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Tim Mooney

LIVE: Maribou State @ The Albert Hall

WORDS BY: TIM MOONEY         PHOTOS BY: SAM NEILL AT BRIXTON ACADEMY

The Manchester Albert Hall was a lost venue until it reopened back in 2013. The refurbished Wesleyan chapel now provides a unique environment for some of the bigger bands and artists who take their tours to Manchester, and its vintage, somewhat eerie setting matched perfectly with the bold and euphoric sounds of Maribou State at the weekend.

Celebrating the release of their third Studio album which surfaced in September 2018, Maribou State have been touring America and Europe ever since, and their sold out Manchester show was met with great anticipation from fans. After arriving at the venue and finding a spot close to the stage, which was at the time kitted out with the bands impressive range of performance equipment, my attention turned to the supporting DJ, Earlyham Mystics.

He provided an eclectic mix of ambient and uplifting tracks (similar to what you may expect to hear from artists like George Fitzgerald or even Bonobo at times) and did a great job of lifting the mood and keeping people dancing as the audience started to flood in and fill the hall. Earlyham Mystics ended his set at around 20:45 to a ripple of applause and general appreciation from the crowd before departing for the main act.

On reflection, I feel he could have continued his set for longer, as by the end the crowd was much larger than it had been midway through his set, and I felt he was deserving of a larger audience. In addition, Maribou State came out slightly later than scheduled, around 20 minutes later, meaning the mood of the crowd had started to dwindle slightly during the long break between performances. Nonetheless, when the lights dimmed and Maribou State took to the stage to perform opening track Home, the restlessness of the crowd was immediately forgotten as we became soothed by the ambient yet powerful sounds of their arrival.

I will always be slightly biased toward bands that show a range of musical talents and switch seamlessly between instruments during a performance, therefore, Maribou State have my complete gratitude. Each member had a range of keyboards, sample pads, guitars and synthesizers at their fingertips and alternated their use of each piece of equipment throughout their tracks. And as if there wasn’t already enough for the eye to take in, their touring vocalist Holly Walker took to the stage for their third track Steal. This added a whole new dimension to the performance which previously had no obvious leading member, but now Holly was able to address the hall from her position as front woman, and the crowd absolutely loved it.

The smooth transitions between each track meant there wasn’t a real need for the band to talk in-between songs, so instead they did so during tracks, or to motivate on the build-up to a big chorus. From start to end, they provided a constant flow of music that fluctuated perfectly between mellow breaks and explosive, stadium-worthy choruses, all performed before a vintage-esque, summery backdrop that could have had even the frowniest gig-goer in the hall smiling peacefully. Maribou State closed the show with Turnmills, a personal favourite of mine lifted from their most recent album, and the crowd were sad to see them go after a mesmerising performance.

All in all, Maribou State’s performance felt like a breath of fresh air and frenzy of dance all in one, and I hope to catch them again at a festival this summer.

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LIVE: Jah9 @ Band On The Wall

WORDS BY TIM MOONEY     PHOTO BY SHIGETO MIYATA

Jah9 is a perfect choice for Band On The Wall with her powerfully unique vocals and endearing stage persona. I’ve always been a fan of the more intimate venues when it comes to live music, and the relaxed atmosphere of Band On The Wall will always be one of my favourite Manchester venues for fitting the intimacy criteria so perfectly. With no barrier between audience and stage, any band that performs at this venue can effortlessly engage with their people in such a way that you would soon believe they are there for you and no one else.

Accompanied by her four piece backing band The Dub Treatment relaying sultry reggae rhythms with the occasional virtuoso burst on each instrument, all was set for a peaceful evening of cheerful reggae tunes. The Dub Treatment’s look matched the classic reggae aesthetic, with dreadlocks, baggy clothes as well as green, gold and red colours typical of their genre. Watching them perform together instantly knocked me in to a good mood. They would gently sway and regularly smile at one another, making it feel as though the audience were sitting in on a casual jam session in the basement of The Dub Treatment’s house.

Jah9 entered the stage wrapped up warm for the cold streets of Manchester. Band On The Wall may be a small venue, but it certainly felt quite cold inside. It only took a matter of seconds for Jah9 to accentuate the pure power and tunefulness of her voice. With reverb and delay effects occasionally being added to the mic, her voice filled the venue and bounced off the walls around her, engulfing the swaying audience as they watched in awe. Before some songs, Jah9 would address the crowd with a rousing spoken word interlude urging us to feel unique or stick together.

