Live Review: When In Manchester 2017

When In Manchester 2017

15th April 2017

Words: Julia Grantham
Photos: Lydia Maycock

Are you familiar with the phrase: “Don’t open all your Christmas presents at once?” Or words to that effect. I think it means something along the lines of: Good Things Come to Those Who Wait. Hopefully my friends from the band, Cupids, won’t mind that I borrowed the title of their debut single for this, here, introduction to a very special, independent and relatively new festival. After all, Cupids (formerly Gramotones) performed in the very first When In Manchester in April 2016 and when I interviewed them for Popped Music in October 2015, they asked me to give a “shout out” to Ethan and The Reformation. A band that I have wanted to see and write about ever since, and who I saw perform a full set on Saturday for the first time. So here we are. I finally saw them on Saturday 15th April 2017, among several other fantastic artists, all of whom, I can’t wait to tell you about here.

Abigail Richardson, Nicole Buzz, Miriam Rahimov and Ellen Offredy are the four young women who are responsible for putting this festival together. Between them, they promote, create and manage this festival, as well as other bands. And their efforts and vision, their creativity and flair, their humble, friendly approach is collectively a perfect summary of Manchester. I met all of them on Saturday. They were all smiley, friendly, pleased to meet me and had little pieces of sunshine in their eyes.

First, we saw The Strawberries, from Leeds! My home town, and a band I’d been fortunate enough to see at my favourite ever gig venue: The Brudenell Social Club back in October 2016 when they’d headlined The Games Room show alongside Cupids, Bang Bang Romeo and another whose name I forget. I loved their attitude from the start: cheeky Yorkshire banter. I get that. That’s me all over. A confident, loud, heavy bass led intro led straight into their first hook: Fantasy Machine. A great opener which led straight into the fabulous Caramel Eyes. Steady, rhythmic guitar riffs, building up the bass and percussion with each one, The Strawberries know how to attract their audiences with a combination of attitude, humour and tempo. A great track about being attractive, and attracted. Clever.
Sitting Idol is slow and dreamy, a nice antithesis to Caramel Eyes. At this point, people are dancing around at the front, spilling in from the back. Did I say you needed to watch this band in a small venue while you still can? I noticed throughout Whirlpool, Heavy Head and Whiplash, how well the three guitars and percussion worked. Being a pianist, I always notice the use or absence of a keyboard but they do the pingy high notes on guitar to great effect. I was waiting for my favourite and super awesome finish track – Laburnum House. I think I danced. A bit. I sang a bit, too. This band know what they’re doing. They lick the mic’, they’re fast, they’re confident. But they’re friendly.

Popped photog for the festival, Lydia, and I went off and discussed our next move. We’d decided to be fair to each other when choosing bands. My definite-could-not miss band was Ethan and The Reformation. Hers: Jordan Allen. That meant Kashmere had to be a miss this time around. Lydia suggested Sapho. I knew nothing of them but went with the flow and wow! I am always intrigued when I see a simple three piece. I instantly think Nirvana. I was waiting with nervous anticipation.

Their set consisted only of five songs. But each one seemed effortless, cohesive and not a note out of place. The Smiths were playing in the background as they were setting up. They had a good reputation was what I was hearing from others as we waited for the music to start. Opener, Change, was bass led, and reminded me of 70s rock. Each band member was in perfect harmony with each other, not just melodically but in sync: I later learned by talking to them that they’d worked on Liam’s GCSE music project together. They were school friends and that bond really showed. I loved the fact that the drummer was wearing a red and black checked shirt. I have one of those and so does a friend. Radio reminded me very much of Aneurysm by Nirvana. It had heavy bass interwoven with pitchy vocals, a bass led and percussion bridge and was just so catchy and and solid. No backing vocals, but it didn’t matter! I loved the wonderfully slow, and paced 70s style finish.

Ethan & The Reformation – I was finally getting to see them! Cupids had recommended them to me. Sometimes in life we’re given chances and opportunities but the timings just aren’t right. But, Saturday 15th April was the night. During the sound-check I noticed a good few eager faces milling around. I was standing right at the front, having secured my place to centre stage left, I like the viewpoint from the left, everything sweeping out to the right and I had table for my drink and a wall to lean against. The warm-up was perpetuated with strong heavy bass. I mean this was just a sound-check: but it was great! It had soul.

When they came back on stage to start with Free from Everything, I clocked three guitars, akeyboard and some drums. James Corderio showed the audience the back of his bass guitar. It said: “fuck off” written in black marker pen. Love it. I heard a Sergeant Pepper stylie sitar sound on guitar (I was later told this was an influential album) and this made for a long dreamy introduction. Very, very heavy on bass and I was reminded of a hash-tag on twitter that I’d used: amps in yer face. The sound they created just boomed. Brilliant. Fractaline Fantasies came next and was a slow but sure number.  I loved Lost in Wonder. All at once it was a bass meets high sustained and distorted guitar and keyboard notes (I think) in any case it sounded like sound effects from space. I loved it because it really fused the sounds of the past with eerie futuristic sounds of what will become of life I the future? I feel like it was supposed to be thought-provoking. For me it was very post-modern. Sublime. At some point I stopped taking notes and just danced.

Last but by no means least we covered Jordan Allen. He was at The Night & Day Cafe, a venue which has a special place in my heart. I threw open the back doors there once and recorded a song. But anyhoo, Lydia was keen to see Jordan, having met and photographed him before. I’d not heard a note by him, but instantly loved the fact that his sound-check was Minority by Green Day. I think I counted nine amps on stage. The drummer was topless with tattoos and had a blue towel around his shoulders. I could tell this was going to be a loud and fun performance! There were lots of people milling around and waiting for the start. Jordan Allen was one of the headliners across the four venues in The Northern Quarter and you could tell that there were plenty of people eagerly awaiting this set. The opening track, Dancing In the Dark, was a fast, and slick performance. Before it ended, the venue was full. As I glanced around, people had secured their places at the front, and more than a handful of people were dancing, tapping their feet and clearly had an affection for this song. Uncharted Youth followed and was a slower and more purposeful number than the previous hook where as  Imperial Leather was a humorous nod to the ubiquitous shower gel I can only assume! This track was very well appreciated and known to the crowd. A three-part harmony made it a very cohesive sound and had a very raw quality to it. It was during this song that Jordan announced to the audience that it was “good to be home”. Bless him. I love Manchester. This is a rising star, folks.

When In Manchester was the first festival I have ever covered for Popped Music and it was both a delight and honour to be able to do so, to share my experience with so many, make memories, meet my friends, new bands and make new friends. I paid £8 for my ticket. Insanely cheap, but I couldn’t possibly put a price on what it meant to me. I’ll be back at Christmas for part four – I’ll see you there!

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