Sarah Dougher, Rachel Jury, and Tender TrapEdit this event
Passionate and inclusive like a bigots worst nightmare, London's version of the Ladyfest festival, an event borne out of a commitment to celebrating the work of female musicians, artists and activists, was a triumph of bloody minded will over ham fisted, defeatist cynicism. The politics of the event, essentially a recommitment and expansion of laudable egalitarian goals, were bound inextricably with the quality of the music, much of which exploded the constrictive belief that women holding guitars must churn out riot grrl.
Saturday night presented a mixed bag of styles and passions, the drab interior of the Garage lighted by the fanzines, ideas and laughter swilling round the blackened room. Far from being poe faced, the crowd were exuberant throughout, the emphasis, after a day of panel discussions and intriguing workshops, firmly on a celebration of interesting, literate, challenging music, quite as willing to shake your body as much as your mind.
Tender Trap's charged electro-crash found a welcome reception, despite the musics occasionally anodyne proficiency. Combining live guitars with pre-recorded rhythms, the band generally succeeded in transcending the banality normally commonplace with such acts, avoiding the offputting techno sheen of Garbage and the like.
Rachel Jury, meanwhile, provided a short but compelling set of performance-poetry, her words as intimately humourous as they were politically persuasive. Discussing misconceptions associated with lesbianism and the discomfort and pleasures of life as a member of a sidelined sexual minority, her poetry is a welcome slap in the face to those still harbouring venal, prehistoric prejudices, and a reminder that poetry should not be confined to the fusty backrooms of academic obfuscation.
Sarah Dougher has a somewhat heroic past, working as an activist, a writer, a teacher of Greek and Roman literature, and an instigator of The Lookers, The Crabs, and other musical projects. Her solo set was assured, her lyrics discussing issues of identity and branding, bound to a musical directness, accompanying herself on electric guitar, that made her eloquent reflections all the more accessible. It's encouraging to hear an artist vocal in their critique of the reductive pig-penning that often accompanies politically charged music made by women, and her decision to do so through some genuinely inspired chord changes was much appreciated.
Electrelane remain, in my mind, one of the most exciting British bands working today. Their electrifying, driven instrumentals fairly crackle with life in a live setting, their music a bleeding canvas of frazzled, emotional textures and jolting dynamics. There's a distinct warmth and humanity lying beneath the Farfisa drone and motorik clatter, an end-of-the-pier fragility that so often eludes other bands with a keen interest in propulsive, Krautrock-inspired instrumentalism. Shifting from guitar rocket stealth, to slow burning, keening intensity, Electrelane provided a fittingly powerful end to an evening utterly successful in enlightening and entertaining in equal measure.
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