuck as punk’s answer to Rolo Tomasi. Tonight they are punk’s reply to UKIP.
This is the last gig on a three-day whistle-stop mini tour for Cornwall’s Honey. The trio must come the closest of any band I’ve ever seen to recreating the very best days of proto girl fronted angst rockers Hole. You would think most of this is down to Sarah Marie Tyrell’s uncanny vocal resemblance to Ms Controversy, Courtney Love. Her blond hair, white dress and heels just add to the effect. In fact it’s the music itself that is equally responsible for timewarping me back to when Love and co were at their peak. Well structured and paced Honey have been careful not to become clones by injecting a second formidable voice in the shape of energetic bass player Ele Lucas. Couple this with wonderful harmonies and coming from this side of the pond and it’s clear that Honey are very much their own band, and a damn fine one at that.
How often do you get to see an acoustic act headlining over fully amped up bands? Not often at all I suspect. Louise Distras bucks that trend with her mesmerizingly passionate show. Lyrics from the heart and a social commentary on life in modern Britain form the basis for what is a supremely confident and engaging hour of music. Not once do the energy levels or intensity fall off, not once does there appear to be any kind of hiccup or flat patch. Just music at its most powerful, telling it how it is. During a spoken word interlude, the focus from performer to each audience member is almost personal, it feels like Distras is talking directly to you, quite a feat to manage at any level.
Rather than take on the world as a soapbox preacher, a protester with a guitar, this sassy artist actually writes lyrics that ask you to form your own opinions based on her observations. It’s clever and in many ways it’s a reinvention of the wandering minstrels spreading their news through song. Tonight it has been a pleasure to witness someone both in tune on a stage in Nottingham and in tune with the wider world.
You couldn’t have found five more diverse acts coming together under the umbrella of punk rock. It’s grass roots music at its best played in a venue that is a breeding ground for the next generation of alternative acts ready to take their music to the masses.
There also has to be a special mention for the sound engineer too, once again, as whenever I’ve visited The Maze the quality of sound has been fantastic. Slipknot and Korn might be playing down at the Arena a day later but I’ll happily take five acts in the back room of a pub, and to me and tonight’s audience, they are just as relevant as their more famous brethren down the road.