Hunx And His Punx
May 12, 2012
Club Motherfucker, The Shacklewell Arms, London, E8 2EB
It’s nice to have your faith in live music rejuvinated, isn’t it? Once in a blue moon you see a band that are so perfect they can restore your faith in the sanctity of the gig. Hunx And His Punx are one of those bands.
Last year I fell upon Hunx’s last album, Too Young To Be In Love. I’ve always liked the idea of rock’n’roll, but old school rock’n’roll will never move me the way it did my parents. Just as this album fell in to my life, I was having a love affair with Jerry Lee Lewis and the Shangri-La’s, and longed for music that could speak to my generation in that way – and Too Young To Be In Love was that album. Once part of gay electro act Gravy Train!!!! (who the Scissor Sisters could have been without Elton John’s destructive influence), Hunx formed his own band, dissatisfied with dancing for Gravy Train, and begin writing garage-punk about cruising and fancying boys. Then a change came, and taking their inspiration from teenage rock’n’roll with Too Young To Be In Love, Hunx and his crew presented an album of songs worthy of any young Drapes ears, singing about boys, heartbreak and loss. The album made such an impression on me that, when I heard Hunx And His Punx were playing London’s Club Motherfucker, I didn’t just decide to go, my legs transported me to the dirty fabulousness of Dalston’s Shacklewell Arms almost without me realising it. Cider in hand, I entered the “dancehall” where I found a small stage adorned with hand drawn drapes, with everything from cartoon hair products to a big sign reading “Hairdresser Blues” (the title of Hunx’s solo album). Stuck to the walls with black gaffa tape, with wigs and feather boa’s strategically draped around their instruments, they had created a 1950s DIY grotto of Americana, a theme which resonates with the band’s music, and I lapped it up.
After a set from frenetic, hairy post-grunge, Aussie support act Step-Panther (who it should be noted were very good: see their MySpace page for evidence) and dj’s playing everything from Mariah Carey to Hole and Shampoo, Hunx took the stage wearing black polka dot leggings, split sole jazz shoes, a polka dot shirt and a rain mack.
“Are you all gonna stand that far away?” he pleaded into the microphone, looking at a space big enough for a mosh pit at the front of the stage, before members of the crowd (including me) rushed to fill it. The opening two songs, ‘Hairdresser Blues’ and ‘Private Room’ from Hunx’s solo album, eased us into Hunx’s wild stage antics gently, before the madness exploded and we were treated to one of the most eventful gigs I’ve ever been to.
It started with Hunx stripping – taking off his mack and then his flouncey polka dot shirt to reveal his slim torso and high waisted leggings. Then, as Hunx noticed a man at the side of the stage texting on his iPhone during a song, he commandeered the phone and threatened to put it in his pants – to the shock of the owner. When his microphone stand broke, my friend was asked to hold it (which she did for 2 songs) so Hunx could play guitar and sing at the same time. He repeatedly fell into the press photographers, who he seemed to show distain for (and rightly so) referring to them as “paparazzi” and asking them what they were “shooting for”, while molesting the male photographer at every opportunity. The male photographer didn’t seem phased, and to be honest, like the audience, I think he was enjoying the Hunx experience. He even molested me, reaching out to run his fingers through my hair towards the end of the show, in line with a lyric from one of the catchy, love infused songs, and I let him, far too caught up in the experience to think about where those hands might have been.
Dedicating his song ‘Cruising’ to “all the gays”, he was the epitome of punk rock. Talking about Scruff and Grindr and writing songs about boys, Hunx’s sexuality has never been hidden, and his outlandish, effeminate stage persona and leather “Tom Of Finland” cap doesn’t exactly make him appear butch – but there’s something inherently punk about him – just like Justin Trantor from New York band Semi Precious Weapons – that makes what could be quite easily be a “shock for shock’s sake” performance into one of the most compelling front men I have seen in years.
Now, I’m not for a second saying that the onstage antics detract from the music – most of the songs here are from the debut album Too Young To Be In Love, and showcase Hunx and co’s brilliant ear for catchy pop hooks, ladled with rock’n’roll sass.
But Hunx and his spectacle is not the only draw to the band – bassist Shannon Shaw (of Shannon And The Clams) is not only a great bassist but has a killer voice, like a blonde Beth Ditto, and her backing vocals are as integral to the songs as the lead vocals from Hunx. The rest of his excellent band are all essential to the show, which is entertainment in the truest sense. How much of the falling over, drunkenness and the exhibitionism is for show and how much is real, I don’t know. What I do know is that this is REAL music. Forget your worthy indie bands signed to major labels who have forgotten what it was like to graft – this is blood, sweat and smoke machines. And I for one am glad I saw Hunx And His Punx while they were here. Despite having more hits on one album than most bands have in their career, Hunx And His Punx will never be mainstream – and that’s one of the reasons I like them so much. They are good, old fashioned pop music, spilling over with attitude, emotion and dirt, and I encourage anyone with an interest in music to give them a try. They could give Jake Shears and Ana Matronic a lesson in stagecraft and musicianship, and would probably scare the shit out of Rufus Wainwright, and that’s right up my dark, beer stained alley.
I’ll definitely be experiencing Hunx again the next time he comes to London, and I urge you to do the same.