Hot Club de Paris, Everything Everything, Kong, Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, With That Knife - In The City Part 2
Simon Catling & Abbas Ali 28/10/2009
As In The City swings into full momentum, Abbas Ali is on hand to offer a welcoming cavalry to Simon Jay Catling's ailing legs…
October 18th (Evening)
SJC: So it's almost 7pm and I'm six acts down; not bad going and I've certainly earned my half-time Burger King; especially with a trek all the way down Oxford Road to the lovely, but somewhat out of the way, Deaf Institute up next. Much loved local Manchester music rag High Voltage have a showcase on tonight; kicking it off are previous GIITTV tips With That Knife. It's a shame that their blend of angular prog-meets-punk couldn't have found a place in the ITC hub of the Northern Quarter. Around fifty or so curious souls are in attendance to witness the five-piece make a mockery of a potentially challenging situation. 'Short' bristles with a furious post-hardcore lilt, whilst the groove-laden 'Pitchforks' is a twisting jolt to the stomach. Kudos for possessing easily the most amusing and affable onstage banter thus far as well.
AA: It's early evening and my ITC festivities are just beginning. Members of the public who have bought wristbands are mingling with jaded industry types, waiting to be impressed. One of the first acts of the 3 days are Radio One's favourites Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, presumably named after a tricky lesson in GSCE French, in which they didn't pick up the word 'piscine'. Unlike many of the acts over the coming days, they are signed and rapidly in the process of becoming an established name, with an album to come in November, and so the 4 piece North Londoners decided to head north and grace the tiny, cramped stage of Night And Day with their presence.
It turned out to be a gig that set the tone for much of the evening, in that their 'boys with synths' schtick was repeated throughout the night - evidently this is what major label A & R execs think the forthcoming year is about, and the only variation apparently lies in the execution. Thankfully, OELS did have charm and a sense of fun in their favour, and having supported the likes of La Roux, Mr Hudson and Reverend and the Makers, the live delivery to charm the punters in what is essentially a very tough gig.
First up was 'Jacksons Last Stand', and lead singer Charlie Haddon's energetic and forceful delivery, alongside cohort and fellow vocalist Khan gave their Pet Shop Boys sound a hip hop feel as they jumped about the stage, and walked up and down. With his shock of blond hair, and the fresh faced look of the front pairing, this made the act strangely reminiscent of East 17, or perhaps the Beastie Boys covering the Pet Shop Boys. Good or bad? You decide.
By OELSP's third song, a new number 'Better', described by Charlie himself, with his tongue firmly in cheek, as a 'love ballad', they had switched gears, and the result was like a footy hooligan getting in touch with his feelings and talking about his love for his bird. With another, more uptempo number, then breakup song 'The Key', singer Haddon said farewell on behalf of the band, and the Camden quartet finally ended proceedings with current hit single 'Dance The Way I Feel'. One suspects it's not the last we'll hear from those boys.......(although we'll hear slightly more disapproving take on them later in the conference.)
SJC: It soon becomes clear where everyone is. It's NME Radar's night in Night & Day (yup, we're back in the Northern Quarter, the reassuring thing about ITC is that no matter how much you drink you're sure as hell going to walk it off); interesting considering that just a few years ago they considered the event to be “pointless” . Anyway, amongst the clamour of hard-up record label types- the first gig where there seems to be a real throng of them- I catch a bit of Egyptian Hip-Hop. With, I'm told, a sprightly average age of 17 years old, they certainly look like the clichéd NME band with their tighter than tight jeans and au fait hairstyles. Yet there's no denying they kick up an impressive racket; danceable drumming and electro beats swirl around their manic onstage demeanour; you can almost feel an industry buzz. Filthy.
AA: I return to Night and Day to catch the end of Wolf Gang, expecting a 80s throwback synth-driven solo artist. On closer inspection, what I get is actually a 4 piece band with lead singer switching between the guitar and synth for various songs. The result generic 80s rock which may grow on me, but at the time is underwhelming. They end proceedings with forthcoming single 'The King And All His Men', which I do enjoy, reminding me as it does of 80s synth dudes like Nick Kershaw, no bad thing. For me, the jury is out on this guy. He may have the potential to appear to a wider audience than OELSP, who seem to be a band that kids will love. One thing's for certain. The nation's radio stations are going to be hit with huge tidal wave of 80s synth music. Damn you, La Roux.
