Chris Patmore, London Correspondent
Venue: The Unicorn, Camden, London–September 5, 2015
The Unicorn, on the outskirts of Camden, is the way a pub should be done. For a start, it’s away from the tourist circus around Camden’s tube station, but more importantly it puts on great, and varied, music every evening, without charge. The live music space is a decent size, and the sound and lighting is equal, if not better, than the more renowned venues down the road. And it keeps large jugs of water on the end of the bar so there is no need to disturb the barman if you want something without alcohol to drink.
On Saturday (5 September) the venue hosted Punk’d, an evening with four bands for the princely (or should that be pauperly?) sum of nothing. Headlining the evening was RAN favourites The Earls of Mars, with another RAN faves B-Movie Thieves opening the proceedings, and two riot grrrl bands (Gasoline Thrill and The Kut) serving as tasty fillings to this musical sandwich. B-Movie Thieves were my primary motivation for going, but when I arrived at the venue there was neither sight nor sound of them anywhere. I enquired with the venue’s sound guy, as they tend to know what’s going on, and was informed that they had pulled out of the gig at the last moment because they had split up, which was certainly (disappointing) news to me. But I’d made the long trek across London, so I decided to stay and catch the rest of the acts, and was so glad I did.
Both Gasoline Thrill and The Kut proved that grrrl power is very much alive on the London rock scene, along with the likes of favourites such as Echo Boom Generation, Bones and Bleech. Like the three aforementioned bands, Gasoline Thrill also have a male drummer, which they rightly describe as “a statuesque Adonis”. In contrast, The Kut’s (female) percussionist is also very easy on the eye, looking more like a fashion model, but still delivering a driving backline that belies her glamorous appearance.
To your reporter, The Earls of Mars were an unknown quantity. After the hard-driving guitar rock of the previous acts – and not forgetting the now-defunct B-Movie Thieves – I was expecting more of the same, with maybe a bit more rockabilly. However, what came was a total (and pleasant) surprise. For someone of a certain age The Earls of Mars ticked all the right boxes, a fantastic amalgam of prog, metal and jazz, that harked back to the early days of King Crimson, but still remained very much 21st century (and front man Harry Armstrong seemed to be channelling the schizoid man). Their music may not be to everyone’s taste, but there was plenty of enthusiastic, hair-flailing headbanging going on, and the band has picked up a new fan in the process. They are even giving away a download of their latest EP on Bandcamp, so you can check them out for yourself, but they are definitely ones to catch live.
The Earls of Mars
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