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Mike Krol, The Social, London - The Gig

 

It's Bank Holiday Monday so who in their right mind would be heading into central London rather than staying totally clear of its high street tourist infested gridlocked carnage? The answer is about 150+ of us lucky enough to have secured tickets to see our very own Pied Piper, Mike Krol (@mikekrol) at The Social tonight. Most of us here for the show are sprawled out on the ground over the pavement, curbs, street and sidewalks chattering away about our weekend exploits and enjoying both the dregs of the sunlight and our drinks on Little Portland Street. It's all but vacant now as the sun sets behind the tall buildings replaced by neon lights and warm lamps which splash their luminescence across our backs and over the ground in front of us stretching out and distorting our shadows. Probably a good time to start heading downstairs into the concrete tombs.

I swing by the merchandise table which is to my right at the bottom of the stairs. I'm well impressed. A variety of 3 clever t-shirts and record sleeves await us. Not only does Mike 'One L' Krol play, write and sing but his also not-so-secret identity as a graphic designer by day shines through. We speak briefly upstairs about how it's his day job and that not only does he design cover art and the like for other bands but for himself as well. It's all very clever, quirky and fun, an amalgamation of costumes and pop-culture kitsch. Definitely a conversation starter.

Over to, and around, the stage all the safe seats are taken. What I'd later learn when watching this performance is that nowhere and no one would be safe once the music started. As the space has filled up I've been pushed and cajoled right to the front front. For anyone that hasn't been here before you're surrounded by stage, concrete to just above your elbow, undulating bodies and walls, you'd have a better chance getting out of an asylum riot alive than this pit. The music on offer tonight ain't your grandma's honky-tonk pianie either, things can get whipped up into a frenzy and out of control quickly. I put my earplugs in (I wish I'd brought elbow and knee pads though) and hope for the best.

The band enters with their back to us, Mike's nowhere to be seen. The lights are out(ish) and suddenly a door opens at the back of the stage, a block of red light in the shape of a door appears with Mike enveloped inside of it. He comes out, the crowd explodes and the band turns around. Everyone looks like they've been thrown out of the tour van as it's flipped over and burst into flames. (fake?) Blood runs out of face holes, Mike's got a black eye and blood coming out of his face and everyone is dressed to kill, or die (Mike Krol is never dead), albeit a bit disheveled. I don't know (or care) what's going on because it's a fuckload of a fun already and Paul the in-house sound engineer is manually strobing the stage lights from the sound booth. Mike wraps about 30m of mic cable around his arm and heads to the drum kit. He counts down, and starts beating the fucking daylights out of a symbol and we're OFF.

 I'm going to borrow an analogy Iggy Pop uses in Jim Jarmusch's 2016 bio-pic Gimme Danger to describe former guitarist James Williamson. "As a guitarist, James fills the space as if somebody's just let a drug dog into your house and it's big. And he-he finds every corner...of a musical premise and of a piece of space and time and fills it up with detail. It's a very detailed approach and it's really hard to find a space to say something that he hasn't thought of or occupied". That's a pretty apt summary of watching Mike inside a venue. No one/where is safe, the first song hasn't even made it to the hook before he's climbing the walls and anything else he can latch on to. Everyone's a trouble maker in this group and bloodied. The drummer has no expression on his face and looks like the kind of guy that could have a stick of dynamite easily roll and stop at his foot, fuse burning, and casually bend over picking it up while simultaneously chucking it over his shoulder without a second thought. The lead guitarist is totally off his chain, shredding up a fucking typhoon. He's removed his glasses and I'd later find out that he can't even see when he does this. Allison, Mike's girlfriend, is blasting out lyrics and thumbing the bass like she's putting out flames.

 

Before I know it the show's over, and an hour+ of my life's gone missing. Miraculously I've sustained zero injuries, Mike did ask us politely not to hurt each other. Perhaps a bit of hearing loss, but generally unscathed, hazzah! Speaking of missing, it's a show not to be missed. If you HAVE missed it and are in the London area this weekend, you're in luck. Mike Krol is playing Test Pressing Festival April 27th in Hackney Wick, which still has a few tickets left. Gettem before they're gone folks!

