Review – Access All Areas 4: for ‘The Bridge Homelessness to Hope’ at Duffy’s Bar & Firebug, Saturday 2nd September 2023

Earls. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Organised by Luke Broughton for The Bridge Homelessness to Hope

Reviewed by Kevin Hewick, Kevin Gaughan and Kara Costall

Kevin Hewick writes:

On a day already crammed with incident and spectacle with Leicester City Centre filled with the optimism and celebration of Pride, Luke Broughton’s latest Access All Areas (the fourth) was aptly dedicated to the big event with Pride related artists spread over the two nearby venues of Firebug and Duffy’s. It was impossible to see everything and I’ll confess I kind of ended up slumped into a comfy chair in Duffy’s letting whatever was on there do it’s thing but being there at some part of it was the point I guess.

Public transport woes made me later than I meant to be but Pretty Dirty Rats were already bouncing on the Firebug stage and I mean bouncing, they must be the most bouncy band in Leicester. Full disclosure: I’m wearing a Pretty Dirty Rats t shirt. With (that word again ) pride.

They suit this larger platform and they romp through their set driven by the thumping drums of Kelly McCormack or McCorwhack maybe, she hits ‘em hard and makes this trio a relentless experience. Clare’s bass is richer and tighter to the beat than I’ve heard before and Jo’s unorthodox wall of chords and drones give them a unique edge. You bet I wear their t-shirt, Vermin just about has me pogoing too. Almost.

Pretty Dirty Rats. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

A dash, a dash for Dopamine Crash next. I was expecting Chris and Sophie to be a duo but it’s a full band drums, bass, keyboards and two guitars. They are highly melodic and not a little prog rock in a kind of Floydian Wish You Were Here way. Sophie is one of the true finds of the Unglamorous Women project that has jolted the local music scene into life of late and when she takes the lead on the remarkable Arrogant Monkeys it’s like epic arena rock in a small but rock-drenched room.

Dopamine Crash. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

I’m too comfy now and can’t run up and down 10 flights of stairs. I just await upon a genius.

Saying it with flowers and sign language the magnificent JJ Lovegrove had already turned HMV Leicester into a sonic cathedral earlier in the day. She is as relentless here at Duffy’s as if pouring out a lifetime of feeling into her songs. The majestic Dark Room and Trouble, the eerie The Call, she totally blows everyone away, me most of all, I can feel the world she comes from (actually a matter of yards from where I grew up) an ordinary place riven with extraordinary feelings.

JJ Lovegrove. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

It’s officially too hot for boiler suits. A wise decision, we don’t want any of this supergroup passing out. HRT and other drugs and big dinners and the psycho shouty meltdown of Life Is Short, Boilers are unstoppably driven, it’s fun but they really mean it and Boilers Have Got Your Back was never more heartfelt and apt.

Boilers. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

After a series of setbacks it’s very good to see Venus Attax again, and their inclusive and questioning songs are totally on the money for a Pride event, Queer is an anthem for everyone, a welcome to all outsiders to belong and be free at last. The dynamic K.Z. Aviani is all heart and soul and Peta Carlino is undoubtably the coolest most Warholian-vibed performer of the night.

Venus Attax. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

I actually make it back to Firebug aware that I missed as much as I’ve seen and catch but moments of Siobhan Mazzei beating her guitar into submission, she can’t half tap that thing and her voice is opera singer powerful.

I’ve seen Luke Broughton do what they do next so many times.

It’s from the infinite depths of their being, almost impossible from but one person. The room feels kind of stunned. That it’s all about Pride is deeply personal, expressed with everything they can possibly give and representing everything everyone could ever feel. The child of a true great is a true great themselves.

Luke Broughton. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

That does it for me, nothing can follow that. I step back out into a world that may never be free of all the negativity and hate but that has no place in this shining town on this night.

Kevin Gaughan adds:
My Access All Areas 4 day started off in Duffy’s with the lusciously rounded and heart-felt vocals of Becky.
Having last seen her perform a good few years ago, I was impressed at how her voice had mellowed and matured like a young, full bodied red wine that had yet to reach it’s full potential but was well on the way.
It was a genuine performance, you could see that each word was from the heart and that she was living the songs as she performed her set of all-original material. The audience was attentive and quite sizeable which made for a nice cosy atmosphere in Duffy’s Bar.
Becky. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan
Over at Firebug, I found Wonky Portraits – another all-female guitar-garage-punk band from the Unglamorous project. This is a six-piece band with their own wind section! I like this band because of their quirkiness, good fun vibes and their short, sharp punchy tunes getting right to the point.
They’re also entertaining to watch and clearly having a great time.
The Wonkey Portraits. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Hot on the heals of the Wonkey Portraits was Blanket of Stars. Loving the guitar sound with plenty of reverb which blended exceptionally well with her lovely vocal style. Laura’s chatter between songs was entertaining as she told us about a song that was dedicated to her cat that pooped in a flower pot then covered it up.

Finishing off with some spoken word, reflecting on some of the real-life problems we face today, I thoroughly enjoyed her varied and entertaining performance.

Blanket of Stars. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Staying in Firebug a little longer, I found the hurricane-force of Andrea Kenny, having told us about her vocally challenging weekend where she had performed at various local gigs. Tonight she played a number of her own songs and covers as well as some Brandy Theives’ classics, from which Andrea used to be the lead singer.

Andrea still entertained us with what was left of her powerful voice and performed some requests from the audience including Nirvana’s classic, Heart Shaped Box which ended with rapturous applause.

Andrea Kenny. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan
Kevin Gaughan finishes off:
Headlining this momentous event in Duffy’s and performing at the same time as Luke Broughton, who was headlining Firebug, were Earls. A band I was looking forward to seeing, as they were one of my favourite Leicester punk bands. I say were, as they are now no longer. This was their last-ever performance, which is such a shame as they have built up a healthy following as you could see by the crowd which had Duffy’s bar oozing at the seams!
The pit was dancing and everyone went bonkers as they tore the house down, full of energy and vibrancy, playing their long-standing, hard-hitting bangers such as I’m a man.
A perfect way to finish my amazing Access All Areas 4 experience.
RIP Earls.
Earls. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan
After the event, organiser, Luke Broughton said: ‘I’m super pleased with how the event went. Not only was it a day packed with incredible talent but it was a collection of beautiful people who’s values aligned with everything this event was about and it was an honour to work with every one of them.
We had an incredibly diverse and large representation of LGBTQ artists which is groundbreaking in this city and a very significant thing.’
Videos from AAA4:
If you would like to share this review, please help us by using the share buttons below instead of a screen print – thanks!