Words by Lydia Fizer / Pics by Paul Reynolds
Otherwise known as the Oven of Aural Delights, >1000°C. “Me eyebrows are comin’ off!” – Molly McDonald, P.E.T bassist extraordinaire.
P.E.T. Ah, what can I say about P.E.T? That I’m beyond excited to see them again. That they have the purest punk sound which will pierce you to the core. That they’ve chosen their favourite local bands for the lineup tonight. It’s gonna be a good one. I can feel it in my water.
This gig is special, and not just because the lineup promises greatness. Tonight is the first time that the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign stickers are in action. These are part of a larger campaign working against the cases of sexual assault, violence, and misconduct which are making our local music scene unsafe. Right this moment, P.E.T vocalist Abi Whistance is scouring the venue, slapping a sticker on anyone she can reach.
If you see these stickers at a music event in the future, please wear one. Even better, order some and distribute them. We are all responsible for showing solidarity in the face of sexual aggression, and demonstrating to the perpetrators that their actions will not be tolerated. You can get the stickers and information here, and even more information about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign here. As Whistance would say, “Get your hands off me, I’m not your P.E.T!”
Onwards. The first band to the stage are Flares, a babyfaced bundle of punk realness. They’re only 14/15 years old, but they are not to be underestimated. Their music is more mature than some bands twice their age.
They open with ‘Anywhere, Anywhere’ and bring a sound that hits your chest like a hammer. Their instrumentals are at once grungy and sharp. They move to the music with confidence. Flares are strong enough that covers of iconic songs are vibrant from their mouths. They get the whole room dancing to Buzzcocks’ ‘Ever Fallen in Love’, and stamp their own sound into M.I.A.’s ‘Paper Planes’. The beat keeps rolling right to the end of their final track, ‘Pastime’. They don’t put a note wrong.
Next up are The Butters Aliens. They have electric vocals from Ed Draper and an irresistible sound. The room is a mass of flailing limbs within the first minute of their set.
They smash a cover of FIDLAR’s ‘Stoked and Broke’, and I can’t help thinking that they play with unbelievable accuracy if they’re as baked as they claim. It’s so catchy. So memorable. It’s shoe-throwingly good (no, really. Shoes and hats are cast asunder. You don’t need them in hell). Later they cover FIDLAR’s ‘No Waves’. The old YouTube videos don’t do these covers justice at all; this show is leaving me blissfully broken – as Draper sings in ‘No Waves’, “I need a new body and I need a new soul”.
They set light to another firecracker, ‘Powerslide’. It makes me smile to see drummer Matt Homback briefly swap places with vocalist/guitarist Draper. Bring your drummers to the front and let them feel the love. They follow this with ‘No Name’. I’m left feeling like I need their CD for when I want to bounce around like a monkey on crack (admit it, you know how I feel).
There’s a whole load of gorgeous camaraderie between the bands tonight. They start mosh pits in one another’s honour, they write each other’s initials across their chests. Vocalist/guitarist of Miilkk, Jack Dixon, is called onto stage with The Butters Aliens to lend his exuberance. The Aliens end on an unearthly headbanging beat. Miilkk take to the stage. Drummer Fin Elwell-Jones’ facial glitter twinkles with promise.
I love it. The crowd loves it. I couldn’t have predicted this – Miilkk have a few bits and pieces on YouTube, but not enough to convey their real character. I left their YouTube account thinking The Moldy Peaches. I see them live and they turn the room into a metal party. Dixon has a classic, almost scratchy voice which takes me back to the first time I heard Kurt Cobain sing (‘Lithium’, in case you were wondering. I forget the year).
Miilkk whip out a fantastic cover of FIDLAR’s ‘Cheap Beer’, supercharging the crowd with an incredible hook. This was a cover worth screaming over (and won’t be the last FIDLAR cover of the night. Why so many songs by FIDLAR? I’m beginning to think this is a conspiracy. Maybe all the bands are actually FIDLAR in disguise. We may never know for sure).
There’s a brief moment where I think I hear bassist Harry Snell sneak a beautiful punk falsetto scream. It was so quick I might have imagined it. Snell, is it real or am I dreaming? If it is real, do it again. Bigger.
Elwell-Jones has lost his shirt by this point. He has ‘THICC DADDY’ scrawled across his chest in red. I notice it through a haze of happiness – I’m riding on bass vibrations running from my fingers to my skull. Miilkk are my favourite band so far. I’m not sure what kind of milk these guys are selling, but I bet it’s of the Clockwork Orange variety because I am tripping.
