Live: Lambrini Girls / Damp Matches

Lambrini Girls have the floor (Picture: Niki Jones)
Lambrini Girls have the floor (Picture: Niki Jones)

Norwich Arts Centre June 18, 2023

by Niki Jones

Norwich locals Damp Matches are an eclectic-looking bunch.

Drummer Lee Jaggard sports a classic Iron Maiden Number Of The Beast shirt, guitarists Dominic Clarke and Stephen Spiers are summer-ready in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts and a singlet respectively, bassist Will Calvert looks like he’s off to The Haçienda circa 1991, while vocalist Helena Lewis is not entirely dissimilar to the image of Patti Smith which adorns her T-shirt.

Damp Matches: Top class (Picture: Niki Jones)
Damp Matches: Top class (Picture: Niki Jones)

But although they look like they’re off to four different parties, as they stomp into the dark, staggering opener Honey – a lurching, bluesy number that showcases Lewis’s rich vocals – they are all very much on the same page.

Latest single Sweet Nothing brings a more modern sheen, evoking such contemporaries as Vukovi with enough of a post-punk sensibility that it retains a classic feel. Tantrum brings to mind Skunk Anansie at their most melodic with its soaring chorus and barely contained rage.

So which party are YOU off to, mate? (Picture: Niki Jones)
So which party are YOU off to, mate? (Picture: Niki Jones)

And speaking of rage, closer Choke, with its acerbic lyrics (“If I have to swallow even one more word I’m gonna choke, and if I have to whisper for your fragile disposition then I’ll shout”) might be the best song Billy Talent never wrote.

It’s a top class set from a band who deserve to go on to bigger and better things.

Helena Lewis, of Damp Matches (Picture: Niki Jones)
Helena Lewis, of Damp Matches (Picture: Niki Jones)

Lambrini Girls’ own descriptions online are wilfully misleading. One compares them to Le Tigre crossed with the Spice Girls, and in another – more colourful – take they invite you to “imagine your nan is in the boot of your car with a croissant in her mouth and hears Bikini Kill for the first time”.

So they’re not exactly Cristal, but at least they seem to like Kathleen Hanna, which is never a bad thing, and tonight we get what must be one of the most vital and exciting shows around here in a very, very long time.

Lambrini Girls' Lilly Macieira, with Demelza Mather on drums (Picture: Niki Jones)
Lambrini Girls’ Lilly Macieira, with Demelza Mather on drums (Picture: Niki Jones)

Within a minute of opener Big Dick Energy, both guitarist/singer Phoebe Lunny and bassist Lilly Macieira are off the stage and into the crowd, the line between band and audience immediately and irrevocably broken.

The crowd respectfully part and form a circle around them, with Lunny using members of the crowd as human mic stands to leave her hands free for her guitar.

Riding the wave: Phoebe Lunny (Picture: Niki Jones)
Riding the wave: Phoebe Lunny (Picture: Niki Jones)

As they storm into Help Me I’m Gay, she invites any and all queer members of the audience to come up and have their voices heard, interviewing them like some sort of strident punk Lorraine Kelly for the marginalised.

As the song explodes, so does the throng – Lunny climbing atop one gentleman’s shoulders while she wails on her guitar and Macieira swaying around the crowd with her bass, dancing among her people.

Nice to meet you... (Picture: Niki Jones)
Nice to meet you… (Picture: Niki Jones)

The music is almost irrelevant at this point. This is unity in its purest form, with chaos and kindness, anarchy and solidarity dancing hand in hand.

But the music shouldn’t go unmentioned, Lads, Lads, Lads with its pummelling riff and testosterone-shrivelling lyrics is riot grrrl at its finest, and White Van with its filthy bass and delightful amounts of cowbell turns the place into a riot.

Lambrini Girls: An unforgettable night (Picture: Niki Jones)
Lambrini Girls: An unforgettable night (Picture: Niki Jones)

Lunny (now just down to her underwear) climbs the lighting rig before heading back into the crowd to hold court while hanging from the sound desk.

By the time the final song come crashing in, most of the crowd are on the stage, and all three of the band – including drummer Demelza Mather (The Wytches/Larry Pink The Human) – are crowd-surfing.

Are you all right down there? (Picture: Niki Jones)
Are you all right down there? (Picture: Niki Jones)

Live music is so rarely this urgent, important and, above all, exciting. This is a night that those who are here will never forget.

The kids, it turns out, are not all right, but they’re damn sure doing something about it.

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