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Benjamin Cassidy

The Flame That Keeps Burning: Keith Flint

WORDS BY BENJAMIN CASSIDY

The Prodigy were cool in a different way than other bands that found mainstream success during their reign as unique figureheads of the alternatives and dissenters – as well as being a crucial part of the soundtrack to the last pre-internet-generation of music fans. They’d established a dedicated following well before that though – via desire to listen to them, dance and nothing else. Being part of a movement back then happened without online chat-rooms, or, any other form of internet based-promotion. People came, heard and told everyone else what they were missing. This often took place in old, industrial areas at illegal raves, or at within the networks of parties, that people had. Spaces simply had to be found, because the thought of not getting together to celebrate what being alive is really about – shaking off the drudge of the working week and the stifling constrictions of nine to five just wasn’t feasible.

The big sound, packed full of fuck offs and meaty beats, injected the power of being alive into you. The party well and truly started as soon as people heard those unmistakable sounds of The Prodigy. Mayhem and love met. They brought people together, as the experience was always better shared. Many wild nights were made more-wild by watching your mates take it all in – it was as if you needed to observe someone else, at times, just to make sense of the sheer power and force occurring. They watched you too. It was reciprocal; the magic of it kept the wonderful self-fulfilling loop of it going. A rocket-fuelled ceremony on repeat.


Even when they hit big, and were at their commercial peak, The Prodigy still maintained a status as separate. They celebrated many punk attitudes both in their sound and image: raw energy, individuality and sheer love of the music, amongst other attributes that never fail to mobilise new listeners within a generation. So much more than that though, they reached people of varying tastes, penetrating clicks and usually closed off clubs. If you were Oasis or Blur didn’t matter. The Prodigy offered something else entirely and were too likeable to not enjoy. They were immersive and immediate. Everyone knew. Contemporaries watched and learnt, even if they didn’t give the praise The Prodigy deserved. It didn’t matter to them. The sound and the fans did – making as much of an impact as possible, whenever and wherever they could.

Their enigmatic front man, who originally joined as a dancer, epitomised what music can offer, exploiting perfectly via the electronic sermons, that he was the divine instigator of, harmony, happiness and collective expression. Keith Flint achieved the rare accolade of being the coolest person in music without any accusations of selling out. The man simply wasn’t capable of that. Yes, he changed, but only in so much as the party got bigger and better, and he adapted for that. He dressed for the occasion, but not for marketing purposes or to sell an image.

He was genuine, and that’s what people wanted to emulate more than anything. He was adored, but not with sycophantic adulation. His achievement was the total respect of those who knew how dull and flat life can get without someone to get things blazing. Keith wore the uniform of self, proudly, and taught others that they could too, and should. He wasn’t interested in being shocking or making statements. He was too intelligent for that, and simply not interested. He just liked to dress that way, so he did. Of course, there was some theatricality in his peerless performances, but that was the music flowing into him and pouring back out. He caught the energy of the crowd – a filter for the moment. It was clear he loved making people happy by doing what he loved.

One way to measure bands, a method that separates forgettable from legendary, is how they hold up in a live performance. The Prodigy were made for performing, and if they were there, so were their army of followers – many from the early days – Keith was well known as “that dancer”, at the parties that stemmed from the early nineties’ own Summer of Love. First up and last off the floor, no doubt. Some of the future crowd probably spent time alongside him, although none could compete. He was the public talisman of the group, the face that let everyone knew they were creating something. Bonding. Mattering. It was the Holy Grail for many, to go and see The Prodigy live.

The inclusion of their track, Mindfields, from The Prodigy’s seminal 1997 album, Fat of The Land (it was a landmark record that stands up today and paved the way for so much) on the soundtrack to The Matrix (1999) is entirely unsurprising. It shows how culturally relative they were, somehow tuned in to what people needed, not just wanted. If anything is going to jolt you out of a fugue-state it’s Keith’s sneering vocal, to the backdrop of an impossibly clever array of noises that collectively, could cure zombification in an instant, by the sheer musical excitement.

His delivery incites a sort of static-shock, absent from mainstream music today. If you’re ever unsure of what’s real and what’s not, then listen to that and watch the hairs on your arms start tingling and dancing. It’s honestly just not an option to stay still when you play their music and hear Keith make the announcement “This is Dangerous”. Indeed, in the best possible way. You can’t ignore it, even if it’s not for you. The stuff it’s made of won’t let you. Those crashing battering rams of drumming, the sublime, synthesised sonics of reverb and bent notes.

Following news of Keith’s death, even with him gone from mortal form, his light will continue to make many sparkle and fizz with heat and never want to be extinguished, for even a second. An absolute icon and cultural phenomenon. He’ll be much missed. Though his death may cause many, for a while, to feel that a flame within them has been extinguished – for older fans perhaps seemingly snuffing out that eternal burning combustion that is youthful reminiscence, the inevitable tears won’t stop him starting fires for long. They mustn’t and can’t. There are too many parties yet to first discover him and the petrol of his song. Once they do, like so many before, they’ll burst to life, ignite and make the night go boom.

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julia bardot

SINGLE RELEASE: Julia Bardo – ‘Desire’

WORDS BY BENJAMIN CASSIDY

As the drums kick in alongside jangly guitar rhythm, Julia Bardo‘s debut release Desire sounds familiar. Not distinctively like any other artist in particular, but in a way that makes you feel it can’t be new. It sounds like it’s been released years earlier and never stopped being a great record to listen to. Emanating the sound of experience and the voice of a born singer/songwriter, Bardo showcases similarities to Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks thanks to the range and power of her voice which negotiates the song as it changes suddenly.

