Peach Club at The Owl Sanctuary, 24/03/18

Peach Club’s new songs mark an interesting diversifying of their offering – but are they a famous band yet?

I’ve been itching to see Peach Club again ever since they headlined Oxjam at The Mash Tun in October. With a new EP out since, I was curious to see what, if any, progression their live set showed. And with the future of the Owl Sanctuary in doubt (again), it seemed timely to pay them another visit.

The evening was opened by Lincoln indie pop band Vigilantes. The quartet were drafted in at late notice when original openers Kaves had to pull out of the gig due to illness. Vigilantes played a selection of cuts from last year’s Liberosis EP plus most recent single Yuck. The highlight, however, was an as yet unnamed tune given its first live airing, apparently barely a week old – keep ‘em peeled.

Frontman Curly was on good form, bantering with the audience and delivering the lyrics which have seen the band offered a support slot for Britpop legends the Bluetones in Spring, a task also entrusted to the likes of Jordan Allen and The Gallerys.

Main support Dolls had curiously travelled up from London, the opposite journey to that which many up-and-coming Norwich bands, including the headliners, take out of necessity. Already building a good following in the capital, Jade Ellins (vocals, guitar) and Belinda Conde (drums, vocals) created a huge sound for a duo, thanks to Ellins’ old-school guitar riffs and Conde’s duet vocals, going far beyond what most singing drummers provide.

Standouts included jaunty recent offering Armchair Psychiatrist and 2015 single Kid Kannibal. Having recently played an acoustic set for Girls Against alongside Girli, they head to Brighton and Bristol next and have been excitedly tweeting about the test-pressing of some vinyl – again, keep ‘em peeled.

Over the next 40 minutes or so, a question kept occurring to me: Are Peach Club a famous band yet? Set-wise, they seemed to do everything a famous band does. They started with their signature song (Bad Bitch) and finished with a live favourite that sums up their message (Mission Impossible), they made time to introduce the mandatory new songs, people actually sung along to them, and some of the biggest cheers were reserved for the best tune of the breakthrough record, in this case My Best Friend.

With the band playing all five songs from January’s Cherry Baby EP, the best was Oh My God. It’s short, standoffish and funny with the underlying frustration at how people perceive young women that also bubbles up most obviously in The Bitch Diaries and Gr8 – all condensed into two breathless minutes on stage.

An energetic Cherry Baby was another highlight. The first real story song the band has attempted, it adds another string to their bow. Despite the basic conceit, the songwriting is sublime (“he always asked her if she was having fun, but she cried in the corner after just one”) and live it fizzed with energy. Grittily driven by the rhythm section, Rebecca Wren’s stadium-rock style drumming and Amanda MacKinnon’s deep bass underpinned Katie Revell’s delivery.

If nothing else, Venus slowed the pace and offered something different again – Peach Club’s first song specifically about sex (the act). Let’s not kid ourselves, the lyrics are dire – it’s a rare blip in an otherwise superb discography to date – but Charlie Hart’s slow, swaggering, low-fi guitar simmered with menace and Revell’s mockingly insouciant delivery, perched on Wren’s bass drum, almost saved it. Almost.

Death Becomes Her is another interesting attempt to create a narrative, this time (as the title suggests) conforming more to Peach Club’s tried-and-tested tropes than the EP’s title track. This is one of the cleverest and most complete songs the band has done to date musically, with the different instrumental parts wrapping around each other superbly through the changes of pace.

The gap at the end of set opener Bad Bitch is a perfect acid test to find out who knows the band and who doesn’t – you can just tell from people’s reactions. Revell has realised its crowd-participation-potential and this time she asked the audience to join in the clapping intro. Amid the melange of their noisy live offering, the hilarious nursery-rhyme verse got a bit lost, as did the studio version’s peppy backing vocals in the last verse which was a pity but didn’t detract from its purpose, to lay down a marker. And as a statement of intent, it’s going to take a hell of a song to equal Bad Bitch.

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Elsewhere, standalone single Gr8 was as angry and in-your-face as ever – the epitome of Peach Club’s melodic garage punk, and Mission Impossible was typically on-message, with Revell jumping down into the audience to growl the verses at the front row above MacKinnon’s bass and Hart’s riffing. Go Away and I’m A Bitch from the first EP sounded suitably pissed off.

Peach Club were every bit as tight as I remember them being, and Revell was chattier this time – we got more banter with the audience and some impressive filling halfway through when technical gremlins crept into Hart’s amp. We even got a quip about the BBC’s Test Card F (it’s worrying when you’re the only one around you who gets it, though!)

So what did we learn from the evening? Well, no surprises that Peach Club continue to go from strength to strength. But with the Cherry Baby EP, its hits (and miss) show a far greater range of songwriting than anything they’ve done before. Peach Club have overcome their mini difficult second record and have expanded their live sound immeasurably without becoming any less subversive.

Will the stylistic experimentation continue? Will we finally get an album in 2018? Will we get any more headline shows after Peach Club’s trips so far this year to Leeds, Birmingham and London? Four people know, and an ever-increasing number want to find out.

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Published by

Tony Allen

20-year-old student from Norwich.

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