I have a Ġenn song bouncing around my head like an overexcited puppy on Christmas Eve that refuses to be subdued as I hastily weave my way through unfamiliar residential side streets: “Take me to my destination / You know where I wanna go…”. It seems unlikely that the band wrote ‘Mackerel’s Funky Mission’ about seeking a night of entertainment in Bermondsey, but I go where the music takes me: searching for the right cave under the railway arches. The only giveaway sign that there’s any life here at all is two security personnel who conduct a quick bag search and unlock the hatch through which we climb. A wall of heat hits us and I immediately realise that I’m wearing two layers too many because it’s that awkward in-between season time of the year.
The room is small with a high arched ceiling, of course, and the floor space is teaming with enthusiastic gig-goers while a number of large-lensed photographers are vying for the best spots on the front row. The bar staff are wonderfully efficient and, cold cider in hand, a friend warns me that Ġenn are playing all new songs tonight. Usually such a statement leaves me inwardly deflated, but not tonight. Ġenn possess a delightful upbeat energy and I know instinctively that I’m going to enjoy whatever they choose to throw at us.
Fugazi are playing over the PA as Janelle (guitar), Leanne (bass) and Sofia (drums) run through a quick line-check. They briefly walk off stage before re-appearing and gently set about building an impressive instrumental extravaganza. Janelle is sporting a lovely new, gothic red pixie haircut and socks emblazoned with their band name. As the music extends for several minutes, I begin to wonder if singer Leona really has gathered a group of fish and is currently floating with the stream, headed to the magic island, as per the lyrics of ‘Mackerel…’. Suddenly the petite singer with the huge and distinctive voice bounds on to the stage as the guitar tightens like a vice around a shaking bass groove.
The small stage is simply not big enough to contain the animated moves that these four kick out. Leanne dramatically falls to her knees, cradling her bass yet never missing a note, as Leona bounces around, almost jogging on the spot, before leaning back, perched on the bass drum, seemingly soaking in the good vibes during ‘Merchant’. Leanne’s bass creates the suspense of a horror film soundtrack before Janelle’s guitar shrieks the crashing crescendo of ‘Days And Night’.
Thereafter we are embraced by the familiar delight that is ‘Mackerel’s Funky Mission’ from the band’s ‘Liminal’ EP. For those who didn’t spend last summer listening to said EP on repeat, I implore you to investigate – it will drag you up off the sofa and turn your living room into a dancefloor. Tonight the song shimmies into the room: the guitar line fresh and funky, akin to something that Duran Duran guitarist, Andy Taylor, might have conjured in the early ’80s, flowing effortlessly into a melody that hints at The Doors’ ‘End Of The Night’ hopped up on caffeine. Meanwhile, Leona semi-speaks the lyrics about swimming to her birthplace, Malta, and well, why would you not go via Spain so as to visit those lovely Spanish ladies?
The finale of their set, ‘Be A Man’, is loaded with clapping drums as Janelle’s guitar sounds as if it’s charming a snake from a large basket. Leona thrashes around the stage before erupting into full-on moshing. It’s a wild end to a set fuelled with unbridled energy.
Set list: Island Blues / Like You / Merchant / Days And Night / Mackerel’s Funky Mission / Rohm / Be A Man.
After which, Ġenn head out on their UK headline tour:
9 Nov – The Kazimier, Liverpool
10 Nov – Castle Hotel, Manchester
11 Nov – Zerox, Newcastle
12 Nov – The Great Western Festival, Glasgow
16 Nov – Bodega, Nottingham
17 Nov – Dead Wax Digbeth, Birmingham
18 Nov – The Lanes, Bristol
19 Nov – Heartbreakers, Southampton
23 Nov – Paper Dress Vintage, London
24 Nov – Green Door Store, Brighton
Review by Mandy Bang (London After Midnite)
Photos by Mark Dans L’Espace