Words by Ed King / Pics by Aatish Ramchurn & Eleanor Sutcliffe
“…can anyone take my ticket?”
A man stands in the doorway at the Hare & Hounds, gesticulating like a proud Neville Chamberlain. OK, bad example. But it’s 7:30pm, the venue has just opened, and there’s a queue forming behind him. As gigs on a school night go this is looking promising.
And so it should be, the once ‘rising balloon’ now ‘rock powerhouse’ of Rews have returned to the city – bolting a Birmingham gig onto the end of their UK spring tour, before finishing their run with dates in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Plus, they’ve sold out. On a Thursday. Something that’s a shiny badge of honour for bands that play in the second city, and one that is unassailable Rews deserve.
Since releasing their debut album, Pyro, back in November 2017, the Marshall signed two piece have been relentless in their performances and promotion – with their penultimate single, ‘Your Tears’, recently receiving a week of A-List airplay on Radio One. Rews are on the march, and it’s working. This is a band that you only have to see play once to become hooked. And from most of the DJs on Auntie’s No1 station to the room full of people coming tonight, there’s many who’d agree.
The Hare 2 continues to fill up, with the venue’s narrow stairs looking like a bathroom queue at a house party. Roddy Woomble is playing in Hare 1, launching the promo campaign of this year’s Mosley Folk Festival, and it’s a busy night all round in Kings Heath. The buzz in the air is both cliché and palpable, with a healthy half room turnout by the time Rews’ first support band, P.E.T, swagger on stage – dripping head to toe in punk paraphernalia and attitude.
“Take your hands off me, I’M NOT YOUR P.E.T”, declares front woman, Abi Whistance, screaming into the mic and over the crowd – who have edged closer to the stage to find out where this ‘tiny but mighty’ noise is coming from.
P.E.T are relatively fresh faces on the Birmingham live circuit, having formed as the leaves fell in 2017. But already they’re already picking up a wealth of support and steam, with their unrelenting thrash punk and dead pan humour – stabbing the ribcages of the establishment with ‘Eton Mess’, to cutting off those wandering hands with their eponymous opening track. It’s raw, unashamed, and musically solid. This is a band who could get somewhere, or take us all down in the most colourful of ways whilst trying. But I’d watch out for P.E.T… tonight’s ‘rising balloon’ baton has been firmly handed over.
The rolling cymbal crashes and rough vocals of You Dirty Blue are on stage next, washing the room with waves of psychedelic and garage rock. I’m reticent to call it ‘blues rock’ again, as the man to my left is currently reading the BPREVIEW for tonight’s gig, smirking, shaking his head like a straight laced Will Self, and muttering “…this is not blues”. He might even be right, in his lexicon and record collection at least, but it seems no one really cares as the Tamworth two piece kick out tracks from their Tough Crowd EP and beyond.
Walls of sound are built and knocked to the ground, riffs get scatter gunned, as Leon James’ rough but endearing vocals lead us through a Velvet Underground tinged Purple Haze with some Seattle seeded two fingers up. You Dirty Blue’s final track, of both tonight’s set and their Tough Crowd EP – ‘Gallow Dancer’, punches a particular hole in the room, with a melodic hook and chorus I dedicate to the smart phone wielding ‘man to my left’. It’s like drowning in a lava lamp whilst John Peel and Bruce Pavitt play you ‘some really cool shit’. And if you have any room on the inside of your forearm left, carve You Dirty Blue as a musical reminder. Awesome stuff.
Some set changes ensue and fervent mummering begins, as Rews get ready for their headline set – the eager beaver Thursday night crowd pushing itself towards the front of the stage. Awesome to see such enthusiasm, but not easy when you’re juggling drum kits on a busy stage. Lights down, lights up, mummering stops, and like the opening scene in Back to the Future (minus the clock, coffee or dog food) we are poised – somewhere a plectrum glints…
Immediate and personable, Rews (aka Shauna Tohill and Collette Williams) beam their appreciation to the crowd and across the room – launching into the staple of tracks from their debut album. ‘Let it Roll’ bounces off stage declaring the rock intentions of tonight’s set, reeling in an already health and safety defying audience with invisible fish hooks. No one here gets out alive, or at least until the end of the set, as the great and good from Pyro and beyond (…album two?) get a rigorous shake. Or even ‘Shake Shake’, but not until a little later.
There’s a real joy in watching Rews perform, and not just because their already tight performance seems even more polished this time around. It’s the sheer energy and enjoyment you get sweeping off stage. Rews are in Birmingham at the end of a long and arduous tour (…think snow, lots of snow) but tonight could be the first time they’ve stepped on stage after a month in the sun and several nights of interrupted sleep. The banter is great as well, with the closeness between the two musicians making the whole room feel part of something special.
Then comes ‘the moment’. Rews had alluded to adding a “sort of an electro acoustic rendition of one of our older songs” into the set, after their gig in Leeds a few nights before. And as Williams leaves her stool to join Tohill at the front of the stage, this is what we’re about to get – soft steel strings and a tapped out percussion deliver a stripped back version of ‘Everything’, one of Rews’ older tracks that is getting a post Pyro make-over. It’s beautiful. My job is to find words but often I can’t, and this just works. Rews work. Add your own hyperbole.
Crammed into the edges of the merch stand, I let the rest of the set wash through me. I think I scribble the words ‘triumphant’ and ‘step up’ into my notebook, but any serious reportage is done for the day. Thankfully there’s a load of pics to help you piece this night together (see below) if you weren’t there to witness it first hand – with the full Flickr of pics from Aatish Ramchurn here, and from Eleanor Sutcliffe here.
And it you didn’t make it to the Hare and Hounds on 22nd March, or if you’ve not seen this continuously impressive rock duo before, I strongly suggest checking Rews out for yourself. If you haven’t got a copy of Pyro, start there. But if you ever see them on a bill poster, in whatever corner of the globe you call home, then put your hands in your pocket and buy a ticket. It’s hard to imagine you’ll feel short changed. And next time Rews come back to Birmingham, you might want to move a little quickly whilst you’re at it.
Rews @ Hare & Hounds 22.03.18 / Aatish Ramchurn & Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on Rews, visit www.rewsmusic.com
You Dirty Blue – supporting Rews @ Hare & Hounds 22.03.18 / Aatish Ramchurn & Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on You Dirty Blue, visit www.youdirtyblue.com
P.E.T – supporting Rews @ Hare & Hounds 22.03.18 / Aatish Ramchurn & Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on P.E.T, visit www.facebook.com/petbanduk
For more from Metropolis Music, visit www.metropolismusic.com
For more on the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath), including venue details and further event listings, visit www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk