Dream Nails - Wharf Chambers, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Dream Nails - Wharf Chambers, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:
Dream Nails - Wharf Chambers, Leeds
Dream Nails - Wharf Chambers, Leeds

Punk means different things to different people yet if anger, activism and energy are still important then London-based, self-described ‘feminist punk witches’ Dream Nails might just be the best punk band we’ve had in quite some time. I first saw them supporting the fantastic Cherry Glazerr at the Brudenell last year, an impossibly fun and genuinely inspired set it was too. A whole year later and I’m finally getting to see them play again, this time at DIY venue par excellence Wharf Chambers.

Local organiser-come-community network Girl Gang has put together a pretty formidable line-up for us tonight; in fact they’ve spoilt us rotten. First on tonight we get a set from Leeds based two-piece Bad Idea. The duo's songs cover life’s many frustrations, Sarah Sefton’s lyrics summing up that everyday angst when she sings, “I just want to do better but I’m just bitter”.

There’s a tonne of natural musical chemistry between Sefton and drummer Daniel Johnson, my friend describing them as “adorable”. Their irresistibly catchy, melodic and grunge-inflected indie wins over the Wharf Chambers crowd with ease. Plus, how often do hear a song about “the boys in cars outside Selby Maccy’s (McDonald's)”.

Describing themselves as “Spinal Tap with tits”, it’s time for Cambridge based riot grrrl’s The Baby Seals. The three-piece plays songs about body positivity and empowerment with boundless energy, intelligence and a pinch of knowing humour. There’s plenty to enjoy; the fantastic pop-punk rush of ‘My Labia is Lopsided but I Don’t Mind’, the catchy and appropriately-named ‘Period Drama’ and the brilliant ‘Guuurrrl’ are all greeted with massive smiles and whoops of approval.

‘It’s Not About The Money Honey’ with its fierce and passionate swamp blues grind might just be the highlight of the night, vocalist Kerry Devine howling “it’s not about the money honey/ we just want the same” as her guitar builds to a brutal crescendo. They end with the gleefully energetic ‘Nipple Hair’ with Devine delivering the immortal line, “choosing smooth is cool but you still have choices”. The Baby Seals are a riot to be reckoned with.

Dream Nails are a band with something to say. Activists as well as punk witches, the four-piece play songs designed to speak directly to their audience. It’s Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear revitalised, it’s The Slits in ‘79, it’s X-Ray Spex and their Germfree Adolescents. Carrying the riot grrl torch yet very much about the here and now, Dream Nails is the kind of band that seems all too rare.

They open with a funny (and accurate) song about ‘man babies’ before launching into the scathing yet superbly catchy ‘Tourist’ with vocalist Janey Starling smiling as she sings, “you want somewhere to stay? Stay away from me!” We’re only a few songs in but already it’s one of the best gigs I’ve seen this year. Yes, punk can be genuinely angry and fun. Who knew it?

The next song is dedicated to “anyone that hates their job”. Starling telling us that the last time they played it an audience member dropped to their knees to tell them “that’s my life!” He sent them a message later to say he’d gone ahead and quit his job. Now, music might not always be able to change the world but that’s a pretty good result for one song right?

The ridiculously excitable punk clatter of recent single ‘Vagina Police’ sounds fantastic and it’s even better when you realise that all money raised from its release is, in fact, going to the Abortion Support Network. The song ends with Starling saying “Fuck TERFs” (transphobic feminists) and a cheer rises up from the assembled crowd.

But hang on, haven’t they forgotten something?  They remind us of their ‘girls to the front’ policy before starting up a chant, “women and non-binary people come to the front”. They follow this up with the joyous ‘DIY’, the band's ode to positivity and the DIY mindset. Guitarist Anya Pearson encouraging the crowd to join in with a little call-and-response, “do it yourself!” Anger is an energy but so is positivity. Dream Nails have buckets of both*

The band looks like they’re having the time of their lives and that energy, that unbridled positivity, is pretty infectious. Starling dances around the stage as Pearson unfurls some real hairs-standing-up on-the-back-of-your-neck solos. The rhythm section, Lucy Katz, and Mimi Jasson, propel each 2-minute punk prayer along at suitably breakneck speed. Relentless short bursts of positive energy; the euphoric ‘Lovefuck’ is quickly followed by the furious, brilliantly noisy and suitably urgent ‘Fascism is Coming (Get Out of Bed)’.

One song calls for “justice and revenge”, a song about violence against women and being sick to death of misogyny. The songs impassioned message hitting hard as Starling yells “we can’t live like this”. ‘Joke Choke’ is dedicated to men that think it’s funny to make jokes about rape. Dream Nails feel crucial tonight. How many bands are doing things like this?

‘Bully Girl’ might just be one of the bands finest songs, an impossibly catchy and melodic ode to having a crush on your bully before, as Pearson puts it, she “stabs you in the head with a pair of scissors”. ‘Swimming Pool’, a song “about being queer” reaches out with a chant of “it’s gonna be OK” before the genuinely funny f-you of ‘Deep Heat’ arrives to finish us off. The latter described as a “hex on all the misogynistic politicians and Conservative politicians”.

Angry, relevant, exciting and heaps of fun; Dream Nails are the kind of band to make you believe in the transformative power of punk all over again. It’s easy to get a little depressed watching the news sometimes but it’s a comfort to know that the DIY, punk rock spirit is still very much alive and well. Dream Nails are daring you to care.


* All this and they even have their own YouTube series where they rate the quality of chips in all the towns they play (appropriately called ‘Chip Advisor’). It’s Arkwrights Fish & Chips in Woodhouse in case you’re still wondering about Leeds by the way.

Ace live photo by: Suzy Harrison

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