Thursday, 27 April 2017

1,034 HONEYBLOOD, Doe, Tear, Reading Sub 89, Wednesday 26th April 2017

I finally get a chance to catch up with Honeyblood…! This lot, part of a whole slew of female-fronted, guitar-oriented and somewhat garage-rock/ CBGBs-tinged bands that I picked up on in 2014 (along with the likes of Ex Hex, September Girls and Alvvays), had impressed with their debut album that year, and more so with last year’s sparkling “Babes Never Die” follow-up. For some reason, however, their nearby gigs had always fallen on dates where I was otherwise occupied – normally on holiday! It felt as if this spunky and spiky Scottish duo were deliberately avoiding me or something… However, a few Easter dates included a Reading show, so that’s close enough. Off I go!

Flying solo as friend Rich Carter, who fancied a piece of this one, was on shift, so I dropped my daughter and her mate off at Brownies then hit the road! Found some street parking just around the corner, thereby avoiding paying the £14 that the nearest NCP was asking for (yipe!), and joined a small queue at 7.30 for doors shortly afterwards. Checked out the merch stand at this neat and compact upstairs room, and was therefore privy to a fellow punter, named Charlie Brown, bringing the girls a tray of freshly cooked and still-warm brownies. Charlie Brown brings the brownies – you couldn’t make that up! Found a comfy corner sofa to the right of the stage, and plonked myself there whilst enduring a couple of mediocre supports; Tear, first on, were a howly and growly 2-speed sub-grunge mess, immensely and intensely derivative of Hole or Babes In Toyland but nowhere near as good, and Doe were better if still overly riff-heavy, plodding and ham-fisted, recalling the chunky one-note guitar licks of early Weezer and the more angular, laconic style of “Last Splash”-era Breeders, but again, nowhere near that level. Whiled away the time playing the facebook “which band haven’t I seen” quiz with my brother instead!

A poor turnout for this one; barely 1/3 full, so I was easily able to find a good viewing spot down the front, stage left, for Honeyblood’s arrival at 9.30, to a “never die” backing track chant. I confess I was a little concerned that the guitar/drums only line-up might leave the sound a little thin “live”. No need, as they kicked up a full-sounding, strident and punky fuss straight from the off; opener “Justine, Misery Queen” was a groovy delight, featuring some fuzzy psych-pop guitar and nice doo-wop harmonies from the girls, followed up in short order by the more upbeat, NYC swagger of the ubiquitous and infectiously hooky “Ready For The Magic”. Off to a good start!

Unlike the more one-dimensional NYC proto-punk swagger of, say, the otherwise splendid Ex Hex, Honeyblood bring in different elements to their sound, overlaying their often bittersweet tales of lost love and lovers with occasionally shoegazey fuzz-pop and 90’s post-grunge US alt-indie, both right in my wheelhouse. And the tunes. Immensely catchy and hooky tunes. Never forget them! So “Love Is A Disease” had a more wry, mid-paced feel redolent of Throwing Muses or even Blake Babies, “Walking At Midnight” built lazily up to a haunting chorus via a shimmering shoegaze verse, and “Gangs” was as bleak and tough as the Glasgow streets it depicts, with an excellent crescendo outro. Additionally, vivacious, porcelain-perfect and feline featured vocalist/ guitarist Stina Tweeddale and her close-cropped, athletic drummer partner Cat Myers had undeniable in-band chemistry and an entertaining line in patter; Cat remarking that a whistling front-row punter sounded like, “a bird protecting his young!” which then led to a whole discussion as to what kind of bird he was (!), then referring to her singer as, “whisky chops”, and finally announcing that she’d burned, “2,206 calories!” drumming tonight!

Oldie “All Dragged Up” and “Sea Hearts” (“about tequila!”) were a racy, tub-thumping late-set double, then the girls refused to leave the stage before their encore, ploughing on with a slow-burn, hazily acerbic and dismissive “Super Rat”, with its’ great hook of “I will hate you forever!” and the excellent, breathless closer “Killer Bangs”, which featured a super mid-song pregnant pause so the girls could take a swig! A fun way to end a beguiling and charming 1 hour 10 minute set overall. A quickly signed poster from the predictably-besieged girls at the merch stand and a quicker than anticipated drive home too, to round off a fine evening. Glad I caught up with Honeyblood at last!

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