Musical mayhem and wild wordsmithery is still very much alive, as Manchester and Salford show that their creative communities certainly have plenty in store for 2019. Here Louder Than War’s Emily Oldfield enjoys a ‘Manchester Meltdown’, SPEAK poetry night and Weimar’s upcoming double A-side release in what has already been a packed week.

Other items to perhaps look ahead to include Poetry Pop Jukebox Co-op No 2 at Gullivers (24th Jan), Manchester’s independent label Valentine Records returning with a very special evening at The Eagle (25th Jan), HEART of GLASS clubnight at The Peer Hat (26th Jan), Weimar’s single launch of the excellent John Doe/ Curse The Songs at The Eagle (1st Feb), The Gentle Scars at Night & Day Café (8th Feb), plus the awesome arrangement of Mesange/ Trianglecuts/The Bear Around Your Neck on the 9th February at Fuel, Withington.

Plus one that I can’t possibly miss out on… GNOD with Japanese Television and Errant Monks at The Peer Hat (21st Feb)! The upcoming evening hosted by Birds on a Wire (Georgina Robinson and Jo Lowes) bringing new gigs to Manchester’s Alphabet Brewery, is also an inspiring prospect – taking place on Feb 23rd featuring Winachi Tribe, ARGH KiD, SWJ Group, Pagans SOH and Karl Hildebrandt (already excellently previewed by Louder Than War’s Wayne Carey, here).
But here’s how the last week unfolded…

Manchester Meltdown 3
Taking place every Wednesday evening in January at Manchester’s The Peer Hat, the ‘Manchester Meltdown’ series of gigs (presented with thanks to Ian ‘Moet’ Moss, Bob Osborne, Victoria Egan, German Shepherd Records) are an opportunity to see gripping grassroots music which is unafraid to push the parameters of experimentation… and refreshingly so! Wednesday 16th featured Four Candles, (Std) Model, Poppycock and the first live debut of Saturn Mansions… one of the most varied line-ups yet, allowing for an evening of adventuring through genres, volume and vibrancy.

Four Candles served up a set hot and heavy in both humour and heft: intelligent post-punk projections of excellently observed occurrences, wielded with a whomp of guitars, bass and gripping drums to match. (Std) Model is the solo acoustic act of Tim Miller, a far-travelling singer-songwriter whose adventurous anecdotes ambled into creative, rather confessional tunes. Then followed the impressive Poppycock, a collection of musicians and artists brought together by Una Baines (The Fall, Blue Orchids), incensing the crowd with their wild washes of psych-edged sound, hot harmonies and kaleidoscopic keys – delivering a wonderfully varied set with warm energy and emotion. Finally came the debut of Saturn Mansions, presenting a progressive exploration through sound: a rocky blend of guitars and bursting, expressive vocals underpinned by some of the most eloquent guitar-work I have heard in The Peer Hat basement. Another wonderful night at Manchester Meltdown… get down to next week’s if you can!

Photos with thanks to Victoria Egan

SPEAK – the 2nd birthday
Manchester’s much-loved poetry night, SPEAK – hosted by Rosie Fleeshman and Alex Slater and based at Jimmy’s in the Northern Quarter – celebrated its second birthday on Thursday 17th January; and testament to that, it was one of most packed poetry evenings I have seen in a long time… and packed with a real joy, not just numbers. Deservedly so. SPEAK deserve the recognition for being a progressive, forward-thinking night not just of entertainment, but an active passion for creativity – of all abilities.

Humorous and witty hosting is combined with a crafted arrangement which allows 10 poets per session to take to the open mic (followed by a ‘headliner’): and space every week reserved for SPEAK ‘first timers’. The 2nd birthday event amplified this, with speakers of all abilities taking to the stage and enjoyed by the extensive, yet respectful audience. Maintaining quiet and control of the room can be an area many poetry nights in bar environments struggle with, but the whole evening of SPEAK maintained a level of fuelled-up fun, encouragement and excitement, both hosts ensuring that every performer felt valued, with voluminous applause.

