Talking Heads, Southampton

Hands Off Gretel

It’s a mild evening in Southampton as we bear witness to one of the UK’s “soon to be big” acts who are in town. Hands off Gretel are on the Coast to promote debut LP “Burn the Beauty Queen”. Buoyed by regular publicity on social media and the like I’m expecting a half decent crowd.

With about 50 in the room openers “Yur Mum” take to the stage. This London-based 3-piece are emphatically led by the stunning vocal of Mexican-born Anelise. Straight away I’m reminded of Grog Rox (Die So Fluid) in the vocal. However, the similarities end there. Akos (guitar) is on a noodling frenzy tonight while Fabio (drums) is the powerhouse at the back. The band have loosely been described as a Nirvana/GnR mash-up which I kinda get, but there’s much more to them than that. They are a classic 3-piece and Anelise’s vox are unmistakably haunting in places as she summons every ounce from the depths of her lungs. Akos is noodling throughout which I suppose is where the GnR connection comes from, and while I wonít make any reference to a certain Mr. Grohl Fabio’s drums in the main are huge. It’s a short set but they particularly impress us on penultimate song “Summer of Hate”, before their final song (whose title escaped me) and leave to good applause.

Yur Mum

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Next up are local lads Mother of Pearl who quite simply ROCK! This quartet are an unapologetically loud, Heavy Rock band. They have studied their peers wel. Every effort is made to shoegaze, nod, shapeshift, preen, noodle – and a host of other adjectives I could’ve used…but you get the picture. I’m not knocking them, far from it, these guys can play. I won’t lie; it’s not my favourite genre, but they hold my attention as they crank up the power and get a few of their small army of fans head banging throughout. Ballsy; heavy Rock, a power overload and played with huge confidence. I’m most notably reminded of “Puddle of Mudd”, particularly with the vocals of Byron (lead vox/bass). However, I could pick from a number of bands for influences. Metallica come to mind on the anthemic “King of The Mountain” with its big riffs and huge hitting, while there’s elements of Grunge in places. After raising the roof (and the volume); they too exit the stage to long, loud applause.

Mother Of Pearl
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And so to the headliners. On day 6 of an extensive tour of the UK’s smaller venues Hands Off Gretel take to the stage with little fuss. Huge applause greet them as they launch into “World Against She”. They deliver the song note perfect and Lauren’s vocal is as ebullient as it is snarling. I’m reliably informed she is struggling with flu-like symptoms, but you wouldn’t know it! She manages to screech, scream and holler with huge depth as she puts everything into her vocal. “Under The Bed” follows and one or two older members of this audience are dancing like it’s 1994! The power remains and Sean (guitar) is now shapeshifting and swirling his mane furiously. It’s a sight to behold, his energy and enthusiasm is infectious. “Bad Egg” slows the tempo down and shows some more melody with some Gothy noodling going on. “Teethin” stays in similar territory and Lauren’s vocal is clearer – any vocal issues seem somewhat dissolved in the overall sound. However, towards the end her voice is well and truly tested as she screeches to the finale.

Hands Off Gretel
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When introducing “Little Man” Lauren describes it as “the rude song on the album” with a wry smile and a twinkle in her eye! It’s a slow burner of a song which again allows Lauren to find her more natural; softer voice, before exploding into life in the mid-section. She sings with a truly heartfelt emotion, etched across her face as she builds up to one enormous scream. Sean’s swirling chords and Sam’s pounding drums just add to this haunting and unmistakably excellent track. Two broken fingers don’t seem to be hindering Sam’s powerhouse hitting, quite the opposite in fact. An early set highlight for me. “One Eyed Girl” returns to the power once more before the softer “Push The Girl” allows Lauren some well-earned breathing space.

“Awfully Miserable” is anything but and the perfect prelude to fan (and live) favourite “Be Mine”. It’s powerful and gutsy but gets a few more of this Southampton crowd moving. However, I knew it wouldn’t be long before a punter shouts something predictable – cue daft request? “Do a Nirvana cover” – the whole band appear somewhat amused. Lauren is quick to explain they don’t cover Nirvana, yet the request is repeated! Joe (bass) at this point delivers the perfect riposte. In his finest Yorkshire tongue he replies “if I hear one more request for a Nirvana cover, someone’s gonna get a kick up the bottom”. Unsurprisingly the request isn’t repeated as the band launch full throttle into “Oh Shit”. Any lingering doubts over Lauren’s vocal capabilities are soon forgotten as she screams the chorus. They end on a high leaving us with “My Size” and depart to long, loud applause.

Hands Off Gretel
Hands Off Gretel 

While the purists will make the obvious Courtney/Hole references it’s hard to ignore Hands off Gretel at this moment in time. In an era when DIY gigs are a preference to the mainstream, bands at this level will always flourish. Whether they remain at this level or gravitate to larger venues remains to be seen, but on this evidence all the component parts are in place. Musically tight with a great vocal, this band know how to market themselves and stay in the public conscious. With debut LP “Burn the Beauty Queen” garnering many rave reviews, this is their time. For this reviewer Hands off Gretel are ‘one’s to watch’ rather than “next big things”. I for one will be watching their progress.

Hands off Gretel Setlist
World against She
Under The Bed
Bad Egg
Little Man
One Eyed Girl
Push the Girl
Awfully Miserable
Be Mine
Oh Shit
Queen Universe
My Size



Review, Pictures and Videos by Ross A. Ferrone

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