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Festivals

PLAN: Off The Record 2018

WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER     MAIN IMAGE IS CHILDCARE

It’s back. Manchester’s multi-venue live music event and conference Off The Record is set for another show-stopping year. We’re very proud to be part of the trusted curation team for this years event alongside a distinguished array of influencers including our very own Everything Everything, Rob Da Bank and faves The Orielles. With all acts now collated and the phenomenal lineup announced, the next step is navigating the lineup across the different venues of Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Never fear, we’ve narrowed down a swift timetable of the acts you need to catch at this years’ Off The Record!

On Friday 16th November, kick things off with Nottingham based alt rockers Babe Punch at The Peer Hat set, to rouse your spirits with their grunge/punk mix as they commence the day at 18:40pm. Having supported the likes of Hinds, The Cribs and Ezra Furman, they’re well on their way to being up there amongst the movers and shakers of the music industry. On at the same time but definitely worth catching are Anglo/Korean duo WOOZE at 18:50 on Night & Day‘s stage with their compelling sound that of a warped pop that’ll be something entirely new to your ears.

After that you’ve got a bit of time to nip over to the Everything Everything curated stage at Band On The Wall, where MCR Live darlings Giant Boys beckon you at 19:30 with their minimalist take on post-punk. Theirs is a sound that entwines a Slaves-like level of recognisable Brit punk with something fresh and DIY, comparable to The Foetals to keep the pace going. Make a move towards the end of their set and you’ll have time to catch the end of female-led indie from an MCR Live curated choice, in the form of Thyla, who take the 19:50 slot at The Castle. Blending two quite opposing genres is no mean-feat and we can assure you that whether you go in to watch Thyla after listening to their music, or you rock up without the prior-knowledge, your head will be turned.

Then it’s a quick change over to Aatma for MCR Live residents Peaness – pronounced ‘Pea-ness’ – to brighten up your day (in the darkness at 20:25) with their self sufficient indie-pop which has seen them climb the ladder organically, finding fans in every corner that hears them. Next there’s a bit of a clash but it depends on what mood you’re in on the day. The feral garage punksters Avalanche Party hoist up Night & Day with their bare knuckles from 20:40 – expect nothing less than a snarling wilderness from these Yorkshire renegades. On the flip side, the otherworldly beauty of Pearl City at The Castle makes for a dreamy evening slot at 20:45 via their experimental sound that compromises a spectrum of instruments alongside spellbinding visual trickery.

Photo is Pearl City by Warren Millar

Glaswegian electro-pop might be something you never thought you’d come across but it’s here and it’s here to stay. Happy Spendy bring something new and alive to Aatma from 21:25, featuring their positively themed electronic whirl of wistful, occasionally romantic and always unique sound. Dive into Night & Day next and stay there for the foreseeable with Self Esteem followed by HimalayasSelf Esteem gives you a slice of Slow Club from singer Rebecca Taylor, now embarking on her own project and taking us all by storm with her. Drawing influence from everything and anything – pop culture, her experience’s in the band that she loved but was no longer the place for her creatively, and the freedom that came from stepping away, her new sound is dramatic, direct and deafeningly exciting.

Although we’ve penned this next MCR Live curated selection since 2016, the band have since gained notoriety for a set that is highly energetic, full of melody & cheekiness with ripping hooks – listen to this band once, and you wouldn’t be surprised that they’re all fans of Queens Of The Stone Age, Arctic Monkey’s, Jack White et.al. Straight up Rock’n’Roll. Liked The Blinders last year? You’ll LOVE these. It’s Himalayas of course, sinking their teeth into you at 21:45, headlining Night & Day.

The final live act of the day takes shape in the form of London based CHILDCARE. What gets better than being hand-selected by icons in their own right Everything Everything? Celebrating British awkwardness, this act formed off the back of male-nanny-turned-lead-singer Ed being heard singing by a six year old he was minding who pushed him to take it live. Now out in the open, this four-piece will win over fans of the likes of Baby Strange and Indoor Pets. Catch them at Band On The Wall at 23:30. The night is still young and Everything Everything then take to the decks of Band On The Wall as they close this years festival with a DJ set that’s sure to grab your attention, going on late into the night. It’s a long but fruitful evening ahead for many the music fan, what more could you ask for?

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

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UPCOMING: MIF 2019 announces first wave of artists

WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER

Now in it’s eighth year, Manchester International Festival is proudly, a festival that unites creatives from different backgrounds and demographics. By weaving them together in a celebration of cultural unity that takes place all across Greater Manchester, it’s a biannual event that immerses all of the city together and next takes place from the 4th to the 21st July 2019.

Don’t peg this as any specific type of creative festival – MIF covers the whole spectrum – having premiered many a distinguished act from the fields of architecture to visual arts and everything in between. Think Björk, The xx, Maxine Peake, Zaha Hadid Architects, all have performed, produced and presented work at previous versions of the festival. What’s more, Manchester is rife with a collection of unique sites that make for prime locations to host international talent. To name a few that are sure to capture your attention: Kanye West performed his first ever Manchester show at the O2 Apollo for MIF back in 2007; Kenneth Branagh and Maxine Peake were cast in a portrayal of MACBETH at St Peter’s Church in Ancoats in 2013 and last year saw New Order reunite at the old Granada Studios complete with a 12-piece synthesiser orchestra of students from RNCM.

 

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New Order

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Well in advance of the next instalment, the lineup is now already starting to emerge. Just this week, MIF announced that the opening festival slot will be hosted by none other than Yoko Ono. As one of the most respected artists in the world, Ono invites us to join her for her first display in Manchester at Manchester Cathedral, to ring those age old bells and call for the world to welcome peace with open arms, as thousands of voices from the Cathedral and abroad will sing out. Stating “PEACE IS POWER”, the display titled ‘BELLS OF PEACE’ will mark the opening of Manchester International Festival 2019, with one of the most reputable acts of recent generations.

