Everything Everything

10 April
Academy 2

What is the result of the amalgamation of R&B grooves, hip hop raps, math rock guitar, orchestral synths and tribal drums? Most likely a chaotic musical sludge, but in Everything Everything’s case it’s a wonderful, sprawling and subversive fusion. Tonight confirmed that their name’s inception was not only inspired by opening lyrics from Radiohead’s Kid A, but because they consistently prevent critics from pigeonholing their eclectic approach to a definitive style.

Gracing the stage on a pleasant spring evening after the chillingly atmospheric support bands, Vaults, the quartet showcased their newly evolved energy in the unreleased Get to Heaven album opener, ‘To The Blade’. The aggressive sonic developments from their more mournful previous full-length, Arc, were soon realised. Crashing guitars erupted in tandem with lead singer Jonathan Higgs’ screams, drawing similarities with Muse’s high-octane Origin of Symmetry.

Sandwiched between old classics ‘MY KZ UR BF’ and ‘Kemosabe’, the fresh arsenal of material typically refused to be devoted to a single genre. ‘The Wheel’ and ‘Fortune 500’ appeared to adopt Yeezus-inspired pulsating and relentless beats, whilst the catchy ‘Regret’ and ‘Get to Heaven’ boast sweet-chiming guitars and melodic whistling.

In previous albums, cryptic lyrical riddles voiced discontent, but now their disenfranchisement is more overtly beamed through Higgs’ dextrous performance. Be it entering the psyche of an ISIS extremist (“Going to kill a stranger”) in the emotional crescendo of ‘No Reptiles’, or ferociously attacking the rise of the Farage-inspired rightwing in ‘The Wheel’, Everything Everything’s anti-establishment gripes are now as bold as the band’s brilliant vermillion uniform. In a British music industry increasingly fearful to flaunt its political colours, I highly value their willingness to retain and promote honest societal objections.

Mix this with their catchy pop hooks, quirky falsetto harmonies and unpredictable time signature shifts, and we have one of the most understated and forward-thinking alternative bands on our hands.

“It never gets old when we hear our music sung back to us,” affirms a smitten Higgs after hearing a devoted crowd sing back a lesser-known first album track, ‘Leave the Engine Room’. He may get used to this experience during a festival-crammed summer, as the band is on the cusp of releasing what I hesitantly predict will be their most impressive LP to date.

Jordan Foster

Courtney Barnett

3 April
Gorilla

Fraser A Gorman kicked off what was an incredible night of music. Despite being slightly worse for wear after a hard night’s partying in Glasgow, the country-folk singer songwriter from Melbourne played great music with rich tones and wholesome, powerful vocals with simple guitar riffs. He was accompanied by the harmonica on a couple of songs – which can be considered annoying or musical, that’s up to you to decide. Fraser’s roguish charm and easy listening music won over the crowd. ‘Book of Love’ was the standout song – fun and lyrically ironic. After such a great set and the odd heckle, Fraser vowed he’d be back in Manchester.

Manchester’s very own super-charged four-piece garage rockers Spring King took to the stage and turned the volume up to 11. The band creates a great sense of carefree fun, as guitarist Pete Darlington jumps and flails around the stage and drumming frontman Tarek Musa harmonises perfectly while never missing a beat. Spring King are in their element playing live, blasting out their infectious tunes with perpetual energy and smiles plastered across their faces. The performance of ‘City’ cemented appreciation for this band. There will be many new fans after such a great performance, who can catch them next at Gullivers on 6 May.

Courtney and her band took the stage to much excitement. She has been touring pretty much non-stop for the last few years, putting out a couple of EPs and her recent debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, whenever there was time to write and record tracks. From opening with ‘Elevator Operator’ through to the ever-popular ‘Avant Gardener’, Courtney impressed with her witty, ironic and adept lyrical prowess, such as on ‘Pedestrian at Best’.

The energetic grunge rhythms coupled with her incredible charm and stage presence captivated the audience, who sang along with her – every single word. Courtney and her music are the antidotes to the mediocrity of manufactured and soulless pop music. It’s easy to see why she has amassed such a following, and it’s a safe bet you will hear from her again soon.

Mark Prime

Background photo of Courtney Barnett by Mark Prime.

Public Service Broadcasting

29 APRIL
THE RITZ

Individually, they are known as J Willgoose Esq, Wrigglesworth, JF and Mr B. Collectively, they are Public Services Broadcasting who, as part of their European tour, played at The Ritz. Bringing their own special genre of music, they played to a sell out house.

