Ramsbottom Festival

19-21 September
Ramsbottom Cricket Club

Now in its fourth consecutive year, Ramsbottom Festival is becoming established as one of the final outdoor events of the season, attracting a wide mix of artists and an audience ranging from local families to the more hardened festival goers packing in one last hurrah before winter descends. From folk to rock to dance and workshop activities galore, the notion of a family friendly festival is embodied in Ramsbottom.

This year’s weather played kind, barring a short downpour on the Friday night as The Levellers headed into ‘What A Beautiful Day’, and it was perhaps the most successful and best attended yet. Soul II Soul ended the weekend with a rare live appearance, but Saturday headliners British Sea Power made an impact for all the wrong reasons. Their slightly shambolic performance after an impressive opening saw fans slowly drift off with better memories of local lad Jimi Goodwin’s stirring set.

The local flavour was particularly strong this year. Not content with festival openers The Gramotones and The Tapestry making exciting main stage appearances, Ramsbottom regulars in the form of electro folk trio Harp & A Monkey also made a main stage appearance on Sunday. Introducing the new Chameleon Tent gave local event organisers Bury Collective and The Big Slice the chance to showcase another batch of local bands and acts, the highlight being a stripped down Gorilla Riot delivering a set of raucous blues in a smoke hazed tent.

The weekend all seemed to build up to Sunday, when the headliners’ appearance was preceded by a stunning set by Irish folk star Cara Dillon. Neville Staples defied his years and had the audience wallowing in 80s nostalgia with a set packed with hits, and the Smaller Tent saw its biggest audience for an intensely entertaining set from Mad Dog Mcrea.

For the non-musical entertainment, the aerial theatre of Pif Paf’s Something To Hold show and the Imaginary Menagerie provided some spectacular and well-rehearsed set pieces, while the art and dance workshops were also well attended. The ultimate seal of approval for the event came in the form of a mayoral visit, accompanying The Met’s David Agnew on a lightning visit to the site on Saturday.

Mike Ainscoe

Review and background photos by Mike Ainscoe

Oxjam Manchester

4-5 October
Various venues

We all have good intentions when it comes to helping the less fortunate, but we often can’t be arsed to pull our fingers out. That is why Oxjam works. It combines enjoyment with lessening the guilt complex. The pick and mix format of the two-day event was held in several traditional – and some not so traditional – venues.

For the diners at Wood, the entertainment included an acoustic set from Hugo Kensdale, while the duet of Jacob Olah and Owen Johnson, forming Troubadour’s Grave, generated a warm afternoon ambience.

Kosmonaut was one of the more raucous arenas, with the Macclesfield-based quintet Hot Vestry delivering a combination of darkly laid keyboard sounds and punchy guitars. At the same venue, Velocets ripped through a set of vibrant, anthemic numbers.

The Castle Hotel contained the ‘oddities’, which I mean in a positive manner. The Haydn Funk Project delivered what it says in the title: funk. The combatively intertwined vocals of Lizee Weedy and Jack Swan Connor, combined sharp lyrics that flowed on a solid bassline, produced by the happiest bass guitar player I’ve ever seen.

They were followed by Tom Byrne and Friends, a collective that huddled onto the compact stage area. They comprise a couple of different types of saxophones and their players nestled between drums on one side, and keyboards plus Mr Byrne himself, nattily attired in a tie and waistcoat, on the other. The sound was anything but stuffy or formal, being rather more in the swing, lightly delivered and hugely good-natured. If you’ve heard the Alex Horne programme on the radio, then you will understand how Tom and his friends interact.

The event may have been spread over two days, but the quality didn’t seem to be. The attendance on Sunday could either be viewed in one of two ways: lower than Saturday’s or the opportunity to get closer to performers such as Natalie McCool. A guitar and quality voice can be handy shields when faced with blazing stage lights and the silhouettes of anonymous heads. Her comfortable stage presence didn’t give the impression that she needs such a defence though. Relaxed and engaging, her set outlined her credentials for rising to more widespread acclaim.

The next time you feel like a bit of musical enjoyment whilst massaging the conscience, seek out the next Oxjam event.

Ged Camera

Review photo by Ged Camera

Fat White Family

17 September
Sound Control

For too long, an industry with a vested interest in banality has churned out bands from a hype machine and rammed them down people’s throats till they regurgitate sound bites of praise. It has made many people cynical about the ‘next big thing’, but as a consequence more interest is shifting to the grassroots circuit – formerly toilet circuit – as people cry out for something less asinine than the latest batch of musical saviours.

This is why Fat White Family’s ascent is so encouraging. They’ve got the press mainly through word of mouth, without kowtowing to industry heads, which in an era of nepotism and selective promotion is an admirable feat.

Their debut album, Champagne Holocaust, is a great record that captures their DIY spirit and political intent, but it's in a live setting where the songs come to life. Striding on stage to the Glitter Band, they launch into ‘Autoneutron’ and the spectacle begins. People are going crazy down the front and the band at times almost appear taken aback when the refrain is chanted back louder than the PA.

