Back in the summer, I reviewed Petrol Girls third album ‘Baby’, so I was excited to see them play live. To begin with, the gig was supposed to be at The Garage in Highbury, but was changed to Oslo Hackney. A venue I was familiar with, but hadn’t been to see any live bands there. Oslo Hackney is conveniently located right next to Hackney Central station and the cool vibes hit you as soon as you enter.
Often when I get to do reviews, I always have a little bit of nerves that maybe I won’t be on the list this time. It’s never happened until this gig! My friend and I got through the bag checks, only for me to be told after frantically looking- “nope you aren’t on it!” Luckily in my email exchanges with the promoter I had a phone number. As if by magic, as soon as I started recording a voicemail, suddenly a voice coming towards me was “that’s me!” and sure enough there was the promoter who soon sorted the dilemma. Once we returned to the desk, I could see I wasn’t the only one who had missed as names were added on.
Embarrassment over and we finally got inside, and by then first support act Hawxx had already started. Setting the scene for the night ahead, Hawxx are an all female band hailing from Greece, Italy and the UK. A goth punk vision in black, they certainly looked the part. The band has been described as metal, although I felt more like the music fitted into some fine line between metal and punk. Whatever label you might decide to give their music, there was no denying their stage presence. Rock n roll swagger and attitude were present in abundance. The theme of anger and activism started early on in the gig, as Hawxx played their song ‘Trust Your Rage” after calling for the women and non binary people to come to the front. Echoes of the “Girls to the Front” era of Riot Grrrl coming strongly to the forefront. What made the set even more impressive, was the fact that drummer Jessica had actually broken her foot, but you had no idea anything was wrong as the drumming was perfect. It turned out she had learned to drum left footed- now that is commitment!
After getting some fresh air and a rather confusing trip to the toilet, we came back inside to the second support act ‘How To Catch a Pig’ who had already started performing when we re- entered. In a bit of a shift from the usual protocol of support acts being music based, ‘How to Catch a Pig’ is a regular night put on by activist and artist Liv Wynter featuring live music and various performances. So we were treated to some spoken word and performance from some of the ‘How to Catch a Pig’ collective. Biggest cheer from the audience came when a plastic decapitated Queen’s head complete with tentacles came out in protest of the monarchy.
The intimate venue got more and more crowded, as it got closer and closer to the headliners of the evening. Chances of grabbing a good spot at the front were nigh on impossible, but we managed to get fairly close to the front and to the side. What followed was an amazing gig from Petrol Girls. Yes the angry grrrl punk is great but I think what struck the most about their performance was actually how inspiring it was, as it was about so much more about the music.
Plenty of people can write political music but that doesn’t always mean they take action or really speak up about any of those issues, Not so with Petrol Girls. Singer Ren Alridge spoke with eloquence and passion about body autonomy, transphobia, abortions, femicide and more throughout. She spoke about the feminist group she is part of in Austria and how they protest every month, for every femicide that happens. She spoke about being inspired by the women protesting in Iraq. Janey Starling of Level up was invited up on stage to sing with them during ‘Fight for our Lives’ and her work was given a big shout out for her tireless work to help women. We were informed about Level Up’s current campaign to decriminalise abortion, getting us all to chant the name of the campaign ‘Abortion is Healthcare” to the extent it was even chanted back when it wasn’t expected.
By the end I left feeling inspired and feeling like I had witnessed the Riot Grrrl revolution reviving and seriously kicking some ass. Ren Alridge feels like the modern day Kathleen Hanna. Perhaps the music might be heavier, but the passion and rage is certainly just as present. With everything that is happening in the world today, we need bands like Petrol Girls.
Review by Hayley Foster da Silva and photography by Martina Horackova
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