Words by Matthew Wilson
Revolutions and revelations aren’t birthed fully formed. They ferment and simmer away; in subcultures, in the back rooms, in basement venues hidden out of sight from passersby until the sound and the fury reaches a critical mass, boiling over and scouring everything in its path.
Just as most revolutions begin unassumingly, so does this evening, when local Leeds punks Milk Crimes take to the stage. Possessing an upbeat hybridisation of punk and pop in the vein of DIY stalwarts Martha, Milk Crimes songs are charismatic, catchy and energetic. The only thing that brings the experience down are the largely silent, lengthy gaps in between songs, the energy of the performance dissipating as the crowd chatters amongst themselves. If Milk Crimes can carry themselves as charismatically as their songs are catchy, they’ll be a force to watch out for.
But when it comes to charisma, Jake & The Jellyfish are not found lacking. Previously a five piece with folk-punk leanings, the band has now stripped down to a four piece and dialled up on the distortion, wearing their Against Me shaped hearts on their sleeves more loudly than ever before. Moving effortlessly through winding melodic lines to aggressive hardcore inspired riffs, the thread that ties the band together is found in the incredible, gravel-mouthed throaty roar of Jake McAllister. With a voice powerful enough to cut throughthe roar of the guitars, and a rhythm section locking down the low end, Jake & The Jellyfish mix the heartfelt sincerity of folk with the intensity of punk passion. By stripping down to the bare bones, the band have managed to amplify their intensity and earnestness, turning in a high energy performance.
Energetic, however, is an understatement in describing Petrol Girls. There’s a palpable tension in the air before the band takes the stage, feedback reverberating through the basement venue, before the band takes the stage and erupts into The Sound, a distorted, jagged post-hardcore monster that shakes the foundations of the venue.
Delivering a set largely derived from their sophomore album Cut & Stitch, Petrol Girls still make room for older offerings to sit alongside the new, with the classic octaver riffs ofSlugand winding, intricate bass and guitar of Harpyfitting snugly alongside the new material. Frontwoman Ren Aldridge commands the stage, ducking, weaving, singing, shouting and screaming with playful intensity, whilst the bass and guitars constantly oscillate like waves, roaring into life with layers of distortion before backing off into more introspective, intricate melodies.
It’s a fair critique to say that, since the chaos of the world has become more easily pronounced in recent years, many bands who have previously forged careers on being apolitical and now interrupt their sets with vague, waffling platitudes can lead to audiences questioning the sincerity of their message. This isn’t the case with Petrol Girls. Their integrity stems from power and performance, passion honed through years of being a band on the frontline of activism, breaking down musical boundaries and carving out a space for themselves.
If you are easily turned off by politics in music, then perhaps this isn’t the show for you. But it’s impossible to divorce art from its context, and it would be pointless to do so, especially when the power of the performance intertwines with the politics to enhance an unassuming Tuesday night and gig held into a moment, an event, a revelation. This is a show that’s not just another show on a tour, but a performance birthed from conviction in the cause, conviction in the sound, conviction in the message that their music brings on a personal, political and musical level.