Actionettes at the Bristol Ladyfest 2003
Report by urban75 editor, 17th Aug 2003
When urban75 was invited to escort the Cava-crazy, all-female, 'glittery dance troupe', The Actionettes, up to Bristol for the Ladyfest 2003 event, we were there quicker than you could say, 'hello ladies'.
The urban75 editorial massive has long been a fan of the Actionette's heady mix of retro-pop, dance and cocktails, served up with a healthy slice of post-punk, DIY attitude.
So, if you're looking for the latest big budget offering of stick thin, preening supermodels dancing to the tune of some string-pulling svengali, you're come to the wrong place - The Actionettes come in all shapes, sizes and ages and aren't here to please the latest style mags - they're here to have some serious fun!
I joined up with them at Waterloo station on a warm August lunchtime, looking like a dull square daddy-o as Kitchenette, Roulette, Strumpette and the rest of the girls bedazzled passers-by in their brightly coloured, second hand chic outfits.
We were headed for the Bristol Ladyfest 2003 - a weekend-long set of events, mixing up music, art, film, workshops and spoken word with an anti-corporate, non profit, positive, feminist, post-Riot Grrrl message.
The Actionettes make an early start with the first of many bottles of Cava on the train journey up to Bristol.
The train journey was painfully slow, but the seemingly-endless supply of bubbly and home made cakes helped it speed by.
We caught a cab straight from the station to the Cube Microplex, an independent picture house with an excellent cafe/bar. The Actionettes hosted an hour-long dance workshop, with over 30 people from the audience gamely taking part and joining them onstage.
I was mightily impressed with the 'up for it' attitude of the Ladyfest-ers, who needed no encouragement to get up and join in the fun.
With yours truly roped in on CD deck duties, the Actionettes soon got everyone shimmying and a-shuffling along to Nancy Sinatra's 'These Boots are Made for Walking' and the Marvelettes 'Too Many Fish In the Sea'.
Some food was in order after the workout, and after facing a depressing trudge around the drunken, leering, lad-tastic wilderness of Bristol's Corn Street, we reluctantly settled for a Pizza Express meal. With more alcohol, of course.
The Actionettes regrouped in the Seven Stars pub in Thomas Lane, next to the Fleece and Firkin venue. A down to earth, no nonsense venue, the pub holds the rare honour of possibly being the only pub in the known universe that would play the 1976 album, "Peter Frampton Comes Alive" - in its entirety!
Here 'Tourette' does her best to ignore Frampton's pleas to be 'shown the way' and concentrates on potting the yellow.
The Fleece and Firkin in St Thomas Street is a medium size, unpretentious venue with a 'proper' stage, only marred by a couple of columns obstructing the view. In this view, local all-girl band Mooz play their last-ever gig.
At midnight, the eleven-strong Actionettes took to the floor, opening up their set with Dusty Springfield's, 'Love Power'.
Synchronised arms aloft and dresses sparkling under the lights, the Actionettes' sixties style moves soon got the crowd a-whooping and a-hollerin'.
The dancers from the afternoon's workshop were invited to join the Actionettes for 'Too Many Fish In the Sea' and 'These Boots are made for Walking'.
To their credit, these newly enrolled Actionettes did a fantastic job of remembering the moves, creating a memorable vision of 35+ girls taking part in a mass syncopated shakedown!
Rounding off the evening was Holly Golightly, who knocked out a crowd-pleasing set of garage rock /rock and roll numbers.
The Fleece and Firkin offers a rare treat on the pub gig circuit - proper dressing rooms! Here you can see some of the Actionettes relaxing backstage in the wee small hours.
A bracing, hangover-freeing walk into Montpelier in the morning led us to the delightful Bristolian Cafe in Picton Street, which served up a glorious cooked breakfast.
Ready for the trip home. The Actionettes wait for the London bound train at Bristol's Temple Meads station.
» Photos of Bristol with more Actionettes shots