SEAT AT THE BACK - SCRIBBLES! ~ It's that time of year again: THE RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL in London! On now.. See you there!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

No use crying over spilt FIGHTMILK! Dagger tongue-loaded indie pop princess Lily Rae, showcases her ear, spine and nerve-screwing new band at Brixton's WINDMILL!

On a cold - and I mean freezing your subcutaneous layer of fat off cold - March night in Brixton, I get lost trying to find the gloriously glamorously tarnished and heady Brixton music venue and boozer The Windmill. I'm wearing a t-shirt with what looks suddenly remarkably like a blurry snow blizzard on the front (now that's accessorising!) and wishing I had a furry hat, or at the very least a hairy cardigan, on. Not that I ever wear furry hats, or even a hairy cardigan. But tonight - warm stupid looking things - I'm all yours!

I've been here before to see indie strut-boys THE BOYFRIENDS, mainly because SUEDE fanclub leader, general indie rock god and cold freshwater swimmer (there's a 'freeze your pickled walnuts' off theme going on here) David Barnett (who, with his girlfriend, even recorded the claps on SUEDE songs - now that's inner circle!) was one of the band, and I offered up my support accordingly. Not a braces kind of support, or even - horror of horrors - a BELLE AND SEBASTIAN-style 'Arab strap'! No, just your typical fanboy stuff.

And THE BOYFRIENDS rocked the super sturdy roof off that secretive little music venue I'd found for the first time - a place now voted as one of the best purveyors of new music anywhere by even the most hippest of music mags out there, but also a place that I still find harder than a mint copy of Barnett's 'Love and Poison' (Suede biography first edition until the recent update) to get to.

I met David in the cramped urinals that night. We were the only two at the tin till at the time, and he was thoroughly likeable to chat to. In fact, I bought him a pint after, and chatted on stools at the bar about SUEDE and indie gigs and all that jazz. I remember that night also featured THE CRIBS as the support band - back then just a bunch of super-friendly geeky indie kids from Wakefield hanging out around a beer garden BBQ post-gig. I vaguely remember thinking how great their set had been.

However, this memory may be a false one, as that night I had also partaken of the pub's own beer - of that I am fairly certain. (You know, I once partook of The Sherlock pub in London's own brew once and never thought I'd pull myself back to reality - what is it about these cloudy-hued pub brews that attacks the nervous system in such a blindly rewarding way?).

On the gig night I am supposed to be reviewing but have been temporarily distracted from, I wasn't at The Windmill to see a new David Barnett-fronted band (although I'm always open to that exciting possibility) but Brixton-born singer Lily Rae's, whose brand new gang in town - FIGHTMILK, were playing their second only gig (a benefit for London Mayor contender Sadik Khan). However, before all that jazz (or even all that indie) I found myself in the urinals once again standing next to . .

Yeah - you guessed it. You know, it's been many years since I last stood at that same urinal and with only one beer inside me at that point on this second occasion, I just couldn't bring myself to say: "Hello, we meet again . ." this time around, just in case the passing of years has cancelled out the right moment to approach a tall indie rock prince mid-flow.

I noticed the venue, as FIGHTMILK tuned-up on stage, was now full of quite a few of indie pop's most thrusty and finest - from Simon Indelicate (frontman, alongside Julia Indelicate, of the poetically angry, liltingly rallying, suitably unpredictable - THE INDELICATES!) and the legendary indie pop pied piper that is Keith Top of The Pops (aka: 'Keith TOTP') and they were all staying away from the washroom area. I began to wonder if only the bravest braved that rarely used door (unless you were carrying a jug of bleach and a mop at 7am).

Watching Sadiq Khan's band of loyal supporters ('THE KHANNED HEAT HOUSE BAND' - no idea where that name came from!) play live on stage, covering everything politically right on for that moment in the spotlight (so The Clash and The Jam and, err, Queen's Under Pressure - possibly a reflection of how the race for London Mayor is quickly hotting up). I was surprised, perhaps, at how good this lot were (the Bowie and Mercury sparring in the still-vital 'Under Pressure' almost matching the soaring vocals of the original for their barely contained quiet rage).

