MANCHESTERMUSIC IN THE CITY coverage of in the city and other important world defining musical events

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Photo Corner 3

The Official Policy

Monday Oct 3rd: Luke Doucet, Stoney, The High Dials, and a bunch of others

Its Monday evening and after several days of InTheCity, the Franz Ferdinand drum-beat has worn out its welcome. I decide upon a policy that states the following: I refuse to review any band caught using that high-hats-on-the-offbeat thing that’s so in vogue these days with the drum-magazine crowd. So that takes quite a few of tonight’s bands out of the running.

Luke Doucet is singing his broken heart out down the telephone line. Well its actually a telephone mounted on his mic stand, but it sounds he’s calling his ex-lover’s voicemail.
The set is like a low-key prairie wagon with the wheels slowly coming loose, eventually spilling its cargo of love-gone-wrong break-up songs. While Patsy Cline cried herself to sleep, Doucet is busy documenting a distinctly-male state of depressed resignation. You could be forgiven for not noticing that he’s one of the best guitarists you’ll ever see, as he uses that skill so subtly. He’s also in possession of a few of the best folk songs to come out of Canada since Joni lost her crown by discovering lightweight jazz.

The suits in the back miss it all because the quiet set is easy to talk over and this is, after all, a music conference. Then, out of nowhere, comes my favorite moment of the entire weekend, when Luke Doucet snaps and tells them all to “Shut the fuck up!” I’ve been waiting to hear that for days! He finishes his last song, but he’s obviously not a happy man as he lets his delicate archtop slap down on the stage floor. On my way out the door I overhear a group of young ladies swooning, wanting to take Doucet home and feed him or something. Ladies, weren’t you listening to the lyrics?

The upstairs room at 14 Lloyd Street is packed to see Stoney, the band based around the singer and multi-instrumentalist who is coincidentally named Stoney. He’s a commanding frontman in the traditional look-good-and-jump-about style. Big songs with big choruses, see you soon in the big venues.

I’m a little disheartened to see that a laptop is being used to trigger big choir samples which probably sound great on the record, but I’m sure they could have been sung to much better effect by the talented band on the stage tonight. While I applaud anyone trying to do something different, it makes me wonder how much of what I hear is pre-recorded. Especially when everyone stops playing and the samples take centre stage. But I just thank god there’s no Franz in sight.

Back to The Late Room as the next act comes on. They’ve not been on 10 seconds before the singer starts an energetic shuffling dance which he maintains for the entire show. Its kind of infectious, like when someone starts laughing and won’t stop, and you find yourself unable to resist the urge to join them. And so it is with Canada’s aptly-named The High Dials. Ace tunes from a happy band that seems to vibrate about on the stage. There’s a Hair-era Jesus on the drums, beaming as he wallops the skins. The amps are on full and the songs are just one major-chord pop-freakout after another. Then out comes a real sitar for a droning journey-to-the-centre-of-the-bong. I’m not quite sure what The High Dials are on, but sign me up for a month’s supply. I could do with whatever it is now that InTheCity is officially done.

- O'Connell.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Isn't this where I came in?

Starting to feel the effects...

I arrive at the Music Box with my head full of (65daysof) static to find the KBC in full flow. They’re sounding better than they ever have but I’m still readjusting my brain. So I’m sitting here at High Voltage, finishing up the weekend where I started it what seems like a month ago but was just four days ago in real terms. I’m here most weeks and it feels like I’m back home, but I’m starting to come down. As the KBC massive drift away it starts to feel quite empty, and I’m surrounded by space for the first time in days. The weekend’s catching up. Maybe I should just go home. And then the DJ sticks on the new Brakes single. They’re one of my favourite bands and it’s only a week or so before they’re off on tour, followed shortly after by a full-blown tour from my beloved British Sea Power, there are more 65daysofstatic dates on the calendar (and I’m scanning the list for potential dingy basements), another Longcut tour, solo dates by the Chameleons’ Mark Burgess and the return of Ian Brown… fuck, yeah, this is why I’m doing this. So I might have joined the liggers, the hangers on and the scenesters this year with this picture card thing, now hanging off my belt somewhere, but above all I love watching live music. I love walking into a venue, heading for the front and buzzing off a band I’ve seen dozens of times or never heard of before. So time for the last leg of a weekend where I’ve watched 34 bands at 15 events in 10 venues. Let’s do it…


High Voltage In The City 2 – Monday, Music Box

It’s only after their opening song, an energetic melee of Joy Division bass, Sonic Youth guitar squall and feverish danceable beats, that Redcarsgofaster’s singer James Summers tells us “Me and Dave (guitarist) have been very ill today”. You wouldn’t have known it otherwise. But there’s more “…too much goosing freshers and dogging.” Pardon? He’s so young and innocent looking, but they’re the ones to watch I suppose. When he sits on the speaker swigging from a bottle of Lucozade in a moment’s break between aural assaults I realise just how small he actually is, but then a lot of great frontmen are. I do recall last time the band played here how we struggled to see him above the crowd, but Music Box has grown a stage since then. And bassist Andy’s discovered he can make a really loud noise by stamping on a particular bit of it… it’s apparent at every point just how much this band enjoy what they do. And so they should, because with the post-punk-indie genre becoming increasingly populated with pointless photocopy bands, Redcarsgofaster do indeed go faster, louder and wilder than pretty much any of them. There are hard disco-punk rhythms and bits of 80s inspired guitar work here and there, but every time it even hints at veering off into Interpol territory great searing sheets of guitars 65daysofstatic would be proud of come blasting through. And across all this James spits words like a young Mark E. Smith, throwing himself around the stage and breaking his mike stand, monkey-swinging from a rafter and eventually trying to climb up into the roofspace, whilst Dave wanders round the crowd as they throw everything including the kitchen sink into an all-out, feedback-drenched noisy ending. Reviewing their debut single for Manchestermusic a couple of months back, Manuel Ecostos commented that “I’d personally like to hear redcarsgofaster give their songs a good kicking.” All I can say is you should have been there Manuel, they did that and much more.

Last band of the evening and indeed the weekend are Dirty Circus. There are few people left standing and many of them are the band’s regular crowd of friends and family, and even they’re looking tired. “I know why you’re a bit dead” snarls the singer “it’s fuckin’ Monday… fuck, it’s Tuesday morning… fucking hell!” Indeed it is, about 1am, but this is a band whose dirty beats work best when you’re half way to wasted. In this state their bad-tempered Mondays meets Joy Division meets Primal Scream swagger is enjoyable enough, danceable and just that little bit confrontational but it’s still debatable whether the world really needs another Kasabian.


Final Rambles, Tuesday night

So that’s it then, all over for another year.

Best show of the weekend award from me could only go to 65daysofstatic, with a performance / experience I may well still be babbling about well into next week, with a runners up prize to The Whelk Attachment whom I’m certainly going to be keeping a close eye on and so should you.

Other highlights came from those I’ve seen plenty of times (Omerta, the Tides, Young Offenders Institute, Moco) and those I’d never heard before (Revere, Vibration White Finger, Piney Gir). Low points would be the price of drinks in M-Two, never getting round to going to a single free-bar event despite having a delegates pass and having to go into Teasers on three separate occasions.

Apologies due to Fear Of Music and Behind Green Lights, two of my favourite local bands whose gigs I would never normally miss but just didn’t fit into my hectic schedule, but don’t worry, you don’t get rid of me that easily lads. And a final cheers to Alex Stash, Ged Camera, the Puressence massive, the rest of the Manchestermusic team and not least to my long-suffering other half (who probably doesn’t want to see the inside of a venue for some time now and even kindly rescheduled his birthday as we didn’t have time to think about it on Sunday, but if you see us at High Voltage this Thursday you can buy him a pint!) for a brace of quality nights out. I’m off to relax with the new 65daysofstatic album and then I might go to bed for about 72 hours and try and remember what my day job is.

Cath Aubergine
Over and out.

Static Sonic Assault

Dry Bar’s three stage set-up still seems to be running bang on schedule which is amazingly impressive given the rather ambitious plans and as ever it’s a mixed bag both in terms of style and quality. Architects are on the main stage. What is it with these “profession” bands? Is that really the best you could come up with? To say they sound like a bunch of architects too would be doing my three architect mates a great disservice. Indie-schmindie with not one single saving grace and not even as good as the similarly boringly named Editors. Downstairs offers up some unashamedly full-on metal by the name of Dirty Blood, featuring a powerful pair of lungs on the female singer and a ridiculous headband on the male bassist. The guitarist’s got an old-school heavy rock angle-shaped guitar, and they have a song called “Wrong End Of The Cock” whereby the singer shouts a lot and the aforementioned duo pull a load of Bill and Ted poses in front of the stage. It shouldn’t be entertaining but it is…

The little basement’s already almost full when 65daysofstatic’s curiously bug-eyed little frontman decides there’s not room for him and the band’s veritable artillery of equipment actually on the stage, and he’s going to play actually in the crowd. “There are two types of 65daysofstatic gigs” he muses “big wide spaces, and little dingy basements that smell of shit… hopefully you can all find the spaces in your mind…” It all starts normally enough, with some broken beats from the laptop and discordant guitar shrieks, and then suddenly – fuck!! 65s have always existed on the outer fringes of anyone’s definition of music, a sonic experience rather than tunes you could hum in the shower, but this is something else. The floor starts to vibrate. These are the opening salvoes from their new album and if this is anything to go by it could be even better than last year’s stunning debut. Louder and more unhinged and more intense, to the point where first album highlight “Install A Beak In The Heart That Clucks Time In Arabic” – which sounds like Steve Albini doing a drum’n’bass remix of Kraftwerk on a broken morse code transmitter – comes almost as light relief… Tracks merge into each other, punctuated by lost transmissions, until a familiar air-raid siren signals the always awesome “Retreat! Retreat!” …he’s thrashing about right in the midst of us now, eyes wide, and the vibrations from the floor are penetrating every bone and muscle of our bodies like some new drug or possibly weapon, and the harder it comes the harder he plays and the harder it comes – feedback, feedback, the sound reverberating off every wall in this tiny, confined space and straight back into itself. It’s less a gig than a collective trip into the engine room of an exploding spaceship… there are indeed two types of 65daysofstatic gigs. I’ve seen them play standing on a stage in Academy 3, enjoyed it, but this surpasses even last year’s outstanding show in the equally restricted Cuba Café. Being trapped in a little dingy basement with the band and their sound enveloping you is more than a gig, it’s an experience. I come out gibbering, but so does everyone. Performance of the weekend by light years. That was something else.

cath. not quite over and out. yet.

