Review by Andy Houghton for MPM
During lockdown I found myself compiling a list of bands that I wanted to see once restrictions were lifted, and Hands Off Gretel were at the very top. I’ve always been blown away by their music, but never – until now – had the opportunity to see them performing live.
It was therefore with great anticipation that I arrived at Rough Trade in Nottingham on a Friday evening for the second (and sold out) date of their 2021 Still Angry UK tour.
Rough Trade is an iconic venue, albeit with a slightly unusual setup: they have a big and bustling bar area, but the separate performance area is tiny – the stage and audience area together aren’t much bigger than a large sitting room. While this makes for an intimate and involving experience, it gets hot, and it gets crowded – but the atmosphere is unbeatable.
The first support band was Marvin’s Revenge, a three-piece from Derbyshire who delivered a powerful set. They’re billed as a grunge band, which encapsulates their predominant sound, but they’ve absorbed multiple influences into their work and pigeonholing them into a single genre doesn’t do them justice. They delivered their material with passion and it made for a promising start to the evening.
Next up was Brooders, whose name is well-matched with the brooding intensity of their music. They’re a psych-grunge power trio from Leeds who’ve been performing for several years now and have picked up a lot of acclaim along the way. It’s immediately clear why – their compelling set verges on experimental at times, and is utterly absorbing. The music of both Brooders and Marvin’s Revenge left a lasting impression and their live appearances are well worth seeking out in their own right.
Hands Off Gretel took the stage on the dot of 9.30pm by which time the atmosphere was electric – the stage area was crammed, and the sense of anticipation was rising as rapidly as the temperature. The band – Lauren Tate (vocals/guitar), Sean Bon (guitar), Becky Baldwin (bass) and Sam Hobbins (drums) – launched into a ninety-minute 19-song set that included such fan favourites as ‘Milk’, ‘It’s My Fault’ and ‘Freaks Like Us’.
It was exhilarating to see the band performing again after such a lengthy hiatus away from live music. Lauren’s voice was, as always, powerful and emotive, and she combines both melodic vocals and screams to exceptional effect. Her stage presence is second to none, and her engagement with an audience brings an already intimate venue even closer.
Sean and Becky were equally thrilling to watch on guitar and bass respectively. They both have an animated playing style that complements Lauren’s stage persona and ramps up the energy of the gig even further. Underpinning all this was Sam on drums, who provides the propulsive force that acts as the rhythmic foundation for everything going on at the front of the stage.
It was great to hear ‘Rot (All The Good Things)’, which is a fantastic song from their ‘I Want The World’ album, and which hasn’t often featured in the band’s setlists at gigs. We also got a cover, with an invigorating rendition of Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’ as the encore.
If you needed a reminder of why we’ve all missed live music so much over the last 18 months, then this was it. I’d been looking forward to a Hands Off Gretel gig throughout lockdown, and I wasn’t disappointed. The tour itself continues throughout the autumn with tickets available via https://www.handsoffgretel.co.uk/tour
Photography by Andy Houghton for MPM