Ladyfest Goldsmiths: Evening Review

Ladyfest Goldsmiths: Evening Review

After having our fill of cocktails and double cooked chips at The Amersham Arms, we set off to the New Cross Inn to have a listen to those quirky ‘boy-girl’ duos that we had been so excited about.

We just managed to catch The Bobby McGees, a band that surely everyone will be getting excited about soon because their lovely song ‘Forever and a Day’ is currently gracing an advert for Film Four. The duo were without their usual mime-artist style make-up, but had made an extra effort elsewhere by decorating their mic stands with tinsel and fairy lights.

As far as aesthetics go, The Bobby McGees are an interesting spectacle to grace a Ladyfest stage. The two ukulele enthusiasts, Jimmy Cairney and Eleanor Callaghan, dress up in rather gendered finery but push it so far that it all becomes part of their very witty routine. Cairney is all masculine with bushy beard and old fashioned tweeds, but his low Scottish growl sounds all out of place as he pleads ‘Please don’t dump me, don’t ever dump me’. Callaghan, by contrast, is all pretty in a twee 100 Dalmatians dress and bow atop her head, which means we are taken off guard when she promises to ‘hunt you down and kill you in your bed’. The duo are at once cuddly and scary, their mixtures of love and violence, realism and fairy tales resulting in an audience who are laughing but simultaneously working out their emergency exit route.

The Lovely Eggs, yet another kooky ‘boy-girl’ double act, then took to the stage. Of course, they aren’t technically ‘boys’ and ‘girls’. The Lovely Eggs are actually lovely adults, and married ones at that. Still, singer Holly Ross (who used to front Angelica, back in the day) possesses all the girlish naeivity and excitement of a pre-schooler pulling her skirt up at a Birthday party. Ross’ tone is bratty, with a lovely Lancaster lilt.

Like The BobbyMcGees before them, The Lovely Eggs don’t take themselves too seriously. Singing funny songs and having fun on stage, they turn tunes that could be annoying into damn-catchy sing-a-longs. Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordian? is an example of this phenomenon. When it was Xfm Radio’s John Kennedy’s single of the week, the first time I heard it, I was intrigued. The third time, very annoyed by the whole thing. But, by the end of the week, I couldn’t help but join in.

I Like Birds But I Like Other Animals Too had to be my favourite track from the Eggs’ set. It took me right back to my early teen riot grrl phase and cranking up ‘Live Thru This’ in my bedroom, a guilty pleasure that I often have to wait until a Ladyfest to indulge in.

It was at this point in the night that it became apparent that the sound man was intent on spoiling an otherwise lovely evening for us all. During The Lovely Eggs he’d been reluctant to do his job and switch on drummer David Blackwell’s mic. Now, apparently, he was throwing a strop and had given up on playing any music between bands. Whilst before we had been treated to bursts of Queens Of The Stone Age (who I like very much, but were slightly out of place with all this twee pop about, now we had to wait in silence until Helen McCookerybook took to the stage.

Unfortunately, many people saw the silence as a reason to leave…which I think made the rather intimidating local crowd huddled around the pool table happy. Things started to feel very un-sisterly indeed and I began to wish that there had been group sessions earlier where the Ladyfesters could bond and feel empowered. It made me rather nostalgic for Ladyfest Leeds 2007, where we had had a group discussion during the day about male privilege and how it had been apparent in some male ‘Ladyguests’ behaviour at gigs. That night, all us who had been at the talk looked knowingly at one another before making sure we all asserted our own personal space at the front of the crowd. Sigh, good times…

After the painful silence McCookerybook began to sing us some stories of London and grandmas passing down treasured trinkets. Her quiet, almost acoustic, style felt a bit out of place and I wondered why she had been sandwiched between shouty rock bands. Research reveals that she has an interesting past, including writing a book on female punk rock. She has also written a lovely blog about her experience of this gig!

After another long silence, and another few people leaving, Tiny Tigers began their set. They provided my second nostalgia trip of the night, taking me back to my Elastica obsession – especially with their song Repetition.

By this point the bar was very empty and, as Tiny Tigers finished, the once more quiet atmosphere felt rather cold. I wondered whether all the other Ladyfesters were up the road at The Stretch watching Betty and the Werewolves and An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump. Maybe so, which begs the question; why put on two gigs to rival one another when there isn’t enough audience to go round? But these are the steep learning curves that every Ladyfest needs to clamber up in order for the organisers to come out stronger at the end. And, anyway, I’m sure more people would have stayed if it hadn’t been for the sound guy making it perfectly clear what he thought of the line-up. Maybe we should’ve had a whip round and got him one of these tee-shirts to cheer him up!

We Rock Like Girls Don’t, then, came as a welcome wall of angry noise, their defiance and posturing a perfect example of how Ladyfesters should act in situation just like this one. Screaming feedback, buzzing guitars and crashing drums from an accomplished drummer demonstrated a demand to be taken seriously. It certainly made the two burly gents who had come in to the bar minutes before put their beers down and take notice.

There was no messing about with WRLGD, they simply rattled through their set. They knew to leave out pauses between songs in order to minimise that awful sound of only a handful of claps from a sparse audience. However, it has to be said that when they did pause for breath the small audience showed their appreciation with loud whoops and cheers. When one of the guitar pedals broke, the band just went right ahead and fixed it and carried on. See how much we need you now, sound guy!

Thank goodness for WRLGD. They brilliantly blew out my eardrums, made my Ladyfest and when they were done simply stepped back down into the bar’s silence with a ‘thankyou’ and left. That’s the way to do it. Even the miserable sound guy had to concede and put his Queens Of The Stone Age record back on.

Feeling like it was best to leave on a high, I decided to miss Toy Toy’s performance and headed out in to the New Cross night to reflect on the day.

It pains me to talk even slightly negatively about a Ladyfest event, especially because having been involved in Ladyfests in the past I know how hard they are to organise. Still, I couldn’t help but come away frustrated at the end of Ladyfest Goldsmith’s thinking over what might have been. All I can hope is that they will continue to learn from and build on their experiences and I will definitely be looking forward to their Ladyfest next year.

I’ve illustrated this article with one of the promotional images for Ladyfest Goldsmiths. The awesome logo was designed by Indi Davies.

By: Sarah Barnes, 20.02.2009 | Comments (0)
Leave a comment