The problem with a great history is that it can drag on your coat-tails, discouraging you from moving forwards. Manchester’s musical legacy is unavoidable, but the heart of the city isn’t in reunion gigs and nostalgia trips – it’s in the young bands coming up, the grotty venues with beer on the floor and the gigs where you might see the start of something exciting.
With that in mind, the Clowdy team were delighted to be invited to the most recent of Mr Peeps’ headline shows in Manchester. As a promoter, podcaster, tweeter and all-round svengali, he’s doing a great deal to ensure the north-west’s vibrant music scene doesn’t become mired in profitless nostalgia. The line-up on Friday was testament to that attitude.
— Twine (@JoinTwine) September 4, 2014
I sense that Mr Peeps likes a bit of grit, in his bands and in his venues. The Kraak Gallery, down a Northern Quarter alley, seems designed to give gig-goers a mild frisson of excitement as they take the scrubby stairs and find themselves in a no-frills room with a bar, a stage and a dancefloor. What more would you need?
Shortly after I get in, a bit late, Jordan Allen takes to the stage alongside his band. His acoustic tracks have earned the inevitable Jake Bugg comparisons, but it’s clear he’s aiming for something different, especially when working with other musicians. Bugg’s vague Dylanisms are kicked out sharpish, too, in favour of a more pointed lyrical approach.
Debut single Rich and Famous was one of my songs of the night, a raw, witty critique of celeb culture with shades of Alex Turner before he turned into Elvis. Allen showcases an impressive amount of material which he rips through with no ceremony; the lack of pretension on show from all of the bands was genuinely refreshing.
Next up were Velocets, a local band who’ve been around for a while but recently changed their line-up and started working on new material. Their sound hasn’t changed too much, thankfully – they still make a hell of a noise for a three-piece. Great hooks abound; old tracks like fuzzy, stomping rocker Sophie jostled for space with their recent stuff, which adds a wee bit of pop sensibility to proceedings without blunting any of the edge. Exciting.
A little break for beer and a wander around, then it was time for headliners No Hot Ashes. These lads made it clear they deserved top billing by taking charge of the stage immediately; they opened up to an insistent drum-beat before spinning around to face the crowd and break into their first song.
They’re a hard band to pigeonhole, jumping enthusiastically from groovy funk to a classic indie sound; according to the excellent Even The Stars blog they’re planning to record with Gavin Monaghan in the near future, and I’m looking forward to hearing how he captures their idiosyncratic approach.
Whatever genre you want to call it, the near-capacity crowd lapped it up. Forget the nostalgia – Manchester’s musical future looks pretty bright.
(For some slightly more professional pics of the night, check out the Labrat page here.)