Following on from this, the man of the moment Idris Elba presents ‘TREE’, in partnership with Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah as they search for the soul and spirit of contemporary South Africa. An exploration within dance and film, with Elba’s debut album ‘Mi Mandela’ as the soundtrack, the performance is set to show a journey through the ever changing country by way of one young man as the feature star. From the open on the 4th through to the 10th July, the duo will be taking over Upper Campfield Market Hall for this one-off, world-premiere meeting of two creative minds.

The final announcement comes in the form of another man of the hour – Skepta shares with us his own idea of what the future may hold for humanity. ‘DYSTOPIA987’ is to take place in a secret Manchester location that is as of yet undisclosed. With very little being shared in advance about the performance, other than an eerily cryptic name and the promise of a display that is dark and riveting, we’re already eagerly awaiting to see what the featuring musicians, performers and promised use of technology will evoke. MIF 2019 already cultivates the idea of a merger between performance techniques both old and new, by way of technology and the performers themselves. Expect the unexpected and if it hasn’t happened yet it soon will.

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

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IN CONVERSATION WITH: Everything Everything

WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER        PHOTOS BY MANC WANDERER

They’re the millennial indie kid’s favourite flashback and they’ve not stopped in over ten years – Everything Everything live up to their name, time and time again. In the wake of their fourth studio album, released last year, EE have marker-ed themselves as a statement Brit indie rock act that has transcended through time. At this years Neighbourhood Festival in Manchester, the iconic quartet were in pole position as the headline act at The Albert Hall and we managed to have a quick chat with lead singer Jonathan Higgs just before the day fully began.

Since their early days the band have constantly tried to avoid the cliche with their eclectic and dynamic style, by way of complex song construction and programming. Back in the early days, their sound was younger, blossoming and representative of the indie pop scene that was bursting into the ether but now it’s hit a maturer, adept peak. “We were more into RnB back then – more into production – whereas now we’ve had to draw line (and realise) ‘hang on, I don’t actually want to be Craig David'” jokes Jonathan as he mentions that around the time of their fruition they were leaning towards a more American, RnB style of work. Arctic Monkeys immediately come to mind as an act that swayed towards this heavily western sound and didn’t return from it, but Everything Everything feel they edged close to it and “tested the water” with their first two records but soon got inspiration from elsewhere.

Nowadays their inspiration comes from dance music and the generally new wave that’s providing an awakening for pop music as of late. But as with the world is in this current climate, creatives have a platform to discuss the state of the world and the bending timeline that we are all now embroiled in. Everything Everything supporting Stoptober and War Child has been a recent push that just so happened to land at the end of their run of gigs for this year. “Attitudes and approaches attract us – we’re much less bothered about the genre or how much went into it or opinion.” This can be seen with tracks such as the recently released ‘Breadwinner’ which touches on the theme of an ideological image of society as represented by the title and mentions of theories and phrases that people often easily dismiss, as well as typical stereotypes of the world.

As a band, having worked over such a long period of time, EE  have been through numerous different record labels which saw them move from Universal to Sony for three records, having been in the right place at the right time. There’s whisper from Jon about them soon switching again to a different label, but we can’t reveal anything about that with you – die hard fans will just need to keep an eye on Everything Everything‘s movements over the coming months.

But also with experience comes knowledge and skills within the industry. Back in 2009 the indie soundtrack ‘MY KZ, UR BF’ was only released on vinyl and no other formats as of course the only real format was CD, radio play and “probably MySpace” – but this was a decision that they chose just as the peak for vinyl sales began to descend. Speaking now of the new wave in record sales, Jonathan has a refreshingly unpopular opinion: “we’re fetishising a format rather than the music itself. I see the record as a vessel not the actual music.” This pleasantly makes a mockery of those who buy tangible pieces of music in a classic ‘hipster’ sense, for the ‘look’ of the sleeve or the image that comes along with a wide record collection. Music is at the heart of Everything Everything.

This year has seen them play at the final Festival No 6, a festival which has been a massive support for the band over the years and has often slotted them in amongst their ever magnificent lineups. They played the first one back in 2012 and sadly the last one – “never made the headline slot though” – which is a clear indication that this act can stand the test of time. Quick mentions of the pipeline dream to play in the Glastonbury headline slot are mentioned in passing, but it could soon be a reality if they’re to keep going at this rate – particularly as they’ve been making new music all summer long, ahead of their planned small break for the last few months of 2018.  “There are babies in the band now. It’s kind of like a new era – we’ve got families and a new record label and the Mercury nomination – it feels like a new chapter of optimism for the band.”

The next form that Everything Everything takes is unfortunately likely to be the last but they want to go out in style, they want it to be “bold.” Jon mentions that with the ageing of them as members they’re making way for new, current acts such as The Magic Gang whom he recommends, as well as Tom Grennan, who will be supporting them this New Years Eve for the Kendal Calling organised event. But of course, there’s no forgetting the legendary act that is Everything Everything.

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

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FESTIVAL: Dimensions

WORDS BY JOSH DE SILVA      PHOTOS BY ROB JONES

Dimensions Festival takes place in the spectacularly beautiful surroundings of Fort Punta Christo, nestled just outside of Pula on Croatia’s Adriatic coast. Encompassing a repurposed moat, tiny hidden rooms and expansive clearings, as well as the idyllic beach stage and the awe inspiring amphitheatre in Pula, the site itself is the real star of the festival, but there’s plenty more that makes Dimensions special. 

The lineup reads like a who’s who of underground music, with a great level of variety spread across the 11 stages, almost all of which boast fantastic sound. With the addition of boat parties and the Knowledge Arena, an area for workshops and discussions, Dimensions promises something for just about anyone. While it didn’t quite deliver on every aspect, Dimensions certainly feels like one of Europe’s most accomplished dance music festivals. 

Read on for a day by day breakdown and to find out some of our highlights, as well as what we think could be improved in years to come.

