[We are proud to have the nearly award winning Pete Collins on board for this review. His interjections are cleverly formatted in italics for your extra pleasure. Normally, he can be found here. Plus some of the pictures are his]
With home printed programmes, highlighted with our preferences for the running order, we discussed our day at Sounds From The Other City with a warm up pint. What we should’ve done is fashion said printouts into little boats and sent them down the bloody Irwell given the use they were – this turned into a day of enjoying the odd full performance, but mostly catching glimpses of bands, the ends and beginnings of sets and completely missing others. What laid waste to our wish lists were inappropriately-strong-for-early-doors bottles of booze from the Gnod bar at Islington Mill and a nice glass of sherry kindly provided by the Manchester Modernist Society and their pop-up shop. Bless and blame them both for the paucity of this review.
It was after drinking at the Gnod bar that some of the day’s events began to resemble what can only be described as a strange trip. A very strange trip indeed. Now, I’m not saying that the two things are necessarily related, that’s for you to decide.
The first slither of a set we did catch was from Electrelane’s Verity Susman: replete in moustache, sampling a recorder into some haunting electro-pop, the one tune we did catch was a lovely opening to events.
So, a woman with a moustache. Not the oddest thing ever, but that was only the warm up to seeing a group of people dressed in tin foil jumping up and down. And up and down some more. They might have wiggled a bit too and made some noises, but I was too busy rubbing my eyes in disbelief.
Via the delights of the MMS, we then managed to catch the whole set (crikey!) by NASDAQ as part of Bad Uncle and Hear Here’s stage at The United Reform Church. As a highlight of last year’s SFTOC we knew this stage would be worth the punt given the idea of acts soundtracking a film. NASDAQ chose to accompany the 60s French SF abstractions of La jetée with (mostly) their ‘Dead Peasants’ piece and it worked nicely.
Plus, there were three deflated party balloons hanging limply from the ceiling, which normally could have looked quite tragic but instead I thought added a certain something. But remember I had just followed up some sherry with a can of red stripe. A heady mix.
Schedules falling apart further, we headed back to Islington Mill for Sunless 97. Whether it was our timing (most likely), a no-show or the damnable booze again (second most likely), but this three piece had somehow morphed into a twenty-odd strong drum collective bedecked in black cloaks. Given the propensity of BBO for anything in cloaks this was more than fortuitous; pounding rhythms with proper dance floor breakdowns obtusely gave the old minimal techno bone a good scrub up and jolted the senses perfectly.
I believe it was a laptop meltdown, and the market for unplugged electronica isn’t that big yet (although no doubt that’s a genre for somebody…). But people dressed in black cloaks banging drums added to the weird way the day was going. And they made everybody in the room smile. It was enough to even make my cynical face crack into a grin.
Mistaking the upstairs of the King’s Arms for its downstairs (yes, indeed) we caught the first two tracks of Molly Nillson’s set instead of Apostille. The hipsters and the fey seemed out in force for the former and we reacted with some surprise at the queue to get in when we took our leave.
It was becoming clear that the more people there were in the audience wearing woolly hats the less I’d enjoy the band. And Molly Nillson had plenty of people wearing woolly hats watching her. And worse still, people in woolly hats and the dreaded red trousers. Get out of the way and let me down the stairs people! The rabid pigeon eating a chip in the road outside was more fun.
At this point, something granted us serendipity and grace for our arrival at the Underachievers stage at The Salford Arms furnished us the surprise package of the day – The History Of Apple Pie. The sound and its origins might be obvious (think shoegaze, think Pixies, think The Primitives) but through the power of sweet melodies and a three guitar attack, grins and exclamations of delight were delivered to our jaded and cynical party. Really great stuff.
I also liked that there was a man who looked like Eugene Levy stood right in front of the band, and every so often he would lick his index finger. I don’t think this was a sexy display or anything. At least I hope not. But now I can dream that someone stumbles upon this review by typing the words “Eugene Levy licking his finger” into Google.
Time to walk back to Islington Mill again to catch a much hyped new band. Would we make it in time? Well…
The last song of buzz outfit Pins sounded good as probably the rest of the set would have if we’d made it on time (bored yet?). And given their association with Jack White the first twenty minutes of the goth attired Black Belles made comparisons to The White Stripes inevitable (in a good way, mind).
Can’t really go wrong with a group of black haired ladies with guitars can you? CAN YOU? I don’t think so anyway.
And then to the main event: Teeth Of The Sea performing ‘Reaper’, their re-imagining of Neil Marshall’s Doomsday. This was never going to be missed given our love for TOTS here and we weren’t disappointed. The sheer viscerality of the music – comprising stabbing trumpets, military beats, e-bow scythed guitars, rumbling and soaring synths, four-to-the floor technoid rhythms and screaming – in combination with the cut-up and effected visuals – taking in burning corpses, future-medieval gladiator battles, Mad Max-esque car chases, screens soaked in splats and spurts of blood and fluid – was mind-blowing (possibly actually as well as metaphorically). I would recommend ‘enjoying’ this at your earliest convenience, but it’s probably the last time they’re going to do it. I say probably as I have it on good authority that an invite to perform it in Berlin or Hawaii would coach TOTS’ ‘Reaper’ from its gruesome pit.
I am holding TOTS (and probably the sheer amount of alcohol I consumed) responsible for me dreaming about being thrown into a burning cauldron of lava over and over and over, soundtracked to their music. They were quite simply magnificent though, so I’ll forgive them.
And to our very much more inviting and perfumed pits we returned in the knowledge that nothing else would surpass this finale.
(Note: half of our party chose the brilliant Lovely Eggs instead of TOTS. The account relayed to me by Miss S spoke of speaker climbing antics, banter and cracking tunes. This is to be expected as we know they’re fantastic, as below proves:)
So, Sounds From The Other City you are brilliant. Next time = less booze, more music.