Scala – 26th March
As Fortuna Pop founder Sean Price took part in his first stage dive, as balloons fell from the heavens, as Fortuna Pop faces took to the stage to rocket through 4 Non Blonde’s “What’s Up?”, it became all too real that this was the end for one of the most interesting labels in the UK.
Tonight’s line up, featuring Chorusgirl, The Spook School, Joanna Gruesome and Martha, is evidence enough that the trite rock ’n’ roll vibes are just not what Fortuna Pop is about. And trite rock ’n’ roll isn’t what the sold out crowd at Scala wants. This is about music that can shape your life. It’s about finding kinship with bands and with other fans. Tackling things like gender politics, as in The Spook School’s “Binary”, is just part and parcel of Fortuna Pop’s ethos.
This gig is more about celebrating Fortuna Pop and everything it stood for, right down to ensuring Scala’s bathrooms were gender neutral to make it as inclusive as possible, rather than mourning its passing. It’s fitting, then, that Martha closes out not just the show but the whole 20 Years of Trouble weekend.
Politically charged, with dry wit in spades, Martha are the quintessential Fortuna Pop band. Everything fizzes with energy, accompanied by a cheeky wink, such as on “Precarious (The Supermarket Song)”, a song about romance at the checkouts, or “Curly & Raquel”, a wonderful ode to youth and everyone’s second favourite Coronation Street couple (Roy and Hayley are obviously number one).
What’s going to happen to Martha, and all the other bands on the label, is for now a mystery. But it’ll be a shame to let them fall by the wayside. Whether it’s The Spook School’s infectious sense of fun (it’s clear jokester-in-chief Niall McCamley comes from a comedy background), Joanna Gruesome’s riotous punk or Martha’s political pop, each and every one of these acts deserves a home just as generous as Fortuna Pop.
There’s no denying that Fortuna Pop has made an exciting impact on the UK music scene. From indie pop to DIY punk, the label has given a chance to so many new bands and helped nurture and build passionate fan bases. In an age of major labels and the more hands-off approach, Fortuna Pop was a rare and beautiful thing.
Whether that spirit, in an age of festival line-ups continually dominated by men, will survive is a whole other kettle of fish. But judging by the love, excitement and tinge of sadness that is cast over tonight’s show, it’s easy to remain hopeful.
Sean Price built something truly wonderful here and the rowdy cast of characters hugging each other among the balloons as the house lights come up is testament to that. Rest in peace Fortuna Pop. We’re really going to fucking miss you!
Live: The Alibi, 29th April