PART ONE – Saturday 17th October 2015
We’re looking for someone called Mathew. Everyone around here knows him and we’ve established during the day that “..he has a beard, he’s a great bloke, he’ll probably be running around a lot and he maybe getting a little bit pissed by now”. So says almost everyone around here. The people with the wristbands, the people on the doors, everyone else with a beard who we ask and almost every band on stage we watch on Saturday afternoon and evening all seem to have the same answer.
Mathew seems to be the Michael Eavis of Manchester this weekend and he got me interested in coming here for this and then sent me a couple of recommendations that I need to have a word or two with him about. I jotted down four pages of shorthand (big scribbling) about the first band of the day. A band that this man “..with a beard who may be getting a bit pissed by now” recommended to me.
These bands are always great we’ve said over the years and today, at two o’clock, just after Snow White and the Seven Dwarves walked past, this theory was proved incorrect. I’m not going to dwell too much on that experience.
I initially thought The Carefully Planned Festival may have been so well organised that they’d arranged a welcome of this type on my arrival into this city. Silly really to even have considered that this is so carefully planned that they’d know the exact time I’d be walking down Dale Street and arrange for this tall woman and seven children in fancy dress to be walking directly towards me as I wandered towards the area known locally as The Northern Quarter.
Snow White and the seven fuckin’ Dwarfs standing on the pavement as I set off to locate these new venues, new (and not so new) bands and to boldly go where this man had not been before! Brilliantly planned if it was, but the kind of thing that may have just been coincidence.
Upstairs at Gullivers it’s 2PM and there’s a lady in a green cloak sitting on stage in total silence. Another lady joins her followed by a man who can only be described as a more coherent but sincere version of Neil from the Young Ones with an American accent. The band are called IN GOWAN RING and it’s the type of music you’d have expected to have seen outside Greenham Common in the 80’s or in a tiny corner of Glastonbury where no one really visits anymore. He describes his own music as “Ancient Trance” on “Ancient instruments” (which all seem to have been painted green), and his blurb (business card) calls it “Symbolist Folk Music”. And it’s a bit rubbish.
Once he’s finished explaining the reason for the song about the full moon behind the willow tree and the (green) leaves falling from the sky its established this won’t get any better. It gets magnificently worse. He’s sitting on the edge of the stage now with no intention of playing any music for a while it’s feared (or hoped) and he’s telling us the story of a drug none of us have ever heard about that he took whilst in a commune for three days back in the US. Whist he’s doing this, the ladies in green (who have also been politely going “whooooo- whooooo” as they tap bells, drums and harp strings) are distributing bongo’s and shakers and before we know it we’re all joining in, playing along to a song about the recreation of the Universe.
One or two people attempt to escape but the doors we entered through have been bricked up and there simply is no way out. We’ve been caught and we feel we’re about to be brainwashed into one of those religious cults our mums once warned us about. Us early arrivals are locked inside this room for Seventeen hours before a door is located and as we eventually descend the narrow stairs we see it’s still only two thirty in the afternoon….. The IN GOWAN RING experience we get has been so brilliant for all the wrong reasons and we think that sometimes, something like this may be better in the long run than seeing loads of Fugazi sounding instrumentalists lined up against a wall waiting to force you into some of the head-shaking,body lurching we’re all to old for now. And then attempt to sell us all their T-shirts and CD’s. Anyone in this room for the opening band of the day would have woken up the following day (or three or four times during the night) content they witnessed this bonkers half an hour but would probably not wish to witness a second time. Unless like myself, they get home and listen to it in the background whilst laying down face downward, pressing it against the floor in the kitchen wondering what has life come to that allows a grown man to see over thirty gigs during an Autumn weekend in an unfamiliar city. I met Bee in the street later (he’s the guy I’ve just described as Neil from the Young Ones) and he’s a fab chap. I wanted him to look at the face of a man still deliriously happy who was so pleased to have seen something so ridiculously odd.
And yes, I know I have just dwelt on it rather a lot. And this is also why some of us leave the house.
ALPHA MALE TEA PARTY have a lot of hair and it’s shaking in the right direction thanks to a hairband requested by one of the members as we enter the MINT LOUNGE. LAKE OF SNAKES over at the SOUP KITCHEN include a saxophone, guitar, drummer and a man shouting at us and CHEAP JAZZ inside the hard to locate (and remember where it was again) AATMA are the first people we decide are worth saying hello to because we want a closer look to see if that really is a Royal Mail hat the bloke in charge (probably) is wearing (it is) and a Bros T-shirt (It isn’t). We’ll have a look at Cheap Jazz again in about six weeks time once a night in beckons and curiosity drives us towards YouTube, soundcloud or bandcamp. Ditto BABY BRAVE who we really enjoy as they appear to actually have some very decent noisy, catchy guitar driven tunes they’re belting out back at the SOUP KITCHEN where we hang around patiently after their set in order for the return (to us anyway) of EMBERS (Pic Below) who seem to have suspended their quest for world domination and Stadium appearances for over a year now making us want to interrogate these chaps as to why this is. It’s explained to this four piece that they are one of the reasons we’re here this weekend and why they are the prime example we use when telling music loving folk that they’d get as much enjoyment out of Embers than a fifty quid ticket to see someone like Muse from the back of a football ground. It’s the samples of choirs and the anthemic, uplifting tunes we cherish during their brief appearance that we admire and embrace. You need to see Embers. One bloke next to us actually mentioned ending the festival there and then after they’d performed “Part of the Echo’s” and we can see what the man means.