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Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, The Sage, Gateshead

 

With an incredible second album under their belts it’s no wonder that Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs are selling out shows across the country. Tonight is just that too, just across the river from their hometown they’ve sold out one of the finest venues around, as the grandiose Sage Two is the setting for the culmination of this three week tour. Opening the show are the fabulous Lower Slaughter whose deep bass and heavy riffs spirals up this cylinder of sound. It’s deep, it’s heavy and it’s angry, singer Sinead Young is a force to be reckoned with as she bounds around the stage. 

Her passion and angst permeates through these aggressive tracks which are compounded by relentless riffs, you couldn’t really ask for much more from an opening act their fervour and enthusiasm lights up this room tonight. As the lights go down and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs take to the stage, the excitement very quickly reaches fever pitch. The local heroes have returned and Matthew Baty and his band are here to bring the noise. Opening with 'GNT' it’s a ferocious start with Baty throwing himself around the stage in typical fashion, getting up close and personal with the crowd of adoring fans.

This deafening opening is backed by a slew of other tracks, they are in unrelenting form each track more powerful than the last. There is an unbridled sense of frivolity between tracks too as Baty addresses the crowd with anecdotes, whilst this packed crowd are undoubtedly having the time of their lives the band are resonating with their every cheer. The likes of 'Shockmaster' and 'Sweet Relief' sound truly out of this world in this wonderful venue. 

However, it is 'Cake Of Light' that elevates proceedings to a whole new level, this track sounds phenomenal performed with an insane level of passion and brilliance Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs prove why they’re selling out shows across the country. Closing out on the equally fervent 'A66' it caps a truly triumphant homecoming for the band, without doubt they are in the best form of their lives right now and 'King Of Cowards' sounds absolutely incredible. Without doubt they’ve proved how deserved they are of the plaudits that they continue to receive from across the board! 

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Cherry Glazerr, Electric Brixton, London

 

I'm en route tonight to meet some Trash People at Electric Brixton AKA Cherry Glazerr (@CherryGlazer). A few months ago I got my head out of the sand and got switched onto this 21-year-old LA terror of the fretboard. Scrolling through Pitchfork's 'New Album Releases' a few months earlier I glimpsed the cover for Stuffed & Ready and thought who or what was channeling this Dusty Springfield/Courtney Love hybrid? Enter Clementine Creevy on the cover having her cake and eating it to. I gave the album a whirl and liked what I heard, so I dug deeper. A succession of increasingly well produced albums with a variety of sound.

If you think it's impressive that Clembutt AKA Cherry Glazerr AKA Clementine Creevy is a 21 globetrotting rockater with three albums under her belt already, hold onto your butts. Not only has she been touring nationally and globally over the past 2 years but she's been flippin' demos online since she was 15. I'm pretty sure puberty was still my main concern at that age (or the lack thereof). I gleaned most of this info about Clem from a mini-doc by Vice which I was so impressed by that I'm including a link to it here for your to peruse at your leisure. We learn that luck as much as talent had to do with her recent success, she almost didn't respond to Burger Records who reached out to her about the demos she posted on Soundcloud. When asked about this she laughs saying, "and that would've been a mistake ahahahahah". This LA light-hearted sub zero chill transfers on stage, more on that later. There's a bit of home movie footage catching Clem yelling, "COME ON LET'S ROCK N ROLL", not much has changed. The footage echoes my gig notes, 'natural talent, born performer'.

Now in the venue I swing by the merchandise booth. Pastel pink and powder blue boy-cut briefs as far as the eye can see with Cherry Glazerr splashed across them. I'm good though I just picked up a few new pairs of unmentionables a couple of weeks ago. Good selection of goods though, maybe the best I've seen in a while. There's something for everyone pins, stickers, records, prints, shirts and the aforementioned undies, she knows her people. I get to the stage and pass the time chatting with a pair of music vets in their early 60s who's conversation I eavesdropped and shoehorned my way into. One's a Biker looking leather jacket daddy who's talking to an accountant type and reminiscing about the Yak (@yakband) gig he was at in Oxford a few nights ago. Maybe the easiest small talk I've made in weeks, pretty enjoyable way to pass the time before the gig.

