Surprises can be nice, such as finding an unlikely setting for a gig that works beyond expectation, and tonight’s events are such an occasion. Sam Duckworth is providing a contribution to the Noisestock Festival, an initiative that’s celebrating the art of protest. The People’s History Museum in Manchester is as significant a location as any, with the site of the Peterloo Massacre being not far away. There’s no massacre tonight, everything being conducted in a civil yet relaxed manner, even allowing alcohol to be purchased. The brick lined room is laden with all manner of items from the current exhibition entitled ‘The Art of Protest’, including a sign informing us that ‘The Plebs Are Coming’. Mind you, with notable contributors to the NOISEstock festival including Billy Bragg and Mark Thomas, I’m on the side of the plebs. To emphasise the informality of the event, chairs are missing and the relaxed atmosphere leads to a mixture of people sitting in small groups whilst others stand or lean against the walls. The performance featured songs from his Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. era, supplemented with other, later musical musings. At times Duckworth supported other artists on the line up such as Josiah Mortimer and Mushana, a female vocalist from London. Between songs, Duckworth outlines his personal political views. Coming from Southend via Burma, it’s pleasing to note that Duckworth doesn’t just ask the standard, “How’s Manchester tonight?” question, but is aware of local issues. He displays his pleasure that the last elected BNP Councillor has gone, losing his seat from the nearby area of Oldham. The standout moments are when he is accompanied by the violinist, Tristan Parsons. The tall, open spaces of the venue lend themselves well to allowing the mixture of guitars, violins and voices being crisply delivered. Each song is received in silence and rewarded with warm applause. When he recites “Tired of the sound? / Don’t let it get you get you down” from his GCWCF repertoire – ‘Once More With Feeling’ – the consensus is that the crowd isn’t and, for this evening, it hasn’t. Words & photography: Ged Camera.
Wednesday, 22 May 2013
Friday, 3 May 2013
XXYYXX (aka Marcel Everett) may have only turned 17 on Hallowe'en last year, but since the turn of the year has seen more of the world than many would have done by the age of 70. Having already trodden venues in Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand in 2013, he's currently plotting a path across Europe. In equal parts Bibio, Nicolas Jaar and Lapalux, Everett sits comfortably alongside some of the world's best beat-makers. His knack for kneading together subtly crafted samples has led to compiling a full album along with shorter EPs and remixes, selling out shows in his Orlando hometown and beyond, with the ensuing global attention, all while still being able to see daylight between his late teens and 20s. His is an often breathy, rustic distortion permeated by glitchy minimalism and shot in shadowy sepia, but with occasional deft nods to anyone from Flying Lotus to James Blake, Shlohmo to Shigeto. Most like fellow production prodigy Jaar, though, his default synthetic lilts often glide through the downtempo realm; music to drift to rather than dance to (see 'About You'), but can equally raise the bpm to Boiler Room level. He's being joined on this European leg of the tour by fellow US soundwave-makers Giraffage, Beat Culture and Slow Magic - all with promising recordings to their name, including Giraffage's collaborative jam with XXYYXX, 'Even Though', and the Slow Magic / Beat Culture combo effort, 'Once'. Words: Ian Pennington.
We have a pair of tickets for the Manchester show on 17th May at NQ Live, Tib Street. To enter the competition, just like and share this gig poster that we've shared via our Facebook page.Here is the event info, and here is the ticket link.
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
Well turned out for a mid-month Thursday in a disappointingly dismal April, Soup Kitchen laid host to the Manchester's Mount Fabric supporting their Parisian counterparts Team Ghost. A relative stranger to both bands and almost duped by an erroneous set times poster, it was all the more pleasing to see a support band capitalising early on their slot with such poise and confidence. As Mount Fabric's opener came to a ferocious conclusion, with yelping vocals reminiscent of The Faint and a well balanced sucker punch of reverb crashing against the audience, complimentary murmurs could be heard seeping through the crowd. Throughout their five song set there was a noticeable stylistic shift in their new material, from the typically explosive, driving post-rock of 'Curves and Corners' to latest single 'Heuristic Fits', which lacks quite the same angular nature, ending up like a Horrors B-side, but without the hook. The tendency to drench the vocals of the new material in layers of effects actually does somewhat of an injustice to the outrageously good, falsetto voice of frontman Alex Marczak, his natural soaring tones having a much more euphoric impact when not distorted beyond recognition. The dreamier, electronic tinged, mid-set tracks were proficient enough, but it was the moody, combustible moments of the finale which brought back the rapturous applause and animated discussion we had first heard amongst the audience. Team Ghost were swift to follow suit. Buoyed by some home support in the crowd, they rifled through a number of tracks from last year's Dead Film Star EP; psychedelic-pop worn on a synthesized sleeve. Former M83 man Nicolas Fromageau's lyrics full of woe, tragedy and passion, intertwined with Placebo-esque sonic distortions and noisy brooding chords. The songs are tightly bound bringing a visceral, unpretentious alt-pop punch embodied by 'Dead Film Star' itself, but at other times it can come across relentless and draining. Although the improvised mid-track harmonisations between Nicolas and keyboard player Benoit de Villeneuve showed an intimate relationship and a cocksure confidence and swagger, Fromageau's limited vocal timbre was at times lost in the mix; his dulcet Parisian tones drowned out by those of his arguably stronger fellow musicians with a regularity suggesting this is not accidental. There is undoubted potential here – the oblique, droning 'Curtains' hurtled towards a wonderfully violent conclusion but it seems that Fromageau and Co are still finding the perfect balance and structure to truly reap the benefits of their respective talents. Words: Dan Coultas. Team Ghost photo, top: Emma Le Doyen.
