Rough Trade. A beacon for the young hipsters and old nostalgics. An institution for the more reckless parts of English music, yet with enough commercial nous to be still standing 40 years later. Congrats!
The flagship that survived the death of punk and its resurrection, now selling Sex Pistols alongside dance records in their East London shop, straight off the ‘oh so pretentious’ Brick Lane.
So here we are, an impressive 40 years on, and Rough Trade is entitled to celebrate like any other institution on the point of mid-life crisis. To do justice to the occasion, we’re missing out on the Sunday roast to see an array of bands designed to make this a suitably joyous affair.
The humble curator of the evening is EAT YOUR OWN EARS, who wanted to highlight Rough Trade’s independence and its focus on new talent that stands out from the mainstream. “choosing new bands that were independent and inspired by the punk ethos of the shop’s beginnings,” as stated by Lucy Pitkethly at EAT YOUR OWN EARS.
First band, Dance Hall, take their time, or maybe they’re just waiting for anyone to turn up? Guys, it’s Sunday.
Unleashing their fast and firm bass slamming music, the three piece plays intensely, with a flash of nostalgia, all wrapped in heaps of reverb. As the bass slams to the ground, they’re done.
Following this are Yassassin, the power squad that seems to be everywhere these days. ” Whining guitar compliments the low-register vocals, all spiced with occasional outbursts of screaming. Tambourine looped with double guitars may sound odd, but Yassassin’s “F F Fuck it all” attitude and sexually charged tone can make anything work.
With statements like “torture for a sense of progress ” and “there is no ally in this void ” safely secured in print on their merch, Pill are definitely a band out of the ordinary. Starting with a bang of screaming saxophone, the New Yorkers emerge in a chaos of broken up tunes and one line statements. “Happy birthday, Rough Trade,” lead singer Veronica Torres. “What happened to no talking?”, quips the saxophone player. “Oh yeah”, replies Veronica. “We weren’t supposed to talk because we’re not funny”. Carrying on regardless, the band breaks barriers, jumping into the crowd.
The female representation tonight is meticulous, and not only by coincidence. “We also wanted to give a platform to more female artists, so we had great all girl bands like Skinny Girl Diet and Yassassin as well as amazing female fronted bands Pill and Fish,” Pitkethly explains.
The grungy youngsters FISH do a decent effort, sparkling raw guitar and hard hitting drums with soft vocal harmonies. Switching between towering choruses and silent verses, they embody a modern Nirvana fronted by the girl Kurt Cobain always wanted to be. Asha, lead vocals, and Louis, guitarist, bounce the lyrics back and forth whilst synchronising their guitars – there is harmony in the chaos.
But that thought is soon to be shredded by the gloomiest couple you’ll ever see – lucky it’s Halloweekend. With long hair covering their faces, Baba Naga are here to play; and nothing else. They completely ignore the crowd, leaving them alienated on the outside of their tantric bubble of darkness.
Rounding off the evening are Skinny Girl Diet, and their just as unpleasant as you’d think a diet of coffee and cigarettes would be. Screaming backed with a wall of noise is a tad too intense for a Sunday evening, and even their costumes and the odd dancer dressed as Death can’t quite save them.
That’s more than enough for a lazy Sunday afternoon – an eclectic mix which showed that indie can still be of the moment, but it’s all a bit random!