It’s not easy for a song to change pace, fusing different styles as it goes – Desire doesn’t reflect that though, it is effortlessly pulled together. Showcasing her musical talents in Working Men’s Club – a highly rated upcoming group gaining more exposure and success of late, Bardo is no stranger to making good music.

Desire shows the musician immersing herself into lyrics, resulting in quite a poetic song that manages to use the bouncy, upbeat melody to mask a slightly darker tone in the words. The song is a self-contained story, that unlike some, doesn’t result in clichés or revert to self-pitying. That’s why it’s the work of someone who knows what they’re doing. The chorus gives a voice, musically and lyrically that is somewhat removed from the verses.

That distance makes a great appeal to the audience to feel a part of it. The words are statements and not pleas. Bardo has no difficulty in showing what her voice can do, too. The chorus reaches high notes, stretching out the tones, that sound more powerful because the pre-chorus  (bridge) is bass heavy and creates an atmosphere requiring resolve.

It is as easy to listen to as it is to sing along to; you’ll start to do so after the second listen and don’t stop. Part of the reason this song works so well is the appeal to universal themes, but in a memorable manner, not just a dull ballad or cloying dedication. It’s a love song for everyone and catches a person right at the point they are at in their lives, now. On top of that, it’s an accomplished piece, with spare and cleverly placed guitar solos that stand out because of that. The song’s powerful, relatable, and, is surely just the beginning for Bardot.

What an incredible start to 2019 for her. She has firmly established herself as an act to keep hot on the trails of. We look forward to hearing what’s next; until then, Desire will be one of those songs that stays on playlists, enjoying all the playtime that it deserves.

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LIVE: Ocean Colour Scene @ Albert Hall

WORDS BY BENJAMIN CASSIDY

A venue that sees the bands performing surrounded by fans. There’s those near to the stage, at the front. The others, further back, penned in with them and then the others on the two balconies. The place is built for gigs. Big enough to get a decent amount of people in; small enough to still be intimate. MCR Live just happened to be amongst them all, on a night that had a group playing with a firm following – one that’s never waned since the band broke onto the mainstream scene (no doubt a few who saw them play before that, too).

Roll back the clock and Birmingham’s Ocean Colour Scene have always been fast establishing themselves as the band to see. They’d taken the country by storm, following Chris Evans championing them and Paul Weller asking Steve Craddock to play and Simon Fowler to sing for him. They sounded like no other group. No obvious Rock N Roll front or claims of being the next great act. Though they were thought of then, as a part of what’s now known as the Britpop movement, this lot are a band’s band. Nothing but the music mattered. That’s what wowed people and led to them supporting Oasis at Knebworth, with an estimated quarter of a million people watching over two nights.

Since then the group have released a host of albums and other than sporadic patches of time out, have toured regularly. Some critics have slammed the band for being “too nice” and showing no character. Clearly, the entire audience present has different opinions; not to mention the many who couldn’t get tickets for the Manchester leg of their tour, a two-night sell-out show. Not just any act could get music royalty in the way of soul band Martha Reeves and The Vandellas to support them. Such a massive act on the bill further proved how well-respected OCS are within music.

Martha Reeves oozed class, style, and confidence, strutting and swaying. The centre of the stage was hers. No mistake about it. She did what she has done for longer than most bands stay together. Entertained, energised and engaged a crowd that felt the privilege that was watching her. She rocked and bopped, belting out her classics with a distinctive voice commanded attention. Her, along with her two sisters (actual siblings and not just in the sorority sense of the word) Lois and Delphine Reeves provided a sound that has had people moving for decades – few as well as Martha though, who egged on the crowd and dared them to try and keep pace with her. It was easy to take up the challenge and plenty did, getting into the spirit she spread so plentifully. There was also new music too; it was plain to see that this influential group couldn’t stop if they wanted too. Also blatant was the fact that they don’t want to and have no plans to any time soon.

By the time Martha Reeves and the Vandellas finished their set, around an hour after coming on, her and the band had cemented in the mood for the night. The backing band, a mini-orchestra of sorts (trumpets and trombones) were sensational, too, providing more magic to the spells of the vocals. Energy and nostalgia (for many – there were those who weren’t born when Ocean Colour Scene first hit the scene – but it didn’t stop them singing along.  They’d clearly be well-schooled in brilliant music by their parents). A great choice of support act and one that has no doubt inspired OCS too.

 

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Reckon that actually topped Millennium Square and Kendal, special @ocsmusic

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Following a short shift about of the stage area (bringing on of guitars and drum kit altered) Ocean Colour Scene walked on stage. Steve Craddock and Simon Fowler wore light-coloured, loose-fitting suits. Straight to it. The unmistakable riff of the ‘Riverboat Song’ screeched out, as heads nodded and feet tapped. Steve Craddock’s fingers danced high up the fretboard, as the tips began biting the strings. Oscar Harrison, a powerhouse of a drummer, was accompanied by support on the bongos. He certainly didn’t need it, but it was a welcomed addition. Harrison lorded over his huge kit, as Craddock and company got stuck in. Simon Fowler’s diverse vocal brought the necessary growling rock sound to the opening number, as the group ripped things up, to the solid backing of Raymond Meade, the group’s now permanent bassist (Damon Minchella is the only original member no longer with the group).

