Even in the anarchic world of gigging, it’s important to maintain certain traditions. So on the eve of the Jubilee celebrations we find ourselves in The Queen’s Head pub in Stockwell loosening up for AMYL & THE SNIFFERS at Brixton Academy. Her Maj would be majorly proud, not least because it’s a terrific four band bill festooned with the grunty grub rock of fellow Aussies PIST IDIOTS and the raucous dreadlocked rap rock of local duo BOB VYLAN. In between lurks self-proclaimed “gimp fisherman” LYNKS, who tells us his secret for bechamel sauce and makes it sound like a saucy recipe for filthy depraved disaster. Minimalistic electro pop is his jam, backed by three vigorously (but loosely) cheoreographed tight fitting girls, and frankly, there are things going on here that we can never un-hear.
In cultural terms this is like Bucks Fuzz opening up for The Clash. Indeed, in the glorious olden punk rock days Mr Lynks would have been heartily bottled off the Academy stage after 38 seconds. Nowadays, however, not even the most pist of idiots are chucking pints at anyone because they cost seven quid a throw, and anyway tonight’s crowd is so sophisticated the bar is cleaned out of white wine by 9.00pm, and nobody is ever getting hounded off the boards by a shower of Chablis. The Chardonnay shame of it all!
The Sniffers’ boys do not look like they are part of the Sauvignon Blanc Generation. Hearty of mullet and hectic of guitar, they are all about beefy beats and razortight riffs, creating the soundtrack to a drunk trying to start a fight in an empty barroom. If the Sniffers are burly then Amyl, aka Amy Taylor, brings the burlesque. Stripped to her traditional attire of spangly bra and hotpants from the start of the set she is the anti-Kylie, way more cheeky Barbara than any queenly Elizabeth Windsor.
She’s also a manic cross between Wendy James and Iggy Pop, propelling the punk-powered show forward at a giddy pace. Two years ago her band was booked into the 1500-strong Electric Ballroom, a covid-stricken show which only happened late last year. Now she is feeding the 5000 out of the very palm of her hand, which is some mighty leap. She’s prancing like a little pony! Now she’s posing like a body-builder! Now she’s on the floor, now she’s on the speakers, now she’s getting jiggy with the security guards! And this is all before she takes a mid-set break to dole out – yes – poppers to the burly boys in the band. A heady rush, in every possible way.
One man who knows his way around the average medicine cabinet is Wayne Coyne, whose FLAMING LIPS band play the Kentish Town Forum the following night. There is glitter tape billowing around the crowd from one song in. ‘Do You Realize?’ is a hyper-dramatic song two. ‘Mother I’ve Taken LSD’ is third out of the traps, the higher-than-high highlight of the ‘American Head’ album which actually appeared in 2020 but only now are they able to play it live. Luckily their latest psych freak opus is timeless, both in the sense that it harks back to their ‘The Soft Bulletin’ classic from 1999 and in the sense that certain parts of it could have been made in the soft rocking haze of 1974.
Similarly seemingly ageless, Coyne is actually now 60 years old with a brand new family. This means he is now too old to ever be sensible, showering the Lips’ live soiree with the usual cavalcade of inflatable rainbows and robots and Zorbs, the boy in the bubble creating a world of melancholic wonderment and melodic uplift. Like the Sniffers last night there is passion and wild enthusiasm a’plenty in the venue as Flaming Lips are life-affirming and utterly lovely, in a recklessy heartbreaky kind of way. One day I want to be Wayne Coyne. I’m sure I’ll feel utterly mint.
Down at Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes meanwhile HERBIE BONE are experiencing their own slightly smaller love fest. A collective from Goldsmiths in South London, theirs is a splashy, crashy languid noise which harks back to C86 and Sarah Records and all of our cripplingly coy sonic youths. For men of a certain checked shirted vintage it really is a fabulous sound, all moody vocals and indie flower guitar chords chiming like vintage telephones in the Japanese rain. “My heart still beats for you” they croon before launching off into a ramshackle finale.
Our June ends at Highbury Garage in the company of MORGAN WADE. She’s just one year older than Sniffin’ Amy, but in performance terms she is right at the other end of the scale, surrounded by rocking man giants and searching for the shadows. This might well be down to a hectic life once lived – she sobered up five years ago after all, and she’s still only 27. Like Sniffin’ Amy however Morgan is on one heck of an upward curve: tonight is the first of two sold out Garage gigs on the back her ‘Reckless’ debut, which has become a staple of the Country and Americana album charts.
Ironically enough Morgan looks most comfortable conforming to musical stereotypes, perched alone on the stage armed with little more than a big red acoustic guitar and a battered heart. Yet those rocking man giants will not be quelled, and most of the set swaggers with a sincere crossover heft, as evidenced by bullish bowls through ‘Suspicious Minds’ and Rick Springfield’s pretty Petty-esque ‘Jessie’s Girl’. The biggest cheers and tearful beers are saved for ‘Wilder Days’ though, the single which annexed Radio 2 and floored middle aged boys the land over with its younger girl / older bloke lyrical interface. “Who were you before I knew your name?” wonders Morgan Wade, wide eyed and definitely not legless, as the guitars roar onwards. “Were you drunk at midnight waiting for the train?”
Yes, yes we were. And we’ll be seeing you at Brixton Academy any year now…
The Pandaman’s Gigging Total: 160