Gay Panic At Hare And Hounds: Lynks With Support From Gag Salon & VLURE 02/02/23

Writer Sadie Barnett / Photographer Emily Doyle

The audience is dressed to the nines as I enter the Hare and Hounds on Thursday 2 March. It’s rare to see an audience at this venue – oftentimes home to a great deal of Birmingham’s rock and metal scene – look quite so glamorous. It is clear before Lynks has even arrived they have set the tone here, an act renowned for the bold looks that accompany their shows.

The first support act, London-based Gag Salon, clearly got the memo. I’m struck by their dapper attire as I walk into their set, all of them placing somewhere on the fashion scale between ‘full suit’ and ‘Steve Jobs turtleneck’. They are a lively act, earning hearty head nods from the crowd with their pop-infused rock style.

Hectic by design, they don’t stick with a particular tempo for more than twenty seconds at a time, transitioning rapidly from tongue-in-cheek songs such as the 2022 single ‘21st Century Classical Music’ into a folksy cover of ‘Happy Birthday’ that singer Joe Mumford leads in a shout out to his girlfriend.

Whilst initially I’d pegged Gag Salon as your classic four-guys-on-stage-not-making-eye-contact-with-each-other-band, it becomes clear throughout their set they have a mischievous edge, with cheeky lyrics delivered in a wild manner that is definitely cut from the same cloth as tonight’s headliner.

Musically, I would file them next to an artist like Declan Mckenna – if he was having a bit of a manic turn.

The next support is Glasgow-based electro-punk group VLURE. Where Gag Salon disarmed the crowd, VLURE does the exact opposite. Lights are dimmed as they take to the stage. Intimidatingly staring down the audience, lead vocalist Hamish Hutcheson takes on an almost Christ-like pose as he stretches his arms out to us. “How the fuck are we Birmingham?” he asks.

We cheer, but it is not enough.

“I said how the fuck are we Birmingham?” The crowd cheers louder. He is furious at us and we are absolutely loving it. VLURE’s intense energy is infectious as they begin to play. Their style is distinctive, with post-punk combining with electro over distinctive Scottish vocals that range from Mike-Skinner-style conversational to full on screaming.

If I close my eyes it’s like I’ve fallen asleep whilst listening to two totally different albums and also watching Braveheart – in the best possible way.

This same energy is present onstage, with the band all jostling with each other and Hutcheson ripping off his Fred Perry t-shirt in a display of passion. Before any of us know what’s going on, Hutcheson and guitarist Conor Goldie leap into the crowd to perform their final song, bringing their microphones with them.

They are full of energy as they jump between us with no signs of stopping, fittingly chanting the lyrics “We will never die”. The audience is going crazy for it (perhaps with the exception of the sound engineer, who you can almost hear crying over the tangle of mic cables forming in the mosh).

It is a powerful end to their set and leaves the audience ready for more energy from Lynks.

Lynks is preceded to the stage by their backup dancers (a group known as Lynks Shower Gel) who help to carry out the elaborate choreography renowned to characterise Lynks’ shows. They ascend the stage slowly, wearing matching skimpy tartan outfits, and gaze out at the audience.

I am equal parts captivated and terrified.

After a beat we all begin to look around the room, where is Lynks? Why haven’t they followed their dancers on to stage? It is a shock to all of us when Lynks suddenly pops their head (dressed in one of their characteristic spiked balaclavas – this one tartan) up from the tartan sofa at the back of the stage.

The crowd cheers and Lynks immediately jumps into action.

Lynks is an utterly captivating live act, utilising Beyonce levels of breath control to match raucous lyrics with fast-paced choreography. As Lynks and their dancers squat, slam, and high kick their way through their opening songs, we are hypnotised.

There are no words that describe the mood of the crowd better than: Gay Panic.

Lynks Shower Gel takes a moment to solo during Grove’s verse of their joint song ‘BBB’ (the one Grove themself performed their half of at Hare and Hounds only last month) endlessly impressing the crowd. At the end of this song, Cam, one of the dancers, appears to faint. Concern ripples through the crowd. Is this part of the act?

“Anyone know a cure for death?” Lynks asks the crowd. As it happens, Lynks does, using this skit as an entry point into unreleased song ‘CPR’. A masterclass in camp, Lynks and the other dancers make a show of administering CPR to Cam, who jerks on the onstage sofa before coming back to life.

“It’s the power of sex and science!” shouts Lynks, earning laughter from the crowd.

Lynks remains totally in control of the audience here, with an unfading confidence, laughing at us as we react predictably to their prompts, booing for Thatcher and cheering for Birmingham. “You’re so easy!” they tell us. Nonetheless, they pile on the praise, reminding us “Each and every one of you are the most beautiful person in the world”, introducing the feel-good tune ‘Perfect Human Specimen’.

A big chunk of this audience are evidently veteran Lynks fans. I’d heard talk before the show from previous gig-goers of their penchant for playing unreleased songs live. In particular, I’d heard ominous whispers of something which has only been described to me as “the béchamel song”. As the lights suddenly go down these whispers start up again.

“It’s time to get vulnerable”, Lynks tells the crowd. The crowd goes crazy. Somehow, they know that this means it is béchamel time.

I am not quite sure how to describe the experience that is a live rendition of ‘How to Make a Béchamel Sauce in Ten Steps (With Pictures). All I can say for sure is by the end of the song every single person in the crowd is screaming, “Add milk to taste!” over a synth backbeat as WikiHow images of Béchamel Sauce fly into the crowd.

The show barrels forward with a blink-and-you-miss it speed. We do as instructed, whether that be screaming at the top of our lungs or getting down low on the floor. For a brief second, Lynks joins us in the crowd, magically ending up back onstage whilst we are all still turned around trying to reach them.

At one point, I am turned away from the stage when the entire audience shrieks in delight. I ask my friend what I just missed. She simply shouts back, “Bumhole!”

Lynks closes the show with fan favourite, ‘Silly Boy’. It is a cheeky jab at toxic masculinity and the first song of theirs I ever heard. I’m not alone in singing along at the top of my lungs to lyrics like “Poor little straight boy, nobody cares that you watched Pulp Fiction!”

Gone too soon, they return to stage for a double encore, closing with the song that catapulted them to fame in 2020, ‘Str8 Acting’, a scathing commentary on straight culture which has the entire room jumping up and down, a celebration for all of use who have felt like outsiders.

I leave the show with a renewed sense of joy and community. And with a crumpled picture of Step 6 for making Béchamel Sauce (incorporating milk).

Lynks at Hare and Hounds – with support from Gag Salon + VLURE 02.02.23 / Emily Doyle


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