Review by Lydia Fitzer with Photography by Rob Hadley

Roll up for an evening of hardcore hat trick; three bands are about to come along and blast the very highlights out of your hair. That is, if you were lucky enough to get a ticket. This gig is sold out, and it shows. The Hare and Hounds is already heaving – this is gonna be a sweaty one!

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The evening opens with a massive crash to the sound of killer BOB, a self-described aggro grunge band from Birmingham. You can feel the aggression in their sound. The bassline punches incessantly, and Nat Bite’s alto vocal is nothing short of lion-like. She growls, widens her stance and pulsates to the music, hands beating at her guitar. The influence of Melvins is clear – what are these sludgy riffs other than Buzz Osbourne’s creative legacy? I’d love to see the effect of Bite receiving some further vocal tuition as I feel she could gain greater control over her range. Killer BOB are a band who may have potential, and this could take them to another level.

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Next to the stage are FACE UP, and honestly I love them. Instant fan. They serve the finest local punk metal that money can buy, female fronted with a poisoned vocal. I get a heap of thrash vibes from them in more ways than one. The whole band blazes with energy, none more than vocalist Roxx. She’s made of charisma. They’re playing ‘Lost Control’ from their 2018 album ‘The World Is Ours’, and Roxx loses control. She jumps, she raises her fist and wails. She throws her blonde mane like a fairy of fire. She has one of the best female metal vocals I’ve heard in a long time. Pair that with gorgeously executed instrumentals – simple and hammering, classic and soaring – and you’ve got a winner in my eyes.

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FACE UP are giving me a moshing metal party. You want to see them live for yourself? Good! You should. They’re down to play HRH Punk 2019 at the Sheffield O2 Academy in October, and you should definitely go. HRH throw some damn fine festivals (see my past experiences here and here), and if the promise of a set from FACE UP is anything to go by, the lineup will be excellent. FACE UP leaves the lyrics of ‘Rise Now’ ringing in my ears; “Fight! Now! Before they take us, before they take us…” They make me want to kick this building to the ground.

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Finally it’s time for the main event. Allow me to introduce the bubblegum-coated blaze of glory that is Hands Off Gretel. They describe themselves as having “Gwen Stefani style swagger” with “Nirvana-esque grunge”, and I’d say that pretty much sums them up. Their sound is heavy and dirty, with the type of energy and beat that would make the devil himself want to dance. I like them so much that I might even buy their merch, and that’s saying something. (I review a lot of bands. If I bought the merch of every band I love, I’d be the poorest girl in the world.) I was always bound to like them, because their bassist Becky Baldwin is an absolute treasure and I support anything she’s involved with. She’s also the bassist for Fury, a band I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing twice before (here and here if you’re interested), so I knew how awesome she is long ago.

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Really though, Hands Off Gretel seems to be the brainchild of vocalist and guitarist Lauren Tate. Lord, she is a vision. She’s all crystal eyes with white and black dreadlocks. She leans into the microphone as if she wants to breathe her soul into it. Her gorgeous alto vocal rage is perfectly executed. Feel the power coming from her in waves! I’m stood quite far from the front, but during ‘One Eyed Girl’ (from their first album ‘Burn The Beauty Queen’, 2016), I catch a glimpse of the wildness in her eyes as she rolls her head back. Her smile is intoxicating – she’s like a creature from another world. Baldwin gives everything she has – she headbangs, bounces, dances while pirouetting on the spot. Guitarist Sean Bon moves his hands at the speed of light. He sways his head to the bassline, then crouches and curls his body around the guitar. Sam Hobbins (drums) gradually builds the tempo to the point of explosion – the atmosphere in the room is strong enough to taste.

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Of course this tour is a celebration of Hands Off Gretel’s incredible new album, ‘I Want The World’, released March 2019. (My personal favourite track is ‘Milk’. I see you, Tate. Slamina eht rof nagev forever!) Being possibly the sassiest band of all time, the evening would not be complete without a rendition of ‘S.A.S.S’, one of the most popular tracks of the album. Tate introduces the song; “Right, this is called ‘S.A.S.S’… One second. My mouth’s like an arse.”

Her vocal is the first thing you hear – “You just don’t get it! You just don’t have it! So don’t you take it out on me” – and the instrumental crashes around her. This is one of the best brainworms I’ve heard in ages. Tate leans right into the crowd as the funkiest jolty guitar riffs galvanise the room. As the chorus comes round again, Tate closes her eyes and smiles through her whole body. She throws back her dreads and points to the sky. She was born for the stage. (Tate does solo music too if you feel like checking it out.) The whole band don’t stop moving for a second throughout the whole song, and indeed the whole set. This is prime entertainment right here. There may not be much space to move, but the audience are clearly in love with Hands Off Gretel.

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See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

2 Responses to “Hands Off Gretel + FACE UP + killer BOB at The Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, UK – 9th June 2019”

  1. Alan(yebut)Davies Says:

    OMG, I read this review and honestly almost cried, this is one of the best reviews I’v ever read about HOG (and indeed Lauren)and describes them to a tee, I’ve attended over 100 HOG gigs and although I couldn’t make this particular one I knew it would be awesome as they just keep going from strength to strength and I know I’ve got to make the most of them while can before they start playing arena’s, also be sure to check out Laurens new solo album out soon :)

  2. David Says:

    Great review!

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