A few songs in saw a change of pace, one of the many brilliant traits of this group. A rendition of ‘Profit in peace’, from the band’s fourth album demonstrated the more political side of the band’s music; not directly so, but in the sense that they exploited wonderfully the ability for music to unite people and be a force for forgotten voices. Although a quieter song that didn’t stop the chants of the audience performing the chorus, powerfully, declaring “We don’t wanna fight no more”. With so many songs to play they couldn’t do them all, but, they did an eclectic selection, including hits such as ‘The Circle’ and more recent material. It was an absolute roller-coaster of sound, with ‘Hundred Mile High City’ seemingly coming from nowhere and filling the venue. The audience was sucked in and it was refreshingly pleasant to see a lack of people recording and photographing (possibly down to the fact the crowd were generally older and wanted to re-create original experiences before it was standard). The performance was riveting, and people just wanted to absorb the atmosphere – one thick with a mutual love of Rock n Roll and music capable of climbing inside you and staying there until it ends. After so many great songs of theirs being played, the band left the stage, to the inevitable shouts of “more, more, more”.

Simon Fowler returned to the stage, alone, a few minutes later. He treated fans to what’s possible their live favourite, ‘Robin Hood’. They helped him out with it and it helped to make what was a brilliant performance even better. He was then joined by Craddock and the gang who put their all into one last song. Yep, that song. ‘The Day We Caught the Train’ rang out and ended what was a gig that showed age means nothing when it comes to attitude and musical brilliance. There are few bands in the industry that can rival Ocean Colour Scene. Their live sound leaves you knowing that should their fate have been different they’d still be playing; they’re simply not capable of not doing. Fortunately, their sound did become known and is now part of Rock n Roll history. The World’s a better place for that.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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Pete Shelley: The Man We All Fell in Love With

WORDS BY BENJAMIN CASSIDY

The greatest people and the art they make never stop influencing others. Those who lived whist they were in their hey day and those only just discovering it, many years after it was first released. They give a feeling that can’t be bottled and is worth any amount of money that could ever be dreamt up. Them, and their work, become details in people’s stories. Moments, that become immortal and are passed on as anecdotes years later. They cause nostalgia, which the more you think about that the more powerful the realisation is of how very special they and their innovations are.

As a global collective, fans always feel the loss of their icons. It’s astounding to think that we grieve for people we’ve never met. That’s the impact that music can have, and those that make it. Even in death, they bring people together. When a big name goes it’s always a sad day. Tributes pour in and out, with social media enabling exchanges that were never once possible. That global community of music lovers get to share sadness and perhaps it helps to soothe it; or, if not they can celebrate the lives of those they adored, at least. Sometimes though the community they plied their trade in and first gigged around is especially hard hit, when it loses one of its own.

Pete Shelley’s death is one that Manchester’s many music lovers (of all ages, tastes, and genres) were deeply grieved by; all are MCR are amongst them. It’s hard to say anything that’s not been said or try to capture how ingrained into Manchester and the music culture it’s so well known for. Him and the Buzzcocks were more than just a sound. They set trends in what people wore and somehow managed to find a middle ground between the more nihilistic aspect of Punk and the plastic pop sounds that flirted so heavily with Glam Rock. They were serious and fun, simultaneously. that showed just how much of an industry the music industry really was, always has been and still is. More than that though, the Buzzcocks did it first, paving the way for so much of what was to come out of Manchester, the surrounding area (as well as nationally and internationally). One local young musician’s Facebook tribute read, “Without the Buzzcocks, there are no Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall”. Put like that it’s staggering how much of an influence Shelley and the Buzzcocks are.

As a contributor for MCR, I know I talk on behalf of all here that going out to gigs, reviewing bands and interviewing them is a tremendous privilege and pleasure. Live music is the beating heart of culture. Manchester has a scene and history like no other place on the planet. Even those a few miles away, such as Joy Division and The Verve, from Macclesfield and Wigan, are firmly symbols of Madchester. The Buzzcocks are a Bolton band, but few would know it; less care. The Buzzcocks were the original group that others have so much to thank for. The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays. Later, Oasis, the Charlatans. Many, many more. So too though to those acts and artists that aren’t household names. The number of people the Buzzcocks and Pete Shelley influenced to pick a guitar up, wear a leather jacket and dare to offer the world their truth (often all at once and part of the same parcel) can never be known. What is known is the legacy he left, that was more than just brilliant music, although ultimately that’s what lasts and will always be most celebrated. Quite right too.

Almost every well-known band has a hit they become known by and not just for. They don’t pick it and at times it overshadows other work that’s also brilliant, perhaps even better. The fans pick and that’s that. Even record labels have limits on song popularity, despite heavy marketing. The fact that their most well-known song, ‘Ever Fallen in Love’ (1978) didn’t even get into the top ten proves this point. It didn’t need to. It is top of so many playlists, and, settled so many arguments of truly great songs. It was and is the anthem the band is synonymous with. This isn’t going to change and nor should it. However, it is worth using it as a way into discovering the rest of the material made by (along with his bands) this truly innovative and much-missed man, who had an impressive solo career too. He’ll long remain someone that’s energy and attitude, distilled in music, will ensure people have no doubt that they well and truly should have, and were so glad that they did fall in love with.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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Review: Leonard Cohen Appreciation Evening @ Art of Tea

A church hall on a Saturday night felt the right setting for what was the second evening of this year’s musical tribute to the late, unrivalled Leonard Cohen. The night before a similar event took place over the road, at Didsbury’s quaint café and occasional music venue, Art of Tea. People gathered on plastic chairs around fold-out tables, on a cold night in a community space.

