The second day of Cabbage’s ‘Healing Brexit Towns Experiment Tour’ saw the political punks and humorous humanitarian harassers of the establishment bring themselves and two friends to Preston.
Merseyside punks Queen Zee and The Sasstones require little introduction. Aside from a questionable, Dizzee Rascal ‘Bonkers’ cover, their gender bending, mind blowing set incorporated the best of their ‘Eat My Sass’ EP. ‘Boy’ provided brilliant vocal interplay between Queen Zee and Courtney H8, while on ‘Sass or Die’ the band sounded tighter than the spandex they often wear. It was a set of screams and screaming guitars, culminating with a track in response to the Orlando Massacre and a power salute against a pink background. Queen Zee are a band who demand attention, acceptance and anarchy and the Preston crowd gave them all three.
Next up came the self-proclaimed ‘punkadelic’ powerhouse and unholy trinity; the Blinders. ‘Brave New World’ saw Thomas Haywood’s vocals cut through the sludge of his guitar while on ‘Ramona Flowers’ Charlie McGough’s lumbering bass steamrollered through the speakers, crushing the crowd. However, the highlight of their set was ‘ICB Blues’; a track which is not only is one of their most political (as it is a reference to the death of Eric Garner), but it features the trio playing like supergroup ‘Cream’, with added screams. The riff is rough, riotous and repetitive, but it is also supported by succinct song writing and drummer Matt Neale’s sweat inducing skin smashing. The track ended with a slowed down, spaced out jam before they moving into ‘Swine’. Grunge may have given us the quiet verse, loud chorus formula, but in this track the Blinders blitz this into the verse itself. They caused carnage, before suddenly tossing their guitars to the ground and storming off stage. If anyone in the audience was unsure about seeing them on their upcoming UK tour, this changed their mind.
Despite being majorly against the monarchy, there was something majestically magisterial about Cabbage’s arrival on stage, and not since the 1967 release of Chad and Jeremy’s ‘Of Cabbages and Kings’ had Brassicas and royalty been in such close company. Beginning with ‘Fraudulent Artist’ the band played a breathtaking, breakneck set in a venue which seemed perfectly designed for them. As frontman Lee Broadbent told me afterwards:
“400 capacity venues are the best for our kind of music. As great as Glastonbury was, it felt like Black Mirror; you are performing on your own and there isn’t even a crowd there. It’s been really nice to come back on tour after doing the full festival season and being back in venues again, because we really crave this.”
And we crave it too. “I was born in the NHS, I wanna die in the NHS” from ‘Necro-flat in the Palace’ along with “Death to Donald Trump” from ‘Free Steven Avery’ became fist raising, shout-along anthems with more venom than a spitting cobra. Also, less well known tracks which had been hidden away on their EP’s, such as ‘Asa Morley’ from this year’s ‘Extended Play of Cruelty’, created head bangers, crowd surfers and moshing monsters. Speaking of the new EP, Lee said:
“It is a stepping stone to the album. When the five songs came together, we realised we could use them to platform ourselves and give ourselves a bit more time before the album. Then two weeks later we finished recording the debut album: [it has] another 12 songs, two songs you will have heard before, ten brand new ones and will be coming out next year.”
They are a band as prolific, (and write hooks as contagious), as the plague. Although next year’s release will technically be their debut, they have well over 20 songs on several EPs; and haven’t even been together for two years. That being said, 2017 hasn’t been all plain sailing after accusations of sexual assault were leveled at Lee on Twitter following a gig supporting Kasabian back in April. Although there were no formal charges, it has changed many people’s perception of the band and cast a shadow over their 2017, as Lee acknowledges:
“It slowed us down a lot. The dad came out and made a statement about it, and Safe Gigs for Women got on my side; they are a company everybody should be active with. What’s been sickening have been a few bands who are gutted that it’s not true. The only crime I committed was I dived on the crowd, the girl was leaning on the barriers and I tried to get her attention by running my hand through her hair. The dad clearly felt annoyed because it seemed like I was targeting his daughter. At the end of the day keep your hands to yourself, but it wasn’t sexual assault and what is really annoying is that the person who did the tweet (who wasn’t even there) can go into hibernation.”
So do they think the Kasabian tour was a mistake, and has it made them more wary of doing gigs with younger audiences?
“At the time we were going to go on a European tour and I broke my pelvis, so we had to cancel which left us with a month available. Our management said ‘take a few weeks off’, and then we’ll get you the run of dates with Kasabian. At the time we did um and ah about it and maybe the Kasabian thing was a mistake. It has made us more tactful, but it’s all a learning curve. Kasabian were really supportive about the whole thing, but previously we didn’t think about what age our audience were, so it has certainly made us more wary.”
Tonight, however the audience were perfect and so were the band. On ‘Fickle’ Eoghan’s riff cuts like cheese wire, you can hear the drums of ‘Indispensable Pencil’ the morning after and ‘Lies about Manchester’ sees a more frantic-than-Ant-and-Dec double act as Joe Martin and Lee share the ludicrously funny lyrics. Lee told me he was “a drummer by trade, but developed ‘Iggy Pop syndrome’:
“He [Iggy] was a drummer and got tired of staring at people’s arses – so two years into being a drummer I was like ‘shit, I want to be the front man’”
He may be an Iggy inspired frontman, but their set isn’t all raw power. With its swirling soundscapes ‘Terrorist Synthesiser’ staggers into the realms of psych, while Lee told me ‘Celebration of a Disease’ is the band’s “appreciation of acid house”, but the band end with the classic Cabbage combination of grungy guitars and hard-hitting humour of ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’.
Actions speak louder than words, and Lee’s actions earlier this year (whatever they were) have certainly affected the band and how people view them. But the same is true of Cabbage themselves. It is fairly easy to say you’re “new and anti-everything”, but to actually act that out by viciously attacking subjects as diverse as the music industry, Donald Trump and network rail takes some doing, especially in less than two years alongside heavy touring. The same can be said of Queen Zee; in their attacks against transphobia and progressive punk determination for acceptance in society, and the Blinders in the likes of ‘ICB Blues’. In short we got on Thursday three bands who can not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk, sing the songs and control the crowd.
Cabbage are currently on their ‘Healing Brexit Towns Experiment Tour’, ticket details can be found here.
In the mean time Lee told me to tell you to check out these bands:
“Obviously I love Queen Zee and the Blinders. There is a fucking superb arthouse, horror, nightmare, mental band called Slow Knife from Manchester. I’ve also got a friend in a band called Starlight Magic Hour, check them out. I know they’re fairly established band already, but IDLES are probably one of my favourite bands right now.”