I still argue today, that it wasn’t the end of the despondent era in UK music, where attempts to push underground rave culture and indie music to the mainstream caved into this “cool Britannia” era of patriotic bubble-gum pop, or a backlash to its plethora of conventional, clean-cut boy bands which heralded the success of the Spice Girls, rather where prior single-sexed bands conformed to a uniform of style and fashion, The Spice Girls where individuals; kind of like a league of superheroes each with divergent powers. Female fans debated which one they’d like to be, why males debated which one they’d like to be with.
For all-girl groups were nothing new, take The Supremes as an example, and their slogan, “girl power,” was blatantly stolen from a feminist US punk zine. I contemplate this individuality as I sit in the Melksham Assembly Room observing five women, from bands of varying genres, sing covers with faith, a sense of inimitability and a whole lot of fun. There was something uniquely different about them all, but their similarity to the Spice Girls ended there, thankfully.
When, after some great support acts, Jules Morton excused a break in the performances with “while they get the right knickers on,” it was obviously going to be an evening girls governed, not so much in song selection, as Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, and If you Let me Stay by Terrence Trent Darby hardly define ground-breaking moments in femininity, although Joan Armatrading’s Drop the Pilot and The Look by Roxette arguably do, but their refined execution which had just as much sprinkling of girly attitude as their pink feathered microphone stands.
Notwithstanding it was predominantly girls who’ve gathered on the dance floor at the opening of The Female of the Species annual charity gig at Melksham’s Assembly Hall last night, although husbands and boyfriends soon succumbed.
Variety then is what the punters got, it’s what they were expecting after five consecutive years of this charity fundraising extravaganza. There was an insatiable atmosphere of diversity and timely professionalism which blew this high roof. A moment for all the girls to proudly take back to their respective bands, safe in the knowledge they raised a grand sum for Young Melksham, a worthy local youth community project.
While Nicky Davis of the Reason, and People Like Us, gave the evening that contemporary pop-rock element, Julia Greenland from Soulville Express bought some classic soul, and while solo artist Charmaigne Andrews added a pinch of punk-rock, Jules Moreton of Train to Skaville, and her saxophonist Karen Potter ska’d it up. If that’s not a melting pot of variety enough for you, Frome’s Claire Perry of Big Mama’s Banned had a variety all of her own, with a natural wit to bind them; taking on the slow jazzy Alison Moyet number, That ol’ Devil Called Love was not taken lightly, but accomplished sublimely.
Like Spice Girls, I tried to pick a favourite, but this time based on quality of their voices and performances! This was becoming increasing difficult as each one took centre stage, and through an assortment of classic pop songs they meandered, Julia taking my breath away superbly covering Stevie Wonder’s I Wish, Charmaigne belting out Seven Nation Army, Jules Dropping the Pilot, and Nicky exploding from behind her keyboards to execute an absolutely amazing rendition of Heard it Through the Grapevine, I couldn’t single one out.
Clickbait for me on YouTube was a video promising a duet of Madness by Prince Buster AND Suggs a while ago, taken from the Jools Holland show I believe. But it only disappointed as there was a clear friction between both legends; Buster looked incensed at this guy who’d made a more worldwide renowned career from his songs, and even named his band after one of them, while Suggs, who was clearly upstaged by his idol and knew it, wore an expression that uncentre in the spotlight was not a place he was used to being in. Despite these girls last night all coming from varying local bands there was never the feeling of competition or envy, rather a mutual respect and love, in which they harmonised each other’s songs. This transpired with a breath-takingly exclusive show, combining each’s own talents as, not just a sample of their work with their bands, but an unstoppable amalgamation of female aptitude.
I was stood outside with a member of the backing band, and Jules and Julia, while he expressed to me the infrequency of rehearsals, being they were all dedicated to other bands, the backing band itself a consolidation, but you’ve had hardly noticed at the show. A fantastic night of which you should attend next years. Annually it’s for a different charity each time, but after this, their sixth go, equally all as awesome. Hats off to all involved.