Where’s day one? I have a blog but it was a bit of a incoherent blur having had a minor altercation with a cocktail of flu remedies and one too many G&Ts. I’ll put it up in a couple of years when the heat’s died down with John Robb. It’s more of a Fear and Loathing In The City piece anyway, but with prescription drugs and crap writing.
So today was by far a good day. I was all over Manchester on my fixie-bike, frequently pressing my Buddy Holly bins onto my self-regarding dickhead face.
First off was Kisses at the Castle. Painfully unhurried dreamy pop from this trio of cardigan models. I liken the experience to one big safe cardigan shopping trip with your mum. Songs weren’t bad either. I prefer loud noise and sweat so it wasn’t exactly my bag, but I can see the attraction. Definitely more of a record band than a live act. Spot Lily Allen. Try to make friends with her but she’s repulsed by my snotting and tells me to fuck off. She’s so lovely.
I’m a bit weird with laptop bands. Bands such as Worried About Satan. Anyone else feel that a gig needs to be aesthetically engaging? There’s not much you can do behind a laptop before it begins to look as though you’re enjoying your own music more than the audience. Worried About Satan bop enthusiastically like that. Very long, nondescript beat music. I like it, but it’s not engaging for me in a live setting, even while coming up on Lemsip Max Strength. Again, headphones on a train band.
I forgo D/R/U/G/S. Everyone else will cover them. Not a huge fan, and I’ve heard enough unexceptional laptop music for tonight (controversial). Plus, why are playing thrice across In The City? Really? Thrice?
I see Youth at Gullivers. Excellent. Young, broody young chaps with a collection of perfectly crafted songs. However I’ve only caught the end. Will keep an eye open for any future name changes and developments. I note that Gullivers is the kind of venue where I expect I’ll see something amazing. Any tips?
The pleasantly named Chad Valley at Soup Kitchen is the best thing so far. The guy has an amazing voice atop a collection of weird, croony, dare I say wonky pop backing. I like backing bands, but consider the hassle of having to run songs by them. For this reason what he plays is quite unique, and works in filling Soup Kitchen with an engaging sound that has passers-by stopping for glimpses through the window.
Smatka are an strange cabaret-cum-pop act. They’re not bad, audience seems a little nonplussed by the whole affair. Everyone looks around in order to gauge exactly what they should be doing. I concur.
Labyrinth Ear. Brilliant cold-wave minimal from this delightfully odd looking pair. These guys really belong in an early 80s German basement/dungeon. The tall fellow hits away at a drum pad that has that satisfyingly dull snare sound. Volume’s too low and audience murmur becomes a huge pain in the ass.
Mount Kimbie. Laptop band. I duck out early to head over to HEALTH. I’m torn between them and From the Kites of San Quentin. HEALTH are predictably amazing. Played a couple of new songs that appear to focus more on a beat you can continually move to, as opposed to frequent time changes. Big mosh and lots of smiles, except the one guy who stares in disbelief at his broken Armani glasses.
In The City Trends (For next year): Those chains that old people use to keep their glasses on at HEALTH.
My nodes are like friggin golf balls. Make of that what you will.
For the esoteric music snob, a festi such as In The City (13th-15th Oct) sounds like a very appealing prospect indeed. Not only does it take place among Northern Quarter venues bereft of mud, tents and feckless morons wielding ‘Free Hugs’ signs, but it incorporates the important – albeit oft vilified – strata of the industry who ply their trade in the shadows: managers, A&R men and label bosses, oh my.
This year, In The City sports a simply mouthwatering line-up, including: No Age, Sky Larkin, Mount Kimbie, Male Bonding, Yuck, Crystal Fighters, Factory Floor, oOoOO, White Ring, Skepta, Spectrals, Kisses, Ital Tek, Teeth, Andreya Triana, Mazes, John Weise, Is Tropical, Mazes, Porcelain Raft, Oh No Ono, O Children, Chad Valley, Team Ghost, D/R/U/G/S, Hype Williams, American Men, Fiction, Breton, Brown Brogues, Ellen and the Escapades, Dog Is Dead, Slow Motion Shoes, Beaty Heart, Eagulls, Lissi Dancefloor Disaster, The Bewitched Hand On The Top Of Our Heads, Mujeres, Youthless, Bright Light Bright Light, Mz Bratt, Ruff Diamondz, Angel and Maverick Sabre. As if that’s not enough, more acts are due to be announced.
Couple with this live talks from Jay Brown (President and co-founder of Roc Nation), Mike Pickering (MD, Deconstruction Records), Jho Oakley (Founder, Jho Management), Caroline Protheroe (Manager, David Guetta) and Bertis Downs (Manager, R.E.M) and you’ve got yourself a orgasmic three days of music.
Venues participating include Night & Day, Roadhouse, Band On The Wall, Ruby Lounge, Moho Live and a few more.
