Oh Manchester, so much to answer for. The past month has been pretty dreary, and the freshers have been welcomed by virtually constant heavy downpour. Despite the stereotypical weather we welcomed the legendary Patti Smith to town, I witnessed a life-changing gig from some Danish men wielding rabbit masks in a basement, plus there’s a little round up of what you should be listening to that’s come out of The Mecca Of The Earth (AKA Manchester) this month.
First, I headed off to the rather grim Academy to witness an utter legend. I was first introduced to Patti by her song ‘Piss Factory’, an unconventional tale of her time being “screwed over” by a factory she worked at during her teenage years. Patti undoubtedly fuelled the birth of punk with her unashamedly gritty lyrics and rebellious attitude; seeing her live was one of the last chances to see rock and roll from a time when it really mattered. Patti’s poetry tumbled from her mouth as if she’d written the words yesterday, never mind thirty or forty years ago; and it wasn’t just limited to the songs. She screams and shouts until you’re not sure there’s much left to come out. Basking in the crowd’s devotion, she jumped off the stage to be showered with flowers, and proceeded to embrace members of the front row.
Such sentimentality is needed in such an emotionally demanding set, both for the band and the audience. There’s such a vulnerability in her songs; take ‘Dancing Barefoot’ or ‘Because the Night’ for example, which is unnervingly counteracted by such strength from Patti. Although she was almost close to tears at certain points, the night drew to a close with Patti breaking her guitar strings with her bare hands. The inner and outer strength shown that night was enough to help me overlook the fact that whichever guilty promoter that put on the gig didn’t even bother to book a support act.
From classic rock and roll, to modern experimental pop group Sleep Party People; the brainchild of Brian Batz, this Danish bedroom project has headed out on the road with a group of handpicked bunnies. The band keep up their mystique by wearing rabbit masks, and unsure of whether I’d feel like I’ve suddenly turned into Donnie Darko or whether it would be a welcome addition to their already impressive debut album, I headed off to the Soup Kitchen basement to witness the band firsthand.
First up were post-punk band The Underground Youth, performing to an almost empty room. However I sat appreciating every moment, despite lurking in the shadows. Olya Dyer stood taking out her demons on a sparkly bass drum, paying homage to the early beats of Joy Division. A powerful soundscape unfolded around the pulsing drums, clearly influenced by Jesus and The Mary Chain style shoegaze, with vocals from frontman Craig also citing influences such as The Velvet Underground. I could go on listing more and more iconic bands, but you’ll have to trust me when I say this was a beautiful mix of psychedelia and raw garage sounds.
People started to slowly descend into the Soup Kitchen basement, and despite my irritation that people in this day and age still choose to miss support acts, I somehow felt like I was carrying a little secret. Finally it was time for Sleep Party People to take over the basement. What followed was a truly hypnotic experience. The group clearly have a cult following here in Manchester, and thankfully everyone in the room was taken on a similar journey. Obscuring identity is rarely done well or with any clear purpose, but the rabbit masks succeeded in helping to create an eerie and almost magical mood. Sleep Party People have a knack of creating desperately sad songs with the juxtaposition of euphoric chord progressions and squealing guitars. The gig was definitely an emotionally fraught experience. It won’t be a night I will forget in a hurry and I just wish more people could have been able to experience the band firsthand before they complete their tour and head back to Denmark.
In other news, PINS have finally released their debut EP, LUVU4LYF, on Bella Union. There’s no time for a full review, but it is brilliant so check it out or head down to your local record store to snap in up in all its wonderful shimmery 10” glory.
I also urge you to watch a video from the boutique French website La Blogothèque, which features a lovely short film with no other but M O N E Y’s Jamie Lee reciting his eulogy ‘The Sound of the Death of Everything’, which is moving, inspiring and somehow uplifting at the same time.
Header Photo: Contactmusic