Big Joanie, Secret Power, Nim Chimpsky – Coventry – Live Review

Boudica Festival presents

Big Joanie, Secret Power, Nim Chimpsky

The Tin Music and Arts


21st February 2019

Presented by the brilliant Boudica Festival tonight we have Big Joanie, who describe themselves as a ‘Black Feminist Punk Band’, joined by Secret Power, ‘Dreamy R’nB Punks and Nim Chimpsky, ‘50% dancing 50% woe (woah!)’ at the Coal Vaults in Coventry. This is one we have been looking forward to immensely. Read what we thought below.

This is the first gig I’ve attempted since my knee replacement so it’s a bit of a test. I end up standing for far more of it than I intended as the bands are all so good. We arrive early and watch the crowd come in, I claim a space on the seats at the edges of the room and Nim Chimpsky come onstage. Their description on their Bandcamp page is ‘50% dancing 50% woe (woah!)’ which fits very well. They start with indie drums, up and down guitar, and make me think of Shop Assistants. There’s an X Ray Spex, punk edge to the guitars, a raw not twee indie, female vocal fighting the flowing music. The quiet bits are quite lovely, the band smiles and it’s back to punky breaks that make you move. Then there’s a false start, which is always good, they’re playing indie punk that’s not polished and all the better for it, one for every indie disco I have ever been to, great band. They have a sixties pop feel, twangy wall of noise going on, full and rich they punch out the song. They all look like they belong together in the band, very comfortable.

They play a drum led, pop song, their vocals harmonise and the music flows, it’s almost sweet but not quite. They announce a special guest, Dr Ruth, to talk about trans rights, she is animated and clear that they are tired of complicity. the song is angry 70’s punk with a dual loud vocal with Ruth and the drummer with tons of volume. Ruth is in the audience singing. They shift 180 degrees to a lovely happy song, it’s post punk infectious with a good, spiky feel, positive and happy. 
Next it’s ‘wibbly wobbly’ the bass and drums snap and they sound like they’re playing over samples, the woman next to remarks that it’s got an LCD Soundsystem vibe and I agree. The sound is rudimentary and happy. Funky and cool. Then they are singing that ‘Nobody know’s I’m a Robot, everyone thinks I’m alive’. They have captures that disco dance sort of Basement Jaxx loose groove, the odd noises get louder and they put everything into the song, everything, it’s great.
They have been swapping instruments right through the set and now they are back at starting positions. They play a post punky happy song, spiky and clashing against itself. This music is exactly right for them, dynamic and circling. When the first band on are this good it’s hard to figure out how much better it can get.

Secret Power are on next. They and Big Joanie have all been watching Nim Chimpsky and cheering. They come to the front and get onstage. Drummer, keyboards and guitar. The keyboard gives us an atmospheric noise, with quiet guitars and gentle soft sticks on the drums. The sound builds and tension grows. The drums come in strong and the guitar loud and hard. The woman with the fantastic afro playing guitar sings with power and strength. The sound slips into Killing Joke territory and the drums go insane, the keyboardist gently hums to create a drone behind the jagged powerful noise. They sing about not giving up, about people not liking the things they like, it’s a motivational uplifting lyric that we need more of at the moment. The song is quiet and slow with the keyboardist’s clear and high singing. ‘I wanna feel great’ as the guitars fuzz out and swamp the quiet tune, slow riffs which build up the intensity and speed. It’s bloody loud all of a sudden and the band are totally focused as they get faster and stronger. 

