I dunno guys, unhealthy it’s a quarter of a century since Kathleen Hanna first yelled for all the girls to the front but I’m still hopping mad.
I’ve noticed them at enough shows now for it not to be a coincidence. They’re tall, heavy-set and mostly balding, but at least if they’re blocking my view I can usually see the teenage female punk band through the constant snapping of their mobile phone cameras. They whoop politely and I don’t doubt for one second that they are just as into the music as I am, but their complete lack of self-awareness makes me cringe.
I guess what I’m saying is, if the band is mostly female and you’re not actually anybody’s dad, would it kill you to stand at the back of the room for a change? Because creepy, entitled and gross is not a good look on you, Midweek Middle-Aged Gig-Going Man.
Of course, the difference between now and the 90s is that it’s harder for creepy, entitled and gross to get away with it. While I may never lose count of the number of instances of shitty behaviour highlighted by the likes of Safe Gigs For Women, the number of gig-goers, bands and venues publicly getting behind these sorts of initiatives shows that the tide is turning. Touching, groping and threatening behaviour has never been “just part of the gig-going experience” – either for the audience, or for performers. The other night, at Skating Polly’s Glasgow show, I got to witness the most delightful locate-isolate-block manoeuvre through which one of the band’s roadies and support act Tongue Trap disposed of some drunkard who kept getting in the face of guitarist Peyton Bighorse. While it was depressing that they were so efficient, it was refreshing to see young, predominantly female band confident enough in their work to know that they don’t have to put up with arseholes.
That Tongue Trap are already there isn’t really that surprising when you consider their background: the Glasgow/Edinburgh-based trio are a product of Edinburgh’s Girls Rock School and count songs about “period pants, vegetables and the human condition” among their repertoire. Vocalist/guitarist Kim (representing in a vintage Boyzone t-shirt) and bassist Izzy grunged up the band’s lovely, Girlpoolesque melodies with what I’ve described in my notes as “big cathartic fuck-off choruses” – at least on set closer “Breath”, which also closes out the trio’s debut EP. The squalling, tuneful “Period Pants” – dedicated to Aberdeen’s “period poverty” pilot project – was tonnes of fun, with a chorus that demanded to be screamed along to.
South Yorkshire’s Hands Off Gretel take a lot of their cues from Jack Off Jill, and I’m not just saying that because of Lauren Tate’s lovely head of dreads. Musically, their style flits between creepy haunted mansion and creepy mansion where the weary traveler actually gets stabbed – but they do it with enough of a wickedly humorous streak to charm even those of us who don’t like our music so heavy. “Be Mine” – the title track of the band’s recent EP – has a delightful “whether you want to or not” menace to it, while “Oh Shit” (dedicated, says Lauren, to “all the girls in bands who are sick of being called cute”) sounds like the roof caving in.
Live, Skating Polly’s sound is so much bigger than on 2016’s The Big Fit – something that can’t just be attributed to the band’s new third member, drummer Kurtis Mayo, although Peyton and Kelli’s kid brother is so ferocious on the kit it’s no wonder he keeps dropping his drumsticks. It’s immediately obvious on set opener – and one of my favourites – “Pretective Boy”; Kelli play-acting fragility through a storm of drum and bass.
Peyton’s hazy vocals give “Louder in Outer Space”, from the band’s recent collaboration with Louise Post and Nina Gordon, a bit of a Veruca Salt feel – at least until we hit the chorus and all hell breaks loose – while “Perfume For Now”, which conjures the best of the riot grrl foremothers who have become the band’s champions, perfectly encapsulates everything I love about the Bighorse/Mayo family. In another life, the rawness and vibrancy of Skating Polly’s music would have been enough to transport me away from a Monday night before work, but somehow I manage to keep enough of my wits about me to leave early. There’s still plenty of time to catch them live in England and then onwards to Germany if you don’t have to do the same.
Skating Polly on tour:
TONIGHT! BRISTOL, Thunderbolt (headline, with Hands Off Gretel)
03/08 LEEDS, Church (supporting Kate Nash)
04/08 MANCHESTER, O2 Ritz (supporting Kate Nash)
05/08 NOTTINGHAM, Rock City (supporting Kate Nash)
06/08 BRISTOL, O2 Academy (supporting Kate Nash)
08/08 BRIGHTON, Concorde 2 (supporting Kate Nash)
09/08 LONDON, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire (supporting Kate Nash)
10/08 LONDON, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire (supporting Kate Nash)
11/08 LONDON, Sebright Arms (headline, with Hands Off Gretel)
12/08 STROUD, Prince Albert (headline, with Hands Off Gretel)
Skating Polly photos by Angel Ceballos.