Live Review: PNKSLM Ball ft. Sudakistan, GHLOW, Honkies + ACM at The Shacklewell Arms, Dalston

What a happy coincidence that those fine folks at Stockholm’s PNKSLM label decided to put on their annual Autumn gig on my birthday. Every year they do two dates over two days in London and Birmingham. PNKSLM is the home to a variety of bands that live away from the mainstream of music; bands like ShitKid, Mind Rays, Black Mekon, and Cherry Pickles.

Tonight at the Shacklewell Arms they had lined up four acts to help shake off the rain and wind of an Autumnal evening and things kicked off with ACM who lit up the stage like an arc light made of rainbows and razor blades. The size of venue could barely contain the energy they gave off. On their website they say they are “radical, joyful LGBTQIA+ politics with catchy, accessible lyrics and melodies”. Think Rocky Horror Show + The Tubes but way more brazen. Serious subjects are made seriously funny, and they knocked out catchy song after catchy song including one about a trans-rocket blasting into space and meeting an opera singing Comet (TransRosetta) and a lament for a dear departed dildo (Go Slow). By the climax of the show ACM had the audience beaming and joining in with the singalong sections. Outstanding work and a great example of the maxim ‘open like you’re the closing act’.

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Honkies had the seemingly unenviable job of following and it took a few songs to decompress and become acclimatised to their sound, which is like drunk country and western or the soundtrack to New Orleans fever dream. But this is homegrown, they are from South London not South Texas, and they describe their sound as ‘Premium synth infused country honky-tonk’ (hence Honkies, I guess). There was a thrift store charm to them with a low-key dress sense and a lead singer who was one cigarette holder short of being Hunter S. Thompson. They managed to sound like a warped cassette played at full volume, but they have acres of charm and wit and a great set of songs and I look forward to hearing more from them.

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GHLOW are PNKSLM’s most recent signing; a two-piece from Russia and Sweden based in Stockholm. They have a great look with singer Emille de Blanche on a sleek black bass and Nikolay Evdokimov partly playing guitar but mostly operating a NASA control centre of effects, mixers, loopers, samplers and a plethora of other electronic gadgets to bring both jiggery and pokery to their sound. They come off like a dance act that grew out of a punk sensibility; think Siouxsie and the Banshees meets the Chemical Brothers. My only issue was that all the gadgetry seemed to be the cause of muddy sound, so rather than a balanced range across bass-to-treble (to get the blood pumping and feet moving) it had the feel of listening to music underwater. However, I would advise checking out their frenetic nightclub-punk online.

Headliners Sudakistan were the act that first brought PNKSLM to my attention, so they will always hold a special place in my heart. Tonight, is the third or fourth time I’ve seen them and they never disappoint. Also based in Stockholm, but mostly hailing from South America, they play a Latin-infused, psychedelic-punk and if you want an introduction to their music then check out the video for song Dale Gas. Tonight, they had to perform a sawn-off set (due to a club night following the gig) with a sawn-off band (percussionist and rocket fuel Carlos Amigo couldn’t make it) so they never got to full ramming speed. However, they still growled and fuzzed and wailed and whipped up a psych-hurricane with the highlight being their ground-shaking version of The Stooges I Wanna Be Your Dog’. Happy Birthday to me indeed.

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Review & Photography by Paul F Cook


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