Could there be any better way to spend my inaugural visit to east London’s most infamous back room – the Old Blue Last – than in the company of some of the hottest new musical talent, tipped for big things this year by the indie powers that be DIY Magazine? No, quite frankly. Getting a feel for the dark corridors before doors opened, the night looked set to be an occasion to behold, and with four fantastic new artists on the bill, it certainly was just that.
Kicking off the show was London’s own teen grungers Fish, whose twinkly garage-rock tunes seeped out into the rapidly filling room like smoke. Frontwoman Asha’s vocals were sinister but mesmerising, a siren call dancing over a chunky bassline, not hugely different from the likes of Bully or a juvenile Wolf Alice. Brattish smirks and the odd tongue poke flaunted the four-piece’s infectious charisma, and ending the set with screams of joy and Strokesy guitar riffs, it was all smiles from the get-go both onstage and off.
Irrefutably the highlight of the show, Girli came next on the bill. Her iconic pink dress code and unapologetically pure pop songs have been splashed across ones-to-watch lists since the end of last year, and anticipation in the Old Blue Last was pushed to breaking point when she finally swaggered up to the mic. From the first note of the 8-bit symphony ‘Girls Get Angry Too’, the room was a riot, snarky quips about feminism and teen sexuality spewing out forcefully over a pounding hip-hop beat. ‘ASBOys’ played out like a call to arms for the wasted youth of London with its siren-laden verses, and new material like ‘Girl I Met On the Internet’, an ode to the plastic princess of Instagram, mixed laugh-out-loud lyrics with video game sound effects to create what could easily become the most unlikely indie anthem of the year. ‘Fuck Right Back Off to L.A.’ (from the ‘Girli FM’ mixtape) also got a play, a true site to behold, as Girli and her partner in rhyme DJ Kitty flipped the bird in synchronised choreography over the infectious “fuck you”-s of the chorus. Closing on ‘So You Think You Can Fuck With Me Do Ya’ with a stage invasion in full swing, the most energetic and utterly batshit set of the night concluded in a hurricane of tampons, condoms and Hello Kitty chocolates being spewed into the crowd as the storm of pink fury ended no less suddenly than it had begun.
Assuming the night had peaked there, I headed outside, a decision I immediately regretted when the thunderous sound of Yonaka punched through the walls of the Old Blue Last, grabbing me by the scruff of the neck and dragging me back inside. There I saw frontwoman Theresa Jarvis half rapping, half howling to ‘Run’, the band’s phenomenal lead single, striking a huge bass drum at the same time, and looking like a total fucking bad-ass too. The few songs I managed to catch were infectious and primal, mixing elements of Florence and the Machine’s ethereal ambience, Savages’ aggressive no-nonsense lyrics and Haim’s trademark Cali-cool stage presence. Simply put, Yonaka are one of the best new acts I’ve seen in a long time and you’d be a fool not to check them out on their upcoming headline tour in March.
It was at this point that the train home beckoned its cruel finger, so I didn’t get to see Beach Baby rock the stage at the old bluey. Sad face. Nonetheless, their latest single ‘Sleeperhead’ is an instant earworm and having seen them at Norwich’s Sound & Vision festival last autumn, I can confirm that their live show is just as rampantly fruity as their studio releases. They head out on an extensive UK tour with Sundara Karma next month, a show well worth heading down to if you can.
DIY, it has to be said that you sure know your talent. Ta for a fantastic night of free music and kicking off 2016 with a bang.
DIY’s ‘Hello 2016’ series concludes this Tuesday January 26th at London’s Old Blue Last, with free performances from Pumarosa, Cloud Castle Lake, Babeheaven and Salen.