Sunday, 23 August 2009

Song of the Week | Juliette and the Licks

Little Miss B, 23 August 2009...

Comin' Around

Perhaps it's the weather, perhaps there is something in the air. Who can say? All we know is, we're feeling pretty lusty this week at The Girls Are...


So in the spirit of feeling fruity, and getting your slut on, may we present the delectable Juliette and the Licks...

To hear more SOTW selections by Little Miss B, click below:

I Reckon...

Leila, 23 August 2009...

On stage I give you everything; I offer it to you on an all-screaming, all-dancing plate. I am the band, I am the audience. I am the almighty show off, trying to give you nightmares, vulnerable to your every criticism. I am a bear.

I am also the only remaining female portion in a six-piece eclectic mix of minds and talents, a band thriving on big beats and chaos. When Wartgore was emerging, we were considered a “celebration of the imperfect and ugly....a permanent state of organic metamorphosis, any members, any instruments”. This was our invitation to the world, and the world came. Our line up would change weekly; we would bring anything from a two to a fifteen piece noisecestra to the stage; trombone, violin, harmonica, guitars, trumpet, backing singers, carnage. From this pandemonium, a super group began to form; a core muscle. We played shows across the country. We found ourselves taking a year’s sabbatical. We found ourselves at the mercy of life’s inevitable evolutions. We gained members, we lost members. We returned to our roots. We struggled to define ourselves as a cohesive unit. We were in flux.

Wartgore Hellsnicker

I was in flux. I was a backing vocalist, one of three. One of two. Alone. Included. Excluded. No real defined role. So back to the band drawing board we went, and now we are six: new drummer, guitar, tuba thundering in place of the bass, and me. Me in my tap shoes. I still scream and shout my way through the set, with more passion and intensity than ever, and that’s because I feel like I have finally found my place; I know who I am and what I'm doing. I'm dancing. I’m performing. I’m walking, talking, partying percussion.

Then, I hear that a member of our now strong army isn't happy. With me....

"I don't want to be in a band with a dancer".

Their view is that our music is good enough and speaks for itself; there is no need for attention grabbing gimmicks, that this extra tenet of performativity is "embarrassing".

Attention grabbing gimmicks. Is that what this is? To have someone in the band whose primary reason for being there is to dance… Does this ridicule and make fun of the music and the band members making it? Or is it an exciting way to bring the music alive? When going to see a live band should not all your senses feel some kind of assault? You are dancing in the audience, so are we not brought closer together by dancing on the stage?

The Prodigy's Leeroy

When the Prodigy formed, original member Leeroy Thornhill was present as a dancer, originally playing no part in making the music. He later went on to occasionally play live keys, but essentially his role was to dance. To psych the crowd. As were Keith Flint and only female member Sharky; dancers and occasional vocalists. So powerful were Leeroy’s performances, that his dancing influenced styles such as the "Melbourne Shuffle". Those who saw Leeroy dance would say that he added depth to an already intense performance, but being a dance band, it would raise no eyebrows having a dancer on-stage. So what about bands working outside the dance arena?

Probably the most notorious band dancer would be Mark "Bez" Berry of the Happy Mondays: maraca shaker, mascot and physical performer. So prominent and significant has his on-stage antics been (comedic though they are), that the word ‘Bez’ has become synonymous with a purely physical rather than instrumental performance. However, does this make his involvement in establishing the band’s collective personality any less significant? I would argue the opposite. Say ‘Happy Mondays’, think ‘Bez’.

Kathleen Lynch on-stage

Arguably one of the most influential on-stage dancers would have to be Kathleen Lynch, the naked performance artist who appeared on stage with the Butthole Surfers between 1986 and 1989. Kathleen was never a credited band member but was a profound factor in helping propel the band into infamy. Lynch notoriously appeared on stage in Washington DC in nothing but gold body paint and antique wooden snow shoes. However, a naked dancing lady was the least shocking of the things you would see during a show. Disturbing, decadent, and violent, the band themselves were a visual disturbance; nudity, cross-dressing, standing drummers. Images of accidents, necular explosions, meat processing, spiders and scorpions attacking their prey, penis reconstruction and death were projected as a back-drop to the band. Gimmicks and juvenile tricks to guarantee audiences or valid artistic expression?