- Wristbands are £29.
- Hostel and wristband package is £72 for 3 nights stay at Hatters.
- Hotel and pass packages available at £450 for 3 nights stay at City Inn (ITC main
Everything else you need to know can be found on the ITC website.
I may have made some misplaced assumptions about tonight. Speculations such as all German’s are cold, and sticklers for precision. The Ruby Lounge has a questionable sound system. DJ/producer/computer types live, are always tepid, obvious and repetitive affairs.
The main support is D/R/U/G/S. Now, they are a little repetitive. For a short while I’m unaware they’ve even started. It takes moment to discern that the duo casually hunkering over a laptop are performers, and not just two fellows defragging a hard drive. Maybe the nonchalance is part of their shtick. The music certainly doesn’t warrant air punching, or that smug grimace that lots of laptop-knob twiddling types are doing these days. Nevertheless, even with a non-performer such as say, Gold Panda, you know he’s started at least; there are quite obvious visual clues. Not here. The music isn’t bad, it’s just not particularly very good.
Next up a rather humble gentleman is on stage with a wine glass, some ice, and a couple of bottles of water. He taps and runs a metal wand around the innards of the glass, and a shrill tone bellows echoing through the soundsystem, it now having been transmogrified into a swirling, reverberating cacophony of noise. Instead of keys on a keyboard, he adds an ice cube and the tone and dynamic change. Two cubes, three cubes, some water, circulating the rod round the glass, each time creating a new texture of sound. Eventually he presses play on his machinery and a new set of noises whir into their own. It’s common now for the music producer to do this, bop in time to his pre-programmed bars, but you get the impression that Pantha Du Prince doesn’t subscribe to this mode. His esoteric tampering seems earnest; each track is fresh, organic. ‘Saturn Strobe’ is just as vast in its scope, well beyond the aural confines of the Ruby Lounge. The same can be said for tracks from Black Noise. It’s a rare thing when a musician in a live setting can successfully recreate the minutiae of music as complex as Pantha Du Prince, but somehow, very little is mislaid.
I’m always apprehensive about music makers who rely on computers when they play live. I understand that there are noises no piece of wood or brass or string can produce. It’s the way the musician strums or hits or blows that makes the performance. The DJ taps and twiddles. What’s crucial about live performance is the crowd reaction. All musicians live for the response of a crowd, and it’s this element that links every performer together, no matter what their instrument. Pantha Du Prince is working the crowd into a state somewhere between awe and frenzy. Then there’s the sound. Very pristine. Throughout the night there’s a fellow toward the back of the stage whom I’m sure is on sound duties. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that’s Herr Hendrik, and the patsy at the front of the stage is a fake.
Either way, tonight Pantha Du Prince, whoever he is, is borderline superb. It’s Tuesday, and working an audience into anything other than a reserved shuffle is a hard task, a task that’s accomplished to perfection.
Were my class assemblies like this then I may have enjoyed school slightly more. But no, to this day I can recite all the words to ‘Were You There?‘ and ‘Light Up The Fire‘ which, lets be honest, could quite easily be some sort of pro-pyromaniac ode. Anywho, PS22 nail the chill-wave harmonies of Beach House’s ‘Zebra’ with gusto. So they do look slightly like a cult, but I’ll take this over ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ any day.
I’m crap at remembering band names. I recoil to think how many bands have slipped into the ether owing to my inability in remembering their long-ass name. From The Kites of San Quentin is one such name. However, Friday’s performance at Manchester’s Ruby Lounge had me dashing to find a pen.
FTKOSQ blend deep, menacing dubstep basslines and trip-hop beats among a heady ruckus of glitchy synth. I’ve heard critics fire disdain at the masculine overtones dubstep encapsulates, not here. Singer Alison Carney cuts a sharp feminine line through a dark melee of noise. A voice more powerful tonight than on record, she rocks gently and smiles like a cheshire cat. Their songs are a moody broth that unfold into euphoric gorgeousness. It’s a mix of just enough disparate musical elements that make FTKOSQ quite awesome. Masterfully effecting, and engaging the audience far more than first support and the night’s headliners.
More about The Kites Of San Quentin can be seen on their Myspace.
Throughout my working day my ears are repeatedly bombarded with a selection of nondescript, tawdry toss bag music. Occasionally the powers that be will included something at least tolerable. Last night while I was wasting time for money, I heard the snippet of something I’d heard before. I edged my head toward the speaker to try and compute what I was hearing. After a short time I realised that it was the vocal line from REM’s ‘The One I Love’, pulled through a voice box. I first assumed that the band playing had ripped it off, and made their song around the REM tune. However, the more I listened, the more I realised that this was in fact a fully fledged cover. I had my manager run upstairs to tell me who it was so that I could scrutinize at another point. That’s when I discovered The Moog Cookbook. Pray silence please.