Monday evening on the fringe

Thai Bride (Walkabout, Monday) should have been playing at Teasers, shouldn’t they? The combination of band and venue name could have brought all manner of interest – albeit not necessarily from music fans. Frontman Ricky’s T-shirt slogan (“This T-shirt seemed funny when I bought it”) rather exemplifies the dark, cynical humour which is the cornerstone of the band. Musically they have matured, their razor-sharp indie-rock-blues sounding fearsomely powerful. Although some gremlins have got into Alex’s bass and when it finally splutters back to life the resulting rumble dislodges a pint glass some pissed-up idiot had clearly concealed in the roof space – an inch away from bringing my ITC coverage to a rather abrupt end (Irrelevant? No. If a venue is going to put live music on then it has a duty to ensure the safety of punters.) Highlight of tonight’s set comes when the humour is sidelined for the raw, angry “Lucille”, a passionate tribute to a domestic violence victim, but there’s little time to get depressed as it’s closely followed by “local crowd pleaser” Five Urinals, at which point the after-work drinkers suddenly notice there’s a band on…

Conversely The Whelk Attachment (Teasers, Monday) should have been at the Walkabout, because they do. A lot. They’re from Lincoln, they don’t look old enough to be here, and when they unleash their first attack of Cardiacs meets Fall meets Test Icicles meets Sonic Youth on speed we’re not sure whether to applaud its astonishing audacity or call social services. The frontman, about five foot three and maybe six inches wide, seems to exist largely to ricochet off any nearby fixtures and fittings whilst occasionally gibbering impenetrably. Most of the vocal duties seem to fall to the only slightly less demented guitarist, a slurring, howling teenager in a Kiss T-shirt who also introduces the songs, albeit in such a fried drawl we’re none the wiser. Most of the songs follow a similar blueprint, that being hit everything very quickly and seemingly at random, but there are enough snippets of XTC-loopy tune allowed out every now and then. By the time the frontman’s thrown his tiny frame howling across the monitors and rearranged most of the equipment and furniture the sound engineer (the traditional, serious type who’s probably got at least one Grateful Dead T-shirt and a collection of soldering irons) is visibly starting to seethe and turn grey. Fantastic performance lads, and my favourite new band of the weekend.

Outside the taxi driver is almost as insane as the band we've just seen. Are we in a parallel universe now? We swerve through the city at car-chase speed, every corner throwing us off the seats. I don't know what's going on any more, and it's about to go up another level...

- cath

Last Riots

Piney Gir, The Exports – Stylish Riots at M-Two, Monday.

Walking past the Midland Hotel in the early evening, there are some hangovers a lot worse than mine stumbling down the steps in suits that look slept-in. Well I hope you all had a great weekend, but it’s not over for us – I’ve another five gigs to go yet!

Opening proceedings to a decidedly thinly populated M-Two (17 people, about half of whom are in the other bands on tonight’s bill) is Piney Gir. Two lounge-suited gentlemen press the cheese buttons on their keyboards – think Air meets John Shuttleworth fronted by a sassy, deranged Alpine milkmaid. Piney Gir is clearly bonkers, and her French-influenced electro-lounge cuts like a cool breeze across the sea of 370 takes on post-punk that have been this year’s staple diet. “When I grow up I want to be somebody, when I grow up I want to be anyone but me” she simpers sweetly over Nouvelle Vague beats – no, trust me, you don’t. The world needs people like this. Knowingly lightweight and as sugary and disturbing as a tube of Parma Violets, she pouts over a hand-held 80s keyboard-guitar, before warning “we’re about to go all jazz on your ass…” which they do, in a loungey way with one of the gentlemen crooning alongside her in a sleazy, late night come-on – and it’s barely seven o’clock! Elsewhere she takes a pot-shot at those who, erm, go to gigs for the wrong reasons (“You’re always trying to get backstage, you only get to the third page”) on a deep almost Shirley Bassey “don’t fuck with me” voice over a slow, rumbling electrobeat, before ending on a glorious piece of electro-country with just enough kitsch about it and a huge swingalong chorus Dolly and Tammy would have been proud of. Refreshing and enjoyable.

Less so are The Exports. The Libertines do have a lot to answer for, don’t they? 37,000 shit bands, and one or two good ones – I’d always considered The Exports to be in the latter category but tonight they’re slower, blunter and less furious than I remember them. Growing up already or is it just the enduringly sterile atmosphere sapping their energy? A few faces I’ve seen going mental at gigs before are just standing around, as three-chord stories of girls, self-belief and rites of passage punctuated by trebly one-note solos fall flatter than an A&R man after a night out drinking his expense account. Things pick up a bit with an older, Clashier tune but they’ve lost me by now and I make for the exit, hoping nobody I like ever plays this venue as I never wish to set foot in it again.

cath, who considers £3.60 for a bottle of WKD to be taking the piss in the extreme.

Descent into the pit of hell, Sunday night

Zombina & The Skeletones, Lord Mongo – Sunday, Satans Hollow

It’s now past 11pm and I’ve been out since 2. I feel like a zombie. Luckily I know exactly where I can get one… (ouch! Sorry!) Satan’s Hollow would be a good bet for such things pretty much any time, but tonight’s late night session sees the wonderfully fun Zombina & The Skeletones raising the dead. One part Cramps, one part Rezillos and one part possibly taking the piss, avert your eyes from the fake blood and Frankenstein facials and you’ve got the sort of classic punkabilly-edged rock’n’roll that anyone with a soul (dead or alive) can have a dance to. They might be a bit of a one-trick pony but it’s a bloody enjoyable trick. However someone’s about to make them look rather restrained…

With the stage constructed on the round, central dancefloor there’s already a certain cabaret feel to things even before three serious-looking and suited men kick off a tight, skilled piece of loungey blues. Then from a door at the back comes a creature covered in straw, paper, carpet underlay, bubblewrap and cardboard. Looking around the crowd it’s immediately obvious who’s never seen this before by the terrified expressions as the creature stumbles amongst them, brushing them aside with the newspaper fingers of a three foot long cardboard arm. It invades the stage, picks up a microphone and howls. All hail the return of the creature from your childhood nightmares, the uncle your parents never took you to visit for some reason, the one and only Lord Mongo. And look, he’s brought his brain with him! It (a bin bag ball covered in odd bits of flotsam)’s looking in fairly good shape considering last time I saw it its owner was kicking the shit out of it, and by the second song Mongo has sliced it open to reveal the soft pink inside. By the third song he’s rolling on the floor simulating sex with it. And whilst the music’s basically a foil for him to act out his demented imagination, there are seedy swampy epics here Nick Cave wouldn’t say no to – even if one of them does end with lines from “D’you wanna be in my gang?” – a song that took on a disturbing side some years back, and sounds even more threatening coming from an overly tactile lump of hoover-bag contents in a cardboard horse’s head. Consummate professionals who could well have a regular job in a hotel bar, the band play on unflinchingly as Mongo, now wrapped in a cardboard Dalek shield, lolls into punters and lies thrashing on the floor in front of two girls who really don’t know where to look – but then something’s rattled his cage, and he’s off out through the back door. Calmly the suited trio finish the song as if he was never there and even the Skeletone behind me, quietly lifting a pint to his blood-spattered undead lips looks unsure as to whether he imagined the whole thing.

Time to turn in for the night, I think…

Warning: extremely disturbing images here

don't have nightmares.
- cath.

Has the Fat Lady Sung Yet?

As the ringing in my ears still continues on a full 12 hours after the Art Brut & 65DAYSOFSTATIC shindig, the loggin, typing and bloggin are rapidly drawing to an end and I can put away the pink neck tie for another year.

The Canadian showcase (Late Room) opens with Priya Thomas showcasing her CD "You and Me Against The World Baby" A promising opening number that resemble the disturbingly pleasing bashing of Poly Styrene with some frenetic raucous guitars before an am blows and momentum is lost.

Consensus of opinion (5 of us anyway) views that "Whelk Attachment" (Teasers) have a great band name, but what is their music like? Well, it's an experience that is rare nowadays. I don’t think I've ever seen a sound man so scared that he has to get the bouncers to get the band off stage. The 4 member appear to have a combined age of 15, but they put together a 20 minute experience that is more akin to a Fall type aural assault combined with the stage presence of an Iggy Pop type figure. There are no "stops" or starts or "intros" but they are not needed, and they leave the detritus of discarded mic stands and abandoned guitars to applause before going out for a lie down in the night air.

