At the risk of self-indulgence, this is a review that’s going to have to get a little bit personal. Because Friday at Fairfield Social Club was a weird and exhilarating night.
We were there for the launch of Fairfield Social Club x Strange Days Manchester, a free event which saw Dream Wife, The Ninth Wave, and Mealtime take to the stage. And now for a confession. I missed Mealtime’s set because, a few beers in, I found the bank of Super Nintendo’s upstairs and got a bit geeked out playing Goldeneye and Street Fighter. Not a great start. I will say that, from my vantage point in the heavens, they sounded superb.
My girlfriend, fellow Picky Bastard Kirsten Loach, managed to drag me away in time for The Ninth Wave and we settled in for a set which, while a little too eighties/New Romantics for our tastes, did enough to distract me from shooting Oddjob with a Glock. If you haven’t played Goldeneye that will be a strange sentence.
But we were there for Dream Wife. A band I discovered in 2018 following a recommendation by Spotify, they have been one of those rare finds that both of us have fallen in love with and looked forward to seeing for a long time.
They didn’t disappoint. From the opening of the set to the end, they displayed the energetic, powerful, and empowering post punk that has made them so adored by their fans.
But there was more, much much more, to this show than that. Fairly early in the performance, there was a moment when everything that Dream Wife are about was epitomised. Their feminist anthem, and my favourite song from their self-titled debut, ‘Somebody’ was being majestically performed. The mostly female front few rows was bouncing up and down like a motherfucker. Singer Rakel Mjoll had called for all the ‘bitches’ to come to the front. All was good with the world.
And then, while Rakel repeated the refrain ‘I am not my body/I am somebody’, a tall(ish) man in his late thirties or early forties decided to barge his way to the front and try to push Kirsten out of her place by the stage. He danced wildly, elbows flailing aggressively. I looked around at the people in my vicinity while Kirsten held her ground. Everyone I could see, who had done nothing but smile for the last ten minutes or so, was rolling their eyes and shaking their heads. I tapped the man on the shoulder and asked him politely to stop barging into Kirsten and hitting her with his elbows.
‘I’m a fan of the band I’ve got as much right to be here as she has,’ he shouted, before turning around and continuing his ridiculous elbow dance. I almost let it slide. So did all of the people around me. But then we didn’t. Without any words or planning, but with lots of jostling and dancing, I joined a host of people in letting this elbowy fucker know that his behaviour wasn’t acceptable at a Dream Wife gig. Or anywhere, to be honest. And soon enough he was on his way, but not before aiming a few choice words in my direction.
Rakel had noticed the whole thing and made a comment on stage about ‘people needing to respect each other’s personal space’. And we all moved on. It was easy to do so, because the performance we were witnessing was electric.
But Rakel made it clear that she hadn’t forgotten later in the evening when, as the set neared an end, the band performed album closer F.U.U. The song concludes with a repeated refrain of ‘I spy with my little eye/bad, bad, bad, bad bitches.’ In context it’s a savage, strong, and rousing statement which sums up the feminist messages of their album. And Rakel decided to come into the crowd and sing this with the ‘bad bitches’ who had helped to put the man of many elbows in his place. She stood face to face with Kirsten while both of them screamed the word ‘bitches’ at the loudest volume they could.
It was an amazing thing to witness and put the icing on the cake of one of the best gigs I’ve been to in years. We left Fairfield Social Club absolutely buzzing. Dream Wife, in just a couple of hours, had gone from being a band whose first album I was a big fan of to being a group of ‘bad bitches’ that had given us one of the best nights we’ve shared in a long time.
So thanks Dream Wife, we fucking loved it.
Words and photos by Fran Slater.