In April 2018, Ramsgate Music Hall played host to Japanese indie/punk legends Shonen Knife. It was one of the greatest nights the venue had seen to date. Making what had already promised to be a fun night even better, the night’s support received a rapturous response. That band, KOLARS – a garage rock/retro duo from the US – impressed almost everyone with their display of sweat, sparkle and a tap dancing drummer. Within two weeks, the band had been confirmed to return for their own headline show and on July 16th, they took the stage at Music Hall once more.
It’s the first of July. The British summer time has truly grabbed a hold. In the middle of the unexpected heatwave, the intimate Ramsgate Music Hall is hot. Very hot. The sweaty atmosphere isn’t about to dampen anyone’s spirits, though, especially as tonight’s sell out crowd are in the presence of a true cult legend. This is Kristin Hersh’s second appearance at Music Hall – the first being forty eight hours earlier – and it’s the last night of her successful UK tour. Everyone’s up for it.
The first half of 2018 has seen a few excellent gigs that have helped put the Ramsgate Music Hall on the map. The venue has played host to a warm up gig by Pulp legend Jarvis Cocker (a show that sold out in under a minute), energetic sets from Shonen Knife and Kolars as well as an evening of acoustic English whimsy from the legendary Robyn Hitchcock. The venue could now legitimately be considered a tiny giant. Tonight promises to join the list of legendary performances as the venue is host to a Throwing Muses double bill, with solo sets from ex-bassist Fred Abong and singer-songwriter Kristin Hersh.
2018 has been an important year for Fred. He’s made a long overdue, proper return to the music scene after many years. He’s also recorded new solo material, the ragged ‘Homeless’ EP, and he’s been giving it some hefty promotion throughout the summer whilst on the road with Hersh. This is the second of two appearances at Music Hall and even though it’s a school night for most tomorrow, it’s still a sell out.
Robyn Hitchcock is one of those artists whom, for many, will have a name that’s more familiar than the music he’s recorded. Often billed as the “musician’s musician”, the one time Soft Boys frontman has many famous fans, including R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. This evening, he’s appearing at the very intimate Ramsgate Music Hall on the Kent coast. He’s attracted a crowd ranging from devoted fans to the merely curious. We’ve arrived with no real expectations, but the opportunity to see such a cult figure up close isn’t one to be missed.
We live in an age where music feels ever more disposable. Bands no longer have the luxury of multi-album contracts to hone their style and with streaming services all the rage, “the album as an art form” is dying. The very idea that Shonen Knife have endured for decades is fascinating. Since the release of their debut album back in the 80s, countless bands have formed, recorded, toured, disbanded…but the Japanese pop-punk/bubblegum power pop band have genuinely gone the distance. They’ve had line up changes – aside from ZZ Top, who hasn’t? – but they’re still with us and on the basis of tonight’s show in Ramsgate, they’re better than ever.
Perhaps part of the appeal of tonight’s show lies with the venue itself. With a capacity of under 150, the Ramsgate Music Hall is the very definition of intimate and it allows an opportunity to witness bands up close. Really, really up close. When Shonen Knife take the stage, there’s immediately a feeling that tonight will be special.