After beginning in the manner of a modern day Johnny Cash, Luke Douchet, kind of, like, well, drifts into err. Anyway Cities in the Dust (Late Room) blast their way trough a lively set that involves a fair degree of audience participation

Thai Bride (Walkabout) manage to mix tales of domestic violence (Lucille) with a brutal sound track that manages to dislodge glasses that have been secretly overhead stashed by pissed up punters. Literally a smashing performance

The Hot Puppies (N&D) must be revelling in the fact that they are on the under card for Art Brut, who have packed out/sold out the venue. Their bouncy pop keeps the crowd amused, although their promise of "telling you everything you need to know about love" in a 3 minute ditty, is perhaps going to upset a few musicians who have spent a lifetime tying to do that.

Hidden away in the vault of Dry Bar are 65DAYSOFSTATIC, but the stage `aint big enough to hold all their equipment, so one guitarist is standing in the crowd. Mind you, the venue is not big enough to hold their sonic assault either. Free thought has to be abandoned, just let yourself be taken on a helter skelter ride on white knuckle intensity. It is an intense experience, not for the faint hearted as the ears and body are pounded. Even the bar maid is stood on the bar to get a glimpse of this post apocalyptic pleasure

Art Brut (N&D) must have had one of the easiest tasks over the weekend - that of playing to a crowd who already believe they've seen a great concert before it's started. In fairness though, they are well entertained by a band that feeds on the positive good will. For the crowd, they have the knowledge that it will be the last time they are able to witness this band in such n intimate venue. With their poppy tunes, and an audience that singing back the choruses, Art Brut will shortly be splashed all over


cath says: this was posted anonymously but presumed to be the work of Ged - hope you don't mind me correcting The Whelk Attachment's name in there... but thanks for confirming that that did actually happen!

It's Sunday, it's 10.45, it's Moco time!

Moco, M-Two, Sunday evening

Revitalised by pure rock’n’roll energy (see "Vibration White Finger", below) I’m ready to face M-Two again for another helping from an old favourite. Sort of. This is Moco mark two. Some things, of course, are constants: Steve will be wearing clothes beamed in from Planet Fruitcake (tonight’s theme is orange and hairy – please ensure you are sitting comfortably before opening the photo files) and Rigby will be largely invisible under his hair. There will be star-jumps, stripping off of outerwear and tambourine arse-slapping. And some things are changing: a fifth man on guitar and keyboards has clearly passed his apprenticeship and been allowed in full-time (god help him) and many of the two minute garage-punk classics of old have been semi-retired. Have Moco grown up?

Course they haven’t. They’ve just written loads of new songs, some of which travel at slightly less than 150mph. But only slightly. Dirty bluesy rock is the order of the day, with the Stooges and MC5 still looming large in the rear view mirrors and Moco still sticking a well-toned arse out the window at them. A definite future favourite goes by the name of “Freaks” (“I don’t know why”, Steve tells Manchestermusic later, “the band had decided the song was called Freaks so I just had to get the word into the lyrics somewhere…”) which slows right down in the middle allowing Steve the opportunity for some crowd-pleasing theatrics before blasting back into the rough end of psychedelic punk. They even come over a bit Stonesy on the last tune, which builds into a boozy swampy rock’n’blues monster. The venue makes the usual level of interaction a bit difficult, but a few new fans are won over (although one is ejected before they finish for smoking a small “jazz-cigarette”, which considering what’s going on all over the toilet cisterns upstairs is a bit rubbish) and the faithful are happy.

So Mystery Jets are onstage soon, one of my favourite bands of the moment, but the atmosphere in here is starting to annoy me again. I haven't got the tenner I'd need for another two drinks, my mates have dispersed to all manner of other gigs, and the oppressive hum that's been emanating from the PA all afternoon's doing my head in. Aside from Moco who could put on a good performance in a suburban building society if they had to, nobody's been particularly great here today, even bands I know and love. Sorry Mystery Jets, I've seen you eight times and you've always been brilliant, I'm not going to let this place blemish that record...

Moco Photos! And other photos!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Sunday: just get me to the church on time.

In The City, Sunday Oct 3rd
Boss Volenti, The Voices, Alphastates, Stars Of The City, Dirty Perfect, Drive By Argument, Captain, ITC Conference

When I was a boy my family would always arrive 20 minutes late for mass. It was a small church, so the entire congregation would turn and give us the usual communal look of disdain. I sometimes wondered if my dad did it intentionally so we didn’t have to sit through the boring preamble stuff, arriving just in time for the important bits. I thought to myself, “When I grow up I’ll always be on time for everything.”

So here I am, walking in the door of 14 Lloyd Street. Oooh look! Its Begbie and he’s got a band! Well maybe not, but the singer does have a keen ‘stache. Dublin’s Boss Volenti are rocking like they’re on fire. Two songs is all I get, since I’m late - as usual. But its enough to make me kick myself that I missed the rest of the set. Brash cranked-up guitars, post-punk drums, and a wicked bass player. The crowd is a little stiff, but that’s not surprising for a showcase show.

I wander into the downstairs room. There are almost as many people on stage as there are in the audience – alright if you’re the Polyphonic Spree but not if you’re a three-piece. The band looks confused, their pedals keep making funny noises, their vocals come and go. But I kinda like the song. Actually its not as much a song as a one-chord spaced-out noise drone. Eventually the soundman runs up to the stage waving his hands and brings it all to a clattering halt. What the hell is going on....aahhhh ok here I am watching the band soundcheck.... I don’t feel quite so dumb when I notice I’m not the only in the room who didn’t realize that. In fact, I start to feel quite smug that I figured it out before that fella over there. What a moroon....

When I arrive to see Alphastates, it seems like three of them are playing in completely different keys. I rather like the resulting dissonance. In fact, it is jarring and unusual. They are either brilliantly toying with our preconceptions about pitch/key relationship in modern pop music, or their monitors are fucked and the singer can’t hear herself. Judging by her obvious discomfort, I’m gonna have to say that its the latter. It is all sorted out in time for the next song, which shows them to be band with a lot of promise. I really like the rasp in the singer’s voice – either she smoked a couple packs too many last night, or she smokes a couple packs too many all the time. The drummer is getting more and more wound up and has the blissful facial expression that you only see on saints and mentally-handicapped children. I doubt he is either since he’s a normal bloke when not in the throes of the music. I’m interested to hear what this is like on record as the songwriting and band are both strong. I think they’ll have a lot more confidence onstage after several more shows like this.

So now its back downstairs to see if that band is still soundchecking. The room is filled and The Voices are on the stage. It seems that between soundcheck and the start of their set, they’ve learned a second chord, but they’re in no hurry to use it. In fact, their drone is in no hurry to progress anywhere, happy to sway along hypnotically for an indeterminate amount of time. Now I might be wrong, but I could swear that the only lyric in this song is “...hey...” Two guitarists with lots of pedals, the keyboardist hiding behind her stand and her swaying hair...soft vocals come and go, buried deep....guitar peals, reverberated ....girl beside me with her eyes closed.... “...hey...” ....drum machine clattering sheets of aluminium foilsound slapped....bee trapped inside the window.... “...hey...” ....retreat to looping loping line lost....think I’ll step out for a moment.... “...hey...” I predict legions of stoned boys following The Voices around the country, into the ocean, and onwards.

One of the great things about a festival like this is that if you don’t like the band you can just hop to the next one. And that’s exactly why good bands often get passed over. Music business types and people with short attention spans (like me) make fast judgements as to whether the artist on stage is IT or not, and then move on. Just as I almost did during the Stars Of The City’s first song. I should know better – it often takes a band a few songs to settle in. By their second song I could have sworn I was witnessing a different band. Strongly melodic and heart-felt like an Irish version of the Posies, Stars of the City make catchy American-influenced guitar pop. Somewhere in Ohio a girl’s heart will break and this will be the soundtrack.

Alright, what’s going on here? There’s a fast, engaging, loud grungy pop band onstage and the room is full. But where you’d normally see a bunch of people bouncing around up front, I see a lot of crossed arms. Which could only mean one thing: the music industry has shown up to see Dirty Perfect. And I can see why. Happy shouty catchy songs delivered by three singers in Kurt’s jeans. And they’ve managed to wash out the bloodstains and pathos in the laundry. Lots of vocal back-and-forth. It doesn’t take much imagination to see this on the radio.

Drive By Arguement. Well the singer has got that Elvis Costello-got-to-take-a-wee-can’t-wait-please-stop-the-car dance down and he’s quite good at it. When they’re rolling along at full volume I like this band, but then I’m a sucker for infectious pop. The bassplayer is right into it and everyone else is jerking about as they should. The quieter tinkly-keyboard bits show a sensitive side I have no interest in seeing. I won’t fault them for having the same record collection as Hot Hot Heat because Drive By Argument do have some good songs. But to me, the measure of a band is not how good your songs are, not how good you look onstage; its all in how the singer reacts when, after the final note of the final song, the drummer bounds over his kit and lands on top of the singer, tackling him to the ground. Its the look on the frontman’s face in this split second that separates the wheat from the chaff. One of five possible things can happen:

-The singer can look like this is a regular occurrence, thereby proving that the band is “for real”. ........10 points
-The singer can look genuinely surprised, like this kind of thing has never happened before and is obviously a stunt hatched by the drummer to look rocknroll. ........0 points
-The singer can look relieved since the drummer didn’t miss his cue. ........minus 5 points for fakery. The poseurs.
-The singer can yell “Get off you twat! Can’t you see there are record company people over there!”........minus 10 points
-The singer can punch the drummer in the head. ........25 points for tabloid-worthy behaviour.

