The Kate Nash parading around Electric Owl’s stage on Tuesday night fronting an all-girl rock band with an unruly scream and black hair thrown into messed up pigtails is not the sweet and innocent girl you thought you knew.
The 25-year-old, who charmed the world with her #1 hit “Foundations” back in 2007, has undergone somewhat of a punk rock feminist awakening in the past few years, and is now channelling the ‘bad-ass chick that don’t give a shit’ vibe reminiscent of female rockers like Juliette Lewis and Joan Jett.
I’ve got to say that I was skeptical about seeing her new image and music for myself. Her previous album, My Best Friend Is You was awkwardly disjointed in style, but she won me over with her new material and no-holds-barred attitude. Regularly conversing with the audience and sharing awkward anecdotes, you can’t help but love her as a person too; just a genuine girl who finds singing the C word on the radio as funny as you and your best mate would.
The show was opened by Dresses, a delectable duo comprising of Timothy Heller and Jared Ryan Maldonado. Amazingly, this was only the pair’s second time on stage and first-time acoustic set, a decision I later found out to have come about by the rest of the band’s lack of passports back in Portland, Oregon.
Their slightly timid and nonchalant attitude didn’t grasp the audience at once but the combination of Timothy’s beautifully quirky voice, resonant of a sweeter toned Joanna Newsom, gently harmonizing with Jared to insightful and extremely well-written songs soon grasped everyone’s attention. If you’re confused by my choice of comparison there, I’ll clear that up for you by letting you know that Timothy is indeed a girl, and a rather pretty one at that. “Yes,” she later told me after I so obviously couldn’t hide my confused face, “that is my real name.” I wonder how many times she’s had to clear that one up…
Names aside, I would have happily paid the ticket price to see them alone, though if I’m quite honest, I didn’t even know who was supporting Nash before I got to the venue. I definitely wasn’t expecting to buy their make-shift biro-scrawled EP. There were minor sound issues throughout the set, but it didn’t throw anyone off appreciating their raw talent. It was as if everybody there felt they had stumbled upon something great that night, and you’ve got to love when that happens.
Their set showcased many original songs, with a mix of covers by the likes of Foster the People thrown in. My favourite of theirs would have to be the heartfelt “Real People”, which made its debut public performance. I do hope they keep in mind the power of simplicity and decide to put on the odd acoustic performance again, as songs such as theirs excel in this way. Their set was ended with a complete change of style and tempo in the form of their second single “Sun Shy”, a catchy summer pop tune which I believe has the ability to do very well commercially. I wish them the best of luck with getting their name out there. They’re definitely on the right path.
The atmosphere in the room drastically changed for Nash’s entrance as the stage went black and a grainy vintage looking projection began accompanied by Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” at full volume. This was followed by a tongue in cheek pro-feminism warning at which the small venue erupted with screams. Nash burst onto the stage to the thrashing guitars and drums of her all-female band, screaming out the lyrics of “Sister” in a suitably punk rock fashion with her graffiti covered bass guitar, red lips and bleached streak of hair showing vividly through the eclectic light display. If it weren’t for her stopping to talk with the audience briefly and revealing her distinctive London accent, I might not have believed it was the same young girl who rose to fame on MySpace with the likes of “Birds”.
Her new found ‘girl power’ passion and marvellously reckless performance style lived on with upbeat versions of songs like “Kiss That Grrl” and “Do Wah Doo”, before stopping to recount the shooting of her latest music video for “OMYGOD!” (below) in which she hilariously described the accidental placement of her foot in the lady parts of a synchronized swimmer whilst being floated across a swimming pool.
The tempo picked up again with the distinctive “Paris” and some crazy guitar shredding during “Fri-End”, though as a polite Brit, Nash didn’t hesitate to thank the audience for their support after nearly every number. She succumbed to many an audience cry and donned a floaty cream cape for fan favourites “Mariella” and “Foundations” to which the crowd joyfully joined in with their hands in the air. Her ode to the controversially imprisoned Russian punk-protest band Pussy Riot (“Free My Pussy”) followed. As an issue that she has supported very publically, it was obvious to see that she really wanted people to listen to this one, dedicating it to anyone that’s ever felt repressed and requesting quiet, only to restart the song for those that refused to do so.
After playing “3AM”, the empowered feminist went on about her experience encouraging music and expression to young girls in school, beaming at having inspired pent-up and angry teens to release her emotions through music. Getting somewhat carried away she continued to ridicule the media’s view on women in a protest-like fashion and urged all girls out there that had ever thought they weren’t good enough for the industry to get out there anyway and prove people wrong.
Finishing up with the wild screaming of “Under-Estimate the Girl”, Nash rejoiced as a whole host of audience members jumped up to join her frenzied dancing onstage, polishing off a great night with an almighty bang and an overwhelming sense of solidarity.
Despite my preconceptions of this night, it confirmed to me that music is always better when written and performed by someone that is passionate about their message, and Kate Nash is undeniably so. Her complete image overhaul has been a refreshing success, or it certainly seemed that way on Tuesday, and I do hope that many of her original fans will stay by her side.
Check out the video for “OMYGOD!”: