If it’s Tuesday it must be another concert at The Sinclair in Harvard Square (best venue in the Boston area). This time it was Angel Olsen whose stagecraft has come on in leaps and bounds since I last saw her two years ago. Her six-piece band were all in sharp suits, the lighting was dramatic and thought-out, and Angel herself seemed more like a genuine rock star than the simple girl-with-guitar she was before.
Not only were the band dapper but they were a crack unit, especially on the rockin’ numbers where having three guitars gave them real power. They played an absolutely ferocious version of “Shut Up Kiss Me” that was one of the best performances of a song I’ve heard in years. Add that extraordinary voice of hers on top and you’ve got quite the live powerhouse.
My only gripe was being a little frustrated by the pacing of the show. She started and finished with uptempo numbers and in between was a lot of ballads. Not that these weren’t great but so many in a row can be a drag and leave your feet itching for something to tap to. Storming rockers like “High Five” gave the crowd such a buzz I was dying for her to play another one, especially as she has a band that can really tear the roof off. But any misgivings I had were blown away by the encore, a stunning one-two punch of “Intern” and “Woman” with Angel playing synth against moody lighting, and the band building to an intense crescendo which the ended the show on a massive high.
As you can see from the terrible photo up top I didn’t have a great view (the place was packed) so I didn’t shoot any video again. This is from a few nights before in New York. Heart-stopping stuff.
The career of Punk ingenue Honey Bane reads like the script of a torrid teen exploitation movie. Growing up as a “problem child” with an unstable home life, she formed her first band Fatal Microbes in 1978 when she was only 14. They broke up after making just the one single (the minor Post-Punk classic “Violence Grows”) and after that Honey was put in a juvenile treatment centre for alcohol and behavioral problems. She ran away from there and spent a year as a fugitive from Social Services during which she fell in with anarcho-punk collective Crass and recorded an EP with them. Now the ripe old age of 16, Honey released her terrific first solo single “Guilty” on her own label, and then came under the managerial wing of Sham 69’s Jimmy Pursey who got her signed to EMI and attempted to turn her into a pop star.
Sporting a Toyah Wilcox-ish look and a more bouncy, New-Wave sound, her first Pursey-produced single “Turn Me On, Turn Me Off” was a hit in 1981 — I bought it and had a crush on her — but none of the follow-ups did well. Annoyed by EMI’s attempts to push her in an even more pop direction, she quit her contract with them and went into acting. But despite a part in the 1982 film Scrubbers (sort of a female version of Scum) and a Trebor Mints commercial (!), that career fizzled and a few years later she was posing nude in girlie mags to make a living.
If this story was a movie, the final scene would be a desperate suicide by drug overdose, her music dreams crushed and reduced to the sleazy business of taking her clothes off for money. But Holly is still around, back to making music, and last year she released a compilation of singles and b-sides going back to her Fatal Microbes days called It’s A Baneful Life which is mostly excellent stuff, especially when you consider she wrote and recorded a lot of it at an age when the rest of us were only worrying about homework and school discos.