Thursday, 18 April 2013
Tonight we embark on a twisted voyage through the warped psyche of Scottish peculiarists Galoshins. It’s jazz, but not as we know it. No laboriously self-absorbed solos or needlessly fidgety fretboard twiddlery, but a wonderfully involving and upbeat rampage across the realms of funk, rock and electro, with a delightful and disorientating dash of glitch to melt what remains of your fleeting sanity. Backstage the befuddlingly talented drummer can be seen giving lessons to supporting acts - dressed appropriately as an African priest - whilst onstage their chemistry burbles with the madness of a shamanic vision quest, the wide-eyed keyboard/vocalist egging on an enraptured and boisterous audience. It ought be mentioned that never before have I been hit with such simultaneous bouts of dancing and laughter, as the comic undertones of the three-piece’s performance lift them leagues above most of their jazz contemporaries. Gasping and perspiring, they finally succumb to the rambunctious demand for an encore, and we’re plunged into yet another wormhole of majestic sonic turbulence; the cacophonic clamour of keys, strings and drumskins bombinating the skeletons of all within range. It’s a mind-bending ruckus, sometimes soaring, sometimes bewildering, but always fun. And that’s what we came here for, right? Words: Tom Richardson.
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Simon Joyner is someone who has been critically acclaimed by the likes of John Peel and Conor Oberst, yet has a relatively low profile in the UK. Within the US – in particular his hometown area of Omaha, Nebraska – he has been known to organise tours on the basis of playing a gig in someone’s house in return for a bed for the night. That type of approach will have prepared him for the intimate surroundings of Kraak. He has also taken a similarly unorthodox, and some may say financially limiting, approach to releasing his new record, Ghosts, which is in the vinyl format only. He announces proudly on his website that, “No digital technology was used in making this record,” although digital downloads are available. There’s just about enough space for all six members of the band on the Kraak stage, with the drummer standing to one side whilst the pedal steel guitarist, Mike Friedman, has to be heard rather than seen, but it’s the sound that counts and it is a rather glorious. Supplemented on some numbers by Megan Siebe, who plays agreeably violent violin, the style is very much located within the Americana genre, comprising of slow burning stories that develop and build to carefully created climaxes. Wearing what appears to be a Stetson hat, Joyner leads from the front and that may be the one area in need of attention, as his occasionally flat and dry delivery, in the manner of a low-key Nick Cave, can seem at odds with the pristine sound. There are a lot of biblical references (“When you’re in pain / sing Hallelujah”) along with some intriguing word play (“I can barely carry / never mind bury / the past”). When the rousing choruses are reached it almost seems like summer is around the corner. Almost. Words & photography: Ged Camera.
