The South African ‘revolt rock’ sisters came to Chester on a wet and windy Sunday night in this unassuming looking venue close to the city’s railway station. They’d been allocated the smaller bar stage as opposed to the larger main stage, but that’s probably suitable for the trio (including their touring drummer Sam Ogden) as they’re used to this kind of setting, as they continue their seemingly relentless gigging schedule. This was the first chance I’d had to see the Soapies since the release of their fourth album ‘Elephant In The Room’, meaning they had the CD available to buy on the night. They have been playing several tracks from it at their gigs for some time however, so these songs are already well established in the minds of their followers, dubbed the ‘SoapSuds’.
There were three acts on the bill tonight, and things got under way with Spam Javelin. A trio who dress in what looks like posh Christmas wrapping paper (!), they specialise in short, snappy and speedy numbers touching on a variety of offbeat subjects. Some of these last little more than a minute! They weren’t on long but it felt like an intense workout just watching, such is the ferocity of their delivery. Next up were Saltwater Injection, a duo of a drummer/vocalist and a bassist, who play what cannot be described as drum & bass! The bassist had a heavy distorted sound, while the drummer thrashed about while delivering some disconcerting screams and roars. Energetic as it was, it was a bit atonal for my rather traditional tastes (in other words, I kinda like a song I can remember!)
Whatever else is said about the SoapGirls, one thing that they definitely do well is pen a catchy ditty. For all the controversy about their look (once again, they performed in little more than body paint and lingerie) they do have a knack for a pop hook amongst their own guitar assault. Bassist/singer Camille ‘Mille’ Debray declared from the outset that they were about freedom of expression, and anyone who didn’t agree could leave (or words to that effect!) She sounded a little hoarse, something she did acknowledge before getting things underway with ‘Ex-Girlfriend’ from the latest album. It is Mille who draws most of the attention, with her penchant for either bending over backwards or doing the splits while still playing her bass, while guitarist/singer Noemie ‘Mie’ Debray focuses on smiling at the punters while splitting their heads with that buzzsaw of a guitar. Mie has taken a more prominent vocal role of late, allowing Mille to astonish those present with her gymnastic acts. How she does that while never missing a beat is beyond my comprehension, though if you can look beyond the antics you will see an accomplished four-stringer.
I’d seen them twice before already this year, and on this occasion they opted not to do the ‘One Eyed Willy’ drinking challenge (a dubiously-decorated bottle containing an alcoholic cocktail, which they challenge an audience member to drink) or any of their usual slapstick stunts, focusing instead on playing the music. The set concentrated on the current album (I particuarly liked ‘Bitter’; hard rock but with that pop element to lodge in the mind) but there were some oldies from the two previous records played too, including ‘Sam’s On Crack’, ‘Society’s Rejects’ as well as ‘Bloody’, ‘Hater’ and of course ‘Champagne Cocaine’ from their first independently-released album (second overall), ‘Calls For Rebellion’. As is so often the case, they got several people up on stage with them to ‘help’ on ‘Bad Bitch’, the song which got them played on Planet Rock – albeit in heavily censored form!
They’ve been touted as the ‘next big thing’ for a couple of years now, and as is so often the case they do win over new people. I overheard more than one first-timer speaking to Mille afterwards telling her, Mie and drummer Sam Ogden how much they enjoyed the show. They believe in doing it the old-fashioned way, with a strong gigging schedule and playing to whoever makes the effort to come along. If I’m honest, I’d have expected them to have been playing bigger stages (such as the main stage here) by now, but they’ll get there eventually even if it means no compromise whatsoever in their beliefs. Recommended that you take the chance to see the SoapGirls live should they rock up anywhere within reach.