Punk three-piece Dream Wife’s blisteringly loud tour stopped off at Leeds’ The Wardrobe for a gig whose flatteringly noisy performances made up for the occasional moment of over-indulgence.
With a sound rooted in both nineties riot grrrl and noughties dance-punk, Dream Wife’s live shows exhibit a well-paced fluctuation between light and shade. The ferocious ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ paired with the heartfelt ‘Hasta La Vista’ formed the opening one-two, in turn both stylistically contrasting and consistent in musicality. Dream Wife’s appeal is as much audible as it is cultural, with songs like ‘Somebody’ ringing out into The Wardrobe with defeating honesty. The ‘I am not my body/I am somebody’ hook formed a mantra of self-worth in one of the most touching and earnest moments of the show. Indeed, when Dream Wife evoke crowd participation, it is at its best when that participation is spontaneous. The group’s lyrics surrounding gender and feminism are equally sharp and well-constructed live as they are on record.
But for a punk show there are alarming levels of contrivance. ‘Sports’ breaks from its raucous energy into the kind of crowd participation that would suit an entertainment evening at Butlin’s, with the crowd, having been split in two, asked to compete against each other (it was never clear what they were competing in or for), just for the band to inform the audience everybody was a winner, in true school sport’s day participation medal fashion.
But, as is often the case with punk gigs, the heavier songs cut deepest. The band terrorised through the latter parts of the show; songs like ‘F.U.U.’ possessing surprisingly sincere savagery. And that is where Dream Wife strike an admirable balance. The show was cut-throat, nasty and pointed, as all good punk should be, while remaining honest and inclusive in message and tone.