And the results are in. And its Drive By Argument: 10 points for legitimate indie rockness!

So off to a different venue. The band on stage is – oh you must be joking. This is awful. And I’m out the door.

Back to the cleverly named Cellar Vie. This place is now even more rammed with A&R. Lots of “Hello!” and “Seen anything you liked?” Captain are setting up their gear and it looks promising. Bloke in hat, strong plaintive voice, beguiling harmonies from keyboardist/maraca-ist, some really excellent angular guitarplaying, real songs, synth sounds from 1983, quality package all-round. I can see the A&R tapping along. Sharks circling.

Earlier in the evening I sneak into the In The City conference forum on Music Publishers. I’m surprised to see such a low ratio of artists to suits. Perhaps ITC should consider a reduced-access delegate pass for a reduced rate. I don’t know a whole lot of good bands who can afford their rent, let alone the steep price of ITC delegate admission.

If you’ve ever been to one of these things you pretty much know what to expect. “Hello, we’re so-and-so, we do this-and-that, we discovered so-and-so etc. etc..” From what I gather, all the publishers seem to love their job, mainly because they get to work with all the creative people on their rosters. One of them is telling us about how just the other day Jordan was asking him....hang on - did I just hear that right? Did he just go straight from creative people to Jordan in the same sentence? I’m hoping I got the wrong end of the stick. Yes, I definitely got the wrong end of the stick there.

Things start heating up a bit when a question pits the larger publishers against the smaller companies who are undercutting them and undercutting artist royalties by supplying ad agencies with cheap songs. I’m always interested to see who grabs the moral high ground at these kind of things. But then the moderator skillfully smoothes it over. Bugger. I came here to see blood.

Outside the conference I hear someone congratulating himself on how British record companies have done such a great job of weathering the file-sharing storm, unlike their American counterparts. Well mate, fans here don’t nick as many mp3’s simply because hi-speed internet has not proliferated here...yet. But the writing is on the iPod.

Admittedly, the major labels here have taken a few more chances than their North American counterparts and still have some half-decent artists on their rosters. And indie labels actually sell a lot of records here. In North America, the majors’ choke-hold on the market and radio, and their fear of anything but safe bets means they are throttling themselves into irrelevance. Large companies are beholden to their stockholders to turn a fast profit. Therefore, in both heavy industry and the music business, there little research&development or artist development. Safe music is disposable music because its always similar to what preceded it; the majors have unwittingly fostered the idea that this season’s music is just like this season’s jeans at The Gap. And its getting harder and harder to tell the products apart.

But if the majors want to choke artists by holding them for years and years without releasing their records, then fuck ‘em – I won’t be sending flowers to their funeral. Or more accurately, their downsizing.

- O’Connell.

Aint No "turd" in Saturday

Enter Dry Bar rather early and sadly catch three rather erm…not very good bands. First up are The Hair all competent and fairly energetic but not massively inspired indie blues with a splattering of organ. And here comes the appearance #1 of gratuitous funk-punk beat. We later will encounter this on more than about 10 similar such arbitrary occasions this evening.

Over to the other stage is Urban Blue who are sadly as wobbly as they are bland. A kind of coffee table funk-rock hybrid with “soulful” vocals that are often (unfortunately) off-key and sound as if sang in tongues. Brass and keyboards inject a bit of life but it isn’t really enough.

Things don’t get much better with Chreubs either. They dress like Franz Ferdinand but sound like Interpol who ripped off The Chameleons anyway but that’s not the point. One song is so close to ‘Obstacle 1’ that I decide to go and listen to the real thing on my walkman outside.

There were at least two more gratuitous funk-punk beat instances inbetween…

Downstairs things pick up a bit with Scottish trio Korova. Any name inspired by Clockwork Orange is good in my book unless you happen to be Moloko. Korova peddle reasonable 90s alt. rock with boy/girl harmonies and the line about “smoking cigarettes” for “romance is cancer” sticks quite nicely and rather uncomfortably.

More 90s alt. rock comes from Belfast three-piece The Bêtes Noires. Acclaimed and rightly so making melodious heavy and energetic pop tunes that would do The Pixies and Nirvana proud. There also seems to be a fair deal of passion here, absent from many of the other acts seen today.

Back into Subway for another six inches of sheer sandwich enjoyment and off to the dimly atmospheric and mellow 14 Lloyd Street for Newcastle’s Dartz. They’re rather nerdy looking which to me only cements their sincerity. Similar to fellow Tynesiders Kubichek! they blend danceable punk with American post-hardcore to great effect. Rather like Bloc Party being played by Yourcodenameis:Milo. Good stuff.

As we leave 14 Lloyd there is incident #4 of gratuitous funk-punk beating.

Then off to Squares for Kubichek! themselves. Squares is unofficially one of Manchester’s most notorious pubs. The stage is situated 30 feet below a balcony and bands populated the stage would be advised to wear a hard hat to avoid a potential ‘Begbie” incident. Nevertheless all goes peacefully and the oppressive cavern of downstairs at Squares is filled the disco-cum-hardcore er…joy of ‘Nightjoy’. With another release out on Fantastic Plastic and MTV and various national press appearances Kubichek! have finally come into their own. This has to be one of the most galvanised and powerful performances I’ve seen and I have seen Kubichek! more times than Coronation Street…Well, not quite but you get the idea.

Back to 14 Lloyd Street and the door staff won’t let anyone downstairs unless you’re wearing a badge. There’s a huge queue outside, not surprisingly because one of ITC’s most talked about are playing. Believe the hype? Well, yes actually. So every other band is doing the same punk-funk rip-off these days and this was nearly incident #5 but ¡Forward Russia! do it with invention and soul not to mention a whole level of derangement. Possessing a machine like drummer they hammer out track after track of anthems as crazed as their name, Spanish punctuation and all. Forget the derivative bollocks. ¡Forward Russia! are the real pioneers.

Upstairs for The Permissive Society who also seem to have come into their own. Often a good sign it’s quite hard to categorise them. What can be said is that they’re loud, angry and dirty. Not totally unlike The Stooges and ACDC but thankfully 0% like The Datsuns.

We assist Kubichek! in helping the lost Geordies make that walk across to the Night and Day which is no go. We head in next door and fortuitously find Liverpool’s Hot Club De Paris who make melodic math rock in an accessible way that stuff like Don Caballero never was. The set concludes in an astonishing acappella set of barber shop harmonies; as unexpected as it was finding what is unquestionably tonight’s highlight.

We then head over to the Midland very little of which is worth talking about except for the sound of (horrid cockney drawl) “get some of that up your nose, mate!” coming from the downstairs loos. Time to leave.


Giving the Finger to the style slaves...

Vibration White Finger, Walkabout, Sunday evening

I’m getting to the point where if I see one more bunch of style-mag boys dredging the post-punk barrel I might turn Travis Bickle, so it’s back over to Walkabout to see Vibration White Finger purely on the grounds that it’s been on my list of top names for made-up bands for years and I’m intrigued to see what the real one sound like. Initially the sight of a two-piece brass section clambering onto the podium scares me. Then a strange drone emanates from a 909. Drums kick in and I’ve still no idea what the fuck they’re going to sound like. The frontman’s got a fantastic early Oasis working-class scruffy swagger and then it all explodes. Loud, angry rock’n’soul that’s got the anger of Primal Scream, the dirty groove of classic Stones and as much passion as I’ve seen anywhere all weekend. Their enthusiasm’s so infectious there’s a whole bunch come up from their native Cardiff for it. By the second song I’m smiling again and by the third I’m down there shouting along with them. This is soul punk power, Goldblade with grit under the fingernails, the anti-Franz, music made because it feels fucking great.

“Do we have to fuck off now or can we have another three minutes?” Whoever the question might have been addressed to doesn’t get a chance to answer cos we’re all shouting them on anyway. The three minutes we get is closer to the Clash spirit than anyone who ever bought a vintage coat in Camden could even aspire to, the brass section blast back in at the end and I could imagine that in a dark sweaty (proper) pub venue there’d be a pile of messily grinning bodies spread across the monitors right now. Yeah, it’s still a top name for a band and I’m glad it’s gone to one worth of it…

cath - rejuvenated by the power of rock'n'roll!

Offenders and blaggers in the M Two

A quick sprint to M-Two when the Tides come off sees us arrive in time to catch half the Young Offenders Institute set. As ever, they’ve got all their mates in tow which can only be a good thing, as the proximity of this high profile event to the Midland Hotel means there are more people in here with laminates passes than not. Considering how much of a twat I feel with mine, there seem to be more than a few unashamed blaggers around. My mate overhears a classic conversation in the ladies’ loos which starts with “ooh hello, who are you here for?” (Coincidentally someone had just asked me that as well, and I’d replied “Moco and Puressence, mostly” – wrong answer!) The reply over heard across the cubicles was “I’m here with (name of popular music magazine)”. “So who’s the best band you’ve seen so far then?” asked the toilet inquisitor. “Er… uh… I saw… um… oh I’ve seen a couple bands last night…” - Great. Good to see those paid to do what us lot at MM will do for a bag of crisps are taking full advantage of their privileged position then…

Anyway I always enjoy watching the Young Offenders. One of the highlights of my August bank holiday weekend was the look of fear on the faces of some lily-livered student types when this all-swearing, all-drinking crew interrupted their early afternoon wait for the popular indie bands of the day down on the second stage and threw full cans of Carling randomly from the stage. I was hoping for similar pot-shots here, but all the badges seem to be hanging well back. It’s a strong set, even if they do still only seem to have the same six songs they’ve been playing for the past year – here through the big speakers the guitars sound Clash massive and songs like the excellent “Jiggy Giro” and “Having A Party” would be great pieces of modern day punk rock even without the funny-as-fuck lyrics.