OPENING CONCERT

Dimensions’ opening concert is traditionally the festivals’ chance to show off the breadth of their booking ability, with past guests including Grace Jones, Massive Attack, and Larry Heard’s first live performance in years. This year followed suit, with German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk bringing their 3D live show to the majestic Roman amphitheatre alongside composer Nils Frahm and Detroit Legend Moodymann, as well as Nubya Garcia, Josey Rebelle and Debora Ipekel.

Frahm’s emotive performance felt like it was written especially to match the grand surroundings of the arena, with soaring chords matching a pulsating light show, drawing those who had arrived early down from the raised steps and onto the main dancefloor. 

After a short break and with the venue now packed with revellers donning their 3D glasses, Kraftwerk silently marched onto the stage to take their places behind four illuminated plinths. Before I talk about the performance, I want to note that the 3D aspect of the show was a bit of a let down, and felt more like a gimmick than actually adding anything. For the majority of the performance the glasses simply crisped up the visuals, with around 3 or 4 instances where a 3D element, such as a satellite or UFO, actually emerged. 

Sadly I felt the rest of the performance didn’t quite meet the high expectations either. The band worked their way through their many iconic songs, but the soundsystem felt a little too quiet throughout which seemed to take a bit of the punch out of the tracks. Coupled with the bands’ trademark robotic lack of movement, this translated to a slight lack of energy. It is however truly remarkable that classics such as ‘Numbers’ and ‘Tour De France’ were produced in the 70s and still sounded completely modern and fresh.

Moodymann stepped up for the close for what was ultimately a classic Moodymann party set. He dropped crowd-pleasers such as Peggy Gou’s ‘It Makes You Forget’ and DJ Koze’s ‘Pick Up’ whilst sporadically cutting the music to jump on the mic – great for some, but very safe and a bit disappointing for others given his legendary reputation.

THURSDAY

Our Thursday kicked off with our first and only boat party of the weekend, courtesy of Leeds’ Tribe Records. Alex T, one of the shop’s staff and a member of Dimensions’ DJ Directory, warmed up nicely alongside Cosmic Slop’s Mike BC, with a set of groovy Techno mixed with hits of Garage and Minimal. 

Next up was Danish DJ Courtesy, who has been making waves over the past couple of years. She picked up the intensity, shifting through the gears quickly into driving techno. A solid, if slightly predictable set was rounded out with a few uplifting trance tracks before she handed the reins over to Saoise. 

My first time seeing her DJ, Saoirse was one of the highlights of the whole weekend. She played to the majority English crowd by moving rapidly through Garage, House and Techno with a distinctly UK edge. Perfectly timed classics such as Happy Clappers ‘I Believe’ and even some Drum & Bass kept the crowd on their toes, with mixes always sharp and blazing through tracks in quickfire succession. Her set flew by and by the time the boat returned to the docks the boat was properly rocking. 

Thursday night started off in the Dungeon, a new stage for this year within a small tunnel inside the fort. New York’s DJ Python opened, with a fantastic warm up set blending Dub Reggae, EBM and pitched down House – which all sounded great on the excellent soundsystem.

Salon Des Amateurs residents Lena Wilikens & Vladimir Ivkovic’s 4 hour b2b on the Void stage had been highlighted by many as a must see set of the weekend and they didn’t disappoint. Working through their usual brand of chuggy, dark and often psychedelic Techno, they entranced the packed crowd. With the tunes getting weirder and laced with acid towards the end of the set, it really was a great way to kick off the festivals’ night time programming.  

Sadly lightning storms meant the music was cut out a few times later on, which affected the flow of the stages a bit and we decided to call it a night.

FRIDAY

Friday’s beach lineup was stacked with UK Jazz, which has exploded recently thanks to the likes of Yussuf Kamaal, Alfa Mist and Ezra Collective.

The day started off with talented keyboardist Joe Armon Jones and Bassist and producer Maxwell Owin, who’s recent album Idiom on Peckham’s YAM Records is a fantastic flagship of South London’s electric Jazz scene. Playing exclusively their own material, mostly unreleased, it felt like two extremely talented musicians just simply having fun with their music, which translated perfectly to relaxing on the beach with a cocktail and soaking up the vibes, and the sun. 

Next up was Ezra Collective, a 5 piece for whom Joe Armon Jones plays keys and led by charismatic drummer Femi Koleoso. The beach stage quickly filled up as Femi introduced the band and gave a shout out to the London Jazz scene, a large portion of whom were in attendance. If most people had been relaxing throughout the day, Ezra Collective’s set felt like the kick start to the real partying, quickly lifting the energy levels until the whole beach stage was rocking. The feel good performance felt accomplished and each band member was clearly at the top of their game, with numerous solos, a dance cameo from the band’s tour manager, and even a cover of Shanks & Bigfoot’s ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ feeding the party atmosphere. 

Our Friday night started off at the Void stage for Manchester local and cult favourite Il Bosco, who’s Red Laser Records label and parties provide some of Manchester’s finest House, Italo and Techno. His set was another fantastic example of a warm up set done right, with spacey synth heavy disco tussling with deep Italo cuts like Coco Bill’s ’Evita’ and tracks from Red Laser’s back catalogue such as Kid Machine’s ‘Wheels of Fury’.

Next we headed back to the dungeon, quickly becoming a favourite stage, for Sheffield’s Pretty Pretty Good, whose plethora of residents took over for an extended 5 hour slot. They worked through from chuggy EBM and pitched down electro to groove laden Techno all the way up to Garage and Dubstep, with Stanton Warriors’ breaksy remix of Basement Jaxx ‘Jump ‘n’ Shout’ a standout tune. 

The Moat at Dimensions is one of the most unique and characterful stages at any festival, and we had saved our first trip in for Electro legends Detroit In Effect. After a brief announcement on the mic that ‘the real party’ had now started, the duo kicked off at breakneck speed, scratching and cutting their way through Electro bangers, Footwork and Ghetto. The intensity was high but the mood was always playful and slightly tongue in cheek, with vocal tracks like DJ Assault’s ‘Yo Relatives’ cutting through the heavier Electro. After dancing the hardest we had done so far, D.I.E. felt like it would be hard to beat. 

