MIF Acoustic Stage

4 July
Albert Square

The denizens of Manchester are enjoying these weekend festivals. Following the popularity of Manchester Day, it’s no surprise to find Albert Square thronged for the opening weekend of Manchester International Festival.

In glorious sunshine, illuminating the festival tent, balcony bar and acoustic stage, it's not just the food stallholders and ice cream sellers who have smiles on their faces.

Throw in four sets of musicians to perform from early afternoon to evening and it all added to the relaxed atmosphere that people savour. The downside for a musician is that an open-air arena, with young children freely running around and taking advantage of the kid friendly area, is not the best location to demonstrate the quality of your works. Mix that with the background chatter and the performers are relegated to the level of sideshows.

Playing an instrument called the handpan, a deviative of the hang, Matthew Bailey eschews vocals to focus on comfortable, percussive sounds that match well with the atmosphere. To the untrained eye, the instrument looks like two distorted cymbals taped back to back, but the sounds are languid and fluid.

Charlie Cooper appears in different guises, both as a solo artist or part of a band, and for this afternoon event she was supported by Rachel Lasham on drums. It turns out be a wise choice that provides substance to support Cooper’s keyboards which could have otherwise rapidly floated away in the warm air.

Josephine, minus her surname Oniyama, is well-known and respected amongst the music followers in the North West, but when it comes to competing with the chimes of the town hall clock, first at 6pm then 7pm, even she will come off second best. The first time she used the interruption to signal the start of her set, but the second time, occurring mid-song, pretty much destroyed the effects of her stories.

Still, it’s a positive move to promote local talent of varying styles, and the approach will be replicated during the remainder of the festival at its Albert Square base.

Ged Camera

Riding the Low

11 July
Albert Square Chop House

While Manchester International Festival drew the crowds to Albert Square, there seems to be a large group of people with soft Staffordshire accents congregating at the Chop House. The Greater Manchester Fringe Festival has, amongst other events including theatre and comedy, organised a live band session and the upstairs event room at Albert's is at capacity for Riding The Low.

Long after he has spent an hour in conversation with Dave Haslam, then played an energetic set at the front of the band, Paddy Considine is still chatting to those who have made the trek up, posing for pictures with a grin on his face. He seems fresh and full of energy befitting of someone who is never prepared to sit on his backside.

Whilst he may be primarily identified as an actor, musicianship is something he is returning to, rather than experiencing as a vanity trip. Or, as he has described it, “What fucking vanity trip?”

The five-piece just about manage to squeeze onto the small stage and deliver a tightly executed set of high tempo numbers that's eagerly devoured by their followers.

The band’s sound is ideal for a summer festival, with big, bouncy numbers whose catchy choruses are shouted back. Considine’s voice is geared for the passionate, imploring end of the vocal spectrum and perfectly suits the brash, anthemic delivery from the unit.

As the guitarists demonstrate their dexterity, Considine frequently kicks the air as though he’s still trying to release pent-up energy.

Those who made the journey up are not disappointed.

Ged Camera

All photos by Ged Camera.