Monday, 8 April 2013
Just as a flame seems to flicker more brightly towards the end and the wick folds into the remnants of the wax, the club event that Underachievers Please Try Harder has used to light up both the live music and club night atmosphere of Manchester is slowly drawing to a much regretted close. Like George Best, you might as well go out leaving fond memories, and the best wishes of those who have taken part in the event, behind. So let’s enjoy the fare that Dave and Kirsty have laid on for us. First up is Letters To Fiesta, who feature the pure, clear voice of Anna-Louisa Etherington. Her performance resembles an intelligible version of Liz Frazer, who fronted the Cocteau Twins. Strong yet delicate, the vocals seem to frame how their set is delivered. Whilst her voice is the first thing that grabs attentions, the musical detail supplied by Tom Brydon (guitar), Andy Fletcher (bass) and Daniel Houghton (drums) provides a splendid platform to work from. Ethereal in tone and subtle in delivery, they could be Sigur Ros on steroids. The band is being hailed as the latest in a long line of outfits to emerge from Manchester, and as the next band that must be twittered about. Yet, like the other band on the bill, they've been making music for several years – albeit with slightly differing line-ups. This overnight recognition of abilities seems to take several years. On tonight’s performance that opinion seems justified. Let’s hope they are allowed the time and space to flourish. So it's onto to the very danceable tunes of Kid Canaveral who have travelled down from Scotland. I hope they weren't swayed by the fact that Manchester is closer to the equator and as a result it will be warmer than their nominal home base of Edinburgh. It’s a pity that the weather outside cannot match the warmth of their sounds. By now there's now a large crowd in the Roadhouse some of whom are waiting for the club night to start rather than catching the bands. It could have been a challenging occasion for Kid Canaveral, but it wasn't. From the front David MacGregor guides the four-piece through a merry romp, armed with a repertoire of instantly catchy songs. Quickly they have a core of dancers in front of them and the smiles on people’s faces are enough indication of how well they’ve been received. Words & photography: Ged Camera.
Tuesday, 26 March 2013
JB Shorts always provides an interesting mix-up of styles and approaches, and none more so than on this, its ninth outing. Although there is diversity in setting and mood among the plays, from police training and first dates to breakdowns and bonhomie, there are some common themes. Technology, and the frustration with it, comes up several times, as does the role of the writer; two of the six plays deal directly with the struggle of writing. But, as always in this short format, simple stories with emotional truths make for the best work. Blind Date covers old ground – dating – in a way that makes it seem new. In this two-person play, writer Dave Simpson looks at dating for people with low self-esteem, who are trying to make the best of what they see as a bad hand. We already know that people exaggerate when they meet online, and that meeting someone new can be a stomach swirling experience, but the innocence and directness of the two characters cuts away preconceptions, and reveals the humanity behind looking for love. It deals with the topic in a humorous, but melancholic, way. Susan McArdale and Will Travis are funny and likeable as the two would-be lovers, while director Alice Bartlett makes use of some wonderful transitional scenes to hold it all together. A very good play, indeed. Old, New, Borrowed And Blue is at the other end of the love spectrum, set moments before a wedding is due to take place. The main characters are two sisters, one of whom is about to get married, while the other thinks it is all a big mistake. They cover their family history and the trajectory of their lives as each tries to convert the other to her point of view. Samantha Power is excellent as the bride-to-be, dishing out some very intense glares and stares without being over the top. The play also manages to do something very tricky in 15 minutes, which is to have a twist that is not obvious yet not unexpected and, hardest of all, not contrived. As alluded to already, two of the plays deal with the difficulties of being a writer and expressing yourself creatively. Are We Cool sends up late night review programs like Newsnight Review in a way that, while entertaining, does not cover new ground. The jokes of writer James Quinn gained the cast some of the biggest laughs of the night, but the play descends into farce for no good reason. In a similar vein, The Script plays on a fairly familiar idea that ‘luvvies’ end up destroying the thing they set out to create, namely by ignoring the writer. Again, the play is funny in parts, and very well performed, but it is too easy a target. The remaining two plays struggle with the parameters of JB Shorts. 15 minutes is not a long time for a play, and the set and staging are inherently limited. Zeroes And Ones deals with a man having a temporary breakdown, and conveys the stress of family life very well, but some of the speeches about the evils of technology seem a bit sluggish, and there is simply not enough time to deal with so many conflicting and difficult issues. Baaji On The Beat, on the other hand, needs more focus and a more believable set up, as it quickly descends into silliness. As ever, some moments are brighter than others, but the overall quality of the six 15 minute plays is excellent, and JB Shorts continues to be something to look forward to in the theatre calendar. Words: Andrew Anderson. Images: courtesy of Joshua Brooks.