We closed the night at The Clearing, essentially Dimensions’ main stage, for Avalon Emerson. Whilst she played some great breaksy tunes and some killer jungle, the set was permeated with lots of lengthy breakdowns, which seemed to ruin the flow a little, before ending on a dreamy synthpop tune as the sun rose.

SATURDAY

More storms meant Saturday’s programming didn’t kick off until a few hours after it was scheduled to. We headed to catch live Techno dons London Modular Alliance, whose stripped back, acid tinged Techno sounded ridiculous punchy and crisp on The Void stage’s incredible soundsystem.

Next up was Margaret Dygas, who ended up being the pick of the entire festival. Starting off her set with groovy Minimal with some killer basslines, she looked comfortable and in full control whilst she picked up the pace into more driving techno. Effortlessly blending records for extended periods, she whipped the crowd into a frenzy, with each drop bringing cheers, and Moony’s mellow Garage banger ‘3 Days’ sparking numerous ID requests. As she handed over to Sonja Moonear, we couldn’t help but feel like she was only just getting started and deserved a few more hours to show what she could do. 

Another pick of Saturday night was Skee Mask, who had played a Dub set in the Subdub arena the night before. He jumped through tempos from broken UK Techno to Jungle and Ghetto, and even dropped DJ Taye and DJ Manny’s Teklife classic ‘WTF You Here For’. 

SUNDAY

Sunday’s start was again delayed by storms, but this felt like a bit of a welcome break as many recovered from the past few nights. Hessle Audio’s sold out boat party saw around 100 no-shows and the energy levels across the campsite felt  little depleted. 

Once the Dimensions app announced that the music had finally started again we headed to Pearson Sound in The Moat. An exercise in showing off the breadth of Hessle’s sound, his set shifted through choppy UK Techno and Breaks, with occasional stabs of lighting acting like a natural strobe and adding to the fantastic intensity of the moat. 

Next we headed to the garden for another of the festival’s most anticipate sets – Fabric Resident Craig Richards b2b with Nicolas Lutz. Having played together two nights before at Fabric, you could see that they were two DJ’s who were very in tune with each other. After an hour or so of groovy minimal hooks, full of rolling basslines and crisp hi-hats, the pair moved into darker territory and settled into a more Techno heavy vibe. Whilst their mixing was always tight and the tunes were good, it felt very linear and more twists and curveballs would have helped to reinvigorate the energy-lacking crowd.

We ended up with Josey Rebelle, clearly a favourite of Dimensions having played multiple times over the course of the weekend – and picked to close out the festival. Closing The Void after Palms Trax, you could have expected a more funky and Disco inspired set but Josey didn’t mess about, heading straight into slamming Techno, Rave and Acid House. Dropping tunes like Heiroglyphic Being’s ‘This is 4 the rave bangers’, she lifted the energy levels and helped to end the festival on a real high.  

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

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COMMENT: The New Wave Of Psychedelia

WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER       PHOTOS BY THROUGH THE EYES OF RUBY

The first album to define its own contents as psychedelic was the debut album by Texas garage rockers The 13th Floor Elevators, in October 1966 (The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators). Within a year, psychedelia had exploded across the music scene like a giant paint bomb, turning everything from monochrome to technicolour almost overnight and inspiring 1967’s epochal Summer of Love. The reverberations of the scene staked out in the Summer Of Love, are continually making waves in the pool of new musicians.

Four years since the first one, Manchester Psych Festival is now a fully fledged institution. With a selection of gigs promoted across the city each month under their moniker, it’s surpassed itself as a festival. Going beyond the boundaries of art and music the festival brings a like-minded community together in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Psychedelia is making a re-imergence into the scene, leaking through the dusky cracks of post-punk and indie-rock and oozing into the forefront of the music scene.

Slow Knife at Manchester Psych Festival 2018

As one of the most prominent festivals in Manchester with a massive influence on the music scene, Manchester Psych Fest is a clearly dedicated to the cause. Taking over 4 dedicated venues, the festival embraces the new and unique. Recently, the festival saw it’s 6th edition and of course, we couldn’t miss it. Starting early, Slow Knife scoop up the crowd and place them on a level playing field: knowing exactly where the day is headed. Saxophone, keys and strings at the ready, their post-punk sound makes for an entertaining first viewing for the day. Spoken word at it’s greatest in ‘Nuke The Moon’ echoes through the Soup Kitchen basement and out through the door. All hail the knife. This is what psychedelia is about.

A quick switch over to Night & Day Cafe and we’re with MOLD for their well-anticipated afternoon slot. The five piece bring a theatrical onslaught to the stage, equipped with face paint and satirical smiles. The psych genre is set to take hold of the scene and is breathing deeply through bands like MOLD that set the stage alight and stand for something new.

MOLD at Manchester Psych Festival 2018

But what exactly is psychedelia? The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as “music, culture or art based on the experiences produced by psychedelic drugs” which is a little reductive for such a grand institution. LSD might have been the original inspiration, but it doesn’t explain why psychedelic music is still being produced and enjoyed by people who’ve never dropped acid in their lives. Psychedelia is appealingly vague and open-ended – a merger of philosophies, colours and styles all happening at once. It’s about opening your mind to the myriad possibilities that we’re met with each and everyday. It’s about reconnecting branching out, seeing clearly and letting go. It’s exciting, but also a little bit scary. Psychedelia isn’t a destination; it’s all about the journey.

The type of bands that are connected with this new unearthly scene of new age psychedelics are the type that set apart from the ordinary and bring a whole new offering to the table – whilst simultaneously not giving a shit about what the rabble think. With this year’s Psych Fest as an example, it’s not just a simple one-trick-pony movement. The festival comprises one day of such musicians – with artwork featured by local artists who are set to break the mould – and sounds from guitar-bass-drums outfits stretching the possibilities of the standard rock band set-up to electronic artists. There are so many acts that it raises the question: is all music, if it’s doing its job right (experimenting, blowing minds), psychedelic?