The issue here is the fundamental difference between live performance and studio recording. It is not a stretch to say that the live arena is where most bands make a real name for themselves. The aesthetics and performativity of a band are often the things that get you hooked. Live performances can take the music to a whole new level. So where does dancing fit into this? Is there a place on stage for a dancer, in a band working outside the dance arena? Yes, in a nutshell.

I believe that my dancing on-stage is just as important as any other part of the band. We are performing, we are a visual. I am part of the personality of the band. The dancing does not detract from the music, but adds to the performance. Would people have raved so unreservedly without Leeroy leading the way? Or was he merely a distraction from the ‘real’ performance? What would the Happy Mondays be without Bez? A lot less fun or a lot more credible?

Review | Laura Marling & Friends...

Little Miss B, 23 August 2009...

Tues 11th August, Royal Festival Hall.

This was always going to be a curious evening. I purchased these tickets (yes, money changed hands) as giftage for my sister’s birthday, and whilst very much looking forward to seeing Miss Marling at Royal Festival Hall, I had no idea what to expect. First of all, going to a show and sitting down: I think the last time I did this I was aged six and being dragged to see Wet Wet Wet by my aunt and mother (both of whom have Floyd, Sabbath and Zeppelin in their music collections – shame on you and your Marti Pellow lust). Secondly, just how was tiny, fragile, elfin Laura going to fare playing such a huge venue? Lastly, and perhaps most pertinently, just who were these ‘friends’ and what would they all be doing? Having a chat and a beer? A rant about boys and a bitch about work?

Turns out, this was going to be a bit of a hippy love-in (fortuitous that I was accompanied by hippy mother and hippy sister). Laura would introduce each act on-stage for one song, interspersing these appearances with her own, predominantly new, material. I’m not going to pretend I love the idea of hippy love-in: this is largely an anathema to how I live my humourless Nazi lifestyle. Dry like a piece of old toast, that’s me. However…. This really was something special. In fact, I would be tempted to use the word incredible, had I not been forced to spend the entire second half dodging the heads of the amorous couple, gnawing at each other’s faces, sat directly in front of me. Time and a place, people (for goodness sake, I was sitting next to someone’s Dad: was awful, like flicking channels and accidentally coming across graphic love scene when watching TV with your Nan at Christmas).

Photo by crazybobbles. See more on flickr.

Of course, it goes without saying that Little Miss Marling was the star of the show, and not just because the evening was named in her favour. I refuse to say she seems to possess a newfound maturity as so many journalists insist on mentioning, because let’s be honest: she’s always been a wise head on young shoulders, yet her new material definitely showcases a more melancholic side to her song writing; a darker tone that really shone through in this cavernous venue (seeing her miniature porcelain frame on that vast stage, surrounded by oversized sofa’s, a million mic stands and a veritable smorgasbord of instrumentation, was haunting to say the least). In particular, new tracks Mama How Far I’ve Come and I Speak Because I Can were beautiful, whilst old favourites Ghosts and Alas, I Cannot Swim even managed to draw some life out of a rather staid and reserved audience.

‘Friends’ Alessi’s Ark, Brighton-based The Wilkommen Collective, Mumford and Sons, and Johnny Flynn, amongst others, were engaging. Yet whilst none of the other acts were, as Telegraph journo Jack Arnhold states ‘forgettable’, they did largely pale in comparison to Peggy Sue. Having experienced guitar troubles during their performance of The Sea The Sea, the threesome were invited back on-stage to play the song again as part of the encore. I’ve been a fan of these guys in the past, so I was thrilled to see them live and even with technical glitches, crikey moses, it was worth it. Heartbreaking vocals, incredible harmonies, beautiful song writing. Admittedly I do want to crawl into Katy Klaw’s throat and steal her voice whilst she’s not looking, but obsessive jealousy aside, Peggy Sue were phenomenal.

As much as I am reluctant to admit I enjoyed this hippy folk-fest, what with all the hand-holding and mutual admiration, I am forced to acknowledge that this was a rather lovely experience. If you ever have to opportunity to see any of these artists, go. If it could touch even the hardest of stone-cold hearts, imagine what it could to a normal human being….

Peggy Sue are due to play Brixton Academy on 3rd Oct. and Union Chapel on 4th Oct. Visit Myspace for more details.

