Little Miss Stakes with support from Sons of Sin, Scimitar, Maverick & The Unprotected
Friday 13th September 2013 – The Empire, Belfast
A horror punk EP launch on a Friday the 13th is either a happy coincidence or a brilliant marketing opportunity. Thus I find myself at the Empire on the aforementioned date to witness the launch of Little Miss Stakes shiny new EP, ‘Monster Party Hits’.
First up on the bill is relative newcomers Sons of Sin. After a warm welcome from Grant, their singer, they launch into opener ‘Rebelations’, revealing a sound that is a pleasing mix of modern metal and a touch of trashy punk. However, as their sets rolls out, one glaring fact becomes quite evident: whilst the rest of the band are all hairy, gnarly and punky, their singer is clean cut, pretty and poppy. As is his voice. It’s almost as if a member of One Direction has borrowed some black clothes and snuck on-stage. It’s incongruous and distracting frankly; they just don’t ‘go’. To illustrate this point, they finish off their set with a cover of Cee Lo Green’s ‘Forget You’ (changed to ‘F**k You’ for the grownups in the audience). The band either need to ‘scruff up’ their front man, both physically and more importantly vocally, or…well, you know…
Standing out for all the right reasons is The Unprotected, who climb on-stage next and simply blow Sons of Sin (and the crowd) away. Despite some technical issues they are on fine form tonight as they blast out their debauched ‘sex, drugs and rock n roll’ brand of glam punk. Front-man St Dave is his usual bold and brash self as he leaps to and from the stage and climbs various structures (the bar! The balcony!) in his leopard-print short shorts. His gloriously raw, snarling voice is the perfect foil for the band’s buzzsaw riffs and sleazy punk vibe. The camaraderie between the band members is especially evident during their mike-sharing harmonising. Their chaotic set ends with the electrifying ‘Never Love A Wild Thing’, as apt a description for this motley bunch as any; happily, the crowd do love them.
Self-described thrash metallers Scimitar are up next, ready, willing and able to blow the roof off with their thundering grooves and crushing riffs. With barely a pause between songs (apart from an hilarious Miley Cyrus reference from singer Jonny Gray which results in some disturbing mental images) they charge through numbers such as ‘Beaten To Death’, ‘Hellfire’ and their self titled track, all from their recent EP release ‘The Act of War’. Their pile-driving riffs and galloping double-bass beats result in a flurry of headbanging from their vocalist, as well as a dedicated band of fans who sing along to every word. The epic title track from their EP is a real highlight, displaying Gray’s menacing, ominous vocals to perfection. In all, a pretty damn impressive set.
From thrash metal to Eighties hair metal in the blink of an eye…one look at long-haired, tight-jeaned, Reebok-wearing Maverick and it’s 1987 again. Vocalist David Balfour looks like GNR’s Matt Sorum and sounds a bit like Motley Crue’s Vince Neil, nailing the high notes with impressive accuracy. Their sound is a retro-tastic mix of Crue’s muscle, Poison’s sleaze, ZZ Top’s slinkiness and even traces of Maiden’s might, particularly during the guitar solos. This section of the evening may as well be renamed ‘Flashback Friday’; I feel like a fifteen year old again! Although clearly a homage to the Eighties, the band’s musicianship stands firm and they never descend into parody (although they skate close during ‘Top Heavy’, their ode to “big boobies”). Their look, their sound and their songs combine to create a fantastic, feel-good set that has the crowd cheering (and beaming) ecstatically.
After a slight delay to set the stage for the headliners (spooktacular UV lights and cool as f**k fancy flame-y lights) Little Miss Stakes emerge. Clad in glowing corpse paint and skeleton designs, they look extraordinary before a note has even been played. Their gothy brand of horror punk is exhilarating and enormously fun, and they are right on the money tonight as they blast through tracks from both of their EP’s including ‘Samara’, ‘Killer Clowns From Outer Space’ and the massively catchy Ramones-esque ‘Mina’. They also throw is a couple of Misfits covers (‘Die, Die My Darling’ and ‘Scream’) which blend in effortlessly with their original material. Another local singer is also given a chance to shine tonight: Lisha Fitzpatrick, of now defunct Until This Day is corpse painted up and brought on-stage as guest vocalist for ‘The Ghoul Next Door’, a short, sharp number with a trace of ‘Teenage Kicks’ woven in. Between songs, vocalist Mick Van Dyke is a witty and self-deprecating showman, remaining gloriously in character throughout.
They end their triumphant set with ‘Drag Queen Dracula’ and ‘Dr. Frankenstein’. The latter in particular is a real party track that would be right at home being played over the end credits of a properly trashy B-grade horror movie. To chants of “one more tune!” from the crowd, the band briefly discusses the prospect of an encore. They eventually decide to give it a go, despite, as Van Dyke warns, having a VERY new guitarist on board: “will you forgive him if he fucks up?” The crowd roar their approval so the band burst into a spirited, thrashy cover of the Misfit’s ‘Vampira’. It’s an illustrious end to and altogether resplendent set, made all the more remarkable given the band’s recent upheaval and line-up issues. This is definitely one Friday the 13th that was lucky for Little Miss Stakes.