Madonnatron at Manchester Psych Festival 2018

The classic music of the psychedelic heyday was rooted in social opposition, a countercultural vibe that resonated with baby boomers, students and protesters. The music was not exclusively political or related to your everyday stoner, but in a climate of diverging identity, these new sounds flourished hand-in-hand with the changing landscape. Evolving through the present day, psychedelic music and social commentary are mutually exclusive. With politics a common topic, the psych collective consciousness seem to weigh on the side of identity and social preservation.

It’s been a long, strange trip for the genre that came to fruition through various different routes, starting with the whir and buzz of the 60s and 70s and not showing any sign of stopping, having become embodied by a myriad of current acts like Madonnatron, Yassassin and Meatraffle. For the remainder of Psych Fest, we caught the likes of the Wytches, Baba Naga, The Cosmics, Holy and Josefin Öhrn, each with their own unique take on the psychedelic movement but with a refreshingly new twist. Psychedelia is moving but at it’s own pace, in a strong, independent movement that’s reaching the nook and cranny of each and every musical alliance – whether you like it or not.

Meatraffle at Manchester Psych Festival 2018

Already keen to go to the festival next year? Keep up to date with the latest news about Manchester Psych Festival 2019 over on their Facebook page 🌀

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off the record

UPCOMING: Off The Record Festival & Conference | 15-16.11.18

PHOTO @MANC_WANDERER // WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER & JESS CAMPBELL

Having been graced with two sold-out years, Manchester’s Northern Quarter multi-venue live music event and conference Off The Record is set for another show-stopping year. The logic goes that trusted curators nominate the artists they are tipping for the year ahead to perform the stellar event before a surprise reveal just days before – however, this year it’s going a little differently! We’re extremely happy to announce that this year we’re, once again, a part of the curation team for this years event alongside a distinguished array of influencers including our very own Everything Everything, Rob Da Bank and faves The Orielles.

With the spotlight being on over 40+ budding artists selected by the panel, gig-goers have the chance to see blossoming bands and talented artists across a range of genres perform in eight legendary music venues all within a 5-minute stretch of Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

With so many incredible new artists coming out of Manchester, let alone the UK, our focus was to shine a light on a couple of artists that you might not have seen before – artists that have no ties to the city. However, choosing a new, current act with a sense of vigour and sound that’s eclectically timeless was of course no easy task, taking into account the depth of the current music scene (in fact, we only managed to whittle down out selections to a ‘Top 8!’ – sorry, guys!).

HOWEVER, on the bands we put forward, two selections have come out – and we couldn’t be more excited to shine a well-deserved spotlight on these groundbreaking artists (…and get to know a few others in the meantime!) INTRODUCING:

HIMALAYAS

Himalayas are the 4-peice indie-rock outfit you won’t be able to get out of your head. Hailing all the way from Cardiff, the young-band have already amassed a bit of a cult following with over 7million Spotify plays and having played almost everywhere this year; from SXSW to Reading & Leeds, supporting Kaiser Chiefs across the country and with plenty of This Feeling gigs crammed in between. Although we’ve penned these guys since 2016, the band have since gained notoriety for a set that is highly energetic, full of melody & cheekiness with ripping hooks – listen to this band once, and you wouldn’t be surprised that they’re all fans of Queens Of The Stone Age, Arctic Monkey’s, Jack White et.al. Straight up Rock’n’Roll. Liked The Blinders last year? You’ll LOVE these.

Thyla

Likened to The Cure & Cocteau Twins, all the way down in Brighton lie the swooning pot-punk/ dream-pop sounds of Thyla. Blending two quite opposing genres is no mean-feat and we can assure you that whether you go in to watch Thyla after listening to their music, or you rock up without the prior-knowledge, your head will be turned. It’s hard for us to compare this band to others, which in our books is one of the biggest compliments – if pushed, Millie Duthie’s at-points ethereal-and-others-feroiciously-jauting vocals evoke early Wolf Alice or a much-grungier Black Honey. Either way, they’re boss.  After supporting INHEAVEN on their most-recent tour, with a somewhat erratic stage presence and roller-coaster tracks, Thyla have earned a lot of new fans and we know that you will be next on the list.

But, these are only our picks! Check out the full list for this year’s Off The Record below, and pre-order your tickets through this link.  With two hard-hitting bands on our bill… I guess we’ll see you in the pit!

Who are you most looking forward to seeing?

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FESTIVAL: Green Man 2018

WORDS BY LIAM HOARE     MAIN IMAGE BY ANDREW BENGE

Nestled away in a verdant green valley, in the shadow of the Black Mountains, Green Man Festival makes a triumphant return for its 16th year. Every August, 20,000 people, many of them Green Man veterans, embark on a musical pilgrimage to the Glanusk Estate in the Brecon Beacons. Green Man, renowned for its communal, non-commercial and laid-back ethos, offers something for everyone: from families to late night hedonists. The festival is always guaranteed to offer an eclectic and diverse line-up and 2018 was no exception. Spanning a range of genres from blistering psychedelic rock, infectious indie, electronica and luscious alt-folk, with abundant female artists across the line-up proving many of the standout performances.

#greenman2018 epic festival

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Public Service Broadcasting closed proceedings on Thursday night, headlining the Far Out stage. The performance felt especially poignant given their latest album ‘Every Valley’ was recorded just over the mountains in nearby Ebbw Vale. It was aptly set, with the setlist played to stunning visuals and heavily featuring songs about de-industrialisation and the heritage of coal mining in South Wales perfectly aligning with Green Man’s communal philosophy. To close the set, the Beaufort Male Voice Choir were invited to the stage to give a heart-wrenching rendition of ‘Every Valley’ closing track ‘Take Me Home’.

