Badly Drawn Boy, Graham Coxon, The Sunshine Underground, Lou Rhodes, Ejector Seat
Benjamin Short 23/09/2006
Manchester, England in late September, and the sun beats down without mercy. This is climate change at its very best.
At midday precisely, XFM Unsigned winners Ejectorseat begin proceedings on the main stage. Those still queuing at the gates sacrifice the opportunity to catch a first glimpse of a band who could easily prove to be one of next year's brightest newcomers.
NME approved local youngsters The Answering Machine provide a mid-afternoon treat on the Freedm stage. Gemma's sultry bass, Pat's quirky guitar, and Martin's saccharine lyrics are united by the random polyrhythms of robotic fourth member Mustafa Beat. Together these four harmonious components create a naïve art-pop racket that's preferable even to an appearance by Mercury-nominated Factory legends The Durutti Column on the main stage. In contrast, Snowfight In The City Centre sadly fail to live up to their excellent name. Like Keane and Athlete, their radio-friendly pop-rock tunes are lifeless and soulless.
The mind-altering hippy folk of former Lamb frontwoman Lou Rhodes is the perfect laid back soundtrack for basking in the sunshine. Meanwhile, Jane Weaver's acoustic rock is a curious combination of PJ Harvey and the Pixies. Elsewhere, the tiny capacity of the acoustic Freedm tent prevents most from getting anywhere near semi naked performances by Nine Black Alps, Puressence, and various others.
Graham Coxon struggles to electrify a subdued and undersold crowd. Songs such as 'I Can't Look At Your Skin' and 'Don't Let Your Man Know' (from his latest album 'Love Travels At Illegal Speeds') are crushingly mundane, and forthcoming single Bloody Annoying shows no signs of an improvement. But when the ex-Blur guitarist showcases his pop credentials with the sublime 'Bitter-sweet Bundle of Misery' and the twisted melodic rock of 'Freakin' Out', the fun really begins. 'Who The Fuck?', a clattering lo-fi masterpiece from 1998 debut album 'The Sky Is Too High' is the chaotic exclamation mark at the end of Graham's shockingly impressive set.
An unexpected, underwhelming and unwelcome guest appearance from Stephen Fretwell is no real substitute for the absent Richard Hawley. The live performances are interspersed with enjoyable DJ sets from the likes of Doves and former Smiths bassist Andy Rourke, the latter having the audacity to spin one of his own singles.
As day turns to dusk turns to dark, Elbow grace the stage with their smouldering indie-prog sounds. Yet sadly, only the majestic Fugitive Hotel and beautifully grim set-closer Newborn are at all memorable. Earlier Guy Garvey, the band's front man, had predicted that Cohesion would be “the festival people will lie about. If you weren't there you'll pretend you were”. Sadly, today has not lived up to such legendary standards. Nevertheless, the festival's charitable ethos is unquestionably worthy. All proceeds from the event will be donated to Manchester Aid to Kosovo, with the intention of funding a 22 acre peace park, not dissimilar to our own Platt Fields, bringing some desperately needed greenery to the barren war torn country.
Later, dance-punk upstarts The Sunshine Underground are an unexpected highlight, providing Cohesion's most upbeat performance thus far. Their sound, mixing the chav-rock of Kasabian and Hard Fi with the über-cool indie disco sound of The Rapture, is explosively enjoyable.
Back on the main stage, hit and miss headliner Badly Drawn Boy begins his performance with several unheard tracks from his forthcoming record Born In The UK . A mass retreat to the second stage, where Madchester revivalists The Longcut are havin' it large, seems inevitable. But all is forgiven as a joyful rendition of All Possibilities transforms the atmosphere in an instant. Suddenly the bearded one is smiling, dancing, and cheekily borrowing snippets of 'Thinking of You' by Sister Sledge and Madonna's 'Like A Virgin'. 'Promises', another previously unheard song, is dedicated to his family, who look on proudly from the side of the stage. Still, 'Once Around The Block' and 'Disillusion', from his Mercury Prize winning debut 'The Hour of Bewilderbeast', receive the loudest and most positive response. 'Silent Sigh' is equally well received. A rocking reinterpretation of restraining order anthem 'Everybody's Stalking' brings events to a euphoric close.
Well, not quite. The entertainment continues as we head to the Cohesion after party hosted by High Voltage, Manchester's acclaimed fanzine, record label and club night. Having set the Freedm stage alight earlier in the day, electrifying post modernists Bureau reprise their sleazy show at the subterranean Roadhouse club. The single 'After Midnight', due for release on 9th October, takes inspiration from Gary Numan and updates his electro-pop blueprint for the 21st century. By 2am, after 14 hours of non-stop music, all that's left is to head home hoping for a bigger, better Cohesion Live in 2007.