Review: Erotic Secrets of Pompeii, Joiners, Southampton

Review: Erotic Secrets of Pompeii, Joiners, Southampton

By Spring Wise

When offered the opportunity to review a band with a name like Erotic Secrets of Pompeii, the answer for a novelty-seeker like me can only be ”yes”. Armed with only this and a promo photo, I set off keen to Southampton iconic venue The Joiners ready to experience whatever awaited me. 

Sure, I could have done my research like a proper journalist, but something in me said this was going to be a real experience, and I wanted to go in with zero expectations, and a mind open to… well, absolutely anything. 

In the taxi on the way, the driver asked about the band we were heading to see. “What type of music do they play?” he asked. My response was that I have absolutely no idea. I told him the name, and he said “Yeah I reckon I’d be intrigued to see a band called that.” 

I spotted the frontman in the audience while support act Gecko performed. I was very confident in my assumption of who he was because although The Joiners attracts a diverse crowd, I have never seen a weekday punter serving a vision of metallic blue lipstick and what can only be described as the most unexpected trouser suit I’ve seen in a long time. He was magnetic. 

While Gecko played, I spent the first song looking for the singer on stage. There was no sign of one, so I scoped the front of the crowd in case he was starting the show from the audience. It wasn’t until  the second song that I  realised the drummer was in fact the lead singer, and I was impressed! 

He had a rich and full-bodied somewhat bluesy sound that never wavered for a second, so his cardio fitness must be incredible! With no frontman as such to pull my focus, I had plenty of opportunity to watch the other musicians on stage who, while admittedly not super visually stimulating, embodied tight skill and the feeling that they absolutely weren’t messing about.

Oh, and we were treated to a fun guitar-behind-the-head finale which gave me a rueful memory of being a teenager inordinately impressed by that kind of nonsense from scruffy-haired boys in eyeliner. No disrespect intended though, it was a fun little bit of showbiz to end the set on. 

During the break between them and the headline band, I met a small group of classics students and when I tell you they were EXCITED to see Erotic Secrets, I significantly understate their enthusiasm. One of them literally hopped up and down clapping her hands. 

They’re incredible, she told me. The best. Their energy is electrifying and they really do sing about classical history! I was promised that I was in for something special (and quickly found myself lost in the depth of ancient gods and archaeology). 

Well, they delivered. From the moment they stepped onto the stage, it was clear this was going to be more than just music, but a SHOW. All members of the band but the singer were dressed in uniform. To be honest, I didn’t really understand what kind of uniform it was meant to be, but it clearly told the audience “don’t look at us, look at HIM”. So we all did, and never took our eyes off.

An embroidered trouser suit with no shirt underneath and what can only be described as the statementiest statement necklace I’ve seen in my life is a bold introduction, but as the music played and his vocals rang out, it made absolute sense. And he soon disrobed down to his extraordinary trousers. 

Now, I am rooting around in my musical vocabulary for a genre description and the closest I can get is some kind of bastard lovechild of belting art school post-punk and… could it be sexy doomsayer cabaret? I’m coining it, sexy doomsayer cabaret. Can you imagine that? Probably not. 

As promised, the lyrics were rooted in plenty of classical mythology, and spiced with apocalyptic unrest and grotesque far-out narrative. I felt a little like I was being inducted to a cult, and to be honest I was all in. 

The most memorable song that’s been haunting me ever since, Venus Ascending, chants “Hecate, Hecate, Mambo, Mambo”. What does it mean? I have no idea but it was certainly an incantation of some sort. Vocals gave me a little note of Anohni and The Jonsons, while visually this was combined with something simultaneously Adam Ant and David Byrne. 

Several audience members sang along with all the words, and danced with a dervish ecstasy, including some beautiful 80s goth arm sway. A small Tuesday night crowd felt like a Friday night party and I was mightily impressed by this feat of enchantment because I hate to see a great band play to a muted smattering of punters but we’ve all been there. 

Honestly, on paper, this band should be silly. But they were delightful, whimsical, menacing, and yes: absolutely An Experience. I’m so glad I trusted my gut and didn’t listen to any of their tracks ahead of time because this is a true performance band.

Noting my visible enjoyment (my post-headbang neck is killing me), my partner picked up their album Mondo Maleficum for me, and I can confirm that while the stage presence cannot be captured in a recording, it’s still wonderful to listen to. Very Loudly, so you can be fully beamed into the cosmos. 

I really hope Erotic Secrets of Pompeii make it big, not just because they’re a great band, but because having met them, at the risk of sounding like a grandma…. they’re ever such nice boys. 

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