My Tiger My Timing, Eleanor Lou, Daniel Land & The Modern Painters, Insect Guide, Air Cav - In The City 2009- 17th-20th October 2009

Simon Catling & Abbas Ali 25/10/2009

Once an intense industry-driven environment, where bands from UK-wide headed nervously into Manchester in the knowledge that if they didn't get signed here then they might as well forget about it; In The City has changed somewhat in the last couple of years. “The Biz'” are now possessed with the reluctant knowledge that no one really likes giving them money anymore; so much so, in fact, that this year sees the Midland Hotel HQ feature a keynote speech from a member of the Swedish Pirate Party. How about that for walking into the lion's den? Nevertheless, though, the event still acts as a thriving weekend for humble gig goers such as myself; eager to see the latest hot bands before they get their debut album uploaded onto Spotify. Or something. This being my third year; I once again foolishly laughed in the face of the likelihood that seeing over 30 acts in the course of just four days would render me a twitching, sleep-deprived shell of a man; prone to shouting out burbled new sub-genres long after the venue had packed up and gone home. As usual, ITC had the last laugh...

October 17th- A fringe cut

Ok, so it may not start officially until tomorrow, but one of the great things about this weekend is that Manchester's own promoters come out of the woodwork, throwing free gigs about for all and sundry like Rapidshare links. Tonight, I find myself at Centro for what is increasingly becoming a GIITTV favourite- Mark Jones' Revue night. Throwing off his compare shackles, the curly-haired promoter decides to get in on the action himself tonight; and when that action involves his band Air Cav playing a raucously enjoyable half hour set, then that's more than enough justification for him to stretch his wings. It's been a while since these ears heard the melodic folk-gaze of the four-piece and their towering crescendos and euphoric energy remains as infectious as ever. It's a solid line up all-round to be fair. Nomad Jones returns, after a year away, with some new tunes; his soaring vocals pushing far and beyond Centro's intimate basement surroundings. Insect Guide, meanwhile, hark back to the experimental underbelly of New York's 1960s scene. Playing amidst a backdrop of queasy screen projections; the Leeds duo fuse Velvet Underground cool with the sort of nu-gaze that seems ever so popular these days. Taking top plaudits, however, are the serenely powerful Daniel Land & The Modern Painters; a five-piece who base their gently rumbling structures on post-rock foundations, before extending skyward in a manner reminiscent of Spiritualized. It's the unassuming nature of it all that so grabs you though, songs gradually morph into unstoppable beasts, shifting in such a way to make it seem like they never shifted at all. This may just be an initial dip into ITC09, but Daniel Land & The Modern Painters have already etched themselves firmly in the memory, no matter what else happens over the next couple of days.

October 18th (Afternoon)- The madness begins

So here we go, for real this time. The shop window has opened and the acts have started spreading their legs wide open; it's not always a comfortable atmosphere at an ITC gig, such is the audience shift throughout a mere half an hour set- executive types pop their head in for a song, photographers dash in for a handful snaps before dashing out again, writers compete to see how many bands they can pigeonhole into new and existing genres- that you sometimes feel that people have forgotten the point of live music: enjoyment. I'm no less guilty of course; the next few hundred words will most likely seem as hastily shambolic as my desperate stumbles around Manchester checking off bands were; so at least the Bay Horse's afternoon Country Club showcase allows both you and me a gentle start to proceedings. I see four acts here so there's no need to start the mad dash about town just yet. Darren Clinton is midway through his set when I arrive; one of the more forgettable sets of ITC in truth, though he seems to have gone down well with the twenty or souls who were already here.

Who I'm here for is the lovely Eleanor Lou. Part Patti Smith, part affecting folk; the dark-haired Manchester singer captivates a gradually increasing crowd. Whilst her songs don't deal with subjects that stray too far from the norm, the attitude and steely-eyed determination that lie behind tales of relationship break-ups and unconventional romance are instantly alluring. A cover of 'Animal Nitrate' would be done better with a full band, but it's an overall enthralling performance that deserves a far more exalted stage than a sleepy basement in a Northern Quarter pub.

Andy Needham struggles to hold the crowd in the same way, despite seemingly having brought most of them along with him. It's only when he adds a band behind him that he hits his stride, with gently meandering Turin Brakes-leaning tunes that don't mind taking their time to reach their intended crescendo. In comparison to Needham's fully accompanied efforts, Kathryn Edwards brings along only a violinist for support. It's all she needs, though; switching between accordion and acoustic guitar herself, she manages the impressive feat of bringing a now full room of A&R types, fellow acts and the odd smattering of curious musos to silence with angelic, but deceptively powerful, vocals and a northern wit that seeps into her songs (announcing the subject of one to be about “creepy men”). It's at this point though that I realise an afternoon of dreamy folk, as lovely as it is, isn't going to leave me in much of an alert mood for the rest of the evening. Time to stretch the limbs; it's rambling time.

Next port of call is the Nexus Art Café for a wee sample of the Same Teens & Artrocker Showcase. Another basement venue (Manchester's full of them), Nexus is somewhat odd in that they don't serve alcohol; not necessarily a bad thing, it certainly makes for a pleasant atmosphere seeing people sitting around eating cake and drinking cups of tea instead of chucking plastic pint glasses about. You suspect though that London's Wild Palms were hoping for a bit of a more frenetic cauldron with which to sink their synth-driven post-punk into. If any city knows about post-punk it's Manchester, and in many ways the four-piece come across as a North Western band, only stopping short when it comes to front man Lou Hill who throws himself about with the cock sure confidence of a man who's spent many a night in and around the capital's toilet circuit. There's something tired about their brand of Gang Of Four indebted tunes, though; a sense of 'seen it all before'.

My Tiger My Timing, by contrast, provide an initially exciting buzz. Although routed in the same early 80s roots as their onstage predecessors, the female fronted Southerners mix it up with afrobeat percussion and group vocals- rarely is one voice left unsupported- putting them more in line with Talking Heads than the aforementioned Gang of Four. Disappointment only creeps in when they fail to vary too much on their snare-heavy rhythms. A good sound, now how can they subvert it?

Photo of Daniel Land & The Modern Painters, Live at In The City by Cath Aubergine.

GIITTV@In The City Parts TWO and THREE coming this week.