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Gang of Four w/ Pins & Kagoule, Islington Assembly Hall, London

  • Written by  Robert Freeman

Ironically (or perhaps hearteningly) at a gig to raise funds for the Women’s Equality party at Islington Assembly Hall, it’s not really ladies’ night. Gang of Four are playing, and as a result it’s a bit of a sausage fest in the audience, a fact that WE co-founder Catherine Mayer has noticed. “You will have spotted,” she says in her interim ‘public service announcement’ between bands “that Gang of Four have an all male line up…” Yes Catherine, we spotted when we arrived. They are all men. The audience is all men. The men are all wearing caps and not dancing.

Thank god for gender-imbalance redressing, Sleater-Kinney supporting, all-round badasses, PINS, who don’t really give a crap. Faith Holgate’s voice pierces, flashes and shines its way through a barn-storming eight song set, while drummer Sophie Galpin kicks the shit out of her drums like they’ve just called her ‘darling’ in a pub. Each member of the band bounces off each other in a feedback loop of growling riffs and drums - in fact not a million miles away Go4 themselves. “This is for the ladies,” Holgate announces before ‘Girls Like Us’. The women in the audience put their hands in the air.

Between the two headliners Mayer takes to the stage to talk about the WE, a political party seeking to address the breathtaking inequality of the profoundly sexist British society we live in. Despite the year being 2015 - nearly a century after women received the honour of, er - ACTUALLY BEING ABLE TO VOTE - the music industry in particular is still dominated by men, because it’s endemic and ingrained. Regrettably, Mayer has to point out “Canada’s prime minister has recently appointed a cabinet comprising more than half women. Why?” she asks, “BECAUSE IT’S 2015.” It seems obvious when she says it.

After Mayer we come to the slightly bizarre choice of WE night headliner, Gang of Four, fronted by Mayer’s husband - professional Stratocaster-torturer, Andy Gill. From the start to the end Gill stands, foot up on amp like a Roman emperor delivering a judgement, tearing into his guitar and delivering some of the most blistering, urgent riffs anyone has ever wrung from the instrument. It’s invigorating to watch.

Much has been made of the substitution of skittering jitterbug, Jon King (who left in 2012) for the big-eyed NME front cover-fodder that is ex-Gaoler’s Daughter, John Sterry. As Gill has pointed out though, Gang of Four has always been a postpunk Sugababes, a revolving door of members rivalled only by The Fall for length of roster. On top of which Sterry is on top form - from the first ‘A WA WA WA OWW’ of ‘To Hell with Poverty’ to the chorus of ‘At Home He Feels Like A Tourist’, he inhabits the role. In fact it’s so good that the men-wearing-caps-and-not-clapping relinquish their previous role to start up a fight pit. This means they approve.

From the tight 3/3 of ‘Damaged Goods’ to the shredding at the beginning of ‘Love Like Anthrax’, Gang Of Four really know how to tear a place up. And bonus - tonight it’s for the ladies. As the opening riff of ‘Damaged Goods’ starts, a woman in the audience starts dancing by herself with her eyes closed. It’s a good night.

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