The atmosphere (and the good people of Art of Tea operating the bar to provide refreshments and mince pies) and a few drinks gave all the warmth necessary, though. This was a community of people – performers and crowd – who share the feeling of Cohen’s music being something truly special.

Matt with Hannah AC

This year saw the third annual event, to commemorate Cohen’s passing (the inaugural event was a few months after he died in 2016) and ran over two nights, such was the demand and popularity. Organised by Papillon Promotions, who facilitate many fantastic music nights (and day events too) in and around Manchester. The success, of the original idea, built on by last year’s nights led to it becoming an annual affair. This night looked sure to be a memorable one. Space was limited, but, in the spirit of togetherness that music has a unique ability to create, people invited strangers to join their table and soon nobody was a stranger. The music began just after 8pm, to the thrill of a keen audience.

Matt, who runs Papillon Promotions opened the night by welcoming and thanking everyone. He also announced that towards the back is a collection being ran for donations to Hope for Children Charity, that the night was put on in aid of, instead of an entrance fee. It really was an environment of giving, in more ways than one. Homage to the poetic brilliance and poignancy of a true legend, accommodating others and helping an important charity to be able help those in need. The standard was set by the first act and it all went from there. Gracious applause brought the first few songs to a close.

 

 

Kiki Trijber wowing

A few acts in and things only got more magical. The spells cast were the gifted and effortlessly entertaining singers and musicians, who were having as much fun as those who’d come to see them. This was a night put on and made possible by music lovers, for music lovers. Nothing could stop what was playing out, an example of the power that passion, enthusiasm and commitment brings. A real treat for all present. One or two technical hitches did try to stem the flow of merriment. That didn’t happen though. Absolute consummate professionalism meant that if necessary that performer would play without the sound system to amplify their guitar. Other musicians jumped up to help, offering their instruments and the wonderful Raffaello Porto (the evening’s appointed sound manager) got things back on track, which gave everyone another reason to cheer. And so, the show went on . . .

 

Matt, with Hannah playing a duet

The structure of the night was governed by the sheer number of musicians queueing up to get a spot. It meant there was no time for a break.  Nobody minded though. The sheer quality and range of performers was far too entertaining to think about stopping the flow. Other than people nipping to the loo or topping up their glass at the bar nobody really moved. With a massive back catalogue to choose from, hearing individual spins on absolute golden songs was as interesting as it was powerful. Each artist managed to express their love for Leonard Cohen and his often, mystifying sound. There were other collaborative efforts too.

 

 

The Stroke Society choir performed for the crowd, complete with their own guitarist. Though it’s impossible to single out any one performance as standout (the night certainly wasn’t a competition – it was a gathering of like minds), this group effort brought Cohen’s music to life in a different way. The energy of around 20 people or more belting out the same song totally filled the room. Though they knew it, they chose not to sing Cohen’s most famous song, Hallelujah. That was still to come. Matt also chose to collaborate with other artists, including the angel-voiced Catkin Gilligan and Hannah AC, who stunned the crowd to silence. This micro-collaboration was representative of theme on the night, with the audience (which also comprised those who’d either been on or were yet to go on) playing the role of unofficial backing singers too. Those who weren’t there to entertain on the night also played a crucial role. Melissa Finch gave her time to collect donations for Hope for Children.

 

As the evening was almost over, around 11pm, the final hymn of a song was sung and performed as Matt invited all who’d played to take to the stage again and offer one final tribute, a crescendo to a rousing success of a night and a touching celebration to a much-missed maestro. The performers huddled together. As a unit, Sam Rabin, Tony Harper, Hilary Troop, Harry Stafford, Kiki Trijber, Colin Cuningham, Hannah AC, Catkin Gilligan, Vincent O’Brien, Mathew Gray, Cal Rush Williams formed their own makeshift choir, led by matt who played the anthem of a song on guitar. All that ability and vocal range made for a rendition of Hallelujah that saw many in the audience stand for. A real ceremony of an affair. The vocals were shared out by individuals and for the chorus all joined in on the chorus. A mix of genders, ages and styles. The result was nothing short of sublime and shows just what happens when put together talented, dedicated musicians and massive fans of an artist. No wonder it had to have two nights given over for it.

On hand to capture the events was Colin Cunningham, who as well as being a gifted guitarist, performer and singer/songwriter also provides photography (with much experience and a portfolio of work available upon request) for gigs. As Sycamore Film and Photography, he is available to hire for shooting videos too. The services of many of the other performers are also available for hire, as well as some of their work being available to purchase. Details of their upcoming gigs can be found via their Social Media pages (Facebook) (MCR Live! hope to be attending some soon). Also, to be found via Facebook are the many up and coming nights that Papillon Promotions organise, including Bruce Springsteen – An Appreciation II (another annual event in the growing calendar), on Saturday December 15th 2018. Starts at 8pm and will take place in St James and Emanuel, Didsbury –once more in association with The Art of Tea (that it’s over the road from). This night will also serve to raise funds for the Hope for Children Charity.