Opening acts complete, a sparse stage is laid out with massive gaps between the instruments. It brings the Orielles setup to mind, minus the keys except for in the background a roadie inflates a giant pair of cherries about 2 meters tall. Behind me I notice an equally sparse setup audience-wise, main floor isn't packed and the balcony is barren. Tonight's show was a sold-out gig, which I found weird considering CG's on her third album and second UK tour having even appeared on Radio 6. Her publicity game and online presence are stronger having modeled for Saint Laurent and even doing a bit of acting, my point is people are aware, so what's the deal? There are a few of London's own playing around town tonight, maybe that's the case?

Around quarter after nine Clem and the band strut out arms extended and waving asking if we're ready to rock as she drops into some pre-set squats wearing a huge smile. They start the set off with 'Ohio' the opening track off Stuffed & Ready. I'm about three meters from Clem, gig wise that's really arm's length. It helps me take in her stage presence, where as stated previously I recognize her as a natural performer instantly. In my mind she was always meant to be on stage, it's her element and she's 100% in it. She's come out with a swagger worthy of Jagger. She shred's on her frankenguitar which is missing pick-ups, tone knobs and pick-up selector, it's more like an extension of her body than an instrument. She's not just 'technically' good at what she does, she's a natural. She romps around the stage headbanging, stompin' and kickin' never missing a note. She doesn't stop to solo or climb the fret-board she's all over the stage. It's not a matter of practice makes perfect, I've been walking my whole life and I still look like an idiot doing it, she's been born to do this. You get a sense that when Clem play's she leaves whatever's going on in her life at the door, her playing style is loose, relaxed and fun, envy inducing to watch. There's no weight or chip to speak of on her shoulders, she's free. Her strumming style changes from loose wristed up and down strokes like on her second song of the evening, 'Had Ten Dollaz' to hammering those down strokes later in her set on 'Wasted Nun', a tune with darker, harsher tones and crackin' fuzz. She ends her set with 'Told You I'd Be With The Guys' which is a solid rock tune riddled with excellent PTSD inducing fret slides resembling an electric carpet bombing. The atmosphere of the gig felt a lot like I was just horsing around with some ole chums, a shoulder checks and butt bump smorgasbord.

Downsides, there were a few. I dug the sparse setup but former member Sasami (who's gone solo rather than rogue) really filled the sound out, something to consider. Clem's not only a superb guitarist her vocals and lyrics are on equal par. 'Creevy's unique vocals - alternating from dreamy to high-pitched, hostile and unforgiving - and for its cynical, witty lyrics' (Wikipedia). The only drawback? When you can't hear them that's all you can really think about which completely detracts from the experience. Major fuck-up by the sound engineer. Between her PA and earpiece I'm sure she couldn't hear the audience yelling throughout the set, 'we love you Clementine but we can't hear you!' myself included. Nearly three quarters through the hour+ set this was rectified but too little too late. A couple of half-aborted mosh-pit attempts during chill tunes by a few dudes with Jagermeister on their breath, (skiers am I right?) didn't help either.

That aside, a great gig I'd totally recommend seeing her live, if not for the music (which will fucking get you whether you like it or not) to see the spectacle that is her live show. Whipping around her guitar chord like a makeshift lasso. Taking a break and laying flat on the stage while convulsing as she belts out notes or how about kissing her 'guns' after asking her audience, 'are you trash people? I'm trash people' in appreciation of her own talent (deservedly so) and launching into another shredfest, she's (certainly) a wild one.

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Idles, Vicar St., Dublin

 

Photograph by Szymon Jastrzebski

“We are called Idles. That’s rhetoric for my ego. You know what we’re called”. This gig has sold months in advance, as this tour has everywhere. There are flyers galore for their headline summer show in Iveagh Gardens. That’s a 4000 capacity gig so they are working hard to sell it. I’ve seen Idles once before at Bearded Theory but this will be my first experience of them in an indoor environment. On a side note, for anyone booking tickets for Vicar St., if you are too old for moshing or just not into it, book the balcony. The view is better and there is always space to move without being bumped and jostled. Plus, there’s a dedicated bar and clean toilets.