In case you didn’t twig from the name, Public Service Broadcasting successfully fuse funky modern dance with vintage, public broadcast samples. Such is the band’s skill that the melodies are woven around voiceovers. It sounds as though it shouldn’t work, but it does. It really does.

As a bit of a longstanding fan, I wondered how on earth they were going to do this sort of thing live and whether it would work being performed on stage. But I needn’t have worried.

Lined up on the small stage at The Ritz was a plethora of instruments, duly played in turn, including J Wilgoose’s ever-present banjo. But you can’t experience Public Service Broadcasting without some mention of the black and white footage that forms such an integral part of their image. Think early newsreels covering the first Apollo space missions, political events and the like. In keeping with the skill of the combination of music and voice soundtracks, Mr B made sure the projections and graphics on stage reflected and enhanced the tracks being performed.

The band played tracks from both of their albums, Inform Educate Entertain and the newly released The Race for Space. During the performance of current single ‘Gagarin’ – strangely left until the encore – we were treated to a live three-part brass ensemble and some cool dance steps, but that’s another matter.

One even wonders if the venue was chosen to reflect the retro vibe of the gig. The Ritz’s gaudy, faded opulence belonging to a time long ago was perhaps a wise choice.

Leaving Manchester wanting more, Public Service Broadcasting now continue with their European tour through May and June.

Una Cottrell

The Leisure Society

20 April
Deaf Institute

Kristen McClement opened up an eclectic night of music. She is a great musician whose hauntingly enchanting vocals string over achingly melancholy guitar picks and piano notes. Instantly, one could draw a likeness to Lana Del Ray’s dense richness in music. Listening to her perform there is a dramatic sense of isolation, loneliness and lost love.

With an air of confidence, The Leisure Society takes to the stage. In an instant, the room is transformed. Everyone in the audience is engaged by every word and taps along to each beat. Without a doubt, this is a folk-rock band with a big sound. The band’s array of instruments – brass, string and wind – makes them seem larger than life, and great song writing skills are backed by a fun-loving attitude and enthusiasm. They selected a set from their four albums, in particular their newest record, The Fine Art of Hanging On. The resulting blend mixed darker themes with jovial tunes, catchy riffs and sing-along hooks.

The crowd loved every minute of the performance, singing along, tapping their feet and packing themselves in tight to make sure they could see and hear every note. The Leisure Society’s execution of the music was tight and when harmonising the sheer power conjured images of an unseen choir in the wings somewhere. With such passion for their music and something for everyone, it was a brilliant night of music, the audience was not disappointed and Manchester will look forward to seeing The Leisure Society again soon.

Mark Prime

Photo by Mark Prime.

Columns

2 May
Manchester Cathedral / Football Museum

Manchester Cathedral is fast becoming a popular venue for touring acts. This month finds The Fall and Fun Lovin’ Criminals among others making use of the grandiose space, but before those shows, May opens with the second year of Columns. Across two makeshift stages erected in the Cathedral and Football Museum, Purity Ring, Braids, Ghostpoet and Born Gold were among those booked to fill the shoes of last year’s headliners East India Youth and Future Islands. With virtually every artist showcasing recent or barely released material, the prospect of hearing the progression of established acts in a unique venue made Columns a standout addition to the calendar.

Early evening performances by Cash+David, Clarence Clarity and David O’Dowda were all quite mellow, mining similar electronic and ambient influences, the latter being the most unique performance of the bunch. O’Dowda dabbled in slow, minimalist electronics similar to Atlas Sound or Oliver Wilde. Purity Ring’s tour support Born Gold came next and brought some much-needed energy and less necessitated synchronised dancing to proceedings, but his overall sound felt resoundingly rote.

The first performances to break this malaise were Shivum Sharma and Ghostpoet, two artists comfortably able to command the expansive spaces provided. Both performers shifted from the strict EDM sound offered earlier with a more soulful approach.

It was the Montreal-based trio Braids that truly enlivened the event. The band had only released their stunning third album, Deep In The Iris, five days prior to the festival, so their set exclusively featured material from this record. New songs ‘Miniskirt’ and ‘Bunny Rose’ proved even more eye-popping in a live context and their performance surpassed even the high residual impression left on those present for their last Manchester show at the Deaf Institute in 2013.

Purity Ring closed the festival at the Cathedral with a honed and flawless set. Making good use of the colossal natural reverb, the duo’s atmospheric trap-pop felt at ease with the vast surroundings. With a stirring parting lightshow and the forgettable early performances thoroughly overshadowed, Columns concluded on a very positive note that will hopefully bring about a third festival for 2016.

Tom Dixon