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SINGLE RELEASE: Hozier – ‘Movement’

WORDS BY BENJAMIN CASSIDY

The latest offering from the man, the voice, Hozier, has what’s already become his trademark. A haunting atmosphere, provided by the jingled melodies, fused with poetic lyrics (a little reminiscent of Seal — specifically, ‘Kiss from a Rose’). The song certainly feels personal, and although it may be a generic love song, the emotion in his strong and sensitive voice is telling of experience. It’s a yearning of sorts. Perhaps a struggle with love and the seeming entitlement that others seem to think they have to offer blessings, or, vehement disapproval. This song offers an insight into privacy, by invitation to fans, who feel no need or right to pass judgement on the private affairs of the artist (other than happiness at his happiness).

During a live performance, a rehearsal gig, in Dublin, Hozier played the song having requested no audio or video be taken, as it was the first time it was heard. His wishes were respected. Sometime later, not long after, Hozier gave his blessing for the song to be shared. Some may feel this was a clever PR trick, deliberately orchestrated. Whatever the case, involving the fans, by directly engaging with them as a part of the process that sees music released creates a sense of belonging and being a part of something. A collaboration of sorts, between speaker and listener. One thing is true for sure, he’s certainly no shortage of fans. This is an artist going from strength to strength. His new single shows that.

Romance and biblical imagery are plentiful in this ‘Movement’, released in mid-November. Aspects of autobiographical details are clear. This is also apparent by the production, that like many songs of his has the feeling of a hymn. Hozier uses what’s his most powerful instrument – that angelic vocal of his – to draw listeners in and want to hear more. The way he delivers his music is as if he’s some sort of ancient, wandering minstrel who is part of oral story telling tradition. Another example of his upbringing. However, what he manages is to be every bit the modern-day troubadour, using intricate string arrangements and simple hand claps to build a mood. His clever arrangement adds drama to the fold.

As the song plays out, the ethereal, choral harmony pulls every bit of attention from listeners, making a crescendo to what is a very strong piece of musical performance. Honesty and raw talent, combined with lyrics that don’t give everything away at first make this a track that demands to be listened to again, with the lyrics in front of you. It offers something different than much of what’s being released commercially, currently. It’s a fine example of an artist that’s building a repertoire of songs that are distinctive, yet, individual. ‘Movement’, shows that you don’t need to re-invent the wheel, just put your own spin on tried and tested themes and concepts that people will always be interested to hear of. It’s a deeply poignant song that manages to capture in under four minutes complexity, intensity and heartfelt sincerity. No doubt, his next album, due early 2019 will offer more of the same; his fans will no doubt be counting the days to find out.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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The aim of the Spoken Word night, Speak, is to provide a friendly and welcoming environment for those who wish to perform something they’ve written. There are no rules (time is limited so everyone else can get to perform too), no theme or any restrictions on content (nothing racist, discriminatory or prejudiced – not a rule, just an expectation). Some were funny, others deeply poignant and some sketches had important political points to make. All were brilliant, in their own way.

Things were opened by co-organiser and compere, Alex Slater. He set the mark high with his hilarious and expertly timed poem about a northerner in London (that he called Britain’s second City!). Alex was intense and very much a physical performer, flailing his arms about and moving over the stage, dropping innovative rhymes that you just couldn’t see coming, but, worked so brilliantly. After that, Alex introduced the first guest poet, but not before he laid down the level of applause that he expected for everyone who was performing. During the first half some performers were experienced at performing, with some even doing it professionally, others were making their debut. There were poems written using only a single vowel sound (known as a Uni-vocalism), which relied on creative interpretation of language and shortened words, to deliver its message and draw laughs from the crowd – both of which were accomplished with success. The first half saw five open-mic slots of around 5 minutes each. The crowd didn’t let Alex down and whooped, clapped and cheered, as each act provided wonderfully enthusiastic entertainment. Between each performer Alex let everyone know who’d just been on and who was coming next. The atmosphere was electric; the basement room it took place in was packed out. Incredible, to that nothing but words, guts and a microphone could provide so much excitement for everyone. It was clear that the performers were enjoying things every bit as much as the crowd, making banter and cracking gags. There was a definite synergy going on, with both needing the other to make it all work. All this was just the first half of the night, too.

Following a short break, Rosie Fleeshman (the other organiser and joint “speak chief” along with Alex) came on as compere. Like Alex, Rosie knew what she was doing, and has very clearly worked hard to get to such a high standard. She jeered up the audience again, after the short interlude (during which the energy never dropped, with people chatting about what they’d just seen and taking in the sizzling atmosphere). With toilet breaks taken and drinks refilled it was time to get things going again. Rosie launched into her own poem, about the misogyny that she has come across as a performance artist, and that no doubt countless other women have and do (not at Speak, though – inclusivity is a massive part of why this night is unmissable and such a lovely event to attend). That shouldn’t be what’s remembered though, or define the performance – the delivery, wit and intelligence of the piece should, with pauses where they should be and drilled rhythms and beats.

As the second half played out, it was obvious to see that this crowd were well and truly bought into what was going on, getting louder and louder with their applause. They had plenty to praise, too. There were varied agendas within the poems performed. Some spoke of being marginalised, some of bewilderment at the state of society and the oddities of the human condition. All were bound by their power to evoke response. There more first timers, who were made to feel extra welcome and loudly supported by those of more experience. This wasn’t a place to outdo anyone or try and be better than the rest. Some performances were an explosion of language, boomed, thundered, (even sang, at times) and others lightly breathed truths by some, that reached inside and truly reminded how strong words can be. There was so much bravery on display. Yes, people showed off their skills and talents, but, the lack of any ego as a dominant force is what made things so special. Encouragement, enthusiasm and engagement were the factors at play, and in endless supply. Rosie did a fine job of keeping these things going, responding to what everyone had just seen, in between sets, and, reminding everyone that the headline at was still to come. By this time, she didn’t need to work to get the applause for the acts. There was no need for the audience to politely provide any consolation clapping, just for bravery. The noise made was a genuine appreciation at the spectacles on offer. The acts in the second half were equally as brilliant as those in the first. It was hard to imagine that the night could go up a gear from here, and, the atmosphere any fuller. It did, thanks to the headlining act.