The Long Blondes keep the pace up with a brace of shouty traditional punk-pop tunes – largely female, full of attitude and without anything long or blonde between them they’re more in the vein of Penetration or even X-Ray Spex than the largely tuneless shout-for-the-sake-of-it Riot Grrl movement. Apartment are next up and it’s back to the four skinny young men in black blueprint – the choppy guitars of “Everyone Thinks I’m Paranoid” could have been cut and pasted from the Interpol songbook. They’re not afraid of a bit of volume and energy though – elsewhere they sound more like the real Chameleons, although it’s debatable whether these fresh faced young men from the south would even know that. There’s pounding bass, lots of delay – but there’s a lot of it about and it’s hard to see how even with great tracks like “My Brother Chris” (which veers towards the more poppy, Killers side of the genre) they’ll make much headway through a crowded market. They end on an enjoyable thrash-out, battering seven shades out of everything. Good stuff, even if there’s not an original note in it.

Puressence have their name in bigger letters on the poster than anyone else, and rightly so. Veterans of more In The Citys than even I’ve been to, with three albums worth of much-loved material from their ill-fated Island Records days, almost as much again unreleased and a loyal fanbase that’s converged on Manchester from across the country they have to be officially the biggest unsigned band in the world. It’s a travesty that they should even be in a position where they have to impress suits more interested in what would look pretty on a poster, and sadly they seem all too aware of this. It doesn’t help that Kevin’s bass, normally the thundering cornerstone of their expansive sound, is booming unpleasantly through a PA clearly not used to the bottom string, and the opening “I Suppose” falls a little flat. It also doesn’t help that the house lights are still on for some reason. But I’ll tell you why this band still matters. Listen to half the young bands coming out of Manchester right now and you’ll hear echoes of those three albums. Watch any rough diamond frontman and trace his moves back to Jimmy’s style. OK, so far so good, but isn’t ITC about new music? It is indeed, and the brand new song “Palisades” is one of the greatest songs I’ve heard all weekend. Isn’t there something exciting about a band coming up with some of their best ever material after over ten years in the business? It’s not like it’s a one-off either – the brilliant “Don’t Forget To Remember” has the faithful down the front throwing themselves about as best they can in the rather strange atmosphere. The band just don’t seem at ease – only a couple of weeks ago they played to a packed out Academy 3 and had every soul in the place in their hands, but here they know they’re playing to a bunch of people who don’t even know what bands they’ve seen. The set seems to come to a rather abrupt end, and the Puressence faithful leave the building in search of somewhere that people without an expense account can afford to go to the bar…

cath - pass firmly in pocket til I need it...

A Walkabout the unsigned stages

Eurcchh… what time did I fall out of Retro Bar last night? I dunno, but Mystery Jets were still having a fully fledged drinking session in there – well, except the dad, which amused me… anyway… is it time to start again already?

Bobbie Peru come highly recommended, and that is the only reason why I have taken a deep breath and walked into the vile corporate lad-bar Teasers. The few other female music fans look about as pleased to be in here as I am, and when we order coffee the half-dressed barmaid gets a vacant, confused look on her like I’ve just asked her to reverse the polarity of the warp-core. (The coffee finally arrives 15 minutes later, once the pimp – sorry, I mean bar manager – has come through and helped her with the on-switch.) Anyway Bobbie Peru formed from some of the ashes of transatlantic alt-rockers Adom and it’s quite remarkable how they managed to find an even worse name… Their guitars chop and soar in a classically North Mancunian (via Interpol) way and there’s hollow, hammered 80s drumming… so what’s to distinguish them from every other band on the block with a copy of “Ocean Rain” and a delay pedal? Well they’ve got an amiable frontman, looking every bit the American college boy in heavy framed glasses – his voice is beautifully understated until every so often he lifts off above the clouds. They’ve got the makings of some good tunes – the vaguely proggy “Mirage” has interesting depths and the Bunnymenish “Satanic Love” impresses, and whilst there’s still some room for development there’s also potential.

Over to Walkabout – another theme bar, but at least this one’s got a decent stage – where Zillionaire are playing. They’ve supported Keane in the past and it’s easy to see why – their pleasant mainstream guitar-pop’s not going to scare the horses. Nice polite clean-cut boys with a clear, just-sensitive-enough voice upfront, lyrics about love, loss and living by the sea and a sound that even at this stage in their career seems to have had all the rough edges polished out of it. Towards the end they crank up the volume a bit and edge into Snow Patrol territory which is nice enough but unlikely to blast a hole in anyone’s world.

Revere are probably glad they’re on here, where the wide stage easily accommodates their eight-strong line-up which includes all the usual stuff plus a trumpet, violin and cello. There is, it has to be said, some indication they may have been listening to Hope Of The States. And Radiohead – the singer’s voice wandering fraught across the octaves. What’s impressive is how together they sound through various levels of complex, intricate arrangements. Songs start quietly, building into great crashing waves of sound – you know the script, it’s post-rock-indie, but it’s done well here with a few tasty flourishes and seriously good musicianship.

Another hot tip sees us heading back to Teasers (with a view to spending absolutely no money in there this time) for Leon. Who the hell is Leon? You might well ask… They play garagey, 60s psychedelic tinged pop with all sorts of squelchy organ sounds (courtesy of an ex-member of Echoboy’s touring band) with earthy, friendly vocals. At one point the singer takes a walk around the podiums but I’m sure they’re insured for a spot of pole dancing in here. Strong classic tunes that go were they should with some nice rough edges, he invites us to wave our phones in the air for “the ballad. You not been to any stadium gigs recently?”… Last track “Don’t Feel” picks up a loose funkier groove and Lee makes his keyboard sound like a theremin played through a tube, which is always going to work for me…

So back across that annoying pedestrian crossing to Walkabout again in time for the Tides. It’s no secret these are one of my favourite local unsigned bands at the moment and it’s fantastic to see such a big crowd in for them. The length of some of their songs means there’s not room for many in a 25 minute set, but future single “Lights” sound every bit the anthem in waiting here, Liam’s delicate almost angelic voice leading great swathes of powerful guitars. They’ve been accused of sounding rather like sometime mentors Puressence and whilst the similarities are undeniable, The Tides have a much more commercial edge that could see them sneak into a Coldplay fan’s consciousness and a scruffy, matey appeal that Oasis fans would recognise. And if this takes them to stadiums one day, songs like the outstanding “You’ll Never Change” will be greeted with a sea of lighters. Or phones.

Right, where are we going next…?

- cath



The best thing about ITC is that if you get fed up of the merry go round and industry flavour to proceedings, you can just fly off to a dark corner of town and jump head first into a fringe event. Whilst most “fringe” events have in fact become “main” events, there’s still a wealth of other stuff hiding out there.

Joshua Brooks on Princess St is one case in point and downstairs in the excellent , “Mini-Cavern” basement we find 3RD DAN whipping away at some melodic, frenetic indie. The sound is ace and the band are really punching out what could be an anthemic top ten hit. Their powerful doses of modern power pop are spliced with enough rock to elevate their more delicate musings to possible greatness. They’re incredibly unfashionable ( ie. They don’t dress like Franz Ferdinand) and for that I not only applaud them, I’m grateful and also blown away by their insistence on good tunes.

Next stop is a call in to see how The Electric Circus Vs Wired is faring at Jabez Clegg. Well, so far we’ve got the 13 band bill upstairs beat on punters per band, but catching the ROTARY 10 is a revelation. Their blend of The Smiths, modern dark brooding single note guitars and big screeching effected breaks that last a mere 2 seconds, within a sea of dedicated indie, is awesome. Ones to watch.

Sunday seems a bit dead but there’s an enclave of sensible arthouse rawk and roll at Fiction / Non Fiction at Tiger Lounge. This is one of the best underground places to be in Manchester and POLYTHENE are back with a wall of sound and “Fuck You”s that make you glad to be alive. Like The Ramones on a mixture of ketamine and powdered bleach, the waves of noise are just thick blankets of shuddering distortion, intersected with hateful, beautifully ambivalent vocals. This is the place to be - where real music and real music fans sustain the real underground in Manchester.

TVH3 are several things. They make Gary Numan sound like Boyzone and I’m pretty sure they would have had Nitzer Ebb running for cover. Their black attire and mix of fantastic urban rock songs are all lined up for their typical 50/50 show. Will it be perfect, or will it be WAR?. Sometimes, I must admit, they get somewhere in between the two, but tonight it’s definitely being played from the battlefield.

The guitar seems to split through 2 amps – one effected and full of aircraft noises and jet engined fuzz. Set against this is a clean metallic rasp that sounds like the sound of metal in a foundry, all at the cost of fingers being sliced off in the process. An enigmatic set from a band who DON’T GIVE A FUCK. It’s that straight in your face, that anyone in the audience with an ounce of pretentiousness would literally burst into flames at such an antithesis.

As the set completes, the guitarist remains on stage to complete the mantra, concluding the set with the scattering of the crowd as a Gibson SG is flung straight at the front row - underlining the fact this is band that could quite literally take you head off….so far the only real ROCK N ROLL moment of the weekend...


