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A Night Out with Big Joanie and Rachel Aggs  Punk Stars Sent to Coventry's Lovely Library

A Night Out with Big Joanie and Rachel Aggs

Punk Stars Sent to Coventry's Lovely Library

by Ancient Champion, Columnist
first published: October, 2022

approximate reading time: minutes

They are like the very essence of rocknroll. Punk? I don't know. Primitive? Downtempo Lo-Fi Minimalists? Big Joanie has an unstated importance like the Clash were important

Coventry Central Library
October 22nd, 2022

Taking my place amongst the stacks at Coventry Central Library, in the biography section. Resting my restless leg that I have worn out. The kid hangs her jacket up on the coat rack and takes a big fat Madonna bio from 2002 from the shelves and then something by bell hooks. Rachel Aggs takes to the stage and it is immediately apparent what that table onstage, with the good looking tablecloth, where a singer might routinely stand, is for. 

I send a picture of the table and its contents, lots of boxes with switches and dials and wires, to a friend. Are they for sale? They ask. It was kinda high end car booty-ish looking I guess.

Table of music equipment

As milling goes, a library is one of the good places to do it. Where’d you do it by choice? 

The really really brilliant Rachel Aggs came on, switched a few knobs on the boxes on the table on the stage-centre and away she went.  Very idiosyncratic indie pop fun. A seriously great combination of lyrics and melody. Oh, that's what songs should be like. I think I'd forgotten. Like Jonathan Richman on Jonathan Sings good. And of course Rachel is super charming and her guitar and violin playing is superbly laconic and supremely personalised all at once. That's a lot of skills all together. Her bands are all critically acclaimed, there's Shopping and the award winning Sacred Paws and others, but I think her solo stuff is a relatively new thing. Anyway, Rachel played and sang and it was so great I want to see her every time she chooses to do that. And so should you. It made me want to put on a show in Bearwood and ask her to come and play, and maybe I might. If I have a music type, I think I just heard it.

I've been to those weird shows where the support act has had to come back onstage and ask the audience to give the headliners a chance. Maybe that's an apocryphal unreliable memory. It's good whether it contains an ounce of realism or no. Anyway, that didn't happen here. There's so much love and respect and admiration between Big Joanie and Rachel Aggs as Big Joanie made clear from the stage - and Estella even stood in the stacks earlier, video taping Rachel's performance too. 

No all star jam though, probably happily who knows.

Big Joanie are like a singular juggernaut now. It's the most exciting thing to see that barreling down the road. An unstoppable force. Signed to Kill Rock Stars with an American tour coming. Certain to be fixtures on college radio in the US. They are like the very essence of rocknroll. Punk? I don't know. Primitive? Downtempo Lo-Fi Minimalists?  Like rock at its roots, at the very beginning, when beat combos had barely been invented, Big Joanie has an as yet unstated importance like the Clash were important. They're like the Bianca Saunders of punk. Black disruptors of the male preserve. They are to be cherished for what they say and what they stand for and how they sound and maybe, like Camp Cope or something, for annoying the boys in bands who won't ever get it. 

In Stephanie Phillips' voice, oh man, Big Joanie has what electric guitar music is made for, it contains the same mellifluous frayed fibres that make us marvel at Sister Rosetta Tharpe's singing some 80 years later. And generously as a lead vocalist, Stephanie - who currently looks like she is dressed by Barbara Hulanicki, cedes centre stage to drummer Chardine Taylor-Stone - who plays standing up like Velveteer Mo' or Bobby in his JAMC days; Chardine generally leads the inter-audience bonhomie and the political call to arms. And at one moment a call to stow those arms, erm too... "I'm not saying burn down the houses of parliament..."  Although it might be called the season for it. It's not Valerie Solanas, but it's not second gen fems either. Big Joanie need more than just a seat at the table.

Tonight Estella shifts her brilliant shirt sleeves - they were really excellent - around between bass and guitar. Oh they have nice retrofuturistic Fenders to share... It's all a brilliant blur of noise and melody. In an understated but punk ethic way. Estella is clearly the Joseph (or Joanie!) of Arimathea of bass though, her bass guitar would bury the dead deep. But Big Joanie together are the sweet, sweet Jesus of punk rock. Conspicuously resurrecting a musical art. For good reason.

Essential Info
Big Joanie's new LP Back Home is available now.
Big Joanie tour the UK in November/January tickets may be available here

Ancient Champion

Ancient Champion writes for OUTSIDELEFT while relentlessly recording and releasing instrumental easy listening music for difficult people. The Champ is working on Public Transport, a new short story collection that takes up where 2021's Six Stories About Motoring Nowhere (Disco City Books) left off. It should be ready in time for the summer holidays. More info at

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