They do a cover of Dead Kennedys’ ‘California Über Alles’, causing one of the most hyperactive mosh pits of all time. The crowd gets down to the floor, thrumming like motors during the buildup. The room leaps – Dixon steps into the crowd with his guitar – they finish with a marching beat and a wail.
Miilkk launch into a string of cracking originals, including ‘Miss Tequila’ and ‘Pilly Willy’ (which is fast and furious – unlike the willy in question, presumably). They end with their newest song ‘Chinese Wine’; the chorus is the stuff that metal dreams are made of. Dixon screams with soul – I feel it in my bones.
Finally, it’s time for P.E.T. I’ve seen them before. I fell in love with them very quickly, and I’m thrilled to see them again as a headline act. Each band member is a powerhouse of sass. They’re fronted by Abi Whistance, the Ultimate Punk Dream Girl. She’s all fishnets and fiery eyes.
They hurl into the first number, ‘Internalised’, with all the force I’d ever hoped for. They have so much confidence, channeling their power and energy in every way possible. I can’t express how happy this makes me. A few months ago, a little confidence was all they needed to become practically perfect. I reckon they’ve now arrived in their most fabulous form, like a fully evolved Pokémon ready to win every battle.
They play ‘Bunnyboiler’, and bassist Rosie Jones grooves like the goddess that she is. Their cover of The Ting Tings’ ‘Shut Up and Let Me Go’ is honestly better than the original. You’d agree if you heard it. It’s hard not to be lured in by Whistance; she has the piercing voice of a punk-rock siren. A mass of crowd members clamber onto stage and stamp out the beat. They move on to ‘TV’, then finally to my favourite song of theirs, ‘P.E.T’. I really want them to record it so that I can listen to it every second of the day forever.
P.E.T are so entertaining on stage. They’re engaging. They’re cool, witty, personable… I can’t praise them enough. They prepare to cover Pixies’ ‘Tame’. Here unfolds my favourite moment so far. McDonald announces, “I went to Poundland and got some prizes. It’s a bit sh*t […] but whoever moshes the best gets a personal prize from me.” We take this challenge very seriously. The three winners each earn a medal and a lifelong invisible badge of honour. Also, glowsticks for everyone.
The whole crowd screams along to ‘Tommy’ – it’s P.E.T’s first recorded track, which you can listen to for free. It was actually written about the antics of The Butters Aliens, which gives the gig an interesting dynamic; I almost feel like I’m at an alt-family reunion/roasting. McDonald is suddenly wearing Draper’s hat, and more shoes are thrown into the air. How does this keep happening? I’m surrounded by hobbits.
They prepare to play their best known cover. McDonald cries, “Does anyone know all the words to ‘Wannabe’? Anybody can get up if they want.” A mass of crowd members get onto the stage. Together, the crowd and P.E.T give a performance The Spice Girls would die for.
For the final song of the night, we are treated to something spectacular. A song they’ve never played before. A song they’ve only rehearsed once. If I thought the energy was high before, this is a whole new level. Introducing: ‘Rich People’.
There are a series of famous names. Whistance growls, fangs bared, “Weinstein […] Morgan Freeman […]”. She comes to the edge of the stage, trembling like a bomb. “Rich people don’t dance in movies. Rich people don’t dance in films”.
I can’t convey the intensity of the performance in words. I’m afraid you’ll just have to go and see P.E.T yourself.
P.E.T @ The Sunflower Lounge 01.07.18 / Paul Reynolds
For more on P.E.T, visit www.facebook.com/petbanduk
Miilkk – supporting P.E.T @ The Sunflower Lounge 01.07.18 / Paul Reynolds
For more on Miilkk, visit www.facebook.com/MIILKKBand
The Butters Aliens – supporting P.E.T @ The Sunflower Lounge 01.07.18 / Paul Reynolds
For more on The Butters Alien, visit www.soundcloud.com/buttersaliens
Flares – supporting P.E.T @ The Sunflower Lounge 01.07.18 / Paul Reynolds
For more on Flares, visit www.facebook.com/Flares
For more on Psych Productions, visit www.psychproductions.co.uk
For more from The Sunflower Lounge, including venue details and full event listings, visit www.thesunflowerlounge.com
NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.
To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.