The KBC, redcarsgofaster, Snow Fight in the City Centre, Bureau
Mike Caulfield 29/10/2006
Having just gotten back to a degree of normalcy following the recent invasion of the city centre by the Labour Party, Manchester is once again inundated by suited ladies and gentleman, this time from the music industry, albeit on a much lower level of security, without the road blocks and massive police presence.
Now in its 15th year, Manchester's answer to SXSW, In The City, once again plays host to some of the shining new artists and groups, with record labels and media pulp vying for everyone's attention by trying to out do one another with stellar line ups on offer.
The High Voltage label and fanzine is home to some of the most exciting, much talked about acts of recent times; if you haven't heard of some of the bands on their impressive roster, then you soon will, with Radio One slowly taking notice and the NME bursting with hyperboles to describe some of their recent releases. Tonight they show off some of their best assets, whilst resting the most recent “next big thing” group The Answering Machine, also on their label.
Kicking off tonight's proceedings are local electro-indie outfit, Bureau, whose mix of Human League style synth pop with distorted Telecaster heroics has quickly gained them a reputation as a stirring live favourite. Singer Theo Hutchcraft certainly has the charm offensive to win over the slowly filling up shoebox size venue, dancing on top of monitors, whilst a twin synth attack punctures many an eardrum. Latest single 'After Midnight' is treated as a new classic by the smitten audience, a good percentage of whom know each and every word, and brings their set to a premature close.
Turning up the volume, and the ante, are Leicester noiseniks, redcarsgofaster, whose post-punk, post-rock atmospherics and punishing wall of sound seems to polarise tonight's audience. Singer James spits out monosyllabic couplets with fierce intensity like surly legend Mark E. Smith with a mouth full of wasps, over a chest-palpitating mix of straight-for-the-jugular riffs and low-end rumblings.
Set highlight was the soon to be released new single '24 Passes' after which one of the guitarists passes over into the audience, almost cracking some skulls with the headstock of his instrument in the process, whilst a half indifferent crowd look on unimpressed and following the minute of feedback that caps the end of their set they receive a mediocre flaccid applause. A shame, as despite the confrontation towards the end, redcarsgofaster played an impressive and fierce set, seemingly destined for a bigger audience.
The unenviable task of following them goes to Snow Fight in the City Centre, and despite their best efforts, they don't quite pull it off.
With very little interaction with the audience, the sextet's ethereal, atmospheric guitar pop, of the Sigur Ros variety, fails to provoke much more than a muted response, despite the majority of the crowd being there to see them following the heavy praise they have been getting lately, and feels a little disappointing for a band that displays a lot of promise.
Ending the evening are categorization defying trio The KBC, with a tight set of songs taking in elements of punk, disco-infused rock and indie, all played with technical excellence and startling originality. Whilst singer James Mulholland may not possess the most interesting or attention grabbing voice around, the group's musical backdrop and stage presence more than makes up for it, like a cross between The Minute Men and Muse, minus the big budget theatrics and pomposity.
So with ears ringing into the night and possibly into midweek the audience file out into the cool night breeze. With early Monday morning blues only a few hours away and industry types already planning next year's trip, another In The City night draws to a close with the promise of more excellent new music for the next couple of days to come.