Scott Tyrrell is a multi-award-winning performance poet and has also dabbled in Stand-Up Comedy, too. His range of work is evident in the life experience that forms the basis of most of his poems. With an incredible ear for language and an ability to make it sound exactly how he wants it to, Scott was a class act. He was as warm as he was funny too, inviting the audience to hear about him and his family life, revealing details about the ways that mental health has impacted upon him and his love and gratefulness to those who’ve stuck by him and offered support. Scott didn’t hold back in regaling the horrible truth about depression and his struggle with it. Scott looked back at times in his life, recorded in his work, and managed to find a way to laugh. A deeply humble person, with a giant heart and an even bigger talent.

 

 

Amongst other books, Scott read from his latest, aptly named Honest. In this collection is the piece ‘If We’re Being Honest’, a lengthy poem, about coming to terms with yourself, and, how that can take a long time to do. Hidden behind playful phrases that are designed to be “sketched” on stage, is an intelligence and sensitivity. Scott really was the real deal; it’s little surprise that he’s achieved so much. The set he gave was a rollercoaster of emotions, which reflected so brilliantly what he was saying – life is far from straight forward and full of the unexpected. Scott caught that aspect of life we all feel, at times – just when you think you’ve got it all worked out, suddenly you realise you’ve been trying to solve the wrong puzzle. With a combination of slapstick physicality, an array of comedic voices and the gift to so accurately make a point through humour, Scott provided a finale to what was a real show piece night.

Speak is on at Jimmy’s Bar (situated in Manchester’s Northern Quarter – Jimmy’s is close to Piccadilly Gardens ), Newton Street, every 3rd Thursday of the month. You can find details on Social Media and request to perform, too (you’ll have to be quick, though, as, this popular night is only going to get bigger, with more demand to perform). At a phenomenal £3 entry (THERE’S ABSOLUTELY NOTHING YOU CAN GET FOR THAT PRICE THAT EVEN APPROACHES THE SAME LEVEL OF BANG FOR YOUR BUCK!), for all that amazing entertainment, if you think you’d enjoy language like you’ve never seen it before, and in a scorching setting, then get yourself down. You’ll be warmly welcomed. You won’t be sorry – but you will when you realise what you’ve been missing out on. A truly phenomenal night and an important date in the calendar of Manchester’s expanding Spoken Word scene. A night like no other, Speak at Jimmy’s offers and unmissable experience that will leave you counting down the days, until next time.

Speak is at Jimmy’s on 15th November 2018.

 

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In this mini-article series MCR Live will be looking back at October and discussing the various events that took place to help commemorate the month that saw the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s seminal novel, Frankenstein (1818). Even those who’ve never read it will at least have some knowledge of one of literature’s most iconic monsters, having probably seen it in one of the many film versions.

On the afternoon of 24th October 2018 one of a series of readings of the novel took place, in Cheetham’s Library. There’d been a reading at the University of Manchester that morning, too. We caught up with those involved at Cheetham’s, around 3pm. A suitably spooky and gothic location, for the shared experience of various people reading individual chapters or passages. MCR Live were fortunate enough to be invited to take part and be one of many readers of the day.

Douglas Clark (pictured below), of University of Manchester, a Lecturer in English Literature was one of the event’s main organisers, alongside his colleagues. The whole idea is to group together people from many different backgrounds and professions/occupations – with different ages and genders ensuring diverse representation – and hear the story from them, with each reader offering something unique to the proceedings.

Matt Foley, of The Manchester Writing School’s Haunt! team was a guest reader on the day. Commenting on the story’s structure, he stated, ‘The reading out of this story takes on a special meaning, due to the way that the story is framed, which sees various characters telling things from their perspective’. This only added to the fun and thematic atmosphere that one of the reading rooms at Cheetham’s offered, with its impressive stone architecture, and open design of space. This meant that the voices of readers could be projected well and the slightly cold feel in the room gave even more spookiness.

                                                                                                

 

 

Following the reading, that saw Douglas finish off the scheduled chapters, the tale wasn’t done yet! The final part would take place at Manchester Central Library, between 5pm-6pm, to give those who were at work earlier a chance to come and experience some of the event, as well as members of the public. There were another set of readers to finish off, including actors, drama students and various academics, as well as younger students. Inclusivity really was a huge part of the ethos behind this day.  We managed to speak with Douglas, before the readings at Central Library:

‘The Gothic has always been associated with the marginalisation of characters in the stories. Some people identify with that. The idea is to bring together the literary (and wider) community and appreciate the novel from a fresh perspective. Hearing any story, especially one such as Frankenstein offers a fresh perspective. There are few books in the genre as well known as this. The book’s popularity is high as ever. Other readings are also taking place all over the world’.

