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Le Pub, Newport, Thurs 16 Mar

Venues like Le Pub form the grit and foundation of not just a music scene, but a community of like-minded folk, a wider space in which ideas and creativity can germinate. They serve a value far beyond a good night out. Currently, the future of Le Pub is somewhat uncertain (the building is up for sale, but there are plans to move), but what is not uncertain is its importance to Newport and the South Wales music scene, its grime and dirt signifiers of a musical history that injects bands passing through with a passion and energy that doesn’t just happen accidentally.

Petrol Girls are exactly the kind of band that the venue has built a reputation for. A feminist post-hardcore band with a multinational lineup and openly left-wing politics, live they are a sight to behold. Support from drum-and-bass noiserock duo Salt Bath kicked things off with a thundering, heavy crunch, drenched in scuzzy bass riffs. The 20-minute set was over almost as soon as it began, but it whetted the appetite for more.

Then, when the headliners exploded on stage, it felt like a brick kicked into the face. Lead singer Ren Aldridge plunging into every song as if leading an insurrection whilst the musicians behind her, all rock-solid tight, contort to the jagged rhythms and spiky structures of the songs. As songwriters, Petrol Girls are excellent, producing music that sounds angry, anxious and angular, befitting the band’s progressive politics, whilst retaining enough melodic expansiveness to drag the fury into memory. Whilst the muddy nature of live sound might mean that the nuance of some of the band’s message, might be subsumed underneath the noise, Aldridge helpfully contextualises the songs in-between—and there’s hardly multiple ways to read lyrics like “Touch me again I’ll fucking kill you”.

The history of punk has been written time and time again by fools bigger than me without stopping to mention a single female-fronted band, be they The Slits, X-Ray Spex, Bikini Kill or Sleater-Kinney, or any other such groups. But bands like Petrol Girls and venues like Le Pub prove that scope and appetite for change won’t just disappear quietly into the good night.


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