 

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@jah9online ___________________________________ . . . #jah9online #africanqueen #reggae #thedubtreatmentband #livemusic

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The theme of feminism shone through perfectly as she addressed the ladies of the crowd and encouraged them to join her on certain tracks. It was clear that Jah9 had a few political views to express, but she did so in such a way that it felt like part of the music, rather than the sardonic ramblings of a bitter front-woman. Ending with popular track ‘Steamers A Bubble’, Jah9 had parted with her coat and was parading around the stage with pure energy, projecting musical notes from her voice with raw power. The Dub Treatment took it in turns to perform a short solo each, showing off their musical virtuosity, before Jah9 left the stage allowing for the band to finish off as they had started. Leaving the audience feeling relaxed, cheerful, and somewhat inspired by Jah9 ’s impressive vocals and the power she brings to her performance.

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LIVE: Easy Life @ The Deaf Institute | 08.11.18

WORDS BY TIM MOONEY       PHOTOS BY ROBIN HARDMAN

There’s something really quite special about watching a band that is made up of genuinely talented musicians. Easy Life certainly are one of those bands. I had reached a point where I was starting to get bored of new indie-guitar bands who pumped out reverb heavy guitar-riffs accompanied by lyrics aimed at forsaken youth hunting for solace in the B-sides of lesser known EP’s. Then I heard Easy Life. I was instantly hooked by the unexplainable uniqueness of their tracks and the honesty behind their lyrics. I knew that this was a band to pull me out of my indie slump, so the prospect of seeing them perform live filled me with hope and excitement.

 

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Living the Easy Life (sorry for stealing ur pun Molly)

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They confidently brought a mix of chilled out indie beats and musical splendour to their sold out show at Manchester’s Deaf Institute, kicking off the gig in a dramatic style before walking on stage one by one and assuming their positions behind a range of instruments. Within the first song of the evening it was made very clear to me that this was a band consisting of multi-talented musicians, with the guitarist initially taking to the stage on the bass, and the bassist immediately unleashing a soulful solo on an electronic wind instrument mimicking a clarinet.

Before long the guitarist and bassist were back to their primary instruments and the front-man wandered on stage in a pair of baggy khaki trousers and an oversized yellow t-shirt. Easy Life had a very relaxed and edgy style about their performance, and weren’t afraid to show how excited they felt to be at the Deaf Institute with giant grins and frequent waves to the crowd. You could be forgiven for assuming that this was a band that had performed many times before, but their Manchester show marked the second leg of their first UK headline tour, and they were absolutely nailing it.

I enjoyed seeing the range of instruments that they used which kept the eyes wondering constantly from member to member in an attempt to keep up with the sounds they were creating. Sample pads, drum pads, synthesisers, modulators, saxophones, trumpets; all used tastefully so as to complement the performance rather than completely distract from it. Mid way through the set the front-man addressed the crowd, dedicating his next song to a friend that had moved to California and warning that the show was about to take a sad turn. This was immediately followed by a mellow new track, consistent with the melancholy vibe that had been laid out for this brief period of the show.

 

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@easylifemusic 🕺🏻

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After this, the band flipped the mood by breaking in to upbeat and popular track ‘Pockets’. The excitement surrounding this track was matched by the front-man who hopped off the stage and onto the bar, getting closer to the crowd and delivering his laid back vocal style from the counter where people had been buying their cans of Red Stripe. He then announced “I’m meant to be playing the keys right now” before hopping back on stage and returning to his central spot behind the keys he had temporarily neglected.

They closed the show with one of their most recently released tracks ‘Nightmares’ and urged fans to come and have a chat with them at the merchandise counter afterwards. To anyone who did decide to have a chat with them: remember that moment, because this is a band capable of selling out much larger venues in the future.

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LIVE: Gentleman’s Dub Club @ O2 Ritz | 09.11.18

WORDS BY TIM MOONEY

The wonderful thing about dub and reggae music is that no matter how much of a miserable sod you may be, it is almost impossible not to crack a smile and sway peacefully (or jump manically) to the sounds of a dub band. Especially when that band is Gentleman’s Dub Club. With an explosion of pure energy in every one of their performances alongside a back-catalogue of sing-along crowd favourites, Gentleman’s Dub Club are capable of injecting life into even the grumpiest of folks.

I’m lucky enough to have seen Gentleman’s Dub Club perform a couple of times before, and their show at Manchester’s O2 Ritz began with the same wailing siren call that carries them on to the stage every time. The regular fans in the crowd knew immediately to unleash their excitement at the sound of the siren, and sure enough, the band took to the stage wearing matching formal attire and released the unmistakable sound of syncopated reggae rhythms as the brass section began to wail an opening riff.