The 1100 ticketholders are slow to turn up so it’s 20:30 before we get a glimpse of support band, Crows. The pounding toms, heavy bass groove, and the practiced disdain of lead singer James Cox, lend credence to those comparisons with Joy Division and Killing Joke that you may have read about them. I mention it to Szymon and he peels off his jumper revealing a Killing Joke tour t-shirt. Pointing to Cox, he shouts “Jaz Coleman, Junior!” over the controlled feedback of Steve Goddard’s heavily effected guitar. Crows are indebted to shoegaze too, especially in the guitar department, except that these guys have proper choruses. Cox abandons his twin microphone stands to mingle with the audience. He makes his way through the now-full room, almost reaching the seated area at the back, and I realise I’ve stopped dancing for the first time since they came on. The Bastard Sons of Jaz Coleman and Ian Curtis are on to something good.

Idles come on in darkness to a pop stars’ welcome. An arty lightshow introduces the stripped-back intro of ‘Colossus’ that builds to a crescendo while the crowd sings every word back and guitarist Mark Bowen stalks the stage in his boxers. The crowdsurfing starts in earnest for ‘I’m Scum’ as Bowen and fellow guitar player, Lee Kiernan, take turns mounting the barrier. The pair meet in the middle of the crowd for the breakdown of ‘Exeter’ and as they make their way back to the stage there’s an impromptu, a capella rendition of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’. It’s quite bizarre to hear a thousand people sing Christmas songs in April but it’s definitely memorable. As it is a few minutes later, when the same crowd are chanting along to the band's musings on the nature and origins of sexual violence in the bridge of ‘Mother’.

Below our balcony spot, the floor surges and seethes. ‘Well Done’ inspires pogoing at the same time as singalongs, while others are simply caught up in the groove. Singer Joe Talbot refers to his past drug use and suddenly the pronouncements of positivity and affirmation make more sense. During ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’, Talbot parts the crowd, like Moses or Sacred Reich, and has the two sides of the audience face each other. “Wall Of Death is for arseholes”, he says, “This is a Wall Of Love”. Whatever your opinion of Idles’ philosophy, it’s refreshing to hear a band that has one; philosophy needs more mirrorballs anyway.  

I haven’t got their latest album yet but I’m going to rectify that after tonight’s show. The new songs they played tonight like ‘Love Song’ and the Solomon Burke cover ‘Cry To Me’ are great tunes. The new stuff doesn’t diverge greatly from the direction of Brutalism but are up to the standard set by the likes of ‘Divide And Conquer’ and ‘Heel/Heal’.  I’m already looking forward to their next Irish gig in July. See you there!

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Woman's Hour, The Dome, London

 

Pandora, by way of Greek Mythology, was the first woman. Her name translates to all-gifts and was herself a gift from the Gods to mortals. The Gods' gifts in myths always came at a price however and although temporarily bestowed prosperity often led to ruin. With her, Pandora, carried a vessel brimming with evils which once inevitably opened released them and so they are found among us still today. This was the price we'd pay for Prometheus' treachery. The box was never fully emptied however before the lid was clamped down again. In the end all that remained was hope, trapped, eternal and just out of reach. Let's lay off evils for the moment shall we and turn our focus towards a different type of protagonist like the one curating tonight's events otherwise known as Woman's Hour (@womanshourband). A showcase we caught at The Dome, which is in the shape of a rectangle rather than a half sphere.

It's been a while since we've heard any new music from the group and they haven't toured for about 3 years now. When the London-based musicians formed in 2011 singles started to trickle out until 2014 when Conversations, their first full length album, finally came out. Although enjoyable listening to tracks over headphone and through tiny speakers I've never been afforded the opportunity to see them live and I often wondered if I would. The band hadn't released new material for a few years now and asking around no one seemed to know of or remember them, the internet was quiet too. Then when catching up on music midway through February a quiet full length release from Woman's Hour popped up. As always before even listening to new music I checked for tour dates, as luck would have it they'd be playing in about a month's time. I got in touch with the promoters and thought myself lucky when I heard back that I'd secured a spot for the show, I had no idea at the time I'd be writing my first eulogy.