‘Is It Raining in Your Mouth?’ is pure filth and sees the faithful mosh pit sticking five sticky fingers up in the air. ‘I am Mark E Smith’ is suitably deranged and knowingly winks at one of their many influences without venturing into pastiche. The perverted grooves of ‘Wet Hot Beef’ and ‘Cream of the Young’ leave a sticky film on people’s grinning faces.

Fat White’s songs are simple and primal and it feels like a séance is taking place, channelling Bo Diddley, Hasil Adkins and Ari Up with sonic prayer pulsating through the brickwork and sweating off the ceiling. The arc of the set is pitched just right with a few slower numbers towards the end showcasing a penchant for sleazy ballads in the Brecht/Weill mould. Frontman Lias and guitarist Saul slur obscene couplets as the room catches its breath.

They end the set to the kind of adulation that, in recent years, is all too often reserved for the profitable reformation circuit. It’s great to see a new band that can inspire such devotion and back it up. Catch them live before they implode, or worse, before the inevitable clones start to appear fresh from the production line.

Nathan McIlroy

Sounds of the Near Future

25 October
Warehouse Project

A regular feature of the Warehouse Project calendar is the Sounds of the Near Future showcase that brings together some of the most acclaimed, forward-thinking producers in modern electronic music. While the regular New Years Eve and Day line-ups feature more nationally renowned names, this night prides itself on being more leftfield. This year we shift from the vast Victoria Warehouse to the more intimate spot of Store Street under Piccadilly train station.

This move brought with it a blanket of sell-outs across the four-month residency and made for a far busier venue. An issue with the lack of space is that you aren’t able to easily switch between stages without a considerable amount of queuing. This encourages you to stick with the entirety of an artist’s set. With this in mind the first act worth sticking it out for was Nottingham raised, Manchester-based Lone.

Lone’s set, although early on, proved the highlight of the whole bill. Fragmented percussion and vaguely industrial drones turned his optimistic, uptempo house into something darker and more diffused. Backed by stunning visuals, his set favoured material from this year’s Reality Testing LP which, while arresting on record, took on an even more eccentric form when played through colossal speakers.

Moving back to Room One, Kaytranada’s much-applauded set was quickly followed by Hudson Mohawke. Catching the end of Rustie earlier on in the night, it seemed that Room One was set on proliferating the brash trap trend prevalent this year. Suffice to say that while HudMo’s material sent the already frenzied audience into rapture, trap is incredibly divisive.

In Room Two, Peanut Butter Wolf and Seven Davis Jr both proved excellent in providing a different flavour from Room One. The diverse hip hop selections of the former, a Stones Throw Records legend, brought with him a devoted audience, leading to the latter playing his polished, soulful house to a packed and adoring room. As a finale, Jackmaster closed the night with a spirited selection of bass music, sending the audience away exhausted into Sunday morning.

While the venue may have its caveats, Sounds of the Near Future managed, yet again, to amass a virtually unrivalled line-up of eclectic acts. If you enjoy modern electronic music at all, Warehouse Project will always be there as a beguiling world of its own.

Thomas Dixon

New shows have just been announced for the Xmas period. Click here for the line-ups.

Woman's Hour

27 September
Deaf Institute

The support was on, a girl named Farao slowly plucking at an electric guitar while her vocals skirted beautifully on the waves left by her intricate finger picking. Her music felt fragile. She thanked us for being quiet, the incredibly scant room happily obliging. After a couple of songs, Luke waved me over to the seating. I had to admit, her music definitely hit harder with a belt cutting into the gut. She was beautiful.

From the seating, the lighting only just illuminated her from the neck down, giving the music even more anonymity and mystique. Between songs, I thought my drunken shouts of encouragement may shatter her, then halfway through she tugged at my strings by taking a Queens Of The Stone Age song and turning it into her own precious figurine. After finishing on a song called ‘Skin’, she timidly requested we check her out online, before leaving the stage to a smattering of applause, the crowd as minimal as her performance.

We came back after another fag break to find The Young Myths shouting echoes and smashing indie noise at a bemused crowd of few. The harsh vigour of their angry parts invigorated me slightly, but their soft moments made me think of Radiohead and every indie band who have failed to replicate their beauty. Their set was summed up entirely by the lead singer catching his guitar on the mic lead as he turned to leave.

As we grabbed another beer, the stage was covered in pyramids and the room began to fill with a crowd arriving only for the main act. They used a fairly samey intro, something becoming of a band who are far bigger than them, and once they finally came onstage, the five members of Woman’s Hour jammed shortly into their first song. It provided dance fodder with largely unheard vocals.

Once they hit the second, I was hooked. Their astounding ability to replicate the album impressed me. Their music had a tinge of Everything Everything, but a more interesting version. The space left vacant by the second support was filled by Woman’s Hour’s experimentation and sincere emotion. The singer’s own opinion of her backing made clear by the moves she threw out during the set. Her vocals became a sad shout to anyone who felt lost in the crowd. As I stood and watched, I felt nothing but admiration.

Jacob Ormrod

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