Pic: GUNTHER PRAGUE/ official  Facebook 

Other support bands were also rightfully angry and really very good, especially the raucous rampaging roof beam-lifting of metal band GUNTHER PRAGUE (from Coventry it seems) who, with their quietly-stanced bassist in a sharp suit who looked a little like Mike from the Young Ones and who I had also shared a space at the bar with earlier (yep - I'm starting to sound like a proper stalker now) amid a wealth of sweaty guys in black cotton, proved that it's always the quiet ones who know how to make enough noise to burst your eardrum's heart. Impactful of pure red rash sound and stage presence, this is a band certainly worth remembering and following, so I will.


By the time Lily Rae took to the stage and launched into an 11 song setlist of raw, spiky, unbridled pop bites of brittle bitchery (think: a more vicious kind of ELASTICA, with flashes of BLONDIE, a touch of SEX PISTOLS, the passionate spit of THE FALL and the stance of Animal Nitrate-era SUEDE) that seemed on the verge of either shafting or slicing up their steely sweet stare-spotted targets or lampooning idiot boyfriends with stupid tattoos (a song to which Lily asked for suggestions of song titles, as it didn't have one yet - "Twattoo!" seemed a popular call) I was, thanks to GUNTHER, suitably raging inside and demanding blood on stage (or at the very least, a really good minor chord).


It's difficult to get too much of a specific impression just yet of all the new and unfamiliar tracks from a single set's airing, but as the night surged forward, most of the packed-out venue herded themselves away from the bar's many alcoves (for when you're feeling sinister) to be near the front of the stage; the cheers, audience reaction and general buzz swelled quickly into a nicely heady swell of support. My eardrums gave up the ghost and surfed off for good (like I said earlier - they'd already exploded thanks to Gunther Prague) and I was left swaying or twitching to the beat like a glass-eyed walking dead zombie brought back to life by the power of a Brixton witch's darkest power brew.

Which reminds me. A quick mention should go to the pub's very own brew at this point - 'ROOF DOG IPA'. It's potent baby! It's so potent that, after a few (well, quite a good few) of these, all the tables kind of closed in on me and I felt chair legs start to fondle my thighs out of nowhere. Of course, it could just be that I was walking into things, but I guess I'll never know for sure.

The bar staff and owners (I think) at The Windmill are quirky, cheerfully charismatic and actively languidly cool. They quietly let you know that once you step through those doors - you belong to them! Giggers and seen-it-all-before locals watching the football at 'the far side of the bar' (Pink Floyd's lesser known hit) mixed seamlessly.

I was told that I "didn't need a hand stamp" as I returned to the Windmill after a quick stroll around the not so mean - more like bloody freezing - streets of Brixton (the ink had worn away after moisturising my hands with some weird lubricant I'd bought at Victoria Station 'for serious chapping - only to be used in moderation' but that also smelt a little like Toilet Duck). I actually admitted my dirty little secret, face to face to the chap on the door - yes: I had just moisturised (oh no - the shame, the shame!).


Anyway, I was told that I'd "been spotted" earlier and could go back in (and there was me thinking I had found a quiet corner of the bar to observe the stage from and to sup lots of pints of addictive Roof Dog without any fear of shame or recrimination).

This is a music venue where everybody knows your name. Or face. The barman himself (with the most incredible mass of perfectly curly hair) even, at one point, raised his leg on a sidebar and slapped his thigh as Lily sang and smiled at the customers. Look - that's a good sign right?

Anyway, I'm addicted to the home brew in the Windmill and over the last few days I've been hallucinating and craving even more. I don't know what they put in that stuff, but there's something in those green and pleasant hops that owned my soul (I won't mention it again though as you've probably had enough by now - actually, that also kind of sums up my little problem at the time as well).

SOLO ALBUM #1: 'OH NO . .'   

Lily Rae, unlike the beer, didn't own my soul - but she sure did own the stage in her red sequined dress and tiara (that she said was especially purchased for the occasion - but was of the cheap plastic kind, and had now partly broken!). As a regular member of THE INDELICATES, Lily was always a prominent stage presence - equally at home with quirky, sweetly balledic vocals or a pure punk screech. Her two solo albums 'Oh No . .' and 'Your Face' showcased some astoundingly quirky and beautifully anti-'love' songs when they weren't brutally kicking scumbag culture in the bollocks or baiting the pretentious poseurs and scratching their nerves: it remains a unique brand of angry, feline-fronted pop bloodspill.


