On a chilly evening a few minutes’ walk from Chalk Farm tube station lies a modest pub dubbed The Legendary Live Music Venue, a.k.a. The Fiddler’s Elbow. Visitors were greeted with rock tunes from the speakers, vinyl records fitted to the walls, and comfy red sofas. Suffice to say, it was a comfortable atmosphere. This was a great setting for Who Run The World (WRTW) – a promotions company which endeavours to showcase female musicians from all backgrounds, genres, ages, size, race…it doesn’t matter, so long as they are talented and passionate about their art.
WRTW was set up in August 2015 to “improve visibility of women in music in the grass roots music scene in London” according to the woman behind it all, Beth White. As a musician herself, Beth experienced first-hand how the music scene (musicians, promotors, managers, label executives) tended to be guys. WRTW not only creates more opportunities for emerging female musicians, it also acts as a supportive female community who can share and bond over their experiences.
After learning more about the company, its aims, and the motivation behind them, I support it 100%. I’m all for giving women a louder voice in the media… or anywhere, for that matter! Too often our voices are drowned out, intentionally or otherwise, when someone goes out of their way to do something about it, I can’t help but commend them. With all of this in mind, I looked forward to hearing the performers.
As a black female, it was great to see someone who looked like me take to the stage and play electric guitar accompanied by a drummer. This someone was Estella Adeyeri with drummer Danny Barton and together, they were JUNK. Estella was all sweetness and warmth, and the instruments created an upbeat hard rock sound. Both members had excellent control of their instruments, even when Estella was strumming hard and fast like someone so wrapped in their own world that reality becomes a blur.
Next up were Pretty Ugly, fronted by Kitty Cassette who was appropriately dressed in ripped jeans, a checked shirt, and a faded Batman top. Almost instantly, the vibe was transformed into one of excitement and good humour. “Who run the world!” Kitty screamed, encouraging the room to reply: “Girls!”. Another thing which impressed me was the varied vocals – sometimes there was gentle singing, oftentimes a few words or lines were screamed in seemingly effortless fashion.
During their wild set, drummer Demelza Mather started bleeding, I assume from either the drum sticks or the kit itself. However, all was well; “As long as I can still play”, Demelza smiled before continuing and maintaining the same high quality as before. Helen Anderson brought a dirty sound to the band with a low-tuned bass that thoroughly enhanced their sound.
Described as a “three piece DIY indie / punk band based in West London” (even if Google insists that they are a 1990 Spanish film directed by Carlos Saura), ¡Ay, Carmela! were next. I would describe them as the softest band of the night with their slow jams and gentle melodies. Their personalities were relatable, especially when Carmela Pietrangelo and Laura Coles described their low-paying jobs as teacher’s assistants and introduced a song called “Don’t Congratulate Me (For My Mediocrity)” which is about said jobs.
Another relatable and genuine band was ARXX, most notably vocalist Hannah Pidduck who expressed a little anxiety at the beginning of their set, asking the audience to step forward to make them feel more comfortable. Honestly though, they had nothing to worry about as I would consider them one of the best acts of the night. It was touching to see how passionately Hannah strummed the guitar and, more than once, said how nice the crowd were. Hannah and Kate Salt work extremely well with their tight riffs and rock ‘n’ roll sound, and I would definitely go to see them again.
Finally, to finish the night was two-thirds of “Black feminist sistah punk” band Big Joanie. Unfortunately, bassist Kiera Coward-Deyell had booked a flight to Spain that clashed with the performance, so couldn’t attend. Nevertheless, Stephanie Phillips and Chardine Taylor-Stone worked with what they had and, had I not been told of the missing member, I wouldn’t have suspected a thing as they were not lacking in sound.
Seeing not just one but two black women onstage created a warm feeling in my heart that many other black people will understand. Their voices were bold, made stronger by the electric guitar and drums, and Chardine wore a frequent smile. They ended their set by taking us back to the 90’s with a cover of TLC’s “No Scrubs”. Each “No!” was yelled defiantly into the microphone by Chardine which made a stronger impact than the melodious singing from the original.
All in all, I had a good time. The only downside I can think of is that often I couldn’t hear most of the lyrics due to the volume of the instruments. Though what I could hear was, overall, very pleasing to the ears. My thanks go to Beth for inviting me and to each band for rocking the place as hard as they did. I wish each of them, and Who Run The World, luck for the future.
Photo Credit: Jojo Khor // Poster Design: Ruby Stocks
Words by Shanade McConney