SJC: Why on earth do I leave Night & Day early and stop off at shiny bar/club Space on the long trudge back up towards Deaf Institute? Possibly, owing to a combination of a few pints and a so far solid seven hours at the coalface, I've read the timetable wrong. And so, disappointingly, I'm met not by The Jessie Rose Trip, but by the dull-as-dishwater Orphan Boy; who do nothing at all to dissuade the misled notion that Manchester still relies on its Stone Roses/Oasis linearity for its new bands. Yuck.
Kong are Mancunian too; not that you'd have a fucking clue if you saw them. With face paint and handmade masks distorting their faces, they give off the air of the mentally unstable; a feeling only strengthened when front, erm, man Magpie gives a fan in the audience his guitar to hold, only to then splutter “nick it and I'll break your fuckin' legs”. It's dark humour right from the set of The League Of Gentleman; and the three piece provide a sadistically fun set to match. Huge, dumb riffs cascade down upon each other, whilst bassist Lulu sways back and forth as though contemplating whether to set himself on the crowd. We, for our part, are utterly enthralled and why shouldn't we be? A local band showing the rest how to put on a show; wouldn't advise everyone to follow their blueprint, mind…
AA: I decide to remain at Night & Day for the rest of the evening; Newcastle/Kent act Everything Everything make a surprise last minute inclusion to the bill at Night And Day, and I am befuddled by them. I'm not the only one, I think. I don't even know where to begin. There's something of the cod-African guitar work of Foals, the dissonant jerky beats of Aphex Twin, and the pop sensibility of Duran Duran in their song My KZ, UR BF. You can hear the North East influence of bands like The Futureheads and Maximo Park in there somewhere too, I think. It's too much for my ears to take in in one go, like a Friday night in 1984 refracted through the lens of some very strong drugs. They're signed to XL subsidiary Salvia, their first single 'Suffragette Suffragette' is out in November, they're easily the weirdest of tonight's synth wave, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Finally, the band I have been waiting for all night, Los Angeles' 5 piece Music Go Music. I've sort of fallen in love with their Myspace songs, with their perfect mixture of 70s disco influences, which come together to create pop perfection. Mostly, that means they sound almost exactly like Blondie, and I love Blondie, so I'm a happy boy. And somewhere in the bar, DJ and superstar producer Mark Ronson is watching, surely a celebriy endorsement that can do them no harm.
Resplendent in a white waistcoat and all black leotard, lead singer Gala Bell looks and wiggles a bit like Roisin Murphy, as the band crank into action with the first number 'I Walk Alone'. The combination of boy rock and girl vocals is intoxicating. If they ever get anywhere, I suspect Bell will have herself quite a few male (and probably many female) fans. They look like a band from LA, an odd, mismatched bunch with bassist (Torg) looking like Neil from the Young Ones, the guitarist looks like Neil Young after a hard night's drinking, and keyboardist Kamer Maza may have escaped from The Killers. This makes them very, very cool.
Sadly they ruin this by playing 'Light Of Love', which sounds a lot like Abba. And I hate Abba, because they sort of stole my first name and ruined Primary school for me. Thankfully Gala Bell smiles and shimmies like Karen O, and all is forgiven, and they take on the 60s psychedelia of Reach Out, which helps a lot, brilliant as it is. They end on the high note of their best song 'Caught In The Shadows' (video) , which boogies with the funk of a glitterball, extending it to triple dip on the wonderful chorus, augmenting it with some incredible guitar soloing, and the crowd, myself included, are up and dancing, hardened music journalist that I am. And if they can melt the heart of hardened industry bods on a night like tonight, Music Go Music can surely do anything.
SJC: It's left to Hot Club de Paris to bring my Sunday to a close; they don't come on till 11:30pm, though, and this reporter's getting more than a little tired. The Liverpool post-punkers add to the weariness by still sounding like they're going to stay in 2004 for the rest of their lives. Five years on and they can still be accurately described as The Futureheads without the tunes; ten years from now they'll still be playing the same 300-400 capacity venues, still making the same snide jokes about the music industry, and still finding themselves somewhat unloved by the music downloading public. Such are the perils of the music biz. It's 1:30am when I get home; two more days of this is going to be brutal.
Photo Ou Est Le Swimming Pool at Night & Day
Stand by for the last installment Part 3 of our report, from this year's In the City in Manchester.