Petrol Girls, Murder Club @ The Moon

by | Nov 3, 2022 | Shows

Petrol Girls at The Moon (photo by Kate Hoos)

 

Petrol Girls are one of the most crucial political post hardcore bands currently going. Their latest album, Baby, was released this past June and is unflinchingly feminist, sharply critical of the interlocking systems of oppression that seek to crush all who are not rich, white, cis, straight and male. And it’s also their most ambitious offering yet musically, an incredibly nuanced and complex record with clever compositions and arrangements, far from the usual “crash and bash” sound the words “political hardcore band” tends to bring to mind. The songs are full of twists and turns with rich layers to uncover as you listen again and again.

 

I’ve admired this band from afar for some time, and listened to their first two records—2016’s Talk of Violence and 2019’s Cut & Stitch— many times before I first got the chance to see them when I was on a trip to the UK in 2019. That performance left me shaken (in a very good way) and I was very much looking forward to seeing them in the States in March 2020 which unfortunately never came to pass because their tour was scrapped due to visa issues right as Covid loomed on the horizon. And with the onset of lockdown and the ensuing turmoil for musicians (and everyone) resulting from the pandemic, it was unclear for a long while if or when I’d ever get to see them again.

 

Flash forward to last month while I was in the UK again for a wedding and all of a sudden the wait was over. Because while I may have been there to celebrate my loving friends, fortunately for me, Petrol Girls magically booked a show in Cardiff during the time I was there and doubly lucky, I’m friends with people who both live in Wales AND love going to shows as much as I do so the night before the wedding the bride, groom and many friends from the wedding party all headed to the show to celebrate. I always love to shoot shows when I can while traveling too, because obviously I love music, and it’s always a plus seeing bands that are harder for me to see back home. (I also don’t really know how to ever effectively take time off from my life in New York and just take it on the road with me wherever I go. There is that too!)

 

While I waited patiently to see them again, I got to know the new record and was very excited to see the songs performed live. This album is as musically ambitious as it is politically incendiary and sees the band expanding beyond the boundaries of the hardcore/post hardcore sound from their previous albums. While those styles still absolutely are the framework within which they exist, Baby sees the band exploring sounds that feel more like electronic music at times (“One or the Other,” “Baby, I Had an Abortion”) and even delve towards a hip hop feel with the flow of the music and the lyrical delivery in “Sick & Tired,” which is one of my favorite tracks from the album. You can read more about their process in this very interesting track by track breakdown of Baby with vocalist Ren Aldridge, where she talks about some of the sounds and the political motivations behind the songs.

 

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls in Cardiff

 

Lyrically, Aldridge addresses many topics from femicide, abortion, bodily autonomy, mental health, hypocrisy and inaction/hand wringing on the left, male violence, police brutality, nationalism and much more from an rageful, astute and well researched place. Some of my favorite lyrics of 2022 come from “Preachers”: I don’t want to be saved, I guess I’ll be damned. As well as her unflinching, absolutely no fucks given about anyone else’s feelings in “Baby, I Had An Abortion” when she declares Baby, I had an abortion AND I’M NOT SORRY! Both lines are just as cathartic and powerful to yell along to as the closing lines of 2016’s anthem to bodily autonomy, “Touch Me Again,” where she screams Touch Me Again and I’ll fucking Kill You! no less than a dozen times. Seeing that song live in particular is one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had at a show and I’m someone who goes to shows for a living, so a lot of them; not much has held a candle to that.

 

 

Because I’m generally not good with identifying how a particular sound was created, I was very keen to learn how they made the new songs and now having seen the songs played live, I was even more impressed to see that they haven’t brought in computers and keyboards to accomplish their expanded palette like I thought they might have, rather guitarist Joe York built the songs with pedals/effects with drummer Zock Astpai using a sample pad, keeping the setup relatively simple while still being able to expand greatly on their sound. And given how different this record felt, I was also unsure if they had made a “studio” record that might not sound the same live, but the songs resonated live in an incredible way and were as fully formed as they are on the album, a perfect transition from record to stage.

 

The safety and comfort of the audience were major themes of the show both times I’ve seen the band, with Aldridge making repeated calls for all cis men to move away from the front to allow space for “women and my non binary mates” to be at the front, freely able to enjoy the show. At the 2019 show, she called out a specific bro for being too aggressive and crowd killing saying “I’m not going to take your aggro shit,” which obviously gets my full seal of approval each and every time. I want to enjoy a show with an active crowd sure, but there are ways to have a crowd have a good time, be active and working together to keep it fun/safe without it turning into a violent mess where people feel unsafe/unwelcome or worse, get hurt (sadly something that has happened to me countless times over the years and several times this past year alone).

 

This is something I have seen more artists being cognizant of and calling out more recently and I hope it continues; artists talking about it directly is the first and most effective way to ensure everyone feels safe and welcome at shows, and that things don’t careen out of control. At this most recent show, the band cheekily called for a “Waltz of Death” (a play on the old macho hardcore standard, the “wall of death”) and invited the audience to dance and waltz together during “One or the Other,” which everyone gleefully undertook for one of the most delightful things I’ve seen at a show in a while.

 

Petrol Girls crowd

Petrol Girls crowd

Waltz of Death!

 

As for the rest of the evening, it was a sonically mixed bill with each band playing a different style. But that was of no concern to anyone there, everyone enthusiastically supporting all three acts (I love the local scenes I have interacted with in the UK so much for this, not like the jaded NYC crowds I so often encounter). Opening the show was Newport, Wales based band, Murder Club, who played a set of catchy indie synth/pop. Direct support came from Cardiff band, Telgate, who put on a theatrical performance and self describes as “fiery queer aggro-glam band from South Wales with a duty to start riots in 6″ platforms 💋” (I unfortunately missed shooting their set but hopefully I can see them again next time I’m over that way.)

 

After the show, I asked York at the merch table when he thought Petrol Girls might finally make it to the States and he said while nothing is concrete yet, they are hoping for the latter half of 2023. I’m certainly hopeful for that too. Until then, I will continue to keep this critical band on heavy rotation in my life.

 

Scroll down for videos, setlist, pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)

 

 

Setlist: Clowns, The Sound, No Love for a Nation, Sick & Tired, Monstrous, Survivor, Fight For Our Lives, Harpy, (Big Mouth not played), One Or the Other, Preachers, Baby I Had an Abortion, Touch Me Again

Petrol Girls setlist

 

MURDER CLUB

Murder Club performing

Murder Club performing

Murder Club performing

Murder Club performing

Murder Club performing

Murder Club performing

 

PETROL GIRLS

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

Petrol Girls performing

 

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