Shooting Daggers and the changing face of femininity in Hardcore Punk
With the resurgence of hardcore punk over the last decade, there is no surprise that both the local and mainstream scenes are thriving.
An ongoing dispute continues within the scene, of whether it is acceptable to sell your soul, abandon your small-town community and try and make it in the eyes of the mainstream, with bands such as Knocked Loose and Scowl booked for Coachella 2023.
I began going to hardcore shows in the months following lockdown, where the pent-up rage caused by tory deceit and stir-crazy isolation was stronger than ever.
If there is one thing that is second nature to me, it is being stood in a crowd where I can count the number of women on my own two hands. Feeling the effects of a slight imposter-syndrome mixed with missing female company, I began seeking out punk and hardcore shows with more diverse line-ups.
After seeing Jawless and Sentience, both female fronted bands in London’s booming scene, I was craving finding a band strictly fashioned for and by women. I first came across Shooting Daggers at a show in The Birds Nest, Deptford, home to South London music fanatics hosting an array of live electro, jungle and reggae DJ sets and alternative, punk and metal gigs.
Emerging straight from London’s new wave, Shooting Daggers are a three-piece feminist queercore band comprised of Sal, Bea and Raquel who fuse visceral hardcore punk with angsty, politically-charged vocals and a no-nonsense attitude.
I arranged a meeting with them to get some insight into what it is like being a female/non- binary band in London’s local scene. We met in The Waiting Room, Deptford, chatting over the heavy soundtrack about gender expression within extreme music.
They all had different entries into punk, for guitarist and front woman Sal it started when she was 14. “I met people at a summer camp, punks and metalheads. I got into hardcore when I was 16.” For Bea, her small town upbringing in Italy put everyone on the same page musically. “It didn’t matter if you were punk, metal, rock – if you liked alternative music, we were all hanging out.” Raquel got into hardcore a bit later when she moved to London. “There’s more of a scene here. In Madrid the hardcore scene is really macho. I wasn’t a fan of hardcore when I was living there.”
After exchanging gig stories and future projects, I was itching to see another Shooting Daggers gig, and I was in luck they were due to rattle the ears of South London again in early March.
Shooting Daggers seized the stage at New Cross Inn, taking the sanctified second spot on a jam-packed line-up including Trading Hands, Going Off, Cold Brats and New Jersey’s finest, Gel, who closed the night.
The hazy pink hue from the streets of South London drained inside the venue. The electric blue glow of the stage lights lighting up every eager face in the tightly packed room. Shooting Daggers took to the stage. All that was needed was one pound on the drums from Raquel, a tempting bassline from Bea and a reverberated howl from Sal to aggravate the crowd. It didn’t even take opening song ‘NO EXIT’ to start for a cluster of bodies to swarm to the front.
With the crowd piping hot, Shooting Daggers commenced with ‘G O L D E N R U L E S’, a fierce headbanger outlining gig protocol: 1. RESPECT THE KIDS, 2. GIRLS TO THE PIT, 3. MOSH DON’T KILL, 4. NEVER FORGET RULE 1
Setting the tone of the night in true Shooting Daggers style, Sal’s dynamic roars left these commands speeding through my mind like an exhilarating nightmare. Don’t fuck around at a Shooting Daggers show.
Asserting womanhood within punk is a common theme in the band’s discography, although Bea states: “None of us are particularly feminine, not because of a choice. It’s just how we are. I love when I see a bimbo screaming! I love bands that embrace femininity singing hardcore, men or women depending on how they dress up. Maybe some women try and get rid of their femininity, maybe some women are trying to look tougher to enter the scene? I think that’s a way to be accepted easier?”
The band move into full throttle with the tantalising opening notes of fan favourite ‘MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL’, this one is for everyone who has been told you’re not like other girls.
