The rage remains real. It’s shameful that a band like Lambrini Girls could have featured in the cultural zeitgeist any time from 1965 to now. How is it that a couple of women still need to kick back against prejudice and the patriarchy? Why has so little changed in society? Over at Tate Britain, there’s a retrospective exhibition titled “Women In Revolt!” where, amongst many memorable exhibits, ‘3 Minute Scream’ by The Raincoats founder and artist Gina Birch is particularly unsettling. Gina made this in 1977. It seems the establishment is still deaf to the cry.
Phoebe Lunny and Lilly Macieira are still screaming to be heard. Armed with their trademark bottle of pink fizz and stripped back to fishnets and underwear they quickly take over this working men’s club in Hackney. It’s not so much a gig, more an immersive experience. Everyone is involved. Phoebe soon launches herself into the audience and I quickly realise that being at the front of the stage actually puts me away from the action. As Phoebe has previously stated elsewhere, Lambrini Girls seek to create a safe space for queer people, femme people, non-binary people – “anyone who isn’t a straight white man”.
Opening with Big Dick Energy they’re bristling with contempt. Not only for the patriarchy but are wonderfully scathing about those blokes who consider themselves to be post-patriarchal white knights ready to save people like Phoebe and Lilly, but with sexual motives bubbling beneath the veneer. To pass this off as femme punk does it a disservice and of course, comes from a male gaze. Agit-prop punk legends Crass tackled similar ground on songs like Systematic Death and Berkertex Bribe on their ground-breaking Penis Envy album back in 1981. Over four decades later it’s still necessary to rally against white male power. If this all sounds too political for you, then never forget the personal is political and for the Lambrini Girls gender inequality is very personal indeed.
Phoebe soon goes on to announce the next song but Lilly quickly reprimands her “We’ve not finished this song!”. Spontaneity is everything, there is no setlist.
Phoebe is back on the stage but looking restless again, It won’t be long before she’s back with the crowd.
Coercive relationships are tackled in Mr Love Bomb with Phoebe announcing, “This is about manipulation in relationships. Does everyone know what love bombing is? If you don’t, it’s basically when someone is like…well…it’s when they say they’re going to buy you a house, I’m gonna buy you a car, I’m gonna buy you some roses, I’m gonna buy you a pony and then they take it all away from you because they’re cunts. So don’t do it!”. Another big announcement soon follows, “Alright er…I need to put your hands up like that because I’m gonna jump on you!” and whoosh, Phoebe’s away and carried off by the fans again before another moshing maelstrom is made.
There are also several moments during the gig when Lambrini Girls get everybody to lower themselves down to the floor. When Phoebe joins in it looks like a big, inclusive school story time moment – enough to send the socially conservative right muttering off to their member’s club.
Talking of Tories, new single God’s Country is up next. Phoebe explains, “We’re gonna release it on 15th February…it’s about the political state, the landscape of the UK at the moment and I think we can all agree it’s pretty fucking shit! I said I THINK WE CAN ALL AGREE IT’S PRETTY. FUCKING. SHIT!!”. There are no dissenting voices. Who could disagree?
Phoebe isn’t done yet though, “our country is run by a bunch of fucking cunty hedge fund managers all they care about is lining the pockets of the top 1% they will shit on the working class they will shit all over public servants they will let the NHS die….and they’re going to fund Israel and fund a fucking genocide. Free Palestine!”.
This kind of sentiment isn’t at all unusual at grassroots venues in London now. Hopefully, those hedge fund managers, the faux patriots and their Apprentice sycophants have finally got the message and are getting ready to pack so we can all play nicely again.
That trademark bottle of Lambrini that Lunny swigged at the start of the gig now needs finishing. Lilly offers it out to the guppy guys at the front who eagerly open their mouths for the cascading fizz. What a host!
More sobering is the reality behind those lazy phrases “the culture wars” and “cancel culture”. People are suffering…dying even, because of hate and misinformation. Terf Wars tackles transphobia with Phoebe asking, “Does anyone not know what a TERF is? It’s fine if you don’t? If you don’t, it stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist – so someone like JK Rowling is a good example. Trans women are women, trans men are men – if anyone in this room doesn’t think so they can fuck off!”. The music and atmosphere is frenetic, much moshing ensues and someone climbs the stage to springboard into the audience.
“Who wants some fuckin’ Lambriiiini?” shouts Phoebe, before introducing White Van as “a song about cat-calling”. Could it get more chaotic? Er, yeah! Lambrini Girls have been on fire all night but midway through the song they threaten to bring a flame to the Moth Club when a monitor cable begins to smoke and smoulder on stage. They stop playing and shout out, “Something’s set on fire on stage. Ah shit yeah. I don’t know what to do about that, so amuse yourselves! Do you think we’ll be alright? It’s an electrical fire!”. There’s a moment where time seems to stand still before staff calmly bring over the fire extinguisher and powder out the danger. Meanwhile an impromptu chant of “Fuck the Tories” fills the silence.
Unsure whether to carry on, and with the extinguisher dust sticking in the throat almost as much as this Government, the Lambrini Girls decide to continue on with their last song. “It’s quite simple…”, says Phoebe, “when I say ‘Craig’, you say ‘David’!”. Time still for her to do more crowd-surfing and time too for more chanting, “and when I say Lambrini you say Girls…and I’m gonna say ‘fuck’ and you’re gonna say ‘the Tories’!”.
By now that bottle of communal wine is empty but it’s hard to see Lambrini Girls ever running out of fire and passion.
This was a party…and political broadcast…on behalf of the Lambrini Girls. Never mind the ballots though. After this performance, Phoebe and Lilly are elected unopposed.