by Lee Hazell
The day is long and the city is a little more solemn than usual. Westminster Bridge was the site of a terrorist attack that targeted our citizens, injuring some, killing others. Still, the city strives on. The Underground is a little more chaotic than usual, but people aren’t deterred. Calmly coming home from work or off down the pub, I can’t tell the difference between the London I live in today and the London I lived in yesterday, because nobody makes a Londoner late for pre-drinks.
It certainly hasn’t deterred the crowd at the Camden Underworld who have come out in full force to support some of their favourite female-fronted rock bands. Each one has something to say about the incident of the day. Mainly, fuck terrorists, stay strong, and partying on is the best form of payback. The crowd, it seemed, agreed. If the audience let the day’s events affect them at all, then it was only to add fuel to the fire of cathartic chaos they brought to Camden Underworld.
Skye Sweetnam takes to the stage and looks like a Super Street Fighter II Turbo character come to life. Colourful, bright, bold, and badass, she is the driving creative force behind her Ska/Punk/Metal outfit Sumo Cyco. One of the most distinct and unique frontwomen in underground rock, she brings the explosive cartoon anarchy of her signature music videos to the stage.
Back last Halloween, when I saw them support Alien Ant Farm in Islington, they started out in front of a crowd that wanted nothing to do with them. Skye refused to take no for an answer though, and through the sheer force of her unstoppable charisma, she turned the crowd from apathetic anoraks to mosh pit warriors. This crowd were much more accommodating to the Pop Art Punk Rockers, clearly being more familiar with Sumo Cyco’s back catalogue, but that doesn’t mean that Skye hits Camden with any less intensity. She runs out into the crowd and shows no fear in meeting her people head on. There is no greater testament to the force for good she exudes than the look of adorable, hand-over-mouth shock on the faces of the girls in the audience as they realise that she has snuck off the stage to greet them in person, inspiring and emboldening them to be just as crazy and ambitious as she is.
But this is far from a one-woman show, lead guitarist Matt ‘MD’ Drake, is a whirling dervish of aggressive, groove funk that perfectly complements the lead vocals. Skye gets them singing but he’s the one who gets them dancing, each riff acting like an itch that can only be scratched through rhythmic head pounding and powerful fist pumping. Bassist Ken Corke, who goes by the name of Thor, brings the thunder. I am sorry for the pun; I am not sorry for the analogy. It’s bang on.
Sumo Cyco create a sense of excitement, not only musically but visually that is rare in a band working with such a small amount of resources. They use ingenuity, an incredible sense of melody, and an aggression that is therapeutic and positive, rather than bitter or cynical, to provide a scarred city with a warm sensation of welcome and assurance that was so needed on a night that people needed a release and friendly smile. Sumo Cyco gave London a hug on Wednesday night, the kind you share with a similarly sweaty stranger while jumping up and down to a thumping, infectious beat.