In The City reviews

by Tom Kerswill on October 11th, 2005
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At the beginning of each October, thousands of A&R types descend on the city of Manchester to talk about all things music-related. In the evening, it becomes a great place to see music – as pretty much every possible venue becomes host to local and international bands.

Choosing which to go and see is always a tricky business. Things kicked off on Friday the 30th. My top choice was to see up-coming band Fleeing New York, followed by Eighties Matchbox… but as is often the case in Manchester, it had started bucketting with rain.

A queue formed outside Dry Bar in the Northern Quarter, and it soon became clear that the event would sell out, with us not making it inside. So we went to nearby Night and Day – which is a well-respected venue for new music.

In there we caught sets from Tricky Nixon, Children, and 3rd Dan. There were some good, tight performances. But something about a room full of record company types, and a pressurised atmosphere, took a bit of getting used to. And though the bands were good, there were no really memorable tunes to speak of. It’s hard to put your finger on what makes a good atmosphere, but in Night and Day there was certainly something a bit tense or hectic which didn’t add to the night.

The next afternoon we returned to Night and Day to gatecrash an industry party to celebrate the launch of a new Manchester XFM. It had a free bar. Much fun indeed!

But in the evening I decided to try somewhere a bit different. The Font Bar – which was free to get into – played host to the best acts from local Indie label Fat Northerner. There was some really good stuff, and the atmosphere was superb. Also met quite a few people I’d talked to the night before… turns out it’s a surprisingly small community of people who enjoy discovering good music.

There was also the chance to natter briefly to some of the guys behind Fat Northerner – and it restored my faith in the music scene here to know that there are people actively pushing new or innovative music.

There was a huge amount of other good music happening – and my own experience was probably a bit atypical. On Sunday I headed to Jabez Clegg for an indie-style festival. It was pretty empty to start with – no A&R types out here – but the atmosphere soon built up. It’s a surprisingly large venue – and I reckon it would be pretty good if filled with some large headline acts. A lot of fun watching some of the acts on here.

Finally, Bedlam that evening played host to some fantastic acoustic acts – including Emmy the Great, Man from Cov and lastly “Son of Dave”. This last was an incredible performance. The guy beatboxes, plays harmonica, rattles a shaker, and sings – all at the same time. With the help of a couple of delay pedals he’d set the place on fire. Sounded like a full deck and a drum machine to me – but no, all those beats had really come from his mouth. Has to be seen to be believed really.

A good end to the festival for me. Monday’s technically the last day… but instead I chose to wonder around Manchester, discovering random venues. Ended up going to Temple Bar and finally “Big Hands” with some mates. Both venues have supplies of interesting beers and – interestingly – are half-owned by the guys from Elbow.

Roll on next year!

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Categories: General, Gig reviews, Musicians News

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