Of course, being Seat at the Back - Cinema Magazine, our favourite Lily solo tracks are 'Bad Film' and 'Hiding in Cinemas' from the brittle, patchy but pretty brilliant debut album, but both Lily's solo albums are indie-odd pop gems.

Equally at home focusing on all sides of life, whether barbarous and suburban, mockingly metropolitan, slightly sleazy, super fast and sporty (ok - I only said this because she's also a passionate roller derby player) deeply stuffy (and a passionate taxidermist too!) or coyly barbed, scathingly political and brashly poetic - Lily Rae has really needed to front her own band for ages.

And here she is now, backed pretty stunningly by a cork tight sound full of: powerful, grimy bass; laser blaster-like, death-aimed guitar and scattershot drums that jitter the teeth - a perhaps unexpectedly loud and pretty angry gig ensues, with plenty of unforced and natural stage banter and fun to be had between the band members (who clearly enjoy playing along together and having a right good time while doing so).

Perhaps the set mix is a little too fast and frantic at times, and I did wonder if there is room here for the odd slower track - a tetchy ballad or two to showcase the strength of the more potent, speaker-blitzing/ melting signature sound (I saw one member of the pub's sound crew walk past a speaker at the front mid-song and then start grabbing at his ear for a few seconds - like a man possessed by inner demons!).

I'm probably only suggesting a quirky ballad or two because Lily's voice, on all her slower songs in the past, is exceptionally warm and broodingly edgy and detached - kind of bitter sweet and unique. But FIGHTMILK is stone cold raging from birth and comes out fighting and that's a fair stance to take. And the venue was owned by this sound. I think that's known as a result. In fact, as much as I knew this gig was going to be suitably heady and wired, I didn't realise how much of a genuine blast it would be and how much power chord venom would be directed our way.


After previous solo albums from the singer showcased songs that were often wounded and pissed-off but never resigned, more like wicked and chiding ('It's Not Cute, It's Just Creepy' from the more polished second album 'Your Face' being a highlight of this pop watermark, complete with hi-energy beats and impassioned piss-taking of small art galleries and show-offs) tonight's set was far angrier, if still quite wistful, punk-poetry all the way: wild and restless and young and angry. And people like us (men, basically) need to hide from stuff like this and shut the fuck up anyway.  


So that's it. FIGHTMILK have an album out soon, and lots of gigs booked, and here at Seat at the Back we suggest you go and see them live to fully appreciate their power sound. There's a setlist and some slightly hazy snaps below (yeah - me and the pub's home brewer know just why those 'pics' are so hazy!). I'd like to predict this band will be up on the major festival stages and releasing album after album of eclectic sound and vision over the years ahead, gaining a huge following and a cult status on the indie pop/ rock map of the world.

But I can't state this for certain: I saw the stage this night in Roof Dog beer-o-vision (oh god - seriously I'm obsessed now, like a bad trip) and I can't be entirely sure that what I saw was real.

Or if the supporters of a London Mayor candidate got up on stage and sang Eton Rifles (rather brilliantly).

Or if I even stood next to David Barnett from the always amazing The New Royal Family and The Boyfriends (and brilliant Suede biographer) in front of the same battered tin urinal in the same pub, down that same Brixton back street, just as I had done almost 10, no - make that 12, years ago now. (David may equally be wondering why this same man pops up next to him in the Windmill's toilet every decade and a bit or so - a bit like the returning monster in JEEPERS CREEPERS!).

Lily plays guitar, jamming good with . .  pic: @fightmilkband

Even Lily Rae's dagger-edged angel up on stage: a vision in blood red sequin and broken tiara, could just have been a trick of the light. But if it was all just an illusion, I don't care - I only want to down another one.

Words: Mark Gordon Palmer



"Whatever the fuck this new one is called" / Winter Boy / Admin / The Bank of Mum and Dad / Yr Girlfriend / Marriage Pact...Yeah? / Jesse / Some Boys / NYE / Pity Party / Nobody Hates You (No One Cares)

Lily Rae  - live at the Brixton Windmill

(pics: Mark Gordon Palmer)


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