Monday, 25 March 2013
Outside of their annual Sounds From The Other City stage shares, the last time the Mind On Fire and This City Is Ours music promotion squads teamed up was just over three years ago, booking a little known ambient production duo back when you thought Mount Kimbie was an obscure summit in the Rockies and dubstep was barely grazing music’s collective consciousness, nevermind under consideration for a 'post-' tag. Now Then was also around back then, in blog form, and here’s what we said. The two have belatedly fused their musical minds and monikers once more and in a stroke of inordinately uncanny accident, the week of their follow-up show has coincided with the announcement of Mount Kimbie’s sophomore LP, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth. Paul White is the next headliner they’re fast-tracking to further fortune. I won’t lie, at first his name sounded like the indifference provoking hybrid of a professional snooker player from the 1980s and a smart casual fashion label. But I’ve been told that my own name sounds somewhere between middle management bureaucrat and trainee accountant, and perhaps some other occupations associated with service sector drudgery, so who am I to talk? Maybe we could both do with boarding the good ship pseudonym until such assumptions burn out. Or we could both embrace our appellations; I'll find a steady and unremarkable 9 to 5, and he'll be stitching the latest line of snazzy waistcoats and bow ties in no time. There we'll both be, our roads never to cross, living out predetermined paths through to the epitaph. But I digress. Do a little digging and his name pops up everywhere. His production credits go back more than five years and he’s recently supplied a rework of Seaming’s ‘Vertigo Billy’ for her Ronseal simplicity inspired remix album, entitled The Remix Album. Diplo (whose Mad Decent label is under fire from the plagiarism police for failing to credit Plastic Little’s “do the Harlem Shake” vocal origin on Baauer’s YouTube indebted hit) has declared that he is “his biggest fan,” placing himself at the front of a queue of music industry admirers that includes trend setting disc jockeys Mary Anne Hobbs and Gilles Peterson. A fascination with obscure psychedelic records is evident in Paul White & The Purple Brain, an LP released via Stones Throw offshoot Now Again Records and dedicated entirely to samples of Swedish multi-instrumentalist and guitar FX pedal champion ST Mikael – whose own cosmic exploration has crossed sonic paths with Dungen’s Reine Fiske. More recently, White’s compositions have edged closer to hip hop, working with MCs such as Homeboy Sandman, Jehst and Danny Brown on Rapping With Paul White – an album with a diversity exemplified by the appearance of the North West harpist Nancy Elizabeth reciting a poem through stifled laughter. It’s a strong CV for a Manchester first-timer, and on Friday he’ll be wearing yet another hat. This show introduces his new live trio alongside drummer Mo Kolours and saxophonist Tenderlonious, so expect all of the above (barring the snooker threads) with added jazzy dexterity. Words: Ian Pennington. Paul White poster art by Dead Pheasant. Mount Kimbie poster art by Mike Newton, Herbal Sessions.
Paul White headlines Kraak Studio on Friday 29th March. Support comes from Manchester’s Ape Cult and Danny Drive Thru. Sounds From The Other City takes place on Sunday 5th May, with the This City Is On Fire stages across both floors in The Kings Arms.
Sunday, 17 March 2013
This month The Cornerhouse plays host to the 19th ¡Viva! Spanish and Latin American Film Festival, transporting audiences away from the grim, grey streets of Manchester and into a world filled with the spice and colour of Spanish culture. From the get-go, however, ¡Viva! demonstrates how Spanish and Latin American identity is made up of much more than just pure fun and frivolity. Yoshua Okón’s video installation, Octopus (2011), in Gallery 1 reminds us of the incredibly dark undercurrent that has plagued life in Guatemala since its civil war in the 1980s. The performance itself is a re-enactment of this civil war, with the performers made up of those who were forced to fight. There is one major difference, however. The old battleground of Guatemala is instead replaced by a new one: the carpark of a Home Depot in LA. The war itself claimed over 200,000 victims, most of whom were Mayan Indians, in an attempt by Guatemala’s military leaders to eliminate the leftwing guerrilla uprising that threatened the existence of the country’s rightwing dictatorship. Rather than use graphic imagery to draw attention to the sheer barbarity of the civil war, Okón uses satire to demonstrate how these atrocities were not only ignored by the Western world, but actively promoted. Okón’s positioning of the piece in a Home Depot, a physical embodiment of American capitalist society, points to the controversial relationship between Guatemala and America. Reagan’s administration in America helped support the oppressive totalitarian regime in Guatemala by approving the sale of $6.36 million worth of military arms to its genocidal dictator, Efrain Rios Montt. Okón explores this through a layer irony, which is achieved using a complex system of camera angles and perspectives, projected into an almost 360 degree environment, completely immersing you in the action. The accompanying piece in the gallery, US (2005), has a similar tone of to it. It is a single-channel four minute animation which consists of a solid gold monument of the letters ‘US’ towering above Washington, DC. The letters revolve on the spot and appear to act as some sort of shrine to either the American dream or corporate greed, the difference between