Support acts finishing up (@ElsaHewittx and @IamTallSaint) and both putting on solid performances were filed away under up and coming in my mind palace for further investigation. The stage then was quickly transformed for ... the final act. The lights drop low and a large black curtain is pulled free from the bare and skeletal remains that once, or never was, a house. Although the stage is now set it still feels eerily vacant like an unfurnished room, sure the band isn't on yet but it doesn't look like a setup for a full band. 1 microphone and a double-decker keyboard stand; I always understood the group to be a quartet. The lights go out completely and the first few bars of heavily processed vocals and synths reach my ears, From 'Eden To Exile To Dust' ring out. There are 4 members now on stage, 2 of them however are dancers clad in white kimonos (or some facsimile thereof). I don't have time to overthink what I'm seeing now because it sounds and looks great but I'm left wondering what am I seeing? It's a complicated track full of plucked  strings rife with tension leaving notes dangling in the air. When the bass and synth chime in around the chorus the tone changes to an appeal both melodically and lyrically which are much softer, don't push me from Eden to exile then into dust. It's a precise and chaotic mixture. Several variations and hooks make up the structure, wrought with restrained agitation tugging at each other, and us, throughout the song and the set. It feels like something much darker and larger looms within and over the piece unseen and trying to get out. The rest of the performance is filled out beautifully supported by a carefully crafted light show design and a well choreographed dance rotation peppered throughout the evening's music.

During the first quarter of the set only short pauses in between songs songs take place. Will's focus is singular, on his instruments and equipment rarely looking into the crowd. Fiona plants herself barefoot on stage in an elegant yet mournful black dress with chiffon sleeves, moving and swaying in motions reminiscent to how a canopy would in a high wind. She's looking just above but not directly at the audience as she sings and averts her eyes downwards after each song.  I find myself conflicted by what I'm watching, I'm deeply enjoying the music but there are melancholy vibes at the same time. I think the audience can feel it too because although they cheer between each song with enthusiasm at times there's an almost imperceivable tinge of hysteria in it. 15 songs made up the show ranging between singles and tracks from both LPs. Personal favourites like 'Our Love Has No Rhythm' and 'To The End' were played to name a few. Mid-set we even got a Springsteen cover, 'Dancing In The Dark', shrouded in mournful tones. The the last song, 'Removal Of Hope' served as a conclusion to the performance and an epilogue to Woman's Hour. You'd be hard pressed not to have enjoyed the performance which was emotional and evocative and very personal. Fiona asks founding members Josh and Nathan who are in the audience to come on stage acknowledging the band wouldn't have happened had it not been for their contributions. They stand together one last time, link hands and bow(out).

I ran into Will after the performance who asks me if I'm coming to the after party where I can try some of his homebrew an invitation I don't hesitate to accept.

Will: Did you enjoy the show?

Cpt: Yeah I did, reminds me a lot of the Still Corners gig I caught in early December in a way.

Will: You think so? You know years ago we toured with them and ...

At this point we're interrupted by security who ask us to leave, I never did get to finish the conversation with Will at the after party or start one with Fiona or Josh that night and chances are I never will now. This brings me back to our myth with the troublesome Pandora. Looking over the setlist initially I thought it bleak with 'Eden To Exile To Dust' as an opener and 'Removal Of Hope' as the closer leaving an evil trapped inside the box. Having thought it over a few days now I've come to glean a different understanding of what Woman's Hour was saying all along. Removal of hope doesn't take it away or discard it, it just places it outside of the box which at the very least makes it visible, and at most attainable. Thanks for a 8 years of solid music with a powerful and very memorable final performance.

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The Orielles, The Scala, London

 

I'm leaning against the wall near the exit of The Scala, non-nonchalantly, looking at a coat hanger dangling three metres above the cloakroom window. It's hanging off a steel conduit run that traces the room, I can't help wondering how it got there. Lost in wonder I slowly start to realize that almost everyone in the foyer after party is staring at me, are they also pondering the coat hanger? Turns out they're curious for a different reason, the lights are going on and off. I've been leaning against the light switch triggering the chandelier house lights for a couple of minutes now, so much for blending in. I move away and watch someone else hole up in the now vacant (too good to be true) spot, I give them no warning and continue to float away pondering the coat hanger and The Orielles (@TheOrielles) performance I've just caught at The Scala's 20th Anniversary Party.           

