Review by Lydia Fitzer with Photography by Rob Hadley

It may have been a schoolnight, but that didn’t stop the gig junkies of Birmingham turning out in force for an evening of heavy happiness. This show was sold out in advance, and was Rews’ second sold out show in Brum. Take that as prior warning for next time! Their popularity is unsurprising. It’s difficult to pass up the opportunity of seeing a rising rocket so early in their career, and the incredible talent as support was a bonus!

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There was something a little unusual about the merch stand at this gig. Can you guess what it was?… T-shirts? Normal. CDs? Sure. Badges? Okay. Body lotion- Wait, what?! Are you familiar with Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics? They’re an ethical campaigning company (you can read more about that here). It turns out that Lush Birmingham teamed up with the event promoter Birmingham Review. The pair worked together and used the show to raise money for Coventry Peace House. This is a grassroots charity which gives vital support to the local community, including providing beds and support to destitute asylum seekers and refugees with no recourse to public funds. It may seem unusual for a cosmetics retailer to get involved in the local music scene, but anyone familiar with Lush Birmingham will know how individual and diverse they are. (If you’re especially familiar with them, you might remember that they put on their own charity gig last year.) It was lovely to see local organisations working together for a good cause. Anyway, onwards to the bands!

There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of P.E.T – I certainly hadn’t until a few days ago. They’re as fresh from the oven as you can get. They were formed in October 2017. Five months may have been a short time to develop, but they already have a distinctive sound and identity. They describe themselves as “bubblegum thrash punk”, and a more accurate description was never written. The “bubblegum” aspect is largely from the vocals of Abi Whistance, which I can only describe as “angry baby”. This is in the best possible way; girlish, high-pitched screams with all the aggression of a piranha. Whistance is the embodiment of petite power. Small, sweet and savage she sang, “Get your hands off me, I’m not your P-E-T!”

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Whistance performed very expressively, but it would have been great to see a little more facial enthusiasm from the rest of the band. They have a confident sound and a bold look (artsy punk – checked suits, berets, harnesses), and they need a stage sass to match! They’re certainly on their way, though. I put it down to nerves, which I reckon is nothing a few more sold out shows won’t cure. As the set continued they relaxed into the space, and it was nice to see a bit of deadpan humour from guitarist Molly Mcdonald. P.E.T are an act to keep an eye on, as they could have something quite special. They don’t have any music online at the moment, but they are recording right now!

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The first thing you need to know about You Dirty Blue is that their hair alone would make for a fantastic show. In all seriousness though, they are a class act. They’re alt rock with grunge and blues influences, and they produce a deeper sound than you’d think possible for just two members. One of the benefits of such a small line-up is that the chemistry between them is more noticeable. I can’t help but think that the close bond between a duo contributes to their having such a tight sound (and the same is true of Rews, but more on them later).

You Dirty Blue opened with a huge instrumental, gradually filling the room with energy. Any moment you expected them to launch into a song, but they kept going with the build-up. They teased their fans with familiar riffs. These guys know how to create an atmosphere! When Leon James finally started to sing, the tension broke into a wave of appreciation.

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James has a voice at once smooth, rich and husky. Listening to You Dirty Blue, I struggle to think of a vocal which could suit their sound more perfectly. Their songs are both energetic and effortlessly relaxed. They’re heavy enough to suit a metal taste and catchy enough to stick with you all day. In short, they’re completely addictive.

‘Nonsensical’, one of their most popular tracks, was every bit as enthralling as I’d imagined. It’s the first song from their latest EP ‘Tough Crowd’, and could thrill the toughest of crowds. It exploded on the stage. ‘Nonsensical’ showed off Martin Reynolds’ vocal skills a little more than their other songs, although he didn’t struggle to draw attention to himself anyway. This isn’t a drummer to be hidden at the back of the stage – he bounces while somehow poised with focus, open-mouthed with joy.

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James gave a very different performance style to Reynolds. James stooped onto the mic, his stormy face hidden behind a curtain of hair. The sound he created behind this screen was impassioned, and possibly more intimate because of the concealment. His downturned head meant that the crowd couldn’t see his expression too well, but in fairness he might have needed to look down to see his bass organ. The man is a multitask master. Why have a separate guitarist, bassist and vocalist when you could have one Leon James?

Their final song was ‘Gallow Dancer’, a unique track with a lilting guitar style guaranteed to play in your brain for hours. The lyrics include the phrase, “No, I can’t please everyone”. That may be true, but You Dirty Blue seriously pleased The Hare and Hounds crowd.

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As Rews began to prepare for their set, the crowd pressed to the front of the stage. For the first time the space felt incredibly small. Rews really needed a bigger venue – I can’t help but feel that they may have underestimated their own popularity. The audience waited patiently as the band ferried equipment onto the stage. It was just the two of them with a lot to do, and it took quite a while. Someone please round them up some minions!

Collette Williams (drums, backing vocals) and Shauna Tohill (vocals, guitar) may have been surprised by the size of their crowd, but I definitely wasn’t. Since they gambolled onto the scene last summer, they’ve attracted a loyal following which is growing rapidly. They have exactly the brand of high-quality pop-rock which almost guarantees success. Their sound is extremely polished. The instrumentals are difficult to fault, and the vocal harmonies are flawless. They play with different sounds and repetition, giving them a distinctive catchiness. Every track is easy to dance to, as Tohill demonstrated! She showed how much she loves to boogie, and you couldn’t help but want to join in.

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They bashed into ‘Rip Up My Heart’ with a “Whoop”! Tohill had a slightly less tuneful start, but quickly steadied her nerves and went on to give the practiced vocals I’d been expecting. They gave masses of unforced enthusiasm on stage. They beamed at the audience, they beamed at each other, and they filled the space with constant motion. The crowd floated in their giant bubble of happiness.

‘Death Yawn’ was early in the set, and I was pleased to find that the rest of the crowd loved it as much as I did! Everyone sang and clapped to the beat. Tohill described the track as being about “creepy people in hostels”, but it could be applied to any creepy people who couldn’t take no for an answer throughout history. To me it suggests tons of attitude, and a cheerful nonchalance at the idea of giving offence. In my opinion, ‘Death Yawn’ encapsulates the vibe of the whole ‘Pyro’ album; a feeling of lightness and empowerment.

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The crowd were treated to a performance of Rews’ newest song – so new, in fact, that they’ve only played it a couple of times. It’s called ‘Get There Someday’ and has a motivational/inspirational theme. It pairs funky guitar riffs with sharp clashing drums and Tohill’s signature silky vocal. At the end, Tohill asked, “Is that a yeah? D’you like it?” The fans howled their appreciation. They followed this up with ‘Shake Shake’, which is their most danceable track to date. It was designed to make you groove, and it got the whole room moving. Tohill released her inner rock diva, kneeling and leaning back in classic showboat fashion.

They carried the rock diva vibe into their performance of ‘Shine’, and made every person in the room release their inner rock star. The rising vocal notes showed off Tohill’s pipes gloriously. As Williams brought the final crash to the drums, Tohill raised her guitar into the air. They were barely able to finish the song before they were met with cries for an encore.

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They finished the show with ‘We Explode’. Did they save the best until last? Maybe! They smashed out all their best qualities in this number. It was punchy, sassy, strong, sleek, with a beat that would make the devil himself want to dance.

See the complete photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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2 Responses to “Rews + You Dirty Blue + P.E.T at The Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, UK – 22nd March 2018”

  1. Leona Says:

    Just wondering where you are based?

  2. Bianca Says:

    Gig Junkies head quarters are based in Birmingham, but we cover gig up and down the UK and beyond! :)

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