the two being perhaps too close to separate. The premiere screening of the festival’s launch night was ¡Atraco! (which translates as Hold-Up!), directed by Eduard Cortés. The film explores the real life events which led to an attempted jewellery shop robbery in Madrid during the 1950s. In an elaborate plot, akin to that of the Ocean’s Eleven series, two Argentine Peron loyalists attempt to steal back jewels which had been previously pawned to fund their leader’s time in exile. The reason for wanting the jewels was that they now risked falling into the hands of the Spanish dictator General Franco’s wife, having been previously owned by Argentina’s first lady Eva Peron. Still with me? Despite its complexity, the film is undoubtedly an audience pleaser, with the two robbers in question truly stealing the show (cough, no pun intended). Guillermo Francella and Nicolás Cabré perform their roles as Merello, the exasperated veteran, and Miguel, hapless sidekick, down to a tee. In fact, the best moments of the film come when both characters argue and engage with each other in a quick-fire comedic way, re-enforcing their roles as experienced pro and naive first timer. One of the funniest running gags throughout the film was how both of these Argentines managed to wrestle with the task of pretending to be Spanish in order to not arouse suspicion. In one scene, in which Miguel tries to rehearse the robbery, Merello tells him to be more Spanish and shout “bollocks” when he walks into the store. This, of course, goes about as well as you can expect, provoking a greater amount of laughter than it does terror. Ultimately, it’s the fine balance between comedy and tragedy which makes ¡Atraco! such a captivating film to watch. Through his direction, Cortés has managed to create a film which is warm, charming and enjoyable, and yet also makes us question the true meaning of loyalty, family, friendship and brotherhood. Words: Joseph Barratt. Images: courtesy of The Cornerhouse. The 19th ¡Viva! Spanish and Latin American Film Festival continues at The Cornerhouse until Sunday 24 March, 2013.
Friday, 15 March 2013
George Best was one of the most brilliant sportsmen of his era, a man possessed of natural talents coupled to good looks and charm. He was the first celebrity athlete, in the sense that his fame eventually had nothing to do with the game that he played, and everything to do with his personality and lifestyle. He was a storybook hero, a boy from the streets of Belfast made good, beating the rest of the world and getting the girl(s). But, like so many heroes, he had an Achilles heel. Best's was drink. 'The Best' is a lost script by writer Jack Rosenthal that was recently discovered in the archives, and has now been adapted for the stage by Ian Winterton. The play follows George Best through the twilight years of his career, once the glory was over and he was merely a journeyman footballer. It deals with many complicated issues, but all of them have a common source: self destruction through drinking. The question that the play grapples with is why; why would a man who has it all need to drink? The subject is tackled through group interrogation while Best is trying to dry out in an American clinic. His fellow patients shout, swear and berate him, always asking him why: why would you hurt your wife? Why are you throwing your talents away? Why can't you be happy? Of course, there are no simple answers, and if there is one thing I took away from 'The Best' it is that addiction has many parents. No one thing causes someone to drink, and no one thing can cure them. Benjamin Patterson as George Best was presented with a difficult task; to be charming, troubled and somewhat of a bastard all in just over an hour. He succeeded admirably, managing to portray red-eyed bleariness, raging self hatred and impish charm. Charlotte Dalton, as the long-suffering Mrs Best, was certainly believable, if not quite as engaging as Patterson. The cast as a whole was strong, with a notable comic performance coming from Sinead Parker as Best's mother. Even the difficult issue of the cast performing much of the play in American accents did not prove a problem; never jarring, if not quite hitting every note. The set was simple, with white walls invoking a changing room and a clinic. You could almost smell the disinfectant, mixed with the sweat of a used football shirt. The compact nature of the Lass O' Gowrie was perfect for representing the claustrophobia of a rehab clinic, the pressure of being hunted by the paparazzi and the shuttered world of an addict. The direction never got in the way of the story, allowing the dialogue – and there is a lot of dialogue in 'The Best' – to be heard. A few flourishes, such as repeated crowd chanting of “Georgie”, by the entire cast, strobe-lighting that imitated flash-bulbs and a projection of the real George Best scoring a goal, added to the immersive quality of the play. For a script written almost thirty years ago, the issues dealt with in 'The Best' are surprisingly modern. Sportspeople, particularly footballers, are now personalities first and athletes second, and George Best was the first of their breed. Private lives have become public, with dozens of magazines and TV channels devoted to tracking the every move of ‘celebs’. 'The Best' asks the question: why did George Best drink?, but it ends up revealing something more disturbing. With that much adulation, that much pressure and that much temptation, drinking yourself to death suddenly seems like a reasonable response. Don't be surprised to see 'The Best' touring soon as it is very strong play, well performed, with effective staging and direction. Words: Andrew Anderson. Posters: Anthony Dry. Photo: Simon Lee.