On Friday – the first full day of festivities – Green Man is now in full swing and basking in the somewhat unexpected sunshine. Green Man rising winners Park Motive opened on the Mountain Stage, with their jazz-fusion and samba infused synth-pop, an ideal remedy to get the morning crowds moving. King Tuff provided one of the main highlights of the afternoon, shaking up the Mountain Stage with his unique blend of glam and garage rock, offering a set that effortlessly transitioned from the snarling riffs of ‘Black Moon Spell’ to the sleazy horn-powered rhythms of ‘Psycho Star’. Meanwhile, on the Far Out stage, Atlanta-based post-punkers Omni shone, rendering the audiences feet under the control of their meticulous and incisive guitar-driven grooves filled with eccentric energy. Back on the Mountain Stage, Joan Wasser under the guise of Joan As Police Woman offered a change of pace with her elegant concoction of pop and 70’s soul. 

Away from the bustle of the larger stages, within the welcoming confines of the Walled Garden, Snail Mail gave one of the festivals stand out performances. The musical vehicle of 18-year-old Lindsey Jordan, Snail Mail captivated crowds with her cathartic song-writing, raspy yet resonant vocals and intricate guitar lines. Another highlight of the Friday line-up included Long Island duo The Lemon Twigs, who graced the evening sun on the Mountain Stage with their exuberant, baroque-tinged classic rock. 

🔮G🌿M🎉1💥8🦎

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Next came the moment that many had anticipated with uncontrollable excitement. A testament to Green Man’s commitment to a policy of providing an eclectic, yet consistently high-quality line-up even if that means eschewing bigger name acts, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s returned to Green Man as Friday night headliners. The Melbourne psych-prog rock seven-piece arrive in the midst of a relentless world tour on the back of an industrious 2017 that saw them release five albums. The masses that had swarmed the Mountain stage were entranced from the first note to the last. One could almost feel the Black Mountains tremor in response to the chugging locomotive riffs and cries of ‘Rattlesnake’. The band treated Green Man to a diverse and comprehensive smorgasbord of a set-list that spanned the prog fuelled odysseys of their recent output, the apocalyptic guitar salvos of ‘Nonagon Infinity’ to the jazz-fusion jams of ‘Quarters’ and beyond. Additional highlights came in the form of extended jams of jazz-fusion epic ‘The River’ and psych opus ‘Head On/Pill’. The performance certainly provided an electrifying buzz that lingered throughout the remainder of the festival, often expressed through spontaneous chants of “Rattlesnake!” that could be heard throughout the festival site.

Green Man awoke on Saturday battered and bruised, with a sore head due a combination of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s sonic onslaught and dancing through into the early hours at Chai Wallah.

Playing one of the first slots on the Far Out stage, London-based grunge pop quartet Sorry, gave a much needed jolt to kick off the morning. There had already been some excitement built-up surrounding Boy Azooga – the brainchild of Cardiff-native Davey Newington and their performance on the Far Out stage will only aid in further cementing their place as one of the UK’s most exciting rock acts. Psychedelia tinged singles ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’ and ‘Jerry’ hook the early arrivals, whilst the disco-rock riffage of ‘Loner Boogie’ and ‘Splott Five-O’ provide the sucker punch. However, the real finale came with a surprise cover of Kool and the Gang’s funk classic ‘Jungle Boogie’. This was complimented by the addition of prolific gig-goer and legend of the Bristol scene, Big Jeff on percussion, in a moment that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Green Man. 

In the Walled Garden, all-female quartet Goat Girl treated crowds to their snarling and sinister brand of punk. Singer-songwriter and Welsh hero Cate Le Bon gripped Mountain stage onlookers with her powerful voice during her only festival performance of the year. An unexpected twist came mid-way through the set, with John Grant welcomed onstage for a version of ‘I Think I Knew’, bolstered by Grant’s smoky baritone. Immediately after, Grant ascended to the stage for his evening slot, enthralling those present with a selection of poignant and personal ballads, propelled by his endearing charisma and commanding crooning. Seattle folk troubadours Fleet Foxes close the day with a headline performance full of resplendent harmonies and majestic guitar melodies that included fan favourites ‘Mykonos’ and White Winter Hymnal’ alongside cuts from newest album ‘Crack-Up’.

The weather was one of the unlikely heroes of this year’s Green Man, despite predictions of a typical Welsh downpour, the blazing sun silenced the naysayers (except when obscured by clouds) and continued to bathe the festival well into its final day. An early Mountain stage highlight was provided by former Cee-Lo Green backing singer Curtis Harding, who delivered an alluring display of psychedelic soul and vintage R&B. Late into the afternoon, Kevin Morby, adorning a utilitarian grey jumpsuit, exhibits his masterfully introspective songcraft on the Mountain Stage. Mostly playing cuts from latest LP ‘City Music’, the audience sway in harmony with Morby’s dusky and sinewy rhythms, reinforced by an incredibly tight backing band. Stand out tracks include the pulsating ‘Cry Baby’, the effortlessly uplifting ‘City Music’ and the melancholy ‘Harlem River’. In a similar vein to her contemporary Snail Mail, Lucy Dacus engrossed the Walled Garden with her broodingly solemn song writing and sonorous vocal delivery, showing us why female artists are currently spearheading the indie rock revival. 

Grizzly Bear take to the Mountain stage shrouded in ominous smoke – the penultimate act before final headliners The War On Drugs. Grizzly Bear dazzle with an amalgamation of intricate vocal harmonies, striking piano and chiming guitar leads married with often unorthodox tempos. Their discography-spanning live set sounds remarkably polished and majestic, whilst maintaining their uncompromising emotional gravitas. Set highlights included the mesmerizingly sombre ‘Ready, Able’, the glisteningly explosive ‘Sleeping Ute’ and the Yes/Steely Dan inspired grooves of ‘Aquarian’. Meanwhile, in the dark recesses of the Far Out tent, Texan psych-rock virtuosos The Black Angels offer a simultaneously hypnotic and thunderous excursion through their back catalogue, with cuts from latest album ‘Death Song’ featuring heavily. The crowd’s senses are taken hostage by droning, serpentine keyboards, crunching reverb-soaked blues riffs, drummer Stephanie Bailey’s ferocious rhythmic assault and vocalist Alex Maas’s haunting wail. 

