LIVE REVIEW: Petrol Girls @ Oslo, London (16/01/2020)

Credit: Promo

Date: January 16th 2020
Venue: Oslo, London
Support: Gutts / Suggested Friends / Charmpit
Website: None available


With a number of different zines, leaflets, and patches left at the merch desk, a Petrol Girls show has a very DIY punk feel to it. It’s clear that they want everyone at the shows to be involved and active in grassroots politics as they are, whether it be with internationalist causes or feminism.

And, in what feels like proof that their modus operandi is a resounding success, people of all ages and genders are in attendance at the show. Heroes to the DIY underground, they’ve found themselves a cult following with their white-hot tirades against all manners of injustices, which helped to land them opening slots for Thrice and Refused last year. Their chaotic brand of post-hardcore is the perfect musical accompaniment, as shown on the band’s latest effort, ‘Cut & Stitch’, which is a true expansion upon their sound.

It’s time to kick the year off with their new anthems of righteous anger. The venue for tonight’s show is Oslo in Hackney; clear, open hall with no pillars in the way, which is a perfect setting.

Opening proceedings are Gutts [6], who prove to be an enjoyable warm-up – the use of the saxophone alongside the post-punk offerings may invoke comparisons to groups like X-Ray Spex, and vocalist Momoe Tasker‘s yelp certainly resembles a younger Siouxsie Sioux. Like all of the bands on tonight’s bill, they wear their convictions on their sleeve; with eye-raising song titles like ‘Don’t Be A Slag Like Your Dad’ and ‘White Saviour Complex’, there’s no second guessing.

Next up are Suggested Friends [7] who have a natural air to their take on indie-punk. Guitarist and lead singer Faith Taylor‘s excellent ear for melody, and the levels of songwriting on display, could stand toe-to-toe with many others. The set flies by quickly, and from this showing there’s a lot of potential for this lot to grow further. The personal nature of their songs are at the fore, and this band may be worth keeping your eyes on in the future.

The last support act of the evening is Charmpit [6], who bring a melodic, upbeat take on punk rock, and the slightly brash vocal stylings work very well. They prove to be adept at their faster The Ramones-esque offerings, and some more chilled out songs with the melodically and harmonically rich aspects of their songwriting shining through. Setting the tone for later, they use moments in-between songs to promote causes and events that they’re involved in, such as their First Timers festival workshop that encourages people to form bands.

As is the case for every Petrol Girls [8] show, the space at the front is for women, transgender, and non-binary people, and no macho bullshit from any audience member will be tolerated. After the brief housekeeping, what follows is a tidal wave of fractured, chaotic post-hardcore, but also direct and blunt. As bassist Liepa Kuraitė has had to pull out of tonight’s show, Becky Blomfield (Milk Teeth) is on bass duties tonight, serving as a nice reminder of the modern punk rock family tree.

Straight away the band get down to business, opening with ragers from ‘Cut & Stitch’; ‘The Sound’, ‘Monstrous’, and ‘Big Mouth’ are among the band’s strongest offerings. Vocalist Ren Aldridge commands the stage in a way that forces you to stand up and listen, sounding as much of a force of nature as she is on record. Each song is preceded by a mini-speech, with tonight feeling very much like a political rally.

And many songs from 2016’s ‘Talk Of Violence’ are also given an airing, songs that are no less confrontational – ‘Harpy’ has a particularly rousing speech beforehand, and the hook of ‘Rewild’ sounds as potent as ever.

Aldridge uses moments in between songs to promote causes that the band are aligned with. We get a recorded snippet of a friend of the band describing the conflict in Rojava, as well as reminders to donate to Solidarity Not Silence, a crowdfunding cause to help Aldridge and other women with legal fees in a defamation claim against them made by a high-profile musician.

The aforementioned speech in the conflict in Rojava then leads into how borders and the nation state are both factors behind that conflict and many other pointless wars, leading into ‘No Love For A Nation’, and the song itself has struck a chord with many given the recent political events of the last few years.

You could also argue that some of the softer offerings, like ‘Skye’ and ‘Rootless’ could’ve been given an airing, but the fact that it’s 45 minutes of riotous rebellion that doesn’t let up is testament to how powerful a Petrol Girls gig is. With anecdotes of unfortunately all-too-familiar stories of sexual assault and fighting for the liberation of marginalised groups, it’s time for ‘Survivor’, and the incendiary ‘Touch Me Again’, with the latter’s blunt message at the end serving as a catharsis for both Aldridge and the devotees at the front who scream it back at the band.

‘Naïve’ ends the set on a high, with the message of the song summing up everything that Petrol Girls are about. Rather than losing hope and remaining jaded, they choose to dismantle all boundaries and fight injustice. The final sections of the song are particularly potent, and everyone leaves feeling more inspired, having enjoyed a moment of catharsis. Punk rock is most certainly alive and well going into the new decade – Petrol Girls are not finished, and they never fucking will be.