Billy Nomates | Straight Girl
The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
5th October 2021
Andy Brown heads to the iconic Brudenell Social Club to catch a long overdue performance by Billy Nomates. He shares his thoughts for Louder Than War.
With the rain and a bitterly cold wind blowing through the streets of Leeds, it’s one of those nights where going outside isn’t all that appealing. Staying at home isn’t an option tonight though as one-woman, post-punk performer Billy Nomates is set to kick off her long-awaited tour at The Brudenell Social Club. Caught up in the seemingly never-ending stream of rescheduled gigs, tonight’s show was originally due to go ahead in February. Yet as that well-worn advertising slogan tells us, good things come to those that wait.
Tonight’s support comes from local artist Straight Girl (they/ them). “Hi, I’m Straight Girl” begins our opening act, “and I’m not straight and I’m not a girl and I’m here to re-write the big beat manifesto”. Straight Girl then proceeds to launch into an irrepressibly energetic set of club-worthy electronica. They pour every ounce of energy, love, and sweat into the performance: bouncing around the stage like the Duracell Bunny at an all-night rave. By the third song, they’re spinning in circles and screaming, lost in the sheer catharsis of it all.
The brilliant Look at Me starts slower with Straight Girl delivering the opening lines acapella “soft, like honey/ fat spills and skin deflates”. The track then proceeds to work its way up into a heart-pounding and emotive electronic banger. In the midst of the sonic euphoria they leap from the stage and end up rolling around on the floor. They might not have been able to convince the Tuesday night crowd to form a conga (despite a particularly spirited attempt at starting one) but they definitely left an impression. An exciting and thoroughly joyous way to get the night started.
I first heard Tor Maries aka Billy Nomates sometime back in 2019; by 2020 she was an essential part of my musical landscape. Her homemade cover versions and fully-realised debut LP provided an inspired soundtrack to the pandemic. Maries is the kind of artist you feel genuinely delighted to see fill out a room of eager punters. Before she’s sung a word there’s the sense that tonight is the end of a particularly long and winding journey to the stage, and perhaps the start of a whole new era for the Leicestershire-born, post-punk.
After momentarily grappling with her laptop, the show kicks off with Emergency Telephone, the brilliant title track from last year’s EP. The track remains a fresh, playful, and inventive slice of post-punk pop. It won’t be the last earworm we hear tonight either. The set-up is simple: a laptop, a microphone, and one fired-up songwriter and performer. Maries dances around the stage, inhabiting every moment of the performance. Billy Nomates could almost be in her bedroom, hairbrush in hand, instead of a sold-out show at the Brudenell. It’s that sense of freedom that makes it such a fun and exciting gig.
Maries has a way of exploring issues in a direct yet never plain or obvious manner, from the sharp humour of Hippy Elite to the skewering of the ‘back in my day’ brigade on Happy Misery. The brilliant No is undoubtedly one of her most powerful statements and, like many of the tracks we hear tonight, it’s a song about empowerment. Suddenly we get the disconcerting sound of Boris Johnson’s voice over the PA; “accept that your life chances, your family’s life chances, depend on which part of the country you grow up in”. This is followed by the defiant FNP, an anthem for all the forgotten normal people.
Everything feels particularly relevant tonight; from the melancholic longing of Supermarket Sweep and the defiant groove of Heels to the wry humour of Call In Sick, Billy Nomates hits the nail on the head again and again. Escape Artist provides a much-welcome reminder that art is the ultimate exit as it brings an already triumphant set to a heart-racing conclusion. Tor Maries leaves the stage with a huge smile on her face and she’s not the only one.
All words by Andy Brown. You can visit his author profile and read more of his reviews for Louder Than War here.
Photo by Thomas Jackson / so.co