With the outline of the Black Mountains now obscured by the night sky, The War On Drugs ascend to the Mountain stage, 10 years on from their Green Man debut. Frontman Adam Granduciel addresses the audience with the words “Good Evening. It’s good to be home”, a sentiment acknowledging Green Man’s unwavering support that had also been similarly reiterated by countless other acts during the festival. Exceeding the expectations of a closing headline act, Granduciel and his stellar band provided Green Man 2018 with the swansong it deserved. Cuts from critically lauded ‘Lost in the Dream’ and recent follow-up ‘A Deeper Understanding’ form the bulk of the performance, with Granduciel’s euphoric guitar jams seeming more electrifying and taking on a new cosmic flavour. An extended, rapturous rendition of ‘Under the Pressure’ had transfixed the complete attention of all present. With the last note still ringing, the annual exodus marches onwards to witness the burning of the Green Man sculpture which marks the close of the festival.

As the plume of smoke and fireworks rise high above the Brecon Beacons and the crowds gathered below, rejuvenated by Green Man’s endearing communal spirit one can only wonder, how will they manage to top this next year? Yet, somehow each year, Green Man continues to rise from its ashes and never ceases to fail in doing just that.

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CATCH UP: Blackthorn Festival 2018

MAIN IMAGE – TRUST A FOX | WORDS – HANNAH TINKER

On foot, there’s a quaint, dusty woodland path through Etherow Country Park that takes you to Blackthorn Festival. A clearing makes way for a hill in the forest, surrounded by tents and three raised stages that make up the festival that’s become part of the local culture, unifying the music scene in one annual August weekend. Having grown from strength to strength since it’s conception in 2013, this year saw the likes of Pete Doherty, We Are Scientists and Peter Hook & The Light take to the main stage.

Legends in their field, the general feeling was astonishment that such music notoriety as the artful dodger himself – Pete Doherty – had agreed to play at a festival with such a relatively unknown following. Perhaps it was the sense of community and the gathering of minds, maybe it was the open arms for independent artists or possibly it’s an accolade to his former lyrics beckoning to keep the Arts afloat.

“The only way out of the dustbowl or the farm for thee
Join a band or join the army”

PETE DOHERTY IMAGE – LABRAT 

Amongst the eclectic lineup were newcomers, quickly becoming maestros of the Manchester scene in their own right. The likes of Afghan Sand Gang, Creature Comfort, Hey Bulldog, RPMs and Deja Vega set sights ablaze by enticing fans new and old with their Northern guises. During the exhilarance of the event, we caught up with rising stars The Blinders shortly after they crept off from their main stage slot one afternoon.

The trio are longstanding advocates of the festival, which included headlining one of the smaller stages last year, which they enjoyed but felt a sense of pride to be on 2018’s main stage. “These kinds of festivals are so much better than the commercial ones” mentions lead singer Thomas Haywood whilst drummer Matty Neale acclaims the local festival and how it brings bands together who are at a similar point in their career: “you need them, they’re for the fans – this type of festival.” The Blinders debut album comes on to the scene on the 21st of September and if our previous experiences are anything to go by, it’ll be an unmissable moment for the Manchester residents.

Hot on the tail of any other rising acts are the four-strong, all-female, punk-grunge act Witch Fever. Lauded as being one of the best sets of the weekend, the girl gang quickly amassed a following from attendees at the festival. You could sense the admiration in the air as they played, so of course, we’d have been foolish not to to edge close to the backstage area for a few words with the band.

WITCH FEVER IMAGE – ASUPREMESHOT 

Witch Fever will soon release a lacquered blood-red vinyl of new single ‘Toothless’, which couldn’t be more in-keeping with the look of the Manchester-based quartet. Although the weekend has been their first festival experience, it appears to be an experience which has been met by a mutual appreciation: “from what we’ve seen we love it. Everyone is so friendly. It’s chill and a really nice environment.” There’s actually even a story to how Witch Fever came to be on the Blackthorn lineup, as explained by lead singer Amy-Hope Walpole. “The lineup was released and our (female) manager reached out to Blackthorn like ‘hey there are no women on your lineup’ then, credit to them, they put us on.”

This recent realisation from across the live music and festival scene beckons a calling for stronger female representation in music and the media. One particular event that’s impacted this particular for Witch Fever was when they were sexualised and leered at by a crowd and even another band at a recent Bristol gig. Speaking of this event Witch Fever mention that there has been an apology from Bristol’s Stag & Hound venue and a feeble response from the offending band member. “If you’re a woman to whom this happens all the time it’s horrible. To him as a man, it’s nothing. People don’t seem to realise when particular behaviour is sexist”. Thankfully this has only made the group stronger and pushes them to fight for the right to have women play a leading role in music. As it should be. Blackthorn Festival 2018 sets pulses raising and introduced fans to new discoveries with their musician-led, community-spirited event which only has room to grow.

Ahead of Blackthorn Festival 2018, we did a round up of what to look out for. Check out how the real-deal compared to our predictions!

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UPCOMING: Manchester Psych Festival

Words by Hannah Tinker

With a fleet of acclaimed bands from across the UK surfacing next month for Manchester Psych Festival, the kaleidoscope twists for the sixth installment of this inaugural, enticing event. Originally set at Night & Day Cafe in 2014, consecutive versions of the festival expanded to Aatma, Soup Kitchen and Band On The Wall with an almost sold out event last year. With their growth, the reach of Manchester Psych Festival has spread too and this edition of the visual feast takes over Night & Day Cafe, Soup Kitchen, Band On The Wall and one of the city’s newest venues: Peer Hat. Set to add a hive of activity to the already bustling Northern Quarter scene, Saturday 1st September sees The Wytches, Mold, Meatraffle and many more acts who come with a unanimous penchant for presenting a spectacle and leaving an audience with a dilated perspective.

pink kink at Manchester Psych Festival 2017

The lineup for 2018 captures all different levels of artistic success and celebrates what should be the norm – as festival organisers recently agreed to contain a lineup that showcases and engages the female audience on an equal platform to that of their male counterparts. To meet this, this years Manchester Psych Festival lineup contains the likes of Glaswegian garage-rock duo and all-female Honeyblood, 3/4 female punk-pop matadors She Drew The Gun, low-fi, female-fronted punksters The Cosmics and other lucrative female-led acts. As well as the musical lineup, Manchester Psych Fest is known for tempting the eye and manifesting the work of local talented artists for the visibly psychedelic event; this year having visual aspects from the minds of artists Louise Rivett, Natalie Wardle and Jane Bowyer.