SATURDAY October 1st 2005

Entering into the darkness of the Night & Day at mid day can be disorientating, but XFM have decided that they will tie in the future launch of their Manchester radio station with the ITC event. There is a (limited) free bar, and a good sized crowd to witness the Norwich based Pistolas dispense their punk, brattish set with an energy that belies their tiredness. Firing riffs and attitude, they manage to get the adrenalin levels rising. Following on almost immediately, the Deadbeats (“They rock” shouts one eager lass) take their place on.. the chairs on the stage.

Having the two main guitarists sitting down doesn’t seem to affect the vibrancy the imbue their country-folk-rock- tinged musical mix.I t’s only a short trip from Bolton for three piece Leaf, (Dry Bar) but the influence can be traced back to the seventies when the heavy metal genre was thriving. They produce an enjoyable set of no nonsense mindless metal boogie that stays on the right side of poppy to prevents the alienation of the neutrals. Some band projects are best listened to in the confines on ones bedroom, and Iris Nova (Dry) may best be advised to keep practising their twee noodlings away from the public gaze. It might have been the p.a. set up, but the thin vocals didn’t help their cause.

A diversion called the “Chaos of the ITC musical quiz” (Midland) hosted by Elliot Eastwick included an eight minute medley containing approx 100 artists. Irrespective of what the composer of the segment (Elliot himself) states, Albatross was definitely in the mix. You can only fool all of the crowd some of the time. The resumption of band viewing involved the manc rock of the unannounced Hanky Park. By now "Dry" bar could describe the problems of the listeners, as they attempt to slake the thirst partially generated by the Ibiza type heat against a 3 deep bar queue. So a successful search for a smaller queue resulted in the black clad, makeup laden, The Pleasure (Dry Vault) being stumbled upon. The agreeable combination of dark electronica mixed with guitars resemble an alliance of Depeche Mode with the androgynous roots of Bowie, and this surfaces with their relatively faithful version of “Suffragette City”.

Second Floor (Dry) seem to be improving as they should after all the recent gigging they have undertaken, and their confidence seems high. Tonight they have a smoke show, lights and a good sounds to keep the crowd packed around the barriers entertained with their Chameleons/ Joy Division tinted blast. One main failing of so many promising bands is that whilst they may have the musical output, they fail to have someone who can deliver the vocals. Police (Dry) [shurely shome mishtake?..Ed] don’t have that problem as long as Nick Toone is at the front. The closest thing to James Mudrinski (apologies if I’ve spelt that wrongly) of Pureessence The music bears resemblance as well, with big brooding epics that swamp the small second stage of the venue. But what is it with the white armbands? The GRR engraved in big letters on her guitar is not a reference to the Riot Grrrl stuff, but the name of her band, the Gemma Ray Ritual (Dry Vault). With the striking similarity to the vocals of P J Harvey, such a connection would be understandable, but if you have a talent, then it’s a shame to keep it under wraps. The band matches the quality of Gemma’s superb voice during the gritty, raw set.

Seachange (Dry) have tried to replace the variety that the violinist brought to their set with another guitarist. So there are four guitars on stage, plus drums and keyboards so musically they are competing as much as they are spatially and maybe less would be more, but they deliver some sparkling one liners “The greatest love is a battleground” or “ The currency of boyish good looks” and they are always worth catching.

Back at N&D, Kill The Young are telling their increasing following that “All the worlds is out to get me”. Following swiftly on, Liam Frost stands isolated on the bare stage, illuminated by a spotlight and the gaze of a packed audience that hangs on every word and roars with approval before the last chords have died down.

Award for the most bodies crushed into the available space, goes to the aA crowd at the Garden Hotel, where Loose Canon are keeping their faithful happy with their set. Who knows what the hotel occupants made of things. Is the ska revival scene in such a bad state that it needs a blue faced pinted bloke dressed in a costume with 100 rubber gloves sewn on the outsiude to promite it? Ask Mistys Big Adventure

Ged Camera

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Stumbling And Falling - The Rest of Saturday

Late afternoon, and feeling a bit rocked out already, time for a couple of acoustic performances. First it’s off past Manchester’s scariest bouncers to find a party in full swing at South, and not too many people listening to The Confusions. Silly people. Back home in Sweden this band’s a five-piece, organ-laced, garagey power indie band but today we’ve just got two of them. Boy Confusion has a lovely singing voice and an acoustic guitar and Girl Confusion on keyboards, they strum through a few pleasantly full-bodied pop tunes that are good enough to make a note to try and see the full band sometime. Then a brief wander into Akoustik Anarkhy to check out what the cool people are up to. Neil Burrell plays a short acoustic set, full of intriguing lush chord structures and beautiful, almost breathless high-register vocals, with nods to Nick Drake’s pastoral Englishness. But again few are listening. Highly recommended from these quarters though. I’m told that later on Loose Canon have people hanging off the ceiling in the usual aA madness, but I’ve a date with a legend and I can’t stay…

Down at the Academy 2, a terrifying dark punk rockabilly racket is shaking the walls. This is the work of a band called Pubic Fringe who specialise in covers of borderline obscure shots from the outer edges of the last 50 years. Whether they actually played a Cramps song or just made someone else’s song sound like The Cramps is debatable, but their semi-regular support slots are just what’s needed to warm up The Fall’s crowd. This is most definitely not the cover band to book for the office Christmas party, unless you work in an undertakers.

After all these years, The Fall have become a much-loved institution, which must have been the last thing on Mark E Smith’s mind when he started spitting his speed-paranoia venom onto vinyl back before most of the bands I’ve seen this weekend were born. After the almost pop 80s and the vitriolic back-to-basics 90s, The Fall 2005 have settled into pretty much doing what’s expected of them. The rotating door of hired hands has settled into one of the more stable line-ups of recent years, with a tight back-line and Smith’s impossibly beautiful other half on keyboards they’re as professional as they’ve ever been. And there’s that moment, the moment every fall fan loves, when after a few chords from said band he shambles onstage, growling and muttering, knowing he’s a god in many eyes but still trying to make out like he couldn’t really give a fuck if anyone enjoys themselves.

And how do you even start to plan a set-list when you’ve released about 48,000 songs? Well as ever, they keep us on our toes with a load of recent material. Sparta FC is probably the closest thing they’ve had to a hit since those Victoria golden days, and hastens the arrival of the 30% of the crowd who were still trying to get served at the woefully inadequate bar when the band came on. Elsewhere there are a few unknown tracks – the new album’s not out til next week and this is the first date of an extensive tour. Well there’s nothing unfamiliar here – most of it could have been written at any point in the last 25 years. They all sound like Fall songs and that’s all that’s required. Even the requisite covers. Tonight’s first delve into pop history is The Move’s “I Can Hear the Grass Grow”, and there’s something inherently funny about the most dour man in the world singing about seeing rainbows everywhere, spitting the hippy word as if it’s a nasty tasting pill. Top moment from their own back catalogue is the glorious Wrong Place Right Time, but there’s little room for nostalgia. Even crowd-pleasing favourite “White Lightning” is tossed off almost half-heartedly during the first encore. And the get-what-you’re-given approach is clear when the band depart after just one hour, including the two encores. A straw poll amongst leaving fans concludes that this wasn’t a great performance – everyone’s got their favourite, and for me the electrifying York Fibbers shows of a couple of years ago have certainly not been surpassed. But neither was it a poor one – the days of Smith absconding from venues after two songs because he didn’t like the wallpaper (or whatever) seem to also be in the past (although you never know). It was good, OK, exactly what it says on the tin, and somehow with The Fall this is enough.


A Dry Afternoon

Glasswerk ITC & The Hot Test Bands, Dry Bar, Saturday afternoon

Dry Bar have got a special offer on whereby if you buy a bottle of Reef fruit-based vodka mixer drink, you get a free shot of fruit schnapps with it. I am telling you this for two reasons: one because if you’re headed out there today you may find this information useful, and two because as I first discovered this shortly after 2pm it may explain the increasing vagueness of any reports filed as the day goes on… An impressive set-up of three stages means that from the first note of the first band, you need never spend a second not listening to live music all day – and with some name headliners later the fiver entry compares rather favourably than the £30-£50 one-day tickets for many of the summer’s proper festivals.

Leaf are from Bolton, with their heads somewhere between Washington State and Washington DC, blasting out the kind of power-pop-hardcore that’s enduringly popular, and rather well. Two small scruffy frontmen – one tattooed and the other in classic Kurt blond mop and tatty jumper combo, share vocal duties over a bag of Bleach-era Nirvana and Mudhoney power chords and breakneck speed thrash. The tunes are instant and the sleepy-to-shouty singing spot on; they’re tight, coherent and accomplished and look very young. It’s always frustrating to see a great band in such an early slot when the powers that be are probably still crawling out of their hangovers (the schnapps sorted mine out fine!) but definitely worth catching sometime.

* Cath's tip of the day:

Iris Nova have a far less enjoyable take on post-grunge alt-rock 90s introspection, so it’s off downstairs for Plugs, whose spiky art-punk with balls sounds like Forward Russia crossed with Fugazi. “Rock Over London, Rock On Chicago” has an enticing pop hook even though we’re not quite sure what geographical point they’re trying to make. Deranged high-speed Cardiacs psychedelic-punk guitar lines give way to thrash-outs and ever-shifting time signatures and sometimes there’s too much going on to actually take it all in. Shame someone’s forgotten to put any lights on over the stage, giving the strange feeling you’re watching them in their garage or something. When we emerge back upstairs after their short, intense set, Iris Nova are still onstage and covering Queen’s “Death On Two Legs” (I’m reliably informed that’s what it is anyway!) which may be ironic, post-ironic or post-post-ironic but either way there’s really no need for it.