To read other reviews by Little Miss B, click below:

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Shhhh... It's An Affliction | The 90's

Little Miss B, 16 August 2009...

In an era rife with dark, brooding, anthemic artists such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, Radiohead, MC Hammer… Which tracks do I single out as my favourites, the rites of passage, the songs that made me the brilliant musician and general awesome individual I am today? Fake Plastic Trees? Come As You Are? Violet?


Here I stand, unabashed in my pure and consummate love for female-fronted, early 90’s pop nonsense. Apart from my lady-crushes on Lady Miss Kier, Lindy Layton and co., I’ve never quite managed to articulate my fascination with this particular brand of aural pop filth. Even during the mid 90’s (what I consider to be my formative years) I never wholly embraced this dirty little secret. I was a grubby little oik, I dressed like a boy, I was really into punk and ska. Admitting I loved The Boo would have been tantamount to sacrilege. Yet, far too many years later, I remain unfathomably ecstatic whenever I hear “How do you say, Deee-grooooovy?”….

Challenged with explaining my passion, I find myself stumped. I suppose, in the basest terms, the pleasure I derive from these nuggets of cheddary-goodness is predicated on the sheer joy I experience when listening to them. I could be the most maudlin of maudlins, and still be unable to resist a foot-tap and perhaps even a head-bob upon hearing Naked Eye.

Well, no longer do I have to veil my shame. No more shall I secrete my Best of the 90’s in a stealth Spotify folder. This is me. And I am proud.

(Please don’t tell anyone).

5. Betty Boo : Where Are You Baby?

4. Adventures of Stevie V : Dirty Cash

3. Beats International : Dub Be Good To Me

2. Luscious Jackson : Naked Eye

1. Deee-Lite : Groove Is In The Heart

To read more Top 5's by Little Miss B, click below:
Bands I Miss The Most

Song of The Week | The Coathangers

Little Miss B, 16 August 2009...

Stomp Stomp Stompin'

In honour of the epic battle recently commenced with my scum bag, elephantine, potty-mouthed neighbours (yes, I have lodged an official noise complaint - I am just SO punk rock), I am pleased to present you with this little ditty.

Hailing from Atlanta, The Coathangers are Julia Kugel, Candice Jones, Meredith Franco and Stephanie Luke, and are one of the most engaging and exciting lady-bands to come to light in recent years. Feast your ears...

To hear more SOTW selections by Little Miss B, click below:

Review | A Night of Passion...

Trickey, 16 August 2009...

The story begins with me prying open heavy eyelids to find myself in bed (my own, thankfully) surrounded by the wine bottles (and admittedly cider cans) which fuelled my night of fervor. My partner in this sordid tale lies dormant next to me, sleeping soundly. I reach over and use a gentle stroke to awaken the sleeping beauty. The screen of my laptop flickers on and the hard drive yawns sleepily to life, revealing what the two of us got up to last night; an eBay page with a fine example of my latest obsession – the Fender Telecaster.

I’ve been jonesing for one of these ever since I started learning to play. The specimen in front of me is an alder body USA model in cream, with a rosewood fretboard and black scratchplate – a rare combination of woods and colours which also happens to be exactly what I've been looking for. Evidently this was not lost on me last night because a quick check of the stats reveals me to be the highest bidder, beating a rather impressive reserve with a bid that I cannot hope to match with real-life, actual grown up's money (that Monopoly money I've been saving for a rainy day is not going to be any help).

I felt a little sick to be honest with you, although rather secretly pleased that one of these legendary guitars could finally be mine (along with a hefty overdraft extension). You see, in my opinion, a Tele just cannot be beaten. Made 60 years ago by Leo Fender as a rough prototype solid body electric guitar (i.e. it had no cavities inside for which the sound to resonate and be amplified, relying solely on electromagnetic pickups), its design has remained one of, if not the most successful electric guitar design in history, rivaled perhaps only by Gibson’s Les Paul model.

