Sassden 002 ft. Queen Zee, Sonic Yootha, Jo Mary & More: Sound, Liverpool
As Queen Zee stage their second Sassden event, Matthew Reekie finds a raucous night that is pushing boundaries.
It’s the last week of January, it’s cold and dark. Elsewhere in the city, burly blokes are swigging lager and shouting at LFC getting beat, but tonight Sound is set to host an altogether more diverse nights’ entertainment.
The relatively new basement venue at Sound lends itself to the occasion perfectly, it feels intimate and direct.
We arrive just in time to catch Manchester’s Incisions take the stage with a howl of feedback, and we’re straight in – the four pieces’ solid hardcore sound and no frills tunes begin to warm up the so far reasonably sized crowd.
“I hope you die you fucking prick!” frontman Jordan snarls on one tune reflecting anti-social angst. He’s not messing about, at once abrasive but likable.
On Denial he screams “Fuck Theresa May,” and I don’t think there’s anyone here that doesn’t share the sentiment. Ears are bleeding happily already – the powerful bass and drums combo and guitar lines reminiscent of Dead Kennedys, set the stage for a raucous night.
A band growing from strength to strength, Jo Mary arrive on stage soon after. By now, the atmosphere is picking up and the band smash into Do You Want My Kidneys Too?, a song about council tax debt. They sound incendiary, with a heavy sound that shakes through your spine.
At times they evoke Sonic Youth, with that trick you into thinking that they’re mellow, swiftly turn into Melvins type stoner doom riffs. Others start melodic, and transform into a psych drone then suddenly go warp speed on you and mellow out again changing speeds like a huge musical vibrator.
Hype Man Ash gives Flavor Flav, Bez and Gallagher‘s swagger a run for their money – urging on the crowd and stripping off to his underwear two tunes in. It’s only 8.30pm. By time of the last tune they have started a mosh pit, while a friend takes the stage on guitar while lead vocalist Sam delivers a blistering cover of The Velvet Underground’s Sister Ray among the crowd.
ILL are a band with a feminist manifesto, and as one describes, with a sound “kind of like pushing someone down the stairs”. Their disco fuzz punk-rock, have the by now packed crowd bouncing, while delivering their tongue in cheek sneering vocals. They look like they’re having the best time on stage and this translates well to the audience.
Singer Harri Shanahan asks “Why must we get married?” at one point, then reveals with a laugh that actually one of the band is getting married, showing that while having their strong opinions they also don’t take themselves too seriously. Then, calling Ash from Jo Mary back to the stage, they blast out Kicking Back The Disco for some good time disco feminist-punk.
Shanahan dedicates the last song to Mark E Smith, whom we imagine would of been proud of tonight so far, and a second drummer joins as she wails “I hate you, don’t leave me” and crowd are bouncing along.
Queen Zee are up soon after and the anticipation is immense.
Zee sports a black bob and a “Gay for Satan” vest; an ambassador for the queer community that is not about to take any shit. “Liverpool, we’re only just getting warm here,” she shouts as they fly into Victim Age. Hands are up and heads are bobbing, as she sings “I dyed my hair and changed to a dress/I changed my tune and changed my sex”. The message is uncompromising and real.
The crowd are made up of punks, indie kids, pop fans, gays, straights, girls, boys and everything in between. The appeal of the band is seemingly never ending. People dance and swerve under the flashing red strobes to the band’s incessant stomp; there is a solid backbone and they are tight as.
In between songs, Zee breathes hard, with pure intent and something to prove with every lyric. Boy is ultra-aggressive, screaming lyrics like bullets. “Just be a boy, just be a boy”, seemingly singing for every alienated trans kid in the world who has been screamed at to conform by society.
On Sissy Fists, Zee commands us to “Raise your sissy fists” releasing the anger from memories of misogynistic violence and bullying. She dedicates closer Fly The Pink Flag to “every LGBT person,” and before you know it, pretty much I’m on stage with pretty much the entire crowd.
The message tonight is palpable. Not all of the bands playing had particularly strong ties to the LGBT community – at least none that were immediately apparent. But diversity only works if everyone is invited to the party. It is a coming together of everybody, no matter how you identify.
This is the brilliance of Queen Zee, and by extension their Sassden shows. Zee stands for LGBT rights, and their popularity goes a long way to show how the LGBT scene in Liverpool has gradually been growing and diversifying. And yet they remain easily accessible to anyone who doesn’t identify as LGBT.
To underline this, the rest of the night folks let loose dancing and grooving to the Sonic Yootha DJ’s – another shining example of the changing face of the LGBT scene in Liverpool.
Before we know it, it’s 3am. We’re dripping with sweat. We stumble out of Sound. It’s been a perfect night.
Photos by Mark Holmes