Over in the back room The Starfighter Pilot comes armed with a laptop, a couple of keyboard-sequencer things (yeah, technology’s not my strong point!) and a lyric that goes “My mother gave me money to make a film / My father gave me money to make a film / Lottery money to make a film / But all of my films were stupid and pointless”. Well I’d be intrigued to see them anyway – instead we can only guess at the contents of his head from his offbeat bedroom electronic pop. A wonderful slice of vaguely orchestral space-beat that sounds like bits of Kraftwerk’s Tour de France played on a Playstation is dedicated to “the broken urinal downstairs” - nice to know it’s not just us girls who have to face something akin to a biohazard in this venue then! His vocals are a bit shambolic in an endearingly wayward way and he sometimes seems to be fighting a losing battle with technology, but there’s a highly individual talent in there anyway.

Back downstairs Salvo are very angry about something. The drummer’s got a CNN T-shirt on and when I can make out lyrics, their edgy punk hardcore is politically and socially aware. They look and sound like the sort of serious young men who prefer their punk rock Black Flag to Buzzcocks and they’re not afraid to hurt your ears. Then back upstairs to catch the last couple of songs of The Hair’s hard punk-funk which ends rather impressively with the entire band having a bash at the drumkit, and remembering I should probably eat at some point I hand over to ST1.

cath aubergine


SATURDAY 1st OCTOBER................

This is my version of events, so I’m sticking to it. For now.

In The City just seems bigger than ever and the crowds seem to be providing more than a match. Ok so it is a Saturday, but hammered out rock gigs at 4.30pm anyone. Now that’s cool.

Having the advantage of a pass and lanyard, you get to see a little bit behind the scenes and ITC seems to have found its stride, with a mega efficient registration process and laid back approach that still provides a nice, slick series of seminars.

The Manchester City Music Network Pop Quiz Night is always popular, but they were about to fasten the thick bolts on the door to the room. Like Ripley’s cryogenic space journey in Alien, it would be a whole three hours before the depressurisation process would allow the entrance to be unsealed. With just one complimentary pint (then as many as you want at £3.50) and all the chips you can eat, it’s the sight of Elliot Eastwick limbering up on his twin turntables, elaborate sound system and club night equipment for a round of pub quiz soundbites, that seems the most bizarre.

A walk with haste is the order of the day, via a man at the exit to the Midland who gives us a stick of rock and what looks like a Teflon mouse mat, neither of which seem be of any use. He’s actually selling Voice Over Internet Services, but after a babble about “£10 a month plus… “ the eyes glaze over. I’m nervously looking around for the Sky TV salesman, who normally hides behind a blue hoarding with The Simpsons on, or an AA man sat under an umbrella in a fluorescent jacket. But we’re lucky.

Destination Dry Bar, where a festival all of its own is in full swing. It’s impressive. Three stages working in synchronisation and a sound that’s often pretty good, but boomy depending on who’s on and who’s fiddled the knobs well enough. The bars a pain in the arse though. After waiting for about quarter of an hour, everyone stood next to me had been served, so it was my turn. Great. I only wanted a coke, but hey, when there’s plenty of oversized 6’2” twenty somethings dressed as Ricky Kaiser, I don’t mind waiting. Tw*ts. (More of that later…).

There’s a couple of things to say about music to day – it seems to fall into a variety of categories, all governed by a series of laws :

Music Is Good
Music Is Mediocre
Music Is Shit.

You can grade things within this scale to accommodate, style ,content, haircut, or anything else that irritates / impresses.

So kicking things off for us so far are THE HAIR. The York outfits gritty slightly funky style is right in the frame of “fresh bright young things who can play scratchy guitar, but quirk it up with some wobbly effects” – All with the odd twist of a sound like The Artic Monkeys but without the hooklines. It’s a variation on a theme we’re going to hear all night.

The URBAN BLUE showed promise with their last demo and they have a real bonus in singer Alison Carner - we said last year : “sweeping, lazy post Acid Jazz, which is the prefect vehicle for the singers curveball melodies and unique tone” . We say today it’s still pretty true and the quest for that killer song is still on but getting there. Ones to watch.

CHERUBS look exactly like Franz Ferdinand, but seeing as they come from London, you can forgive them for that. Songs like “Hey Bunny” provide perfectly relevant bouts of rasping guitars, but it’s “A Man Of No Importance” which causes the most gasps for its sheer Interpol tribute - but Interpol stole that from The Chameleons so - so what ? The muddy sound doesn’t help although Cherubs leave quite a bright impression.

They maybe don’t know it, but KARAOVA are playing in the hometown of Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess. In Nadsat you’d steal the lines “Then he opened those amazing "groobers" and through his rattling false "zoobies" gushed a Niagara of portentous, pedantic, autodidactic, multilingual verbiage, with a flotsam of what he termed "duff gen". ….or basically, the music was pretty intense but the vocals were a bit dodgy in the basement room. A mush really.

TRAP 2 bring a different sound from Sheffield. They seem to have improved from their demos, this time, the hair is longer and they’ve gone a bit baggy. Dance moves and effects are bolstered by big, sometimes ethereal guitars, which all work quite well. They also need to get a name that doesn’t conjure up the image of the next to the end cubicle in the ladies toilets.

Oh – this is all still in the Dry Bar too – I haven’t moved much – in fact – I just have to swivel round to see one stage then t’other.
But shaking a leg past the toilet roll littered bogs, there’s the rather excellent 3 piece from Belfast (“It’s lovely…” there apparently – I think he was joking after their latest tourism reels consisted of on-fire police vehicles and Christians beating each other up with large sticks and small arms). THE BÊTES NOIRES are rigidly tight, noisy and ready to explode. And they do too. The vocals lay over a melodic sneer and the whole things churns out of the speakers rather wonderfully.

There’s an ever increasing number of haircuts – in fact it’s like a uniform of conformity. Two guys stand in front of me, dressed in black, hair spiked, make up on. Now that’d be cool if they were down the local boozer on their own, or at work, or shopping at Asda. But here it’s just run of the mill and it’s hard to distinguish anyone’s individuality. Even the music seems to conform and you begin to feel that just one big band dressed as Pulp would do for the whole evening…or would it ?

The MARDOUS are apparently on / going to be on, Poptones. You can see why. More spiky indie nik-nik-nik pop. The three piece are sharp but they do suffer from indifferent vocals and a lack of stage presence. They could end up as just another drop in the ocean of new generation indie pop. But I think on record that this stuff could actually sound rather good. We’ll have to see.

The Second Floor provide the revelation that not all new stuff has to be Interpol / Nik-Nik with a bout of swirling, pulsating shoe gazing and space rock epics. Lamacq’s interested enough to play their demo. So should you.

The rather long-ish walk to hell (Peter Street) begins via a stop off at the Oldham Street Offy, for a winos supply of JD in a hip glass. We coned off a gutter space for our rep (the one dressed as a big game hunter) , but word is that Linen Cupboards in Hotels are a good place to crash (a true story from a well known local rock band member). There’s another pause at “Methadone 24/7” (The Chemist all night Chemist on Oxford St), for EARPLUGS !.

Then there’s a stop at Subway for a member of the crew to get a sandwich – such was the cue that his skeletal remains were barely able to place the order once he got to the front of the queue. Fast food from slow people ?- It’s doesn’t work Mr McDonald…

The Late Room is heaving but no-one seems to be watching the band. Everyone’s just talking VERY LOUDLY. Which is a shame as UNCLE BOB is playing some “Carol King Vs Radiohead” inspired stuff via his outfit of electric and acoustic players and a double bass. It’s a shame, as had this been a FUCKING MUSIC CONFERENCE, everyone would have been listening wouldn’t they ?

Some guys are shouting “Boss Hogg! / Boss Hogg! / Boss Hogg!”. This old guy turns round. He’s dressed in white and looks just like the original Dukes Of Hazzard character. He also looks like Seymour Stein… oops – Welcome To Manchester….

But here comes the revelation – North East trio DARTZ! Are grinding away in the basement of 14 Lloyd Street. They’re amazing, with a concoction of post rock, EMO, XTC, The Blockheads, wiry disco and thumping rock and roll. There’s a mix of everything in here, but they’re genuinely different and I think pretty exciting.

Whoever put the SQUARES venue on the gig list needs their bloody heads testing. The downstairs space is pretty good for music, but given that the regular clientele have a 30 foot drop from which to execute Begby style glass throws it’s maybe not such a good idea. KUBICHEK however play a set that is maybe their best ever since we first brought them to Manchester last May for their debut gig here. They have a real chance to make a lasting impression with singles like “Nightjoy” and Fantastic Plastic sticking out for more records. However haircuts strike again and I’m almost knocked to the floor as three Londoners give each other a “luvvie” hug in the space I’m currently standing in. Fuggin Hell !!!. However all is forgiven when I see one of the fashion victioms shoes. Anyone who wears two tone suede brogues together with a cream Mac is obviously on institutional leave. Arse. Special (Fashion) Victims Squad…now there’s a theme we may well be featuring later..