“TRUTH IS CAN’T SEE, WON’T SEE MY EYES, YOU DON’T KNOW WHO I AM, CAN’T SEE, WON’T SEE MY EYES, YOU DON’T KNOW ME, WHO CARES?”
“Maybe some women try and get rid of their femininity, maybe some women are trying to look tougher to enter the scene?”
Alternating between speed-fuelled riffs and slower intricate licks, ‘MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL’ added even more bodies to the pit to stomp for female rage in all its glory.
“We have more reasons to be angry than men!” Raquel exclaims during our earlier conversation. “At the same time if you are a woman and angry, it’s not seen as good, if you’re a man getting angry you are the alpha. If you’re a woman getting angry you are crazy and overreacting. A lot of women are afraid of being angry.”
The heart of the set was filled with exciting releases from their most recent EP ‘Athames’, blending both melody and fury. Just be sure that the breakdowns were heavy, the vocals aggressive and the riffs ever-grooving. The gloomy opening bassline of ‘CARNAGE’, followed by Sal’s rasping screams and swift accompanying riffs meant there was not a static body in the room. With the end of the set approaching, Sal seized the attention of the crowd in-between the penultimate song, instructing: ‘STOP ENGAGING WITH DODGY PEOPLE. STOP SUPPORTING THEM. STOP PLAYING WITH THEIR BANDS. STOP EXCUSING INEXCUSABLE BEHAVIOUR’
Having experienced off-putting treatment at shows, Raquel elaborates on the shift from playing as the only female in a band, to being in a female and non-binary only band.
“Because we are an all women band, they have to talk to us. I have been in bands with men where I was ignored completely, everyone was skipping me and no one gave me info at all. You feel it even more because they’re talking to your band mates and not you. They think you’re a girlfriend or the merch girl. At a local level our treatment is more equal. When you go bigger with promoters and venues you see the promoters who don’t talk to you, but they speak to your driver! This happened to us where a promoter spoke to our driver and our driver was like ‘Uhh I don’t play in a band.’ You start seeing different treatment when you get out of your local bubble.”
“Because we are an all women band, they have to talk to us. I have been in bands with men where I was ignored completely.”
For the last song they called for all the girls and the queers to come to the front for ‘WE WILL LIVE’.
Bea states, “If we say this is for the girls and the queers, men just go at the back dance and enjoy yourself, but just let this one be for girls and the queers. Let them have their space. If one band during the whole night is asking you for one song to step back, come on you can do that.”
Shooting Daggers address the gender imbalance of a stereotypically male-dominated underground music scene. Perhaps it’s the aggression, perhaps tradition, but men seem to have claimed hardcore and punk as their own. Sal notes the differences between modern hardcore and old punk heads.
“Hardcore crowds are more respectful nowadays. Punk crowds are a bit different, there are still a lot of old school punks who sometimes get angry if they’re really wasted, it’s difficult to take them out of the pit, if you ask them to they might get aggressive. It depends; punk is a bit more controversial sometimes. Old school punks are often super political, but when it comes to women’s and queer’s rights a lot of the time they’re like fuck this shit! Don’t tell me what to do!”
Shooting Daggers, along with other feminine fronted and queercore bands such as Gender Warfare and Comeback Clit won’t take no for an answer. As the girls and queers shot to the front Sal yelled: ‘DON’T WAIT FOR MALE APPROVAL TO START ANYTHING. WE NEED FEMALE REPRESENTATION ON STAGE. TAKE YOUR STAND BECAUSE THIS IS OUR SCENE.’
It’s a subject she stressed the importance of when we first sat down to chat – how women should assert themselves in hardcore and that this was always the vision for Shooting Daggers.
“When starting the band we always looked for women, it was a conscious choice for us. We didn’t wanna play with men. That’s the whole thing about the band- women and queer people in a scene where we’re not accepted. There are young queer people at gigs. I can’t wait for them to start bands, I hope they do.”
Photo credits: Sean Reece, Xandru and Kiera Anee.
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