After tackling Live at Leeds last month, I’m starting to feel a bit of a dab hand at this whole urban festival thing. No need for wellies or poncho’s, just some hardy footwear and a resilient set of elbows for weaselling your way into the packed venues.
No such rudeness is needed for the first band of the day, Being There (Sound Control Live Lounge). Considering the earliness of what for many will be a very long day, they play to a modest crowd, but the ‘baggy beauties’ (NME’s phrase, not mine) strike well with the plaid clad tote bag carriers milling in and out of the multi storeyed venue. Shoegaze is a very ‘in’ genre of late, but they do a good job of making it sound authentic rather than a calculated Urban Outfitters rip off.
|Eugene Francis JR|
Eugene Francis Jr (Sound Control Basement) isn’t quite as chilled out, an eccentric hairy fellow who bounces around the stage as if someone fixed springs to his feet. His band thrive off the basement atmosphere, tapping hotelier bells and slap bass to create the same 4am wonky electro drunkenness as Crystal Castles, making it easy to forget that it’s barely three in the afternoon.
We emerge into the light for a short walk to The Deaf Institute for Hyde and Beast. A hefty contender for my favourite venue, it smacks halfway between a cramped ballroom and a school hall, with benches stretching up in tiers behind the standing pit, complete with tactile art deco wallpaper. It’s the perfect environment for the hazy Woodstock blues that this Futureheads side project play, extending and exploring the melodies that their day job has taught them. Once the casual fans have realised that at no point is their going to be a rendition of Hounds of Love, the crowds become absorbed, gifting the band a standing ovation for their obvious enthusiasm.
Lucy Rose (HMV Ritz) breaks many a male teenage heart when she takes to the stage, boasting a full live band in comparison to her semi acoustic show at Live at Leeds. It makes all the difference, her voice sounding much fuller and more confident backed by a cellist, drums and guitars. Newest single Lines, (which she mentions she’s just come off the phone with Zane Lowe about, introducing it as his hottest record of the week) stands out, pushing her out of singer songwriter territory into an area of far wider appeal.
If only Pure Love had the same charm. We arrive at Sound Control Loft just in time to hear Frank Carter introducing one of their slower songs with the timeless line ‘'this is a song you can whisper in your girlfriend’s ear as you're f***ng her. This is for my fiancée'. Who said romance was dead eh? The rest of the gig relies more on his ex-Gallows semi celebrity status and amusing quips than the music itself, 'I don't buy any music, I even have a free Spotify account' being one of my favourite clunkers. That said, the sizeable crowd goes suitably mental when Carter decides to free himself from the stage and deliver his stadium rock vocals from the centre of the circle pit, directing flows of traffic in his flat cap like your regular tattooed, friendly policeman. Musically, Pure Love are inoffensive, but a surprisingly bland for someone as outspoken as Frank.
Luckily some true punk spirit comes in the form of Ohio four piece Cloud Nothings. My expectations start low, expecting bratty anti-American skate game 3 minute thrills. Instead, what I get is noise. Just loud, brilliant noise, causing me to physically recoil with probably a rather unattractive look of shock and awe on my face. This is a band for which you would assume moshpits would be an unwritten rule, but today’s crowd seem content to just watch the epic musicality unfolding on stage, some tracks stretching out for up to 14 minutes. It was unexpected, but Cloud Nothing’s are the most properly thrilling band all day.
After screwing my head back on, taking a fortifying drink and generally reassessing my existence, we hustle out of the door for some lighter entertainment in the form of The Drums (HMV Ritz), one of tonight’s headliners. Cryogenically frozen in time since the summer of 1986, they provide a set written for crowd pleasure, trading off the highlights of their back catalogue with gushes from frontman Jonathan Pierce about how much he loves Manchester. If you were to rip off his head, Scooby-doo style, Morrissey would undoubtedly pop out: everything about Jonathan, from the foppish hair to the achingly cool hip swivels and the limp hand whirling an imaginary bunch of flowers positively reeks of The Smiths frontman. Big singles Money and Let’s Go Surfing inevitably steal the show, but it’s If He Likes It Let Him Do It, a darker moment of 2011’s Portamento, that indicated where they should go next.
With all the daytime events over, it’s back to the bat cave for some late night entertainment. In a few months’ time there will be a collective chorus of people rueing the day they decided to catch the midnight train instead of sticking around for Kwes (Sound Control Club). A relative new kid on the block there is obviously a lot of work to be done with the live set up, but all respect goes out to the Londoner for having the balls to bring out a live band instead of relying on laptops. What he has on his side is two solid gold tunes in the form of Bashful and Igoyh, which will hopefully mean great things for his future.
My knees expressing their displeasure at being in permanent use for near on 14 hours, I am forced to recoil to the back in time for Olugbenga (Sound Control Club). It’s a good job, for all the party people of Manchester are now out and I can’t say I can keep up with their antics. None the less, Metronomy’s coolest member does a stellar job of catering to the masses, crafting mashups that weave Azealia Banks, Gorillaz and The Throne around hip hop classics by Missy Elliot and Dizzee Rascal, prompting squeals of ‘OH GOD, DO YOU REMEMBER THIS SONG?!’ from around the club. It’s a jubilant end to a day of new music, and a solid reminder of the power of musical diversity.
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