They play their ‘reluctant love song’. There’s low fuzz, harmonised ‘oooh’s with the guitar turning twangy and bassy. The music moves low down with  dash of psychedelia and a dollop of pure goth.‘This is a dancy song’ they announce ‘fun to play’, that starts with high harmonies then the fuzzy, understated guitars slide in and the dynamic shifts as the drummer starts. The harmonies stop and the guitarist songs as the keyboardist hums again and the music sounds like deconstructed post punk, powerful and slow. 
‘it’s about sex’, the crowd cheers. ‘Sex and consent, it’s about. It’s saying, just ask.’
The drums are slow and echoing, the feel is a gothy drone and another fuzzy guitar strum. The drums get faster and the keyboardist sings beautifully with her delicate quiet voice which fits this song so well. I can’t make out the lyrics but it’s moving as it is. It’s obviously heartfelt and a strong message. The second to last song has a slow and measured left of centre feel, almost a Pixies or Throwing Muses 4AD groove, another sure fire hit at any indie disco I may have had a part in ever. The Clattering looping drums make it.
To finish ‘A Cover, any R’n’B lovers in the house?’ and they play the fantastic Aaliyah’s ‘Try Again’. They play the verses slowly and speed up the chorus making the song their own and triumphing in my humble opinion. They finish with massive grins to cheers and clapping. So that’s the question about how will anyone follow Nim Chimpsky answered..
Big Joanie are moving up at the moment, with a record out on Thurston Moore’s label, a tour and a good amount of media attention they are on the verge of great things. Fighting Boredom saw them in the hottest room in Birmingham at the Supersonic Festival a couple of years ago and we are looking forward to this a great deal.
They are a black feminist punk band. The three of them stand in a line, guitar, drums and bass. All standing, all impeccably cool. The beat is loud and powerful, the bass is moving up and down, the guitar is clear and loud. They play a repetitive post punk angular clear song. It’s infectious and sounds like the street gang that turned into the Ronettes met up with the Ramones and wrote songs in a dingy New York basement. The vocal is languid and perfect and then they start to harmonise ‘yeah yeah’ the guitar turns fuzzy and you find yourself unable to stop singing along. The songs are short and sharp and just right.
‘The first song I ever wrote.. Eyes’ There are odd beats and spikes of guitar and bass, it’s a meshed together repetitive, focused, full on attack on the senses. It ends with a fifties croon over fuzzed out guitar. Wonderful. The next is led by a off centre beat with the bass building and a vocal that sits under the noise. Music of a kind that Fugazi used to excel at playing. They play a simple drum led cool song that is like the Ramones forming a side project with the Dead Kennedys… but better. 
The Crooked Room from the seven inch single is introduced and their ideology explained. How the world is distorted to make us feel worse about ourselves, which is the reason they formed the band and why they do what they do. The song is almost jazz, with sliding, swirling cymbals and bass.
Now the slow portion of the night. Taller people are asked to move back and everyone to check that the people behind them can see. The songs take a slower pace, the bass and drums are vaguely like the Velvets while the vocals harmonise. It’s lazy and slow, gentle and cool. The slower pace makes the bassist move to the music even more and she makes the song dramatic with her facial expressions. 
The mix in the audience is diverse and shows the strength of Big Joanie and the other bands tonight in their ability to bring people together. The drums get harder, slow but getting us going more, the bass has a Tina Weymouth feel and the vibe goes all No New York meshed with seventies UK post punk. On the strength of this performance Big Joanie are icons in the making, inspirational. the smiles on the faces of the crowd and the movement to the music say it all. The guitar gets louder and it feels like it’s an added extra to the rhythm as the jam speeds up. 
‘This is our girl group song, how could you love me’ It’s a full on sixties girl group track, a hard as nails Ronettes, or bittersweet Shirelles, harmonies and all, given a Big Joanie edge but utterly, utterly irresistable. Everyone is dancing, the group are all smiling and Secret Power are behind the merch table dancing in unison. So so good.
They play a  song about Hating People which is fast, bass led and with punky angry vocals with more brilliant harmonies. They say ‘one more’ and start off a funky seventies feel song that soon becomes thrashy and punky, then back back to slow, another excellent track. The trio leave the stage to cheering, clapping and shouts for more. They stand in the corner of the room by the stage, the guitarist walks back on and asks ‘Have we got time for one more?’ Huge cheers. They invite all the other bands, any Trans, LBGT and people of colour to join them onstage to shout ‘No’  and launch into a slow steamy hard version of TLC’s No Scrubs. As a statement of solidarity and inclusion it’s perfect. The tiny stage is crowded and full, the bassist is standing on a table at the side of the stage grinning as she plays. This is perfect, Big Joanie are a voice for those that need one. They mean something and will soon mean a whole lot to a whole lot of people. They won’t be playing tiny stages for much longer.
Nim Chimpsky

Secret Power

Big Joanie

Big Joanie’s website is, they have a Bandcamp page, are on Facebook and Tweet as @Big_Joanie
Secret Power are on Facebook and you can get their music from the For The Sake of Tapes Bandcamp page.
Nim Chimpsy have a Bandcamp page and are on Facebook.
All words by Adrian Bloxham, all pictures by Martin Ward.


Adrian Bloxham

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