I won’t blast you with tech specs, simply because there aren’t many to give – geared toward mass production, the Telecaster featured a bolt on neck, all-metal adjustable bridge, two single coil pickups and three way selector switch with extremely simple wiring. This made them affordable and also easy to repair (Pete Townshend repeatedly smashed and repaired his long suffering Tele throughout the My Generation tour). Fender, however, did something rather clever: utilizing the bridge pickup (the one nearest where the strings attach to the body of the guitar), he increased its output by winding much more wire into it than at the neck, meaning rich yet trebly sounds dominated the guitar’s tone, accounting for the classic Tele ‘twang’ which has seduced guitar mavericks from Jimi Hendrix to Keith Richards. Don’t be fooled by its unassuming shape and minimalist features, the Tele has never been reticent about its sound. If your guitar was at the prom enjoying a slow dance, the Tele would have no problem cutting in and pranging its way across the dance floor with your axe’s lady friend.

Owing to this signature sound it has been widely used in pretty much all forms of rock music (Jimmy Page wrote Stairway to Heaven on one), grunge (Kurt Cobain loved his powder blue number), blues (Muddy Waters consistently used one) and perhaps best utilised in surf and garage rock of the sixties (not to mention my guitar hero Nicholaus Arson of the Hives, who plays nothing but Tele's and one specially made Telecaster copy, the Arsonette), yet what makes a Tele extra versatile is it’s propensity to be hot-rodded or modified. Humbucking pickups can be added fairly easily for a rounder sound, capacitors can be swapped out to alter the tone; hell, you can even sand off that sunburst finish and spray paint it black like Joe Strummer did with his ’66 model with ease.

If all of this is going over your head, please don’t worry – all you need to know is that Leo Fender created a guitar which, despite the few improvements made on the original model (separate saddles for each string, an extra fret added to the neck), has remained largely the loveable plank that we all know today. My advice is to buy American – cheaper versions are licensed by Fender in Mexico, Japan and Korea, but my two cents would be that you get what you pay for, and you might just end up paying for a wonky neck and inferior wood, which can mean less sustain and all kinds of intonation troubles, tuning issues etc. USA's can usually be picked up for around £500 to £550 whereas a Mexican will go for £250 to £300. If you're really strapped for cash and want a taste however, A Squier copy could be just the thing. Squier is a Fender company licenced to make copies which retail at around £150 and can often be picked up with a practice amp chucked in to boot.

I didn’t end up winning my Tele - some schmuck sniped my bid in the closing seconds, which I suppose I should be grateful for. Having said that, I may grab the Pinot Grigio sat chilling in my fridge and see what kind of ménage-a-trois capers my laptop, eBay and myself can get up to tonight…

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Introducing | PENS

Little Miss B, 16 August 2009...

“What is this? This is crap”…

PENS are not for everyone. This might seem like an obvious statement, a bit of a no-shit Poirot situation, but if you were ever looking for a band to divide opinion, it seems PENS are the ideal candidates. My aurally impaired ex and I are not the only ones to disagree on this matter. One glance at DiS reviews of the band should give you a fair idea of the polarity of opinion surrounding these ‘three girls and a £1 microphone’.

Hailing from East London, this all-lady three piece make what can only be described as... noise. Scuzz, trash, thrash, call it what you will. Whatever it be, it be good.Like contemporaries La La Vasquez and Wet Dog, they are part of a recent spate of DIY indie bands (I am loathe to call them punk: it’s all a little too self-aware for me) chugging out distorted, often indecipherable, riotous girl chants.

Where PENS manage to stand out is in their ability to write wicked-catchy, makes-my-foot-wanna-do-a-little-boogie songs. I challenge you to listen to ‘High in the Cinema’ and not find it forevermore stuck to your brain like a spitty wad of pavement-bound Juicy Fruit. ‘Networking’ and ‘Freddie’ are joyous. ‘Hate Your Calendar' is pretty close to genius.

Ok… There’s nothing new here. This is not ground-breaking music. We are not going to be hailing these songs as classics in ten years time. But frankly, who gives a darn? Rough, fun, and endlessly enthusiastic, PENS are a three-tiered lady-sound party… Or a shambolic mess. You call it.

Album ‘Hey friend, what you doing?’ is due out on 23rd Sept. Visit Myspace to pre-order. PENS are currently touring the States with Graffiti Island and Crocodiles, and are not due to play in London again until late September. Unlucky.

To read more Introductions by Little Miss B, click below:
Billy The Kid
Minnie Birch
Selah Sue

Review | Spinnerette

Little Miss B, 16 August 2009...

