The Laboratory Project is a North West music label, headed by the former Operations Director at Ministry of Sound, Tony Rigg. The basement venue of Factory 251 in Manchester provided the perfect atmosphere to showcase exactly what the North West of England has to offer in alternative music and Samuel Mercer went along to check them out.
Artists from across the region were present last Saturday, offering music specially selected for the Laboratory Project‘s upcoming album Taste Masters 4, as well as material unheard before and exclusively for the dedicated fans that attended the event.
Local bands like The Riviera brought an atmosphere of great expectation to the gig and did not disappoint. The young band of Mancunians combined to deliver powerful vocals and an independent sound, feeding from the huge home support.
From the youthful to the experienced, bigger groups like China White pummelled the audience with their own brand of alternative music, incorporating guitars, symbols and bongo drums in a way that has never been seen before. Described by Rolling Stones producer Danny Saber as “… the most exciting, edgy band I have worked with since Black Grape,” it is easy to imagine the atmosphere they generated in the smoky Manchester venue.
However, having followed one group from their very beginning my interest lay in the performance of two musicians originating from Warrington. If You Like To Dance have shown themselves to be a band of unrelenting growth, continuing to increase their profile and success in a very short time period. They featured in The Huffington Post and had their most popular track ‘Skin and Bone’ aired on BBC Radio 1. Understandably, the band’s first EP We Do Things Differently Here was eagerly anticipated by their growing fan base.
Eager to impress on Taste Masters 4, IYLTD were the source of electrifying vocals and an unmistakable sound at Factory 251. Having instantaneously captivated the attention of the crowd, and amazed me in the speed of their maturation as artists, I caught up with them afterwards for their thoughts on the event.
“Events like this one are a really important platform for bands like us. It means a lot to get a good reception from a crowd somewhere with the musical heritage Manchester has! The bands that played alongside us at the launch night- and the other bands on the Taste Masters album too- are really the best that the North West has to offer. There was a brilliant eclecticism about the launch night.”
After demonstrating their appreciation for the other artists involved, I asked more about their performance, and what it means for the future of IYLTD.
“We opened with ‘Skin & Bone’, the track that was featured on Radio 1, which was possibly a bold move seeing as it’s probably our most recognised song. We wanted to make a move like that though, to prove that we have more to offer and we can hold an audience’s attention with our newer stuff too.”
“There was an assortment of really new and really old tracks in that set list but I’m most excited about the song we closed with, ‘I Know the Way You Work’. It’s going to be on our next EP, which we’re working on now.”
“This year, for us, is about raising our profile, building our fan base and generally taking things to the next level. We feel like our song writing has progressed a huge amount since the first EP, so we want the live show to reflect that and we want to keep playing events like Taste Masters where we can reach a new audience. Onwards and upwards really!”
In reviewing this event for Louder than War, my experience with The Laboratory Project was one of many great alternatives. Considered a social phobic, a late night event in Manchester is not an activity I am normally associated with. Similarly, my journalistic portfolio is crammed with political analysis and scrutiny and so music is an alternative subject of my efforts. But the alternative material on offer in Manchester showed that there is much greater hope in music than there is in politics.
All words by Sam Mercer. This is Sam’s first piece for Louder Than War. A collection of his political writing can be found here.