Domestic duty called on this night and so I wasn’t expecting to be able to attend this gig by South African punk chicks The SoapGirls, but as it turned out I was able to escape later in the evening. Whitchurch, a market town just inside Shropshire and quite close to Wrexham, is about an hour away from me and I reckoned I’d make their set if I set out sharpish. As it turned out, I did (just) although my tardy arrival meant I’d missed Midlands metallers The Loved And Lost who were also on the bill. There’ll be more chances to see them soon, though and I was just pleased to make it here in time for the SoapGirls’ first gig of 2018 back in the UK.
I first discovered the SoapGirls in 2015 as openers for another band; two blonde sisters in matching outfits and blessed with supermodel good looks, they surprised many that night with a set comprised of hard riffing numbers and outrageous stage patter. delivered with both passion and humour. They also made use of props such as dolls, and audience participation challenges such as getting a punter to drink their ‘voodoo’ concoctions of various alcoholic drinks, or even challenging them to eat raw fish! I’d not seen anything like that since W.A.S.P. were around in the 1980s and certainly not from two young women, and having somewhat upstaged the act they supported that night, they won a lot of new fans – myself included.
The sisters – bass player Camille (‘Mille’) and guitarist Noemie (‘Mie’) Debray share lead vocal, with contrasting styles. Mille’s delivery is a powerful roar reminiscent of Lzzy Hale, while Mie’s gentler vocal style is at odds with the buzzing riffs she blasts out with her Ibanez guitar. Originally a dance/pop act signed to a major label, they changed tack quite abruptly after their first album, in order to take more control of both their image and their musical direction. They have since released two more albums (‘Calls For Rebellion’ and ‘Society’s Rejects’) independently in their current punk rock style and they have been working on material for a fourth record, scheduled to be released late 2018. They’re backed by a male drummer, recruited whenever they are in the UK (they spend the summer months based in this country while playing here and in continental Europe, returning to South Africa each autumn), and the current incumbent behind the kit is Stoke-on-Trent sticksman Sam Ogden.
Percy’s is an unconventional café/bar which once also sold antiques, hence the place has many unusual artefacts around the bar and stage area. The stage is set in a courtyard and has its own weird and wonderful décor. There was already a pretty large crowd gathered there as I got in (the band have played here on several previous occasions, and consider it one of their favourite venues) and the girls kicked off their set. This being their first gig of the year they focused more on the playing than the usual Soap tomfoolery, the set also included a substantial amount of new songs. The new stuff is in keeping with their current style, but they’re unknown yet even to some of the dedicated ‘Soap Suds’ in the audience so it was when they played more familiar songs such as ‘Bad Bitch’ or ‘Voodoo Child’ (not the Hendrix song!) they got the crowd cheering loudly. They did get a few of their fans to join them on the stage too, but on this occasion they were just dancing or headbanging along rather than eating any dubious foodstuffs! Many of their songs deal with serious topics such as the situation in their native South Africa, but they also have light-hearted numbers such as closer ‘Champagne Cocaine’ – a party anthem that Mötley Crüe must surely wish they’d written!
Following their set both Mille and Mie always are prepared to meet, greet and mingle with their followers, chatting or posing for photos. They have got to know many of their fans who travel the country following them, and after they’ve been seen once they usually get people coming back for more. As said earlier the show this evening was lighter on slapstick than is usually the case and more focused on the music, but as the tour progresses no doubt the ‘Tiswas’ element to their show will be back with a vengeance! This is their third year of playing up and down Britain and their hard work is beginning to pay off – they have already been featured in Classic Rock magazine this year and have had airplay on radio station Planet Rock. Having seen them on many occasions before now, but only just getting around to doing a blog post on their live show, I intend to see several more of their gigs while they are in the country this summer!