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Friday 10 September 2021

A View From The Back Of The Room: Hands Off Gretel (Live Review By Neil Lewis)

Hands Off Gretel, Bristol Thekla, 5th September 2021

Way back in the halcyon pre-pandemic days of early 2020 Barnsley’s Hands Off Gretel self-released a rather enjoyable three-track EP dubbed The Angry EP. An extensive UK tour in support of the release was announced for March / April 2020 and then - well, I’m sure we all know what happened next. Following no fewer than four attempted rearrangements the gig in support of that EP on board Bristol’s Thekla finally occurred in September 2021. As per the EPs title, such a chain of events could conspire to make one very frustrated and indeed, angry. Accordingly, the band have named the jaunt the “Still Angry” tour.

Support on the night was provided by local alt-rock sisters Miss Kill (6) whose output isn’t too dissimilar to the headliners, seemingly influenced by the likes of Hole, L7, Babes In Toyland and other such late 80s Sub Pop-esque acts. As a two-piece consisting of guitar/voice (supplied by younger sibling Alannah Jackson) and drums (by Felicity Jackson) they are missing some of the sonic layers of the headliners, but their set was polished and enjoyable - although to be honest very little stuck in my head at the end of the night.

Following the usual interlude, it was time for Hands Off Gretel (9) to *ahem* rock the boat with their own brand of grunge influenced garage style rock. The bands’ multi-talented and massively charismatic front Lauren Tate (who was certainly not idle during lockdown having released a rap/rock album under the pseudonym Delilah Bon) was the centre of attention, holding the stage like she owned the place. Lauren was however well rivalled in the attention-grabbing stakes by former Bristol resident Becky Baldwin on bass and backing vocals plus the ever-active shape of guitarist Sean Bon. Not forgetting drummer Sam Hobbins ably bringing up the rear too. I have to say that on this night every member of the band was absolutely on point for the whole set and the overall performance was as tight as a very tight thing, with Lauren’s voice in particular sounding note-perfect during the infectious verse/chorus of tracks like the funky S.A.S.S. and especially the dynamic, aggressive screaming parts of songs such as Milk.

The headliners’ set consisted of almost the entirety of their excellent 2019 full-length I Want The World, along with all three tracks from the aforementioned Angry EP plus a couple from their debut album Burn The Beauty Queen thrown in for good measure. A new song named War was also included, which suggests that the bands’ run of high-quality musical output is set to continue. The set finished with a run through of clear musical influence Nirvana’s seminal Territorial Pissings which nicely capped off the bands’ extremely impressive performance.

As gigs are now starting to resume across the UK, it was something of a relief to finally once again be enjoying live music in a small venue filled with like minded individuals and this showing just whetted the appetite for the next chance to do so. If I had to nit-pick, I would say that the headliners set felt a little short, however that was more likely a result of how much I enjoyed it coupled with the feeling of respite following the eighteen month gig drought most of us have experienced meaning the whole thing flew by. In any event that small quibble is nowhere near enough to get one upset or even angry.

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