Live Review: Sex Gang Children @ Workman’s Club, Dublin 3rd Oct 2016

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sex gang children
Andi Sex Gang on stage @ Workmans.

Sex Gang Children bring their gothic brilliance to Ireland for the first time.

The Sex Gang Children; only the band that Culture Club could have been! This might sound like a joke, but it’s true; Culture Club originally wanted to use the name taken from a William S Burroughs story. It’s hard to imagine that Culture Club would have had such chart success and radio play with such a name. Indeed even today in 2016, at a point where Sex Gang Children have gained legendary status in particular for their live performances, the band had great difficulty in promoting the tour. When I inquired at a Ticketmaster shop if they were selling tickets, I was told that the system wouldn’t allow for searching those words. Ticketmaster were not selling tickets, and many other companies declined to sell tickets.

Friends of mine who were postering for Dublin show found many establishments would not allow the posters to adorn their premises. I told as many people as I could that Sex Gang Children were playing. In the Workmans! The tickers costing a mere fifteen euro! As it stands now, several of SGC’s dates in the UK have been cancelled due to the band’s name. As manager Mark Musolf writes in his review of the Sex Gang Children’s tour, the Dublin gig was booked with help from both Gavin Friday and the local Dublin scene:

“The tour would mark Sex Gang Children’s first ever visit to both the Republic and Northern Ireland so our fate was in the hands of the fans, and with a little help from Gavin Friday, we were booked at the Workman’s Club in Dublin.” Mark Musolf

But where Boy George and company couldn’t possibly have lived up to that seedy and outrageous name, the Sex Gang Childen have run away with it. His lyrics are works of gothic art in a literary sense; tirades of sinister utterances, like the ravings of the possessed. Unlike many other bands similarly damned to be labelled as ‘goth’; genuinely bloody scary. Characters in his songs seem cursed to occupy the gleefully tragic realms of murder, punishment and cruelty, landscapes of broken hearts and ripped veins, hammered home relentlessly and without relief. His work is visionary in that it creates a sense that Andi has borne witness to something Other, something Beyond, and captures the infernality of this vision in his song-writing. Even their set list, which I was emailed a photograph of by somebody who was at the gig and which of course ended up in my spam folder, reads like a google search that might get you on some kind of watch-list, with such goodies as “Death Worship”, “German Nun” “Children’s Prayer” and “Cannibal Queen”.

sex gang children
Andi Sex Gang and Caoimhe Lavelle dance it up @ Workmans.

After the gig it has become apparent to me that I had been missing out on a huge element of the Sex Gang Children’s cathartic appeal; the live experience. The atmosphere was truly seedy. Due no doubt to difficulties in promoting the gig (some of my friends postered for the gig and found few establishments would allow advertising a gig for a band with such a name), the gig was a bit roomy but consisted of the guts of the Dublin goth scene, a room full of familiar faces in close proximity.

Andi Sex Gang has described his performance as being influenced by Edith Piaf. It does most certainly carry on in the tradition of torch songs, reminiscent at times of the tragic and mournful tone of Portuguese Fado singing. But if somebody had never listened to music of this ilk I’d describe Andi’s singing style as similar to Bowie’s most alien wailing, with that kind of high intensity maintained constantly. And yet his performance had a climax; when he stepped down from the stage. Or did he, demonically possessed, float down from it? It’s hard to tell but shoulders rubbed and I may have waved my armpit in his face. It was the kind of sleaze that would make Marc and The Mambas proud.

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I got to meet Andi and the Sex Gang Children after the gig (it was a pretty socially intimate, scene-y setting), and ask him a question or two. I asked if he prepared much for his live shows, given how vocally demanding his style is. He said he didn’t, and rather simply allowed it to happen as he arrives on stage. He also told me that I reminded him of Edith Piaf – a compliment which I was honoured to put in my pocket. Furthermore I think that the Sex Gang Children were given, against all odds, a great welcome here in Ireland, playing here for the first time, a mighty scene triumph.

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Caoimhe Lavelle is a goth from Dublin. She writes and performs poetry and prose, draws comix and DJs on the Dublin Alternative Scene. Her written work has appeared in Totally Dublin, The Bohemyth, and such zines as This Is Not Where I Belong and Glitterstump. Her poem "Self-Belief Poem (Ha Ha)" was used by Poetry Ireland to promote Poetry Day nationwide. Caoimhe is currently seeking a talented band with image issues to seize control of.