Soon enough front-man Jonathan Scratchley marches on stage, grinning ecstatically at the crowd and flaying his arms at his side. This confident entrance sent an immediate wave of energy and happiness over the excitable audience. The moment that the drums broke in to full swing, both crowd and band began bouncing enthusiastically like raucous members of ska bands so often do. Knees up and arms in the air is the only way to fully immerse yourself in the spirit of a Gentleman’s Dub Club gig.

With a fully loaded stage hosting GDC’s eight members, there was constantly something of interest to absorb your attention, as eyes drifted from drummer to guitarist to percussionist to keys. The other benefit to having such a large band is the sense of energy they could bring to the stage so easily. In particular, the front-man and two-piece brass section were able to move freely around the stage constantly throughout the set, bringing an engaging dynamism to their performance which meant you couldn’t resist hopping around ludicrously in a similar fashion to the band on stage.

 

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Friday feels like so long ago, what a wonderful weekend ☺️

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Despite the undeniable cheerfulness of Gentleman’s Dub Club’s music, Scratchley took a brief moment towards the end of their set to address the crowd, explaining that he had been having a hard time over the last few days. He then proceeded to thank his audience for making him feel so good and explained that he was all better now, this was received by fans with deafening cheers of sheer joy to be a part of this particular moment.

All in all, Gentleman’s Dub Club certainly didn’t fail to inject the Ritz with an addictive dose of pure carefree energy. Their sing-along favourites such as High Grade, Fire, and Music is the Girl I Love fully delivered and kept the audience hopping from foot to foot. The next time I see Gentleman’s Dub Club at a gig, I’ll consider rocking some sportswear for the workout.

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LIVE: Superorganism @ O2 Ritz | 25.10.18

WORDS BY TIM MOONEY    PHOTOS BY BRANDON TAYLOR

An eccentric and unique performance like no other. Superorganism certainly don’t shy away from the weird and wonderful side of music. From crowd-surfing on inflatable whales to hypnotic video sequences covering psychedelic themes, they certainly are a group to remember.

 

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Have you ever seen a prawn in a pair of handcuffs?

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As fans filtered through to the stage at the O2 Ritz, excitement began to build following the departure of support band Chai, who had travelled all the way from Japan to accompany Superorganism on their tour. The main act enter the stage fashioning glittery hooded capes and holding glowing orbs, whilst a short video played, delivered by Superorganism’s absent bassist, as the band explained that he would be replaced by a “digital representation of his conscience.” The show was already off to a dramatic and wacky start.

Before long the band broke into opening track ‘SPRORGNSM’ with a fascinating and engaging explosion of energy. What was amazing about Superorganism‘s performance style was the broad range of visual stimuli they used throughout their set, with the three backing vocalists engaging in synchronised and robotic dance routines with vintage-style videos playing constantly in the background displaying sporadic images of rockets, planets, oceans, various animals and city montages.

Front-woman Orono – or OJ as she is often referred to – would briefly address the crowd between tracks, but for the most part transitions between songs were accompanied by random video sequences, covering topics such as space exploration and artificial intelligence, I found this added perfectly to the general vibe of their performance, making the set increasingly memorable, immersive and peculiar.

The entire set only consisted of nine, well selected, songs. All being performed in the short space of fifty minutes, nonetheless, every single track was delivered with pure energy and managed to bring something unique and wonderful each time. There was a brief interlude midway through the set in which all but OJ left the stage, from here the front-woman attempted conversation with the crowd, having no clear topic in mind which seemed pretty typical of Superorganism‘s random nature. She had an endearing “I don’t give a damn” attitude as she moaned about Londoners as well as bravely badmouthing Oasis in front of a slightly agitated Manchester crowd, which encouraged a few boo’s and chuckles. Before long the band were summoned back on stage for their most ridiculous song of the set, ‘Prawn Song’, accompanied by images of deep sea exploration and well – prawns.

Superorganism had one song left before their inevitable encore, at this point OJ chose a selection of fans from the crowd to join the band on stage to party with them for their “last” track, this made the whole gig seem a lot more personal, relaxed and immersive. My only regret is that I didn’t throw myself forward to be pulled up on stage alongside the lucky group of about twenty fans who found themselves dancing with the band for penultimate track ‘Relax’. The simple and relatable nature of Superorganism‘s lyrical content made every single song a sing-along tune, whether you knew it or not and that was reflected perfectly by the fans on-stage who sang with raucous energy beside the band.

As expected, Superorganism returned for a one-track encore, predictably closing the show with their best-known hit ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D’. Inflatable donuts and balloons were thrown into the audience as OJ crowd-surfed on an inflatable whale, the final song did not fail to be as whacky, explosive, and visually inspiring as any other and the fifty-minute set was closed in spectacular fashion. It was a very intense and joyfully random fifty minutes indeed and if ever the opportunity to see Superorganism presents itself, I would urge you to just say yes.

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