Writer Yasmyn Nettle / Photographer Mx Neffy
The Victoria is a corner pub found next to The Alexandra theatre in the centre of Birmingham. Upstairs there’s a well equipped cosy gig room with its own bar and stage. Tonight, I’m anticipating not one, not two, but three up and coming heavy punk hitters who are expected to treat us to a thoroughly sweaty and sweary gig.
First up is TRANSISTRRR, a duo made up of Lexi on vocals and bass, and Jessica Claire on guitar and vocals. Jessica dedicates their set to Brianna Ghey, a teenage trans girl whose recent murder in a park near Warrington has shaken queer communities across the nation.
The pink, white, and blue trans flag draped over a drum set is spray painted with the name of the band.
TRANSISTRRR play an eight song set including original songs from their debut EP The World is a Scary Place and two covers – the opener ‘Outcast Stomp’ by G.L.O.S.S, and later ‘War’ by Idles. Each song is delivered with genuine rage and emotion, as promised by Jess at the beginning of their set.
‘Piss Off’ encapsulates everything TRANSISTRRR stands for – it’s dedicated to the journalists and media personalities who have blood on their hands for spreading fascism and hate.
They have a bit of tidying up to do, not that punk should be perfect, and the duo remind us of the drum track underneath their live playing. This was the source of a couple of their timing issues, but I for one am excited to hear them as a complete band soon, we all agree a live drummer will ensure a more natural and spontaneous sound.
Grail Guard is next, the band piles onto the stage transforming from what looks like five unassuming pub goers to a band fizzing with energy.
Riaz Rawat on vocals, Phil Wilson and Adam Yarnall playing guitar, James Rodger on bass, and Natan Komaiszko on drums. ‘Rule Britannia’ plays over the speakers before distorting into their fantastic opener ‘Cruel Britannia.’
If you want to get a bunch of left-wing gig goers ready to mosh, play an audio clip of a man from the Midlands (where Riaz is originally from) saying racist slurs. This worked a treat for Grail Guard before their song ‘Our Streets.’
Riaz cites the Windrush generation and their grandparents’ journey to England as influences for the song, jumping off of the stage to join a headbanging crowd.
Grail Guard has me onside from the get go. Their lyrics are infused with the exact kind of anti-fascist message I believe the world needs right now.
And, after some internal consulting, there’s an unexpected additional song played titled ‘Elon Musk’ which was handled especially well by drummer Natan, lathering us up with controlled syncopation.
Last but by no means least it’s Cuffs, our headline act. Their new album To Hell and Back is out now, and available on a slick 12” pink vinyl.
At points, lead singer Brodie Morgan seems to be preaching the word of punk to an eager congregation, reaching their arms into the air as if to pray as they spit, sing, and rap lyrics. We also have Matthew Cook on guitar and Lewis Hardwood on drums.
However, my stand out musician for the whole night has to be Will Grant on bass. Will brings an energy which spurs the band and crowd on, constantly animated and alive with music.
It takes Cuffs a few songs to really hit their stride. ‘You make me sick’ and ‘OCD’ contain infectious melodies that get the crowd thumping. Though some of the riffs didn’t feel super unique, Cuffs are able to skillfully infuse a heavy punk sound with an inexplicable softness.
‘Watch Me Die’ had some of their best melodies. I especially enjoy the moments when both guitarist’s vocalise to compliment Brodie’s singing, giving the songs an almost choir-like quality.
The song ‘Scandals and Vandals’ plays us out and leaves us wanting more.
Overall the three bands compliment each other’s vibe – with landlords, brexiteers, and people who make the queer community feel unsafe all called out to help us channel our anger.
Being a Brown neurodiverse 5 foot-something gig goer, I often feel trepidation to attend gigs which will get angry. But I feel safe surrounded by the warmth of each of the bands tonight.
Gender, race, and disability diversity IS punk and I hope the audience take that away with them as they head home.
Cuffs, Grail Guard, TRANSISTRRR @ The Victoria 15.02.23 – Mx Neffy
For more from Cuffs go to: www.cuffs.bigcartel.com
For more from Grail Guard: www.grailguard.bandcamp.com
For more from TRANSISTRRR got to: www.open.spotify.com/artist
For more from The Victoria go to: www.thevictoriabirmingham.co.uk