Using their previous lineups as any guide to go by, Manchester Psych Festival is sure to be anything but ordinary – with the only downside being you’re unable to be in four venues at once – previous acts have included Telegram, Crocodiles, Flamingods, The Lucid Dream, Deja Vega, Menace Beach and many more equally feted acts. Ones to watch this year are the headlining slot – Honeyblood, who are the engaging rockers from across the Scottish border, lauded as the pair set to spearhead the rock genre forward, catching the attention of a new generation with their recently released second album Babes Never Die.

Alongside the arts, there will be a selection of food stalls sourced from local traders so you’re just a pair of wellies and bucket hat away from your classic festival field. The day of praise for the Arts doesn’t die down when it hits dusk, with DJs including The Beat Chics and Panda Palm of Me Gusta taking Manchester Psych Festival deep into the early hours of Sunday 2nd September. The sixth installment of our city’s psych celebration sees a collaboration between the vibrant art world and eclectic music scene.

Caught your attention and want to know more? Read about the success of Manchester Psych Festival 2017 and what caught our attention last year 👀

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Blackthorn festival

PREVIEW: Blackthorn Festival 2018
Photography – Trust A Fox, Words – Hannah Tinker

Celebrating a fifth birthday with Pete Doherty in attendance is a sentence you’d be forgiven for never thinking you’d hear. The Libertines front-man is set to be the main-stage headliner on Saturday 21st July as part of the Stockport-based 3-day event, Blackthorn Festival. Now celebrating half a decade since the event first started, this year sees possibly their grandest line-up yet with Joy Division and New Order legend Peter Hook fronting his accomplished self-made band – Peter Hook & The Light – in the headline slot on Sunday 22nd July. Blackthorn has hosted an array of acts, with previous names on the bill including the likes of Reverend And The Makers, The Enemy and Maximo Park, amongst many others. Each year Blackthorn seems to mature and flourish further, surpassing the intake of vivacious revellers from the year before and filling Whitebottom Farm out to the brink. It’s clear the masterminds behind Blackthorn are taking no prisoners in delivering this year’s festival line-up.

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In amongst the achingly superior headline acts are sets that are equally likely to wet the appetite. Amongst our top picks are the likes of grunge enthused, Stockport-local (and MCR Live resident) Findlay who will be warming up for NYC indie rockers We Are Scientists on the Saturday evening’s main stage. Ahead of this, the feisty, underground and quickly-rising newcomers The Blinders are set to pulse their growing fan-base with a slot on Saturday afternoon. The Doncastrian trio have recently shot to local fame, and a fast-growing reputation outside this, thanks to their modest penchant for raw, pacing and wholly unapologetically political verses.

On this year’s Blackthorn bill, celebrating the wealth of exciting talent of the North seems to be a trend with Saturday also holding host to Manchester’s favourite DIY riot grrrl act – Witch Fever – who will be showcasing their acclaim to the sub-genre by way of eclectic vocals and post-punk, grunge riffs. And a throwback to the past, Saturday’s Paddock stage headliner sees underground Mancunian legends Twisted Wheel take to wrap everything together. Having formed in 2007, the punk-revivalists have garnered approval from the likes of everyone from Liam Gallagher to Paul Weller and in their lengthy career have even supported The Courteeners, Kasabian and Happy Mondays. With a wide, diverse and loyal fan-base, Twisted Wheel reformed last year complete with a new lineup and new album and after missing their set in Manchester earlier this year, we can’t wait to catch them live again.

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Twisted Wheel will be playing at Blackthorn 2018

Kicking everything off, however, Friday 20th July sees an opener freshly encompassing the best of Manchester’s elite new coming acts. Tribute acts galore headline the evening including Inspiral Carpets very own Tom Hingely fronting the eulogy to his former band as The Kar-Pets host the main stage late into the first night. Ahead of this, Happy Mondaze honour Salford’s own alt-rock band with a comparably vivid set reminiscent of the Haçienda days. However, before this nod to the nostalgic, comes a host of Manchester’s radical new-wave talent for which the city is known for. Leading this are three-piece desert-rock outfit Afghan Sand Gang who boast atmospheric, synth-led tracks with a DIY edge that have enticed the likes of Cabbage band member Lee Broadbent: “They are infectious to the point it’s indescribable…” What more could you ask for?

Deja Vega lead the alternative Meadow stage on Friday. Hailed as elitists engaged in the music scene, the trio present modern Brit-psychedelia with an almost Gothic-like edge which stands for something new, diverse and wonderfully original. Fellow Mancunian brothers in arms (with a like-minded sound), Hey Bulldog, bring an intense sound that thrusts the trio ahead as one of the best acts to leak out of the cities flourishing psych-rock scene – keep your eyes and ears on them.

But it doesn’t stop here. Those who make it through to Sunday are rewarded with the likes of the aforementioned cultural legend Peter Hook, as well as 90’s maestros The Bluetones. Reaching acclaimed commercial success in their hay-day, the band reformed in 2015 and have been touring the UK (almost) ever since, beckoning an indie-rock throwback whilst still managing to garnish their masterful musical skill-set.

pete doherty blackthorn

Pete Doherty – will be playing at Blackthorn 2018

We’ve named just a few standout acts here, and not nearly all the talent that Blackthorn offers in 2018. So, with all of that, there’s only one thing for it… what are you waiting for?

Thanks to Trust A Fox for the photos from the Festival from 2017, and the snaps of those playing in 2018.

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