It’s the best song we’ll hear all day.
We go and see AXES (Pic; Below) who we’ve never heard of before, don’t even know who they are until we ask someone, think it’s a bit rubbish to begin with, then realise it’s absolutely instrumentally, crashingly, joyously fantastic.
We’re inside the NIGHT AND DAY CAFE and this instrumental thing we’re watching should not be work at all to be honest but it does. There’s a big crowd in here chanting along to songs that have no voice that go on and on and get better and better. There’s a spring in the steps of this four piece and it’s like watching all the good bits of Sonic Youth, all the breaks that Dinosaur Jnr stick in the middle or at the end of their songs, we start reminiscing about 1980’s indie heroes Big Flame and remember how brilliant we thought the singer was in ¡Forward Russia! last decade. What sets these apart is during the bits where you try to imagine vocals coming in we get twists, turns, stops and starts that are so unexpected and brilliant and it becomes very difficult to turn away. This is thrilling stuff and we do manage to grab them for a quick chat before they wheel-spin their tour van down Oldham Street on their way to Luxembourg for their next show.
Hannah Lou Clarke (Pic below) has a gorgeous sounding guitar and a drum machine that actually sounds like a drum machine and it looks like a toaster or something you’d expect to see on the Starship Enterprise dashboard. It’s like listening to Sharon Van Etten or Anna Calvi singing along to The Fat White Family. It’s ace and you need to hear this. Hannah’s songs have welcomed themselves into our lives now just by standing in this basement bar on a Saturday tea time and we carve another metaphorical notch on our headphone lead excited to be able to have been successful yet again by being in the right place at the right time today.
MOTHERS, who are from Widnes and not to be confused Mother (who are about to change their name) from London or Mother from Hull or Mother, the band my mates formed 34 years ago in an empty hairdressers shop in a small Essex High Street, are loud, heavy, driven by a brilliant drummer and tell us that whilst we’ve been experiencing what we have so far today, they’ve been to the Zoo and the Football.
BEST FRIENDS (Pic below) are the most radio friendly, University jukebox (which is something I’ve just made up) friendly outfit we see and hear all day. We’re reminded of the kind of bands the NME (Remember them?) would have casually thrown onto one of their showcase tours and already we envisage groups of mid to late teenage kids going mental to these one day at the front of Glastonbury’s John Peel Stage. They’ve already shared a stage with The Palma Violets recently therefore we imagine there’s a few people gearing up to collect this bands on line repertoire already.
So a swift look at WITCHING WAVES (catchy, sweet three piece with a singer we can’t see until we realise she’s also singing as she hammers the drums) in a very packed small room (THE CASTLE), KIRAN LEONARD (Twists, turns, goes at it alone whilst the rest of the band look on) IRAN IRAN (tight jerky, impossible to even tap your feet to) help us pass the time in an enjoyable fashion but MAYORS OF MIYAZAKI keep us enthralled for the entire time they perform (GULLIVERS). Dual male/female vocals, Fugazi style riffs that jerk around, twist and twirl and cause the bodies inside the room to lurch back and forth from one tune to another and bring us to yet again pat each other on the back to congratulate ourselves on another fortuitous find.
The only way to end day one of this is to go and see AK/DK (Pic below). Anyone in this tiny stage-less (once they get a stage inside TEXTURE this will be a lovely venue) room will have hit the pillow at the end of the day content in knowing they were in the right place. AK/DK have two drummers and a pile of electronics at arms length that turn this late night bar into an arms in the air rave for forty minutes. People at the back can’t see so in between tunes the duo introduce themselves to us whist standing on their drum stalls sacrificing the microphones a few feet below and shouting information to us before plummeting down to ground level in order to fill the room with fast hypnotic beats that fans of Battles, Fuck Buttons and Holy Fuck have taught us to love over the years. AK/DK, along with a couple of hundred other bands at our disposal in the UK at the moment are one of the greatest outfits we have here in the UK and catching this (again) in a tiny environment is something everyone should be looking to achieve whist they can.
And then we meet Mathew -who’s probably as sober as we are and during the brief conversation it’s noticeable how almost everyone around here seems to be saying hello and hugging him.
This type of event must surely be a nightmare to set up, but half way through it’s already an exciting thought that tomorrow we can all do this again.
Mathew and his merry army of men and women have made this look easy so far.
Bloody hell I made that fifteen gigs and the worrying thing is concerning ourselves with what we missed that others will be harping on about as much as this ? Like the Tuts. Oh well – perhaps another day ?