It’s back to 14 Lloyd Street and the basement is a lockout as ¡FORWARD, RUSSIA! demonstrate that a blistering tour maketh the band. I’ve seen them three times in two months and this is their best. Whiskas has also shaved his beard back after we described him as Captain Birdseye – it’s no matter – they’re absolutely amazing – and more still. They’re definitely going to get something from this.

THE PERMISSIVE SOCIETY are upstairs and they’ve got the A&R contingent hemmed in –it’s just as well as “Fighting Crime,Protecting People” blows the cowboy hat off the guy who looks like he’s in the Kings Of Leon. He’s not – he’s probably the record company mailman, but he looks tall. He also looks like something out of Back To The Future 3. But The Permissives by this time have fired out enough bullets to make people scream for more ear damage. It’s one of the few places to experience pure unadulterated rock and roll…

More to Come…


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Chaos AD

Having not really enjoyed a single band last year that I hadn't seen already I did some proper research this time. And as they say, proper planning prevents piss poor performance and planning did actually pay off. So far so good.

Arrive at Satan's Hollow at about 9:20 to catch Leicester's Team. Satan's is packed with bored looking metal kids clearly awaiting the Linkin Park disco that starts later on. My faith is restored immediately with Team who as Alan Partridge would say are "ruddy, bloody good". All Queens of the Stone Age via Soundgarden via DC hardcore, a bit of post-rock and another dollop of grunge for good measure. Downtuned and thick, stop start rhythms together with harmonised and regimented shouts from a bearded bald bloke bludgeon the sense in the nicest way possible. Team show that you can be heavy as a rhinocerous and note sing a single note but still be catchy as the common cold. A great start.

Punish The Atom we assume are from London all cockney accents and influences together with a pretty cocksure and somewhat cliched attitude. The singer starts with some nonsense like "we're the happy sunshine band and we dedicate this song to Jesus". Musically it sounds like a pretty mashed up version of PIL with jittery bass lines and lots of shouting. Not bad but Dom gets bored so we move on.

Enter the Waldorf and it's A & R central. The place is busier than a bread shop in soviet Russia. Getting a drink would have probably been easier in Gorbachov's times. Nevertheless we content ourselves with occasional glimpses of Polytechnic who are pretty decent, a bit like Yo La Tengo but with droning krautrock guitars. There's a little too much similarity within songs but the singer's voice intriguing high and 'Let Me Down' which concludes the set deserves to be a classic. In fact go to and download it free. I think you'll agree.

We migrate to the Night and Day which is equally busy and catch the end of The Vincent Valmera Show's set which sounds rather Kinks-y, Libertines-y and competent but not massively memorable. Catch the much talked about Omerta and I have to concede that it isn't really my thing. Cath will no doubt shower them with praise in a future blog entry but I'll just be content with staying quiet.

There's no entry into Dry Bar because it's at capacity. V-Man comes outside and says, "how come you're not inside?" I point out that the doorman isn't letting anyone in but V-Man being a kind soul lets us in. Once indeed I narrowly miss being knocked to the floor by the singer of The 80s B-Line Matchbox Disaster who rushes across the floor and leaps onto the bar. Dry Bar is in pandemonium. The place is packed like sardines and there a more spectators on stage than band members. A bouncer comes over and unsuccesfully attempts to coerce people off the stage. Apparently being "unsigned" is the reason for The 80s B-Line Matchbox Disaster's reason for apparence at ITC but with a performance that genuinely deserves the term 'anarchic' another record deal should be in the post. It doesn't matter if you don't hear a single note. The atmosphere in Dry is pretty electric with double stage-diving and more sweat that a sauna for the overweight.

A good night indeed.

Manchester Music ITC Photo Page

Since last year, Cath and Dave have discovered the joys of digital cameras and are currently on the loose around Manchester snapping bands, punters, displays of heroic drunknenness and One Man And His Beard in as many venues as possible. The fruits of this endeavour will be posted here over the next few days:

Fandango Lift-Off

Club Fandango Friday 30th September, Night & Day

With the queue for Dry bar stretching out past Night & Day, the proprietors of the latter are busily dishing out flyers and the rain tempts more than a few to give up on 80s Matchbox (as in “are you still here?”) to pop next door instead. Tricky Nixon should have convinced them it was the right decision, with sugar and spike boy-girl vocals and pummelling Pixies bass and drums. And, it has to be said, everything else. Quiet verses and screaming choruses, sleazy Breeders guitar thrash and tasty harmonies, their influences are not so much worn on their sleeve as written all over them, but with tunes you can bounce along to and plenty of energy who cares?

The Children ram their square peg into another round hole next, with their psychedelic bluesy retro rock that’s so far removed from anything that’s meant to be cool that it actually is. There are merry-go-round organs, Doors trips and an utterly bizarre segment of Laughing Policeman “ha-ha-ha”s at one point that has some punters looking slightly scared. I am beyond trying to work out why I like this band so much as there should be no place for this in 2005, but that might well be it. Maybe one day they’ll forgive me for once saying the singer looks like a hobbit…

I've spotted a couple of other MM typs lurking around, so hopefully one of them will give you the low down on 3rd Dan. From where I was (taking advantage of a brief let-up in the rain to get some much needed oxygen!) they sounded tighter and louder than ever...

Vincent Vincent and the Villains have got great shoes. No, stay with me, you can tell a lot about a band by their shoes. Try it some time over the weekend. Smart, 50s retro and a bit pointy with a little scuff and wear, just like the band’s sound. Having once seen this band whilst extremely drunk I was convinced they all had quiffs, when actually they’re more in the Ordinary Boys smart-casual mode, it’s easy to see how I might have imagined it. Choppy guitars, tight simple beats and wandering bass sees them carrying a thread from early Smiths via Sons & Daughters, and whilst it’s tropically hot in here by now there’s plenty of dancing going on.

The place is packed now with Omerta’s growing fanbase crowding the front for one of Manchester’s hottest bands of the moment, and the band are feed off the buzz with an ever increasing confidence. They have every right to – they’ve got a faultless repertoire of Mancunian anthems and a finely developed stage presence. “One Chance” hasn’t even been released yet but already Aaron’s almost drowned out by a mass singalong. But it’s the dancier tracks that really raise the temperature tonight with “Big Blue”’s pulsing electrobeat and the cynical “Learn To Love The System” sending the previously wilting late night crowd into a jumping frenzy. Afterwards they know they’ve done a good one, and with a whole host of delegate passes on show during a thinner-than-usual first night this could have been the most important night of their lives to date. I really hope so.

cath aubergine, breakfast time

Know when to walk away....

Suffrajets, 7 Second Burn, Fury, Drone at The Roadhouse Thurs 29th September

Sometimes you wish the band would just turn around, switch their amplifiers off and leave the stage.
Not that The Suffrajets’ last song is bad. But the song that preceded it was absolutely epic; half-way through it The ‘Jets took off into space and just kept ascending into chaos. And quite frankly, they shouldn’t have come back down – even if the last song on their setlist is the catchy “next single”. Dueling guitars, singer mashing about wildly in the crowd, fall-on-your-knees stage moves that look really silly when boys do them - this is a proper rock show!

The ladies of The Suffrajets are at the tail end of their tour and it shows in their swagger. Singer Alex doesn’t bat an eye or when a guitar strap breaks and she has to finish the song with her guitar being held up for her by the band’s roadie. Bassplayer Vicky Kingston, on the other hand, bats her eyes frequently as she coyly flirts with her legion of admirers. With songs like “Call the Police”, the odd skanking guitar-line, and an apparent short skirts-only policy, The ‘Jets are three steps ahead of most of their peers. Its nice to see former-babyshambler Gemma Clarke in a band that actually plays shows, as opposed to her wasting her talent as an extra in the tabloids.

And with one last big-rock-ending and obligatory squeal of feedback, its all over. You wanted something new and innovative? You’re in the wrong place, mate. This isn’t rocket science – its the Suffrajets.

Now the problem with loud rocknroll is that the glorious visceral punch of a band at full-throttle completely obliterates any chance of catching what the singer is on about. For all I know, the singer for 7 Second Burn might be the Leonard Cohen of our generation. Oh well – the ladies up the front must know, because they’re singing along to every word. And obviously they like their metal.

With confidence and bounding energy, frontman Daisy has the crowd from the very start. When he tells them to throw their fists in the air, they throw their fists in the air. When he tells them to sit on the floor, they sit on the floor. And when the band slows it down for a sensitive metal ballad, the fellas on either side of me both light one up. But then its right back to business and the riffs are the rather-good way. The band is precise and loud, and its obvious they spent their teen years mastering their instruments, probably driving their parents mad.

Any hopes for Leonard Cohen go right out the window as Daisy leads the fans through a chant of “Suck my fuckin’ dick!” He seems to spend very little time on the actual stage, preferring to prowl and bounce along the speakers and into the crowd.

Now there’s something that earlier band Fury might take note of: the big speakers that separate the audience from the stage work really well for crowd control, but when the dancefloor is sparsely populated, the dividers make the stage look a bit like a giant puppet theatre. It can be quite a barrier to get over and Fury takes a long time to warm up the audience. Despite their dark Sabbath growl and intensity, the band themselves seemed quite reserved onstage. Their momentum builds slowly, accelerated by a spiraling Jerry Cantrell-style guitar solo and a heavy-hitting rhythm section. Too bad their set isn’t longer - by the end the band is just hitting their stride. Now if only they could come out of the gates with the same intensity and drive.

I’m told I missed the best band of the night, Drone. Then again, it might have been one of Drone who told me....

- O’Connell.

Newer›  ‹Older