Coming off my bike at speed down Caledonian Road I realize, too late, that the rear mudguard has come loose and locked up the back spokes of my bike. Fortunately it's garbage pick up for the local residents that evening and I land softly in a pile of discarded trash bags, you cannot make this up. Miraculously unscathed I pick myself up out of the trash and remove the remnants of the mud guard, turned mud offense, and kick my back tyre and rim into place, and we're off. I make it in time for doors open and clear security who after a pat down ask me what the ear plugs were for in my pocket, obviously you're not a golfer I think to myself. Clearing this minor obstacle I head to the bar where drinks are half price, I double-up and make my way to the stage. First up on the docket are Crewel Intentions (@CrewelIntent).

The members of this quintet have a motif that can only be described as a mashup of styles, predominantly Western Wear meets up-and-coming Mobster Foot Soldier, their duds move along nicely paired with their classic looking instruments and music with assured confidence to match. Only frontman Chilli Jesson (sounds like a name that has outstanding debts with bookies in Vegas) stands out in his leisure suit and white scuffed up brogans, most likely from kicking the shit out of the air and stage all night long, the man has bundles of energy throughout their performance. The band is in good spirits and Chilli's got energy with the moves to back up someone auditioning for Chippendales; running back and forth around the stage, jumping to and from the stage to barriers and making intense eye contact with those of us at the front when he's not jumping into their arms. Intense isn't the word I'd use for the contrast in riffs and twangs coming off the small slide guitar, keys during the set, they're great and wash over you like a Coen Brothers soundtrack. Their set finishes and I pick up my book (The Elephant Vanishes – Murakami) and crack open a chilly frothie between sets.

Juggling the book and the beer I'm enjoying at '90s prices along with the '80s hip-hop pumping out the speakers (JJ Fad – 'Ya Goin' Down') the crew setup for the main event. I see Henry's (lead guitar/backup vocals) head peak through the stage door. I catch his eye and give him the horns, he smiles and reciprocates in kind and the door closes. The crowd is elbow to elbow in chill anticipation but unlike the audience the stage is set with personal space in mind. I can't remember the stage setup at The Scala ever being so sparse but much like their last performance I caught in the Butlin's at Rockaway Beach the setup is spread out giving each member a comfortable space to play in but it's not alienating either. The Halifax natives putting the old H back on the map make their way onto the stage metaphorical Silver Dollars chiming loosely in their footsteps. They're all rockin' mid-'90s Smashing Pumpkins-era threads (trust me on this, I lived through it). Esmé's (Bass/Whistle/Vocals) look is Liv Tyler straight off the Tower Records poster and I'm wondering if it's rude to interrupt the set to ask Alex (Keys/Vocals) what model OG Reebok's he's wearing because they are legit as all get out (if you're reading this Alex I must know!). Not a minute lost and the gang is straight into it with 'Old Stuff, New Glass'. The stage throughout their set is a, jumping, nodding, dancing, and head tossing from side to side akimbo marathon, they sing and play with a joyful and carefree effervescence. All members (aside from Sid anchored on percussion) take turns visiting each other and spend their set chatting and smiling about inside jokes I'm so close to but not privy to hearing, frustrating I must take up lipreading! Henry, as per usual busts out the banter and a couple of guitar strings along the way, one on each guitar, but soldiers on. Alex not to be shown up destroys an instrument I can only assume is a cousin to the cowbell? Esmé and Sid retain intact their civility and instruments, good work ladies. The Orielles knock out a 13 track set in just over an hour. True to their word (see last interview) they've been writing during their downtime between tours (liminal space?) and lay a new single on the audience called, 'Sound Of' and end their set with 'Sugar Tastes Like Salt' no encore but a great track to finish off a solid set with.

Back in the foyer of The Scala which is packed with fans and members of both Crewel Intentions and The Orielles, I lean against a wall without a light switch for a change still having the coat hanger, and mystery there of, both literally hanging over me. It's been a great evening and the party looks far from being over with the bands mingling, smiling and chatting with friends and fans alike. I make a quiet exit and get a message on my way out from an acquaintance to check out instagram which is blowing up with news about The Social in central London. There's been a fundraising gig put on this very night by Wrangler with Yak/Shame and Talk Show on the bill that's saved the tiny venue with a massive history by raising the £95,000 necessary to keep the doors open. As The Orielles and myself are huge fans of the joint I thought it a fitting ending to the article and renewed lease on life for The Social.

 

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