Punk ‘N’ Roll Rendezvous Festival
The Water Rats / Electrowerkz / The Post Bar, London
For three glorious days, a congregation of punks criss-crossed both London boroughs and musical boundaries for a festival known as the Punk’n’Roll Rendezvous. The event is organized by Phil Honey-Hones and Nina Courson of the Healthy Junkies, who curated an all-rock-star line-up of bands blasting back-to-back bangers all weekend long. Friend Steve Iles also helps book many of the out of town bands.
Phil and Nina have been running Punk’n’Roll Rendezvous as a monthly night for ten years now. Previously all events were held at The Unicorn on Camden Road. But like so many other venues post-covid, this venue has not reopened. There was a mad scramble to relocate this entire festival at the last minute.
Despite a brief hiatus during lockdown, the Punk’N’Roll Rendezvous Festival returned for its fifth iteration in a blaze of glory. The atmospheric Foxpalmer kickstarted Friday night festivities at The Water Rats – her melodic musings rendered even more ethereal by the next act, The Anoraks, who took to the stage in a maelstrom of crashing crescendos and rough guitar riffs. The subsequent band, The Moody Pythons, were a weekend standout, embodying the platitude that “pros make the difficult look easy”. The sound of their song ‘Lighten Up’ washed over the crowd like a tsunami: massive and wild, while still being controlled by the mathematical precision that governs waves. A hard act to follow, but the sound of Prisoners of Mother England hit alt-rock hard. Their song ‘I Want You’ launched catchy earworm hooks into the soft tissue of my brain. I couldn’t stop humming to myself until the sonic boom of JELLLY exploded my synapses.
JELLLY has recently been reinvigorated by the addition of Vera Wild, super bassist, whose vocals had me pushed back in my chair like I was about to be launched into space. This feeling was solidified by the Slow Cooked Bears, who brought an otherworldly blend of futuristic pop and classic rock: their song ‘Space Odyssey’ could have been transmitted from another dimension. Nervous Twitch probably hails from that dimension as well; their groovy, retro vibe infuses surf-rock with synth to create a hyper-cool Jetsons fantasy.
Swamp Chicken made their London debut by closing the night, bringing us back to punk n roll reality with their song ‘Halloumi Dream’. If this is starting to feel like a lot, buckle up, because the Punk N Roll Rendezvous Festival is just getting started.
Painfully trendy venue Electrowerkz was bustling by 3pm on Saturday, when the acoustically guitared Max Chowdry opened the show; the place was bumping when Cherry & Peesh brought their punk poetry from the streets and onto the stage; and by the time ska band Suburban Toys started to tread the boards the joint was rapidly descending into madness, as evidenced by the frenzied state of the crowd – who lost their collective shit for Aubrey Eels & The Baron.
It’s easy to see why the dynamic duo is a crowd favorite: their combative humour was showcased exceptionally by their songs ‘Universal Credit’ and ‘Domestic Violence’, which offered a screaming, cathartic antithesis to the political newspeak used to dance around those issues.
There’s just enough time to grab a beer – you’ve earned it, and you’re gonna need it, because the paradigm of punk as a predominantly male space is about to get tactically obliterated in real 4/4 time. Were it possible to harness the girl power produced by the following bands, nations would go to war.
All tunes, tattoos, and torn tights, Lady Rage is redefining the term ‘UK girl group’ with their furious sound. Lead singer Siren Sycho’s soul-tearing, riot-girl howling perfectly encapsulated the evils of social media in their absolute banger of a song, ‘Social Circus’. After being sprayed in the face with a Super Soaker full of ‘slut juice’, I had lost all sense of journalistic integrity.
But this was immaterial, because something wicked was coming this way: the Witch Of The East, an apt name, because the only explanation for the seamless fusion of hardcore industrial rock with transcendental sounds is some serious witchcraft. Lead singer Aeris Houlihan’s mystical stage presence would cause Stevie Nicks to eat her own heart out.
Kurt Cobain’s prophecy that “women are the only future in rock’n’roll” (an idea championed by event organizer Nina Courson) was perpetuated by PollyPikPocketz, a band guaranteed to steal your heart. The lead vocalist Myura’s ferocious voice is reinforced by raw rock’n’roll, courtesy of her talented bandmates. The mosh pit barely dissipated before it reformed for A Void, a band whose musical range is as vast and unfathomable as a black hole: their new single ‘Stepping on Snails’ spans genres and emotions – and their lead singer is a human dynamo displaying
straight up talent.
Last, but certainly not least, was headliners the Healthy Junkies. Their song ‘MAYDAY’ is a furious anthem of righteous rage: drums pounding against quick jabs of the guitar, and followed up by a flurry of lyrical counterpunches straight to your cranium. This band is not to be missed – as evidenced by the fact that one of their fans suffered a machete attack to the face earlier that day, rocking up to the gig with a bandaged cheekbone and a mouth full of missing teeth – and when the lights came on and the night finished up, the crowd was ready to riot, screaming for more.
Fortunately, they didn’t have long to wait: the punks burned the midnight oil with all the pyrotechnic splendour of a fireball KISS concert. Hold on to your hangovers, because it’s time to hit Post Bar and rock out to Techno Juggernaut’s homage to Daft Punk. The grunge anthems of Girls Like Us got the crowd amped up – and when bad boy band Spider Redundant took to the stage with their incandescent rock n roll, I realized I was in a mosh pit at 6pm on a Sunday.
Don’t get too comfortable, because up next is Army of Skanks, a three-piece powerhouse, pushing the boundaries of punk with their uncontrollable riffery. Carol Lane’s impeccable control over the guitar was such that when she told me she’d suffered a wrist injury and been going through physio for months I called her a liar straight to her face. My prodigious hangover was starting to show. The surf rock sounds of the Suicide Notes washed over me, took my breath away and left me for dead; thankfully, the hard rocking Kontrol Freaks (and the energetic force of nature that is their lead singer Monty Nordgren) shocked me back to life with the high voltage of a defibrillator – assisted by the blasting beats and unique metal-pop cadences of follow-up band Flesh Tetris.
Still, I was pretty sure my soul was in limbo, because gracing my eyes and the stage was Jojo & the Teeth: vocalist Jojo O’Donoghue is a grungy goddess, and the unique alt-rock cadences of this glamorous band is my definition of heavenly. I mean, rock’n’roll was invented by a nun.
The weekend ended on a grand finale: Neon Animal is all high fashion and uncivilized behaviour. Their sound was like a kind of primitive utterance beyond speech, showcasing emotions too vast to be caught by little words. Indeed, the Punk’n’Roll Rendezvous Festival possessed qualities too rare for language to describe precisely: terms like ‘talent’ and ‘community’ are rendered paltry in comparison to the dedication these artists have to their music, and each other. In a world of all-powerful corporations, government shit shows, and social media panopticons, a music festival brought into existence out of pure love is an unreal experience, especially one that revels in the dulcet tones of rebellion.
“Live music was put on life support during the pandemic,” said Phil Honey-Jones. “That’s why this event is so important to us. It’s about keeping live music alive.”