                                                                                        

 

It’s perhaps unsurprising that a city with as much literary activity as Manchester has was so actively involved. The choice of location for the last readings of the day was an inspired one and drew quite an audience. The readings weren’t in a quiet room, somewhere tucked away, they took place in the middle of the main floor. This helped to create a real buzz, with many customers happy to stop what they were doing and observe a rare treat. The remaining readers certainly gave them something to watch, too. The deliveries of the chapters shared in the library were accompanied by animated and impassioned readings, complete with flailing arms and even people’s created character voices! Everyone who took part played their part in making the day a culturally significant event, as well as a fun-filled family friendly one.

After the last words of the last chapter were read out, Douglas thanked everyone who’d helped make things possible and asked for a round of applause for all their hard work, especially to those who read. The idea and the successful carrying out of it, breathed fresh life into what became a creation of multiple parts, of its very own. It seems that Mary Shelley really did create a monster in her story; and, its one that refuses to die. Today, it was very much a living and breathing representation of why certain works of literature have given and continue to give more than their authors may ever have imagined. Though the creator has long gone, the monster lives . . .

 

 

 

 

 

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LIVE: Teenage Fanclub @ Manchester Academy | 05.11.18

WORDS BY BENJAMIN CASSIDY

Sometimes, a gig will stick in your mind for things associated with the music. Before the gig, excitement and a sense of apprehension take over. In other words, we’d all been looking forward to it, all day. This was very much the case for Teenage Fanclub at Manchester Academy. When I arrived, there had been a mix up with the tickets. I thought I wouldn’t get in! The idea of missing the gig deflated me, utterly. All that excitement, for this? So, long story short, thanks to a very helpful attendant, I did. Relief doesn’t quite cut it.

When I got in all my anxiety vanished, as I walked into a sell-out crowd, packed in to see these stalwarts of music. A real “band’s band”, with most members holding more collective experience in the industry than other bands do together. It’s no surprise then that they were in full swing, despite only just starting their set. The audience were loving it, watching attentively. A slightly different vibe than jumping and dancing. Flawless renditions of great tracks. With enough material in their own archive of songs to fill a shelf in a music shop, they weren’t without options. It’s not just the volume though that makes Teenage Fanclub a band to see before you die. It’s the range, which is an extension of the quality, of course. Their songs are as varied as The Beatles and this makes their diversity one of their defining factors, as a group. More than that though, this is a band that love playing as a unit and have a massive amount of love for the fans they’ve accumulated over the years.

 

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Teenage Fanclub night 2 – Grand Prix and Songs from Northern Britain playthroughs. Farewell the Fannies! ❤️

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Just before the band go off to have a short (and well-deserved break), they announced that they’ll be back in around fifteen minutes “to play thirteen more”. They’d powered through the first half with such energy that I’d lost track of how many songs they’d played. Combining heavier tones with slower songs, the group absolutely filled the relatively small venue and made it sound like a stadium at times. They did so without the bravado of mega stars. This group is humility personified. They have every right to strut and showcase their brilliance by swaggering and reminding the crowd of certain songs. They’ve been playing to large audiences for longer than the majority of most bands have been around. They simply chose not to. They wouldn’t be them if they did.

The second half built on what the first half had achieved: a crowd mesmerised to see such an inspiring performance being displayed. More technically sublime guitar riffs from that section of the band, Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley, who deliver intricate melodies and brilliant lyrics so well, accompanied by bassist Gerard Love. With such an array of gifted songwriters the compositions of each are all heard. The songs are backed by the thumping drums of Francis Macdonald, a renowned and highly rated drummer amongst peers. Dave McGowan was also on hand to give the songs that jangly, somewhat ethereal sound that works so well.

Jumping, dancing and screaming aren’t always the way to judge a great gig. Silence can be too. This audience were stunned into quietness, soaking in the atmosphere that few bands can provide live. Excitement did get the better of some fans though, who yelled their approval, loudly. One man declared with volume and gusto that Teenage Fanclub are “Easily the best band in the world”. Perhaps his inspiration for such high praise was the gig itself (as well as his clear love for the band) and the freshness of the songs written and recorded almost three decades ago.

The whole vibe of this gig was like seeing a band just starting to get big and having fans flock to see them, because they’re so interesting and on a different level than other bands. That’s the magic they created on the night – a microcosm of what their music continues to provide. Timeless songs and am impassioned hunger for music that will never be satisfied. This was the first night of a sell-out run of three nights at Manchester Academy (part of a larger U.K. tour with many other sold-out shows), such was the demand to see them. The gigs were the only thing that sold out, though – this band never will. Their principles and attitude have never changed and as a result they set a fine example to any groups starting up now. They could certainly do well to take a lesson from this lot. They’d be learning from one of the very best.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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LIVE: Hey Bulldog @ Jimmy’s | 27.10.18

WORDS BY BENJAMIN CASSIDY      PHOTOS BY JOESY LOWESY

Before the Hey Bulldog gig, at Jimmy’s, last Saturday, we chatted with Ben, Matt and Rob, who, collectively, are rock trio Hey Bulldog. We covered all sorts of topics and I managed to find out aspects about the group’s individuals. There was no shortage of banter either, including some cheeky interpreting of questions too, to keep me on my toes. It was as good a way as any to calm those pre-gig nerves, on what was a huge night for this lot. Plus, it’s good fun!

Earlier today I was having one of my little talks with my partner’s eleven-year-old daughter, Lily. She asked me what’s my favourite instrument that I can’t or haven’t played. So, I put it to you.

Ben: Well, I wouldn’t mind having a crack at a big organ.

