Seegulls, Jake McRae, The Hubbards: Gullivers, Manchester – live review
Seegulls | Jake McRae & The What Went Wrongs | The Hubbards
1 April 2017
‘Ten bands, three venues, one city, one street, one night and all packed’ Scruff of the Neck Records take over Manchester’s Northern Quarter in a celebration of up-and-coming live bands.
Louder Than War’s Abi Small reports back from Gullivers, with photographs by Katie Meloy.
Saturday night saw Manchester based label Scruff of the Neck take over the Northern Quarter in style as Oldham Street was abuzz with music fans once again. Hosting ten bands across three venues (Night & Day, The Castle and Gullivers), Scruff are proving themselves to be instrumental in bringing forward new talent onto Manchester’s music scene at a time when guitar music seems to be fairly stagnant in the city. I set up camp at Gullivers where Northern guitar bands Seegulls, Jake McRae & The What Went Wrongs and The Hubbards were out in force.
As far as venues go, I actually quite like Gullivers and tonight’s gig was situated in the upstairs ‘ballroom’. Complete with sticky floors, filthy loos, crimson walls, a precariously placed chandelier and a big velvet stage curtain, I feel like I’m about to witness a seedy underground sex show rather than a band, but there’s no denying that the place has it’s own special atmosphere – it’s grim enough to make you feel a bit rock and roll, but not so grim that you need a Hep C check the next day.
First up were Chester-based five-piece Seegulls, who cite The Libertines, The Strokes and The Smiths amongst their main influences. Bright, feel-good indie pop characterised the performance and with a vocal reminiscent of but not identical to The Courteeners’ Liam Fray, the band were right at home in Manchester. Stand out tracks were energetic ear-worms Good Enough and Reach Out which are both from the band’s first EP and will probably be snapped up for a DFS advert in the near future. Despite Seagull’s punchy sound however, the band appeared fairly static onstage and lacked the energy that was promised by their songs. I’m not suggesting that they trash their gear or piss on the crowd, but a little more confidence and stage-presence would have taken their performance to the next level.
Burnley foursome Jake McRae & The What Went Wrongs were next to take to the stage, kicking off their set with indie floor-filler No Socialite. Although the band look like indie-kid archetypes with their buttoned up polos, floral shirts and spray on skinny jeans, this is not manufactured indie-pop and there are absolutely no gimmicks. Jake’s raw Northern vocals cut viciously through the otherwise harmonious melodies of the band, creating an original yet comfortingly recognisable sound. Although the band are impeccably tight, there is an inherent roughness to their sound that gives their live performance an authenticity that is difficult to imitate, and it’s refreshing to see a band who appeal to real people. With infectious indie riffs, the disaffected lyrics that typified the Britpop era and all the raw energy of punk, the band are impossible to pigeonhole and blend genres effectively to create genuinely exciting music.
Headlining the night were hotly-tipped Hull lads The Hubbards, who have been strongly championed by BBC Introducing Humberside. Excited crowd chatter prefigured the performance, and the band had a roaring start to the set with their most recent single Just Touch, which absolutely lived up to the hype. To look at, The Hubbards are as unassuming as it gets and look more like IT teaching assistants than rockstars, but again, this is a band who need no gimmicks as their impressive catalogue of songs speaks for itself. With complex riffs and introspective lyrics, the tunes that make up The Hubbards’ set are not juvenile, one-dimensional anthems, but articulated and genuinely well thought out pieces of music that deserve both public and critical praise. As the set continued however, the energy seemed to gradually drop off and lead singer Reuben’s distinctive voice was almost inaudible over the sound of the band- despite the overall strength of the tracks themselves, they didn’t translate as well as I’d hoped to The Hubbards’ live performance. Nevertheless, The Hubbards did regain some control as they slowed things down with Alison towards the end of the set, and clearly didn’t disappoint the crowd as they ended the night on a high.
Scruff of the Neck have done a fantastic job of proactively supporting new music in the North West, and the success of this night is only testimony to their achievement.
All words by Abi Small. For more of Abi’s writing visit her archive.
Photos by Katie Meloy. You can find more of her work on Facebook at Katie Meloy Photography. Please note: Use of these images in any form without permission is illegal. If you wish to use /purchase or license any images please contact Katie Meloy.