After a hellish journey, numerous trains cancelled, I arrive at Sacred Trinity Church in Salford. Tonight is the debut headline show for No Ceremony, an elusive electronic band causing quite a stir at the moment. With only one live show under their belts, as part of the line-up for the New Sounds of The North show at Quay House office block last month, they’ve still got a lot to prove. As the setting was a place of worship that is still very much in use, I assumed that there would be a serene atmosphere, but somehow a license was obtained and members of the audience sat on the pews with a drink in their hands. This was almost as obscure a sight as when I was informed that the man ‘stood over there with the blue mohican’ was indeed the vicar. I can’t tell you how true that might be… but before I knew it Cloud Boat began their set.
They were the only support of the night and offered up electronica with some house and trip-hop influences. There was a huge projection screen set up but it seems it was kept purely for No Ceremony, who had collaborated with the visual artist Deerhead (who has previously worked with the Mancunian electronic act Stay+). No Ceremony headed up to the front to start their set. Their visuals were quite frankly horrifically unsuitable for the church surroundings, but I think they were meant to shock; or at least, I hope they were. A mix of baby dolls being ripped apart, their limbs being amputated in a disturbing manner, a single lightbulb repeatedly flashing on and off and women masturbating was definitely a good way to distract the audience away from the music.
But did we need to be distracted? The songs themselves such as ‘Hurtlove’ are extremely well produced and the music played was well on form. But despite the praise they will receive for the songs, I couldn’t help feeling it was all a little bit contrived. If you focused on the band it was easy to notice that not all parts of the songs were performed live, and as their new blonde front woman hid behind her guitar a few people started to question whether she was actually playing the thing. The band have been so hyped up they seem to have a lot to prove, and I don’t think they’re going to have an easy time unless their shows are anything but perfect.
Fast forward one week. We’ve been invited by Kult Country to see them play with Hookworms and Wooden Shjips at Sound Control. It’s a bit like a hipster Manchester celebrity spot in there, with everyone from the infamous Sways Records and members of Egyptian Hip Hop hanging around. The venue is packed, but a large percentage of the crowd are here to see Kult Country, who are up first. The band certainly filled the stage with at least eight members creating a wall of sound like a more driven and heavy version of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Next up were Hookworms – a band seemingly inspired by psychedelia, drone and krautrock. The crowd fully immersed themselves in the sound until it was time for Wooden Shjips to slow the pace down with their own take on space rock, and came across as one of the most chilled out bands EVER.
The other night I headed down to The Castle, a tiny pub in the Northern Quarter of Manchester to catch Splashh play in the back room. It was a slightly odd atmosphere, with the support pulling out last minute (Shinies – shame on you) and the band only coming on to play about four songs. Despite the short set, they definitely proved what all the fuss has been about with their signature slacker-pop sound which is so popular at the moment, especially with bands coming out of Birmingham such as Peace and Swim Deep. Splashh however are based in Hackney, London, and seem to have broken out without using any type of scene to generate hype.
After a month of ethereal venues, beautifully mysterious electronica, a heavy dose of psyche-krautrock, and Britain’s take on stoned surf, it’s pretty clear that Manc has a music scene to make us proud. Sack off the Olympics and come sample some of the most exciting gigs going on in the country, because that’s a WAY BETTER way to spend your time than listening to Boris’ daily droning announcements on public transport. Sound.