Lance Tranter delivered long-form poetry both sensitive and humorous, Georgina Pickstone followed with words warmed by real feeling, whilst Christopher Moore made an impressive combination out of inventive humour and eloquence. Channelling the mood of the room into one and wielding lines lashing in their social outcry, depth and expression was the impressive Helen Darby, whilst Frank Radcliffe-Adams covered intimate, intense themes of lived experience with real skill . Steph Lonsdale brought bold narratives enigmatically to life in her work, Joel Cordingly stunned the crowd with his vulnerable, visceral verse and Kinsman smashed out impressive poetry poignant in its social depth and celebration of Queer identity.
After a break, Sean Smith delivered deft lines in quick-paced layers, whilst Ruth Adamson aka ‘Wonky Wordsmith’ left a powerful impression with her wonderfully wordy, expressive and inventive exploration of disability and empowerment. Lewis James treated the audience to further eloquence and expression, before the final poet of the evening, headliner (and long-time supporter of SPEAK) Elise Hadgraft. Her words were something to savour, precisely measured poems pulsing with imagery of intense love and heartbreak, infused with a bristling dark humour.
Considering that during the course of the evening hosts Alex Slater and Rosie Fleeshman each performed a poem of their own too – Alex’s being an entertainingly animated berating of the loss of a black sock, whilst Rosie’s was a resonant tribute to Elise herself – this was a highly memorable evening. The 2nd birthday marks that SPEAK has succeeded not just creating a sense of supportive community around poetry, put continuing to pull in new readers and expanding audiences, sharing the love of poetry. Something the city should be proud of.
Photograph with thanks to Shay Rowan

An upcoming release from Weimar – John Doe/Curse The Songs
Weimar band
Weimar are a band bringing art rock flair together with intelligent, gradually unfolding lyrics which weave stories over an expressive guitar core. They are Aidan Cross (The Bacillus, Black Light Mutants), Johann Kloos (The Sandells, Erick), John Armstrong (The Speed of Sound) and Anthony ‘Eddy’ Edwards (The Deceased) – and their highly anticipated double A-side John Doe/Curse the Songs, is released in 1st February 2019, accompanied by a special launch gig at The Eagle Inn in Salford. Recorded in Salford itself and produced by Simon ‘Ding’ Archer (The Fall, Pixies, PJ Harvey, Bobbie Peru), the double A-side will be released by Weimar’s own label Marlene’s Hat in its physical form, and digitally by German Shepherd Records. Not only can gig-goers on 1st February enjoy an hour-long set from the band themselves, but guest appearances from Sticky Pearls, Dominic Carlton Jones and Geneviève L. Walsh. And for a taste of the tracks…

John Doe

A track which opens with beautiful plucked guitar, mood building with the slide of bass before those signature glistening guitar hooks come in – a feature of Weimar’s music I have come to love and crave. Weimar are a band which celebrate the storytelling capabilities of music, interweaving intelligent lyricism with resounding rhythms as we become acquainted with the character of ‘John Doe’…the embodiment of a concept many of us know all-too-well. The track creates catchiness without the cliché, energetic builds and bursts of beat and guitar, topped with undulating vocals for a tale which enchants and evokes.

Curse The Songs
‘Curse The Songs’ is a stand-out track of lush atmospheric build and gripping vocals immersed in echo and emotion. A wholly refreshing change from the variety of songs out there which seek to parody high-profile individuals and fall short of the mark, ‘Curse The Songs’ is excellently executed, navigating a whole narrative and impactful instrumentation to deliver an intelligent kind of outcry against those musicians who seem to swing far to the right in their older age. Building in energy, bringing together bolstering bass with a deft jangle of guitars and glistening edges to the sound, when combined with Aidan Cross’ expressive delivery, this makes for a track you will want to listen to, time-over. A band clearly capable of creating intelligent upbeat with topical and artful depths.

By Emily Oldfield

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