Rob: Probably a grand piano, if I could learn to use the foot pedals and everything – I’m alright on a keyboard or electric piano, but a real one would be amazing to learn to play fully. That would be amazing! Yeah, grand piano would be mine. One of the reasons to want to live forever is to be able to learn every instrument.

Matt: Saxophone, or trombone. Something from the brass section of an orchestra, that would be cool. I’ve never done it, other than the recorder at school!

Is the name of your band inspired by The Beatles song?

Ben: Yeah, it is (Ben beams proudly), getting it in before anyone else.

Matt: Yeah, we’re all Beatles nuts. When we started playing it wasn’t as well known as some of their other songs. We were called that before the Beatles re-issue stuff came out. Now everyone’s got Spotify, or whatever, it’s listened to loads.

Rob: Yeah, I wouldn’t say it was obscure, but, it wasn’t a hit or anything. We just loved the name. 

Guys, any new releases coming up?

Rob: We’ve just recorded a new single.

Ben: It’s just finishing being mastered now.

Matt: (It’s called) ‘No Future Part 2’.

Ben: We’ve got another single being released around February time too.

Rob: Yeah, we’ll probably collate it, along with some other tracks into an album, next year. We’ve released around four or five singles in the last few years, so, we’ll use some of those and put it with some new stuff, too.

Matt: I’m looking forward to holding a vinyl copy of our album, having pressed our own record. That’ll be very nice.

How do you find the Manchester music scene?

Matt: It’s wonderful. Like a proper community. It didn’t used to be that way, it was quite insular when I first moved from London about ten years or go. It’s great now, everyone knows everyone and there’s a lot of love for one another.

Ben: The bands supporting us tonight are mates, we just met through gigging and chatting to.

Rob: The only kind of rivalry now is the sort you want. If we go and see local groups we know, and, they’re absolutely nailing the night, we want to go out at our next gig and smash it too. That’s positive though, and, inspires you and encourages you.

Matt: We all help each other out, where we can – with rehearsal space and even equipment, etc. We go and see other groups play and they come to see us.

Last one now, then I’ll let you go: Last gig you went to?

Ben: Deja Vega, last night. We all went.

Rob: Before that it was Brian Jones Town Massacre, last Saturday.

Well ahead of the first support act going on, there was a sizeable crowd, downstairs at Jimmy’s. It’s a venue known for quality acts and some of the best band nights around; tonight’s gig proved no exception. After a DJ set from Mike Denton (of Lucid Dream), La Mode were the first live act on the bill. They got things going with a heavy rock sound, the backdrop to a strong, raw vocal from the lead singer, who, thrashed around the stage utterly owning it as their own.

The drums clashed and clapped pulsing rhythms, alongside meaty guitar riffs that ripped the atmosphere open, declaring intent. They were here to make their mark and did exactly that. Far more than just a thud of drums and screaming guitar work, they had a bluesy feel to them too, often slowing down to offer what were well written and equally well delivered love songs, mournful and pained, fused with an electricity that was their unpredictability. After a year long hiatus, they’re back. You can catch La Mode live, in December, when they’ll be the main support for Carnival Club, in The Deaf Institute on December 15th.

 

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Best band in MCR @lamodeband

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Next up were Gardenback. Jangly guitars and a traditional “Madchester” sound base was this group’s modus operandi. They’re a tight outfit and reminiscent of some of Kasabian’s stuff, with their guitar work. That’s not to say they didn’t have uniqueness, though. The vocal harmonies were a defining part of their onstage sound, one they’d honed and gotten down to professional standard. It worked brilliantly on stage, acting as a sort of live “double-tracking” effect.

Gardenback let the songs do the talking and played the type of music that makes people get up and jump around (that’s exactly what happened). On top of their game and with some songs sang back to them by their followers – flattery and appreciation doesn’t come much bigger than that. They played for around half an hour, but, could have gone on with plenty of material and more than enough in the tank.

The main event. Whoops, cheers and a blistering start, by Hey Bulldog. Straight to it. It’s hard to believe that they are a three piece, with the power of the punch they pack into their performances. Drummer (Ben) and bassist (Matt) combine to make a sound that easily filled the bottom floor of Jimmy’s. Rob, (lead guitarist and lead singer) was the lungs and the nerve centre, tearing it up with riffs and lead lines that were electric.

A diverse sound, that fuses elements of 60’s psychedelia with brilliantly creative song building, performed with imagination and a very clear understanding of how to best incorporate technical trickery, to add to their sound. A huge aspect of their sound is their relentless and frantic energy, with Rob dropping to his knees and grinding out solos, Jimmy Hendrix style. The performance was an inspiring one and what Saturday nights are made for. The basement of Jimmy’s was well and truly theirs, and the fan’s now. A real den of sound, made by the group and built upon by the audience, who were having an absolute riot, yelling, clapping and jumping up and down.

At around two thirds of the way into their set, Hey Bulldog seemed to shift gear, again and up the ante. It was as if they were challenging themselves to ensure there was nothing left they’d have to give by the end. That sort of commitment to music, to the fans and to themselves is something special, indeed. It really was an athletic performance and one that showed what this band are capable of. They explode into action, in what appears to be instantaneously, then, hold everyone present in the palms of their hands, by creating sheer emotion by way of vocal and slowed down playing. It was amazing, how they could slow down a moment and keep you in it. Absolute wizardry and astounding artistry, all happening in front of you. As Hey Bulldog reached the end of their set, the silence was deeply felt. They’d made it able to be forgotten what quietness was – there was barely any between songs – the set, around an hour and ten minutes, was non-stop.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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