In this fucked-up world of ours, with ‘downtrodden’ and ‘discriminated’ being apt words of description for so many of those holding minority identities, Girl Gang is a light that shines for positivity, inclusivity, support and real fun. Created in celebration and encouragement of women and non-binary people to pursue their best lives by establishing a collaborative community of like-minded people, they hold every kind of event imaginable.
It’s been one year since the birth of Girl Gang’s Leeds-based group, and they knew exactly how to show their joy and gratitude. Decked out with colourful flags, balloons, posters, all screaming out in pride for all the successes the collective has had over the past twelve months, independent venue CHUNK was abuzz with anticipation for the utterly packed lineup the birthday show had to offer.
The energetic Derby garage-punk Pet Crow opened the night with their groove-saturated and frantically upbeat jams. Featuring a flurry of frenzied drumlines, with welcome emphasis on that cowbell, alongside chanted, prolonged vocals and cruising bass. With feels from all sides of the coin, from surf to psych to grrl riot to punk, we were sad to see the leave early for their later show all the way in Newcastle.
Listen: ‘Shake It Out’
Katherine Christie Evans is the unparalleled Velodrome, a queer lo-fi indie rocker singing about mental health awareness and gender equality, but so much more. With a voice that caresses ears in ethereal fashion and powerfully crafted melodies that, despite mishaps that come with toting a band around in a laptop, entrance the entire room, the Essex musician is something to be reckoned with. She featured songs such as ‘Steady Girl’, about having OCD and being poor, a cover of a song from 1597 called ‘Can She Excuse?’ and her very first single, ‘His Physique’, to be released 18 March to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.
Listen: ‘Steady Girl’
Crushing, a fuzzy and emotive indie band out of Brighton made up of members of Personal Best and Cheap Lad Pints, warmed the hearts inside the chilly bricks that made up CHUNK. With stripped-back elements, both in musical and lyric form, the three-piece sing about feeling alone in the world, and it being okay. They played a few older songs, like the sweet and blooming ‘Emery Board’ off their self-titled EP, and some new, like the brand-new ‘Lost in New York’, about a slug being lost in the great city of NYC – something for their next concept album.
Listen: ‘Emery Board’
It’s an emotional night for Leeds locals Esper Scout. Having been part of the scene for upwards of seven years, as estimated by lead singer and guitarist Sarah (“an era”), they made the difficult decision to part ways as a band, and tonight was their send-off, at their “spiritual and material home” no less. The room filled to utter capacity as the four-piece delivered their own kind of dynamic intensity which they are so well-known for and long-time fans grooved their way through the set. Dreamy vocals and throttling riffs made their set a beautiful celebration of their years together and the years to come, despite the tearful closing of this particularly talented door.
Manchester’s Smother fill the performance stage next with a flavour of emo and grunge in their gothic vocals and driving guitar. They played old favorites, like the melodically crescendoing title track from their last EP, ‘Pansy’, and teased recorded but yet-unreleased tunes like ‘Running Away’. Vocalist Jenna Clare even had the lucky role of announcing the cutting of the Girl Gang Leeds birthday cake, but only after the load of candles could be blown out by founding members Emily and Kaz.
“Hi, we’re Kermes, and we’re,” vocalist and guitarist Emily strums her guitar, “gay.” The Leicester band sing about gender dysphoria and wanting to die and showing up men with all the spunk of noisepop melodies delivered on a silver platter of slimy indie-punk and unapologetically energetic performances. Let me put it this way: there really isn’t a way to describe them that would do them justice without just seeing them perform in person. In any case, they are definitely something else, and something with an ever-increasing tempo that will be sure to culminate (at least for now) in their first full-length album We Choose Pretty Names (out 13 April).
Listen: ‘Yr Beast’
Sparklingly spacey art-pop Bloom shone brightly in their set, filled with entrancing augmented vocals and shimmering synths. They write about the bittersweet melancholy that comes from growing and changing with a complex and stunning organisation of melodies. For their closing song, frontwomen Emily Clueley and Megan Clifton talk about overcoming the prejudice against women in music with a song written as an enthusiastic response to Bono’s comment about women not being able to make angry media. Bloom is all about the celebration of the right to self-expression, and they showcase this so beautifully in the way the band seem to be playing to each other, for each other.
Listen: ‘Such a Shame’
Glaswegian DIY soft punk trio Breakfast Muff are the last-but-certainly-not-least band of the night. Even as the crowds dwindled, the band’s passionate and agitated blend of soft and sharp were a perfect cap to the night. In a great musical chairs of instruments, each member jumping from guitar to bass to drums, they sing about gender imbalance in the music industry and unrealistic expectations of young people in this generation. Breakfast Muff have the grand responsibility of cracking open the confetti poppers, raining bit of coloured paper onto themselves and the crowd. They close the night with the appropriate battlecry in ‘R U A Feminist’ with a defiant commentary on the use of the term feminist to mask violence and disrespect.
Listen: ‘R U A Feminist’
To many more years of Girl Gang antics!
Words and images by Francesca Tirpak