Upstairs at The Garage, London
30th November 2013
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
There’s a long queue out the front of the Garage tonight. It looks to be a good one. Then you clock the line is for Girlschool, installed in the main venue, whilst at the door for Sister, upstairs, feet are a bit more thin on the ground. Sadly missing as well is our photographer, who taken severely ill can’t be in attendance. Shall we just go home now – not likely. For one, despite the faux-female name and the make-up, Sister are four dudes from Sweden, and are as cool as cucumbers in their home climate. For another, they’re finishing a mammoth year of touring and one quiet door won’t do much to dent that.
But most of all, Sister just don’t give a fuck about such things. That’s not the Sister way.
Those that have gathered are about as diverse as it gets, a crowd consisting of hoodie-wearing greb types, high-heeled big-eyelashed vixen types, long-haired metal types, and hair-sprayed new-glam types – all the types apparently. That I could be bothered to type. Plus one smartly dressed middle-aged man who looks like he’s just finished a round of shooting. Ming vases. Flung from a 24-carat trap. Aimed at plebs. Watch him in the pit – watch him.
Having not brought about the complete and utter darkening of the world like their name suggests (I thought it was a bit much at that door price), it’s plain to see that In Dante’s Eclipse (3.5/5) subscribe to that B-movie look – all make-up and blood. It’s literally all over their faces. Except for their lady bassist who just pouts her way through the set. Make of it what you will that just days after the gig her departure was announced – closely followed by the bleach-blonde Edward Scissorhands on keys. But you want to talk about tonight, when we knew not of such things.
As a jaunty om-pa-pa organ grinder intro is cranked out, the band scramble like the accompanying monkeys, and a semi-quiff sporting frontman Misfits-croons along. Their sound is of binged-on cult gothicism and the aforementioned-Fits grave pilfering. With the dirtiest bits buffed off and turned into something a lot tidier than appearances would suggest. And that hair stays almost perfectly in place the whole time. Someone get that boy a Shockwaves advert.
Ain’t a Tommy gun in sight, but Fallen Mafia (4/5) are still packing. Their not-so-secret weapon of choice is a female vocalist. Not a high-pitched operatic wailer or Angela Gossow growler – this voice has a down and dirty sound. The kind that when you hear it you realise you don’t hear it enough.
The bass player is rocking like it’s Wembley Arena and that’s the way it should be. Treat the little shows the same as the big ones. The quibbles are the age-old ones… too few modern bands sound like they fit in glam’s shoes, as opposed to just slipping around in them. Cinderella syndrome. Perhaps our modern lives are just too clean-cut for this sleaze stuff. Or maybe the British accent is just too bloody proper to convincingly pull it off. Not to doubt Fallen Mafia’s authenticity – their rock-n-roll-done-heavy has more balls than the band collectively. And wait one impropmtu striptease later and they’re all topless. Now that Crue would approve of.
If they are sister to anyone it’s Wednesday Addams. Or maybe Wednesday 13 – which means their recent support slots for him must have felt like a family reunion. As Sister (4/5) make the short walk from backstage to front of stage, the kids who have been stood at the sidelines are down at the barrier. Looks as though they were saving themselves. Support bands deserve love too guys.
They’re the dark heart of sleaze. If bands like Motley Crue and Kiss are the bright lights of the glam neighbourhood, then Sister are the alleyways inbetween. Good – we like the dark. And latest single ‘Sick’ is just that. Even without its video cast of naked pigmen – yeah just watch it – the song feels notably harsher than its older punkier stablemates. Including ‘Hated’ which of course made an appearance being something of a Sister anthem. New, old, we’re splitting long black hairs here – Sister are putting on a rockshow. They should be tired – it’s been a lot of touring, it’s the last show between them and the holidays – you’re expecting a set done of obligation. That’s not this. Sister aren’t pussying out.
Although the small stage doesn’t allow for much room between them, Sister don’t feel particularly static. And the flipside of this set-up means those at the front are inches from being in the show. There’s no need to view through a screen – this is ultra-real-life. It’s a shame the place isn’t fuller because Sister are playing at a pace best experienced bouncing around in a crowded pit. Metal/punk/sleaze/glam – it’s all coming together like different threads of the same jumper. Pull on any one and they’ll all unravel together, that’s how closely entwined they are. In addition, they make cosy whole.
Sadly there are no Christmas covers, not least for the morbid curiosity of seeing Sister in festive jumpers, but we are treated to a first time airing of some new material. Which is not to be sniffed at. And anyway you can’t have everything – it’s not even Christmas yet for Christ’s sake.
There isn’t much of a goodbye. No encore. No Jingle Bells or naked pigmen. The lights come on and Sister are gone. Moan if you like, but I told you at the start, that’s the Sister way. And they don’t give a merry fuck.