July was a peak month for classic gigs headed by strong females, starting with the return of the one-and-only Shirley Manson and GARBAGE, with support provided by hit Australian band THE JEZABELS and its powerful vocalist Hayley Mary. You would be hard pushed to find two bands who perform better live. Although Wolverhampton civic hall was no ideal venue, Garbage blew the stage, topped with chants of “Shirley!” resounding round the hall. Dominating the stage from the moment she first comes eye to eye with her audience, Manson oozes pure charisma, her no-nonsense presence sealing her once again as a music legend. The electric atmosphere in Manchester had Manson in her element, chattering away to individual members of the crowd and visibly moved at moments. This band clearly love performing and have missed doing so during their 7-year break. One of the best bands I have ever and will ever see live.
Another brilliant pairing came in the form of GOSSIP headed by formidable American singer BETH DITTO, this time supported by London band COMANECHI headed by feisty Japanese singer Akiko Matsuura. Comanechi is a force to be reckoned with. I was excited to see the live version of tracks “Death of You” and “Mesmerizing Fingers,” and to see just how crazy vocalist/drummer/guitarist Akiko was going to get on the stage. She rocked every track all over Shepherd’s Bush Empire (crowd-surfing, floor-surfing, generally throwing herself around wildly on and off stage while niftily holding on to her mic and singing throughout – quite a skill), easily blowing Ditto off the stage before she even stepped a toe onto it. Every Comanechi song made me smile with joy as Akiko flung herself out to the crowds, and it was an enormous comfort to see that their live shows are as bonkers as their recorded videos. Ditto and crew had their work cut out to bring the crowds into the Gossip zone but once they were with them, they were with them all the way as Ditto’s glass-shattering vocals blasted out across the venue. The show wound up with a tipsy Ditto clambering around the venue with her wireless mic, wandering through the crowds, up staircases, ending up in the VIP box with Perez Hilton and members of legendary London band The Raincoats, singing Witney Houston and various other sing-alongs at the top of her lungs, before being pulled back off the balcony edge as she attempted to straddle it, seemingly unaware of the massive drop: “Hey, I’m not gonna drop to my death, you know!” Rock ‘n’ Roll…
It wasn’t difficult to get us to another COMANECHI gig after the last one. We had a nice surprise at The Lexington show, as teen Riot Grrrl trio SKINNY GIRL DIET took to the stage and showed us that they were more than a support band. These musicians blew brilliant fresh energy into the venue and the London music scene with their professionalism and love of what they’re doing. Made up of two sisters and their cousin, this band are tight, edgy, raw and boundary-less – we’re very excited for where SGD are next heading. But first, they have school! Comanechi did not disappoint with their lively performance, this time Akiko running out and disappearing into the crowd for some time, randomly popping up on top of various pieces of furniture as she belted out her soul-shaking lyrics.
NITE JEWEL, aka Ramona Gonzalez, is a hidden gem in the international music scene. We were impressed by her Liverpool show at Eric’s which was surprisingly empty, but that’s what eventually ended up lending the show its unique quality. An incredibly down-to-earth person, Ramona was determined to get the ‘Pool crowds off their stools, and soon got them bopping to her LA tunes. Her smooth star electro track “One Second of Love” is still one of my favourite songs and videos, and I’m surprised by how few people know of this talent. Backstage at her packed out Manchester Soup Kitchen gig, we were delighted to discover that Gonzalez is a very smart cookie indeed and has a great passion for art, music and philosophy.
London quartet SAVAGES were in the swing of their first UK tour – we followed them to some of their shows, including a packed Manchester’s Deaf Institute where lead singer Jehnny Beth fell sick, forced to leave the stage during the show while remaining members spun wonders with an impromptu instrumental segment, Liverpool’s Leaf where they played to a stunned middle-aged middle-class crowd who politely absorbed the smash-out sound, Leeds’ Cockpit in a strangely intimate setting, and Nottingham’s Bodega to a crazed crowd who fell in love with them instantaneously. You’d be hard pushed to find a better bass player than the eyes-shut coolness that is Ayse Hassan, a more charismatic lead guitarist than Gemma Thompson, a drummer whose muscles are getting bigger faster at the rate of Fay Milton’s, and a more disturbingly intense presence than ice-queen lead singer Jehnny Beth.