Tennessee’s finest play for their own age group
Tonight, Jemina Pearl starts the evening selling T-shirts to underage fans. The 17-year-old nymphet singer of Be Your Own Pet is working on the merch stand, taking time before their first all ages show to meet her fellow under-18s. “We wish we could play every show all ages,” says Pearl, between signing seven-inch singles for adoring scenesters. “A lot of our fans are the same age as us or younger and we wanted them to get a chance to see us.” The atmosphere at the usually geriatric Bush Hall is duly transformed, and you can’t just blame the alcopops. Nashville quartet BYOP’s spunk’n’junk, elastic chords and boundless bounciness has attracted a crowd who are defiantly Up For It.
Jemina’s Memphis-bred boyfriend Jeffry Novak provides their first support. Like Tom Vek after being repeatedly hit in the face with a sequencer, he’s the most exciting one-man band since Dan Sartain. Mixing punky lo-fi production with hi-fi songs, he wins the crowd over with his John Lydon meets Bo Diddley sneer.
Unashamedly retro mop-tops Harrisons maintain the excellent reputation of Sheffield bands with the mod-punk of recent single ‘Blue Note’. Sarf-London four piece Good Shoes are announced by their MC chucking the contents of their rider (oranges, water bottles, a pizza box) at the audience. Singer Rhys Jones might look like a geography teacher in training, but their post-Bloc take on geekoid Talking Heads pop soon charms the audience. From the artdisco pop of ‘Small Town’ and ‘Nazanin’ to, um, ‘Happy Birthday’ (sung to bassist Joel Cox), it’s a sprightly dance party come to life. Clap Your Hands Say “Hmmmm!”
“We’re called the Sugababes!” Jemina Pearl lies before Be Your Own Pet launch into a ferocious psychobilly version of ‘Bicycle Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle’. And it’s clear that they are not the band we thought they were. If you were thinking these deep-fried Nashville teens were the Minipops version of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, then think again, dufus. Can you imagine Bonnie Langford-like Jemina being hailed as a Sevigny-type high fashion icon in the way Karen O is? Exactly. The famed onstage-puker would be too busy wiping the stage clear of her vomit or selling her own T-shirts to check out the winter collection.
Like a cat gently clawing your ankles to buggery, Jemina is an hilarious ball of punky, peroxide mania underpinned by sweetness and light, and an exhilarating combination of John Lydon, Giant Drag’s Annie Hardy and (thin) Britney. Meanwhile, screwy guitar work from Jonas Stein, f-f-f-faster, faster, faster beats from drummer Jamin Orral and cruising bass work from Nathan Vasquez create a fevered atmosphere. As the suitably titled ‘Fuuuuuun’ spills out from the speakers, their chaotic no-wave onslaught is blinding.
“Dance, motherfuckers!” she warns as ‘Wildcat!’ causes the audience to erupt into several little earthquakes around the hall. Before Jemina disappears into a sea of hands during a tightly chaotic encore of ‘Bunk Trunk Skunk’, she says, “Thanks for being our pet.” As the awestuck young audience squeals in delight, it’s clear that the pleasure was all ours.