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LIVE: SPRINTS / Venus Grrrls – Actress & Bishop, Birmingham, 05/04/2024

Dublin’s SPRINTS released probably the first vital album of 2024 when their debut Letter To Self arrived just five days into the New Year. They are celebrating the record’s warm reception with a sold out tour, which tonight visits the excellent Actress & Bishop venue, in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. 

Joining them are Venus Grrrls, who as the name suggest take inspiration from the ‘riot grrrl’ movement of the early nineties, though it’s a sobering thought that they weren’t actually born when the likes of Bikini Kill or Huggy Bear were filling the pages of the NME and Melody Maker. Their sound is underpinned by strong glam-pop melodies with a goth twist and they are a well-drilled, tight unit who are a very good match to complement tonight’s headliners. 

The crowd immediately take the band to their hearts and a mention of their own tour later in the year sparks plenty of interest. Last year’s ‘Liar Liar’ single is a highlight as is their original quiet / loud / slow / fast take on Siouxsie & The Banshees‘Spellbound’. It’s a great nod to a band they love, with plenty of their own personality added. 

Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s ubiquitous ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’ announces SPRINTS arrival on stage, and they kick off their night with the album’s opener, the brooding ‘Ticking’, a song which builds gradually and then, two minutes in, morphs into a frantic monster of a song that gives the crowd an early opportunity to jump around the room. When ‘Heavy’ follows, I wonder if it’s a ‘play the album in full’ kind of a show, but it isn’t – it’s just that the sequencing at the start of the record is actually perfect for the live show too. 

The band’s sound revolves around singer / guitarist Karla Chubb who seemingly has similar influences to tonight’s special guests – there’s also more than a hint of Courtney Love at times, most evident on the excellent ‘Shaking Their Hands’, which brings to mind Hole’s ‘Violet’ in its feel and structure. Chubb is a natural with the audience hanging on her every word, though the band generally let the music to the talking. 

‘Adore Adore Adore’ is another stormer, sparking spirited scenes in the crowd which continue throughout the night. Bassist Sam McCann also chips in with some vocals to provide a contrast with Chubb’s voice, the pair combining to great effect on the incendiary ‘Up and Comer’. McCann explains relatively early on that there won’t be an encore as such – he has a point that there isn’t much value to the band fighting their way through the crowd in order to come straight back – but anyone who thinks that this signals an end to the show is relieved to hear another four or five songs after this proclamation, including the album’s powerful title track and then perhaps the band’s most popular song, the raucous and uplifting ‘Literary Mind’

Chubb jumps into the energetic crowd a couple of times to keep the fervour going, and by the time closer ‘Little Fix’ (a crowd favourite from the 2022 EP, A Modern Job) the average audience member temperature has gone up a few degrees! 

SPRINTS seem to be on unstoppable form, and while it’s lovely to experience them in such an intimate setting, the next tour is likely to have much bigger venues. 2024 could well be theirs. 

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.