Live at the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 27th Feb 2020
With a ferocious sound and arresting visuals, Hands Off Gretel’s Leeds gig was a night to remember and the final emergence of the band to the spotlight. Playing the main room at The Brudenell is a major step from minor slots at Blackpool’s Rebellion Festival and it is down to hard work. This is a band who have made sure every song is an assault on the senses and that there are three strong images fronting the stage.
The live sound is loud, pounding, passionate, topped by a ferocious voice. That voice: it ranges from the baby doll to the full-throated roar to the full volume thrust backed with a catch in the throat. It’s a major part of the band’s attraction. But then again, Sean Bon’s guitar work is continuously interesting and he looks like he’s enjoying it. The bass keeps it moving and the drums are just on the right side of busy.
Visually, Sean is a treat; grinning, he responds to the band rather than purely playing the exact practised parts, he leaps, scrunches up and takes the guitar to his speaker for a spot of feedback. By only the second song, he is beating the strings with a shoe that fell off. Invited to fill a moment while Lauren Tate has a drink, he tells us capitalism is crap, don’t buy the band merch, has a go at Ayn Rand and advises us not to read Atlas Shrugged. The politics are clearly not just a pose with this band!
Songs are angry and slightly didactic. Sexism comes in for a pounding where you can make out the words and Lauren tells us why this tour is called the Don’t Touch Tour. She impels us to make gigs a safe space. Dressed and made up tonight like a manga avatar dreamed up by a middle-aged comics artist, it comes over slightly ironic to present an image so close to a social construct. But, you know, she’s right, gigs should be safe spaces. The crowd is made up of a mix of enthusiastic young women, older rockers (think Wildhearts fans) and thirty-something men. Lauren is clearly the focus, visually, for many and the front row are desperate to talk to her and photograph her. Becky Baldwin, on bass provides a visual and musical counterpoint on bass. Dressed as the gothy one (is this starting to sound like a punk Spice Girls?), she breaks out of her focus for high moments of letting go and thrusting that bass out and up.
Hands Off Gretel’s apparent overnight success has taken them five years of hard work with the band only recently grabbing attention. Once seen, they are going to win more and more attention. After an hour of passion and pounding noise, I’m left with strong memories of that amazing voice, the interesting guitar and the full-on sonic attack. A decent band in the studio, live is where they thrive.