Spinnerette : The Electric Ballroom, Camden : 16 July 2009

Fury does not even come close to describing my feelings at having a gig ruined by some annoying little pleb. I don’t often pay for shows (I don’t care if you hate me – there are a multitude of reasons for this: poverty, friends in bands, general shystering skills), so when I do fork out my hard-earned dollar, it means I really really want to see said band play. So one can only imagine my pure disgust and rampant wrath at enduring the entire Spinnerette Electric Ballroom show, positioned precariously to the right of an emaciated twiglet intent on impaling my face on her ever-flailing elbows. Her towering sloth of a boyfriend seemed oblivious to the quasi-epileptic fit his beau appeared to be having, and despite several knocks to the chops, managed to spend the night with his arms lovingly wrapped round the little Mexican jumping bean. I, on the other hand, got a little annoyed. I might have verbally expressed this annoyance. But was I about to let this hyped-up beanpole ruin my first ever experience at seeing Brody live on stage? Was I heck…

Playing in London only a handful of times since releasing their highly anticipated self-titled debut album, Spinnerette is the brainchild of one Miss Brody Dalle of Distillers fame. I have long been a Distillers fan and criminally never got to see them play live; queue infantile excitement upon learning of Spinnerette’s London shows.

Apart from the venue being a revolting sweat box (the skin on my back that until that point had been slightly raised third-degree sunburn, turned into full-on fist sized popping blisters due to the humidity - yum) and not really digging support act Freeland, this was one of the best shows I’ve been to in a long time.

This was Brody doing what Brody does best.

As an album, Spinnerette has had mixed reviews. Personally, I am a big fan. This band has a completely different sound to The Distillers so it seems a redundant exercise to spend the next week comparing the two. It also seems a bit pointless to further discuss the influence of husband (and officially Annette’s Perfect Man) Josh Homme on her songwriting as so many other journalists seem keen to do. Instead, I can simply say this is an accomplished album. Having total creative control has afforded Spinnerette an unprecedented level of indulgence that has previously been lacking in Brody’s songwriting. There’s a real freedom, and celebratory nature to this record. There are some killer tracks here, and Brody didn’t let us down on stage.

Photo by Unleash the Bats. See more on Flickr

Distorting a Code
sounded infinitely better live than recorded, Sex Bomb and Ghetto Love were just as driving and anthemic as the album promised, and Cupid was a real crowd-pleaser.

Brody seemed to relish performing without the guitar (she only played on 3 or 4 songs), falling around the stage and going hell for leather on her vocals (the next day, she tweeted about her knackered voice, and consequently had a node-removal op.) She didn’t address the crowd much, and this slightly detached quality really lent itself to her more grown up, less confrontational sound. Her band were intense, creating a wall of virtually impermeable sound through which her vocals triumphantly fought. Everything I expected and then some.

So, I would like to apologise for threatening to break that little girl’s arm. It was a brilliant show, and in spite of bag-o-bones’ troublesome limbs, we had ourselves a darned good time.

Twiglet, I’d like to make it up to you.
Let me buy you a sandwich.

To read other reviews by Little Miss B, click below:
Laura Marling

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Girls Are...

Little Miss B, 16 August 2009...

Bienvenue and greetings my petites cacahuetes.

Welcome to The Girls Are..., a celebration of female musicians, music appreciators, a reference point for lady music makers, and a space in which to say just what you goshdarnit think. This is not a Riot Grrrl blog. This is not a feminist blog. This is not a girls-only, ‘no boys allowed’ page. You can be any or all those things but we as a group do not exclusively identify as any of the above. All are welcome and we embrace new contributors, comments and ideas.

The Girls Are… ultimately aims to forge connections, create a dialogue and establish a community between lady music makers. Keep your peepers peeled for The Girls Are.... gig and club nights in the future.

As you will see on the upper right-hand side of the page, The Girls Are…. is made up of three parts: the blog itself, a contributors section where you can improve your stalking skills, and a ‘Wanted’ page on which to advertise instruments for sale, band positions available, and items for exchange.

The Girls Are…. will feature regular weekly items including Song of the Week, London gig listings, introducing and reviews in addition to features, interviews, and tech advice.

Our contributors resemble a rogues gallery of rock n roll superstars in the making, established writers, and general troublemakers. If you would like to join our team, drop us a line at

Now go feast your eyes on our wordy goodness. Nom nom.