Music: Brody Dalle at the Electric Ballroom

Last night I saw Brody Dalle play the Electric Ballroom and can now finally die happy.

Brody Dalle performs at the Electric Ballroom, Camden 24 April 2014

I’d given up hope of ever seeing the Distillers live. The band imploded in 2004 shortly after the release of Coral Fang at the height of my fandom, which sucked but also probably boosted my obsession.

Then Brody seemed to go off into the musical wilderness (in real life having a couple of kids with husband Josh Homme from Queens Of The Stone Age). Her next project with Distillers guitarist Tony Bevilacqua, Spineerette, was short lived; they released an EP in 2008 but have been quiet since.

I wondered if she’d ever tour again and whether she’d ever perform the Distillers. I figured maturity would mean she wouldn’t want to play songs written by her 22 year old self battling a meth addiction and an unhappy marriage to Tim Armstrong from Rancid.

But last night she played all the best off Sing Sing Death House (2002) and Coral Fang. There was less of the snarling and posturing that made me fall in love with her – she’s more grounded and calm, but she still blew me away.

She seemed shy – she hasn’t performed live much since 2010  – not once looking into the crowd, but she still owned the stage with an incredible vocal range that has changed little since the days of the Distillers. You wonder how she’s still able to sing with such ferocity when it sounds like her vocal chords have been steeped in ethanol.

One thing that was depressing, though. The crowd was shockingly tame. There was a limp mosh pit and the few true punks seemed to want to nurse a cold beer more than throw it over anyone. I felt like we were letting Brody down in the worst possible place, Camden, the home of punk.

Whatever has happened to music is a sign of an apathetic culture. It felt like no one in the venue had any punk spirit in them, no fight to give. Brody can explain:

I was so lucky to grow up in the ‘90s. It was the revolution, it really was. There’s such a fucking plethora of amazing music to pick from, from Hole to Bikini Kill to L7 to Babes in Toyland to Elastica. There was Kim Gordon. There were so many women. It was just such an awesome time. I really hope that happens again.

I think it’s been a good twenty years, so, usually things go in cycles. I’m hoping that maybe in the mainstream, female-driven rock ‘n roll or just rock ‘n roll in general kind of gets its place again.

You know? It’s been dominated by dance music and I agree with Shirley Manson actually, she says it’s because of 9/11. And that’s absolutely where things kind of changed. We all got very PC and didn’t want to rock the boat and just wanted to hear meaningless fluff, I guess. I don’t know. I would think that people would run in the other direction.

Where’s the counter culture gone? We’re living in dispossessed times, but that’s what punk was born out of. We need a return of the Riot Grrrls. With feminism becoming part of the mainstream, the timing would be perfect.

Brodie quote from an interview in Bust Magazine.

Arts & Culture: Groezrock Festival 2011

In search of hardcore: Nadia Ramoul finds punk solace in Belgian rock festival Groezrock

Groezrock

DAY ONE

Following a lengthy treck across the wilds of Belgium, we are greeted by the loving arms of the Groezrock Festival. Celebrating it’s 20th anniversary in what promised to be a toasty warm weekend, spirits are high on the multilingual campsite even when a brief yet savage storm threatened to wash the weekend out.

They do festivals differently on the continent. Groezrock is a fraction of Reading’s size and all the better for it. Walking from one end of the campsite to the other doesn’t feel like a 6 hour hike and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, a far cry from the burning tents and rampaging 16 year olds that plague ol’ Blighty. Despite a few annoyances (separate drinks, food AND pub tickets?! You monsters…) the running is smooth and chilled, complimented by the unseasonably fine sunshine and shockingly reasonable prices (take note, UK.)

After erecting a tent in the dusty sand-flea ridden ground, we bounce with great joy to the main stage, to be faced, maddeningly with the sonic abortion that is Danko Jones. Our hearts sink at the staggeringly awful ‘banter’ of the frontman and the tepid chugging ‘songs.’

Danko Jones

The forty minutes that constitute their set feels like the passing of eons peppered with shout-outs that bordered on parody, eg:

“I WANT TO LICK PUSSY FOR FOUR HOURS STRAIGHT!”

“WE’RE THE KND OF BAND WHO CHANGE OUR LYRICS FOR THE RADIO!”

YEAH…?! Spare me.

Happily though, Cancer Bats are soon on and the blip of Danko Jones is forgotten in a flood of buzzing distortion and crazed yelps. For a band relatively low down on the ‘upcoming’ bill, their speedy thrash draws a hefty and appreciative crowd.

Cancer Bats

In a cruel twist of fate, Cancer Bats overlapped slightly with aging heroes Millencolin, who you all surely recognise for ’No Cigar,’ the soundtrack to glitch digital kick flips on the Tony Hawk’s games. Ah, memories. They run through what could be considered a ‘greatest hits’ set, with choice morsels from ‘Pennybridge Pioneers’ and ‘Home From Home.’ Unlike Danko Jones, the crowd interaction is warm and friendly, and their rendition of ‘The Ballad’ brought salty (but still punk) tears to the eyes of the crowd.

Every Time I Die are tight, loud and impressive before Hatebreed, a band who certainly do breed a great deal of hate, headline the mainstage. Clearly not thinking man’s music, the assorted meatheads begin to gather in ominous circles pumping their fists in a fashion not unlike a National Front Rally. Scary.

Hatebreed are a passable band to work out to or angrily scrub a floor, but live they are little more than an outlet for tubby bald men to beat each other senseless in a big sweaty mess. Perhaps this is too cruel an observation – the music was loud, tight and vitriolic, and yes, does kinda make you want to punch the guy next to you several times about the chops.

DAY 2

Following a brief nurse of a hangover triggered by dirt cheap Jupiler and Jager, we begin our dicey clamber back onto the booze horse.

Sugarcult provide the perfect antidote to morning after grogginess with a light, bouncy set that got even the most queasy pogoing around the grass, grinning inanely. Not exactly musical innovators but what better soundtrack to being ragingly drunk on a Saturday afternoon? Ahhh…

Groezrock

As the days plods on, those overloaded with punk seek solace in the obligatory dance tent, with DJ s playing a hefty mix of Dubstep and D’n’B that warm the cockles of well-travelled East Londoners in need of a break.

Saves The Day provide the finest performance of the festival. Chris Conley’s wholesome voice is as pure as the driven snow. There’s a guy who gets his 5 a day and washes it down with milk. They play a flawless set of old and new material, with the debut of new tracks from upcoming record ’Daybreak’ welcomed warmly. The technical problems of early on in the set are soon forgotten.

Groezrock makes a welcome change from the sheer size and stressful nature of the large British rock festivals. Despite the relatively small profile of the bands playing, they draw rabid crowds intent on having a good time.

The atmosphere was, for the most part amazing, despite the occasional language barrier everything functioned well. Definitely one to consider for next year! Just don’t get too confused with those tokens, now.