One of them New fangled musical troops Ist Ist filled Gorilla on Saturday night on the penultimate leg of their spring tour. Like the daffodils they have been sprouting up across the country this past month, basking in the light of their latest EP Everything is Different Now. They also had some ‘Special Guests’, popular lads that they are.
Pick of the special guests’ bunch were Salfordians Red Light Effect, who were great value on the night. They had Corby trouser press crisp adult songwriting on offer, reminiscent of a pre-Daily Mail era Morrissey yet lathered in that gigantic expression pedal guitar sound you all know and love. Singer Ian Scott certainly cut a charismatic figure as he hollered above the snowdrifts of guitar delay, and with the aid of a mysterious box stuck halfway up the mic stand sounds an awful lot like some wonderful northern bird of paradise calling for a mate. Red Light Effect also wear great shoes! What’s not to like.
Now, let’s just say it. Ist Ist are a MOOD. They have the potential to unite unhappy teenagers and their “young in the eighties” parents in a way not seen since Rick Rolling appeared and the overwhelming verdict of a death penalty for Astley reached across the generational divide.
They begin their set brooding through Preachers Warning and I’m Not Here. Gorilla is tense. Tantalisingly so. The whole place is threatening to boil over, like a derby day nil-nil with blue touch paper teasing flame. Anti-guitar solos tinker with the central heating controls and it’s getting warmer as the band bring out one of their superior early numbers Silence. There is a solid tradition of artists sculpting into their work the dichotomy of sound and silence, Kierkegaard through John Cage via Paul Simon. You can add Ist Ist’s take to that list, it is a banger. Certainly more so than Kierkegaard ever was.
For this EP Ist Ist added multi-instrumentalist Mat Peters to their ranks. whilst this tipped their new songs on a slightly different trajectory with keys heavy tracks like Jennifer’s Lips it has also given a symphonic slant to some of their older material which is most welcome. If this isn’t enough for you, he also happens to be a really nice guy, so there, have that.
At the core of the bands sound on the old stuff and the new is Adam Houghton’s wonderful voice. In the darker number’s such as the aptly named Black, Houghton gets positively subterranean. Such tones must be heard down in the ninth circle of Dante’s low register, along with Nick Cave, Mr Curtis and that bloke out of The National.
Of course, despite all the brooding that exudes from a lot of Ist Ist’s more melancholic work, a maudlin nil-nil this is not. They offer up surprisingly catchy stripped back little number I want to disappear. This is followed swiftly after by a wondrous end to the set where they kindly smash up all that tension lest anyone have to split a taxi home with it. Renditions of Nights arm and Diversion kick all this to pieces, along with any lingering eagerness from the audience to compare Ist Ist wearily to a certain Manchester band from days yonder. Thumping through these tunes you would say they were more reminiscent of The Editors at the 2005 Munich best. That’s a bloody good compliment in case you were wondering.
After nearly 4 years since his hit debut albumYoung BloodCallum Burrows, AKA Saint Raymond, is back and better than ever.
With a new album promised to be on the way, Saint Raymond embarked on a mini tour of the UK, playing his classic brand of sing-along-able, upbeat, indie tunes from his debut record, interspersed with the singles he released in 2018. His time away from gigging seemingly didn’t lose him any fans, as he performed to a loving crowd at a packed out Gorilla.
Going through his discography from breakout hits such as Everything She Wants, to the more recent crowd favourite Nightcrawler, his and his bands infectious enthusiasm resonated with everyone in attendance. Throughout the set the crowd knew every word to every song, and blasted them out with beaming joy.
In the encore we were treated to a solo performance from Callum – an intimate interlude which saw him perform some of his slower jams, with the audience once again passionately singing his lyrics back to him. A truly beautiful and heartwarming moment of the night. His band returned for the last few tunes seeing out the night the way it started – up tempo and high energy.
Considering his music is arguably hard to dislike, with its catchy melodies and easy to remember lyrics, Saint Raymond has his fair share of critics. Cynics argue his music is safe and forgettable. Of course like anything, his music is not to everyone’s taste, but to label it safe and forgettable takes away from the quality with which his music is produced.
Every song is slick and fun, most of which you can see yourself sat on the grass at a festival with your mates and a pint. Saint Raymond isn’t trying to be the next Morrissey and he doesn’t need to be. His songs are made with passion and that comes shining through when seeing him perform. His music mirrors his personality – authentic, fun and carefree.
If the reaction and turnout for his gig is any indication of his future success, expect a big comeback from Saint Raymond.
Kerri Chandler has been one of house music’s originators since the early nineties. That term originator gets bound around a little too flippantly these days but this is not one of those occasions. From his native New Jersey roots and a backdrop of soul, disco, and garage from his late great father who was also a DJ, Chandler has established himself as a true selector in every sense of the word. As an ambassador of the 4/4 beat, his sets champion a bold plethora of styles, genres and decades.
The most exciting thing about tonight is that Chandler is playing all night long to 600 people in a modest venue under the railway tracks of Whitworth Street West. To give this a little context, tomorrow night he will curate and headline his own show at the Printworks – a 5,000 capacity venue on the banks of Canada Water in London.
Tonight, he kicks off the first hour with some neo-soul and US vocal house followed by some mid-tempo chug, as the crowd bob and weave into their stride. Once he’s found his feet, we a treated to an up-tempo gospel-infused cut of Sister Sledge’s ‘Lost in Music’ and Uptown Funk Empire’s ‘You’ve Got To Have Freedom’. There is a slight lull in proceedings as he gets bogged down with the jazz piano and the atmosphere falls a tad flat. However, redemption is served via the broken beats of some New York garage and a heavy dose of meaty tech house. The latter incorporates the vocal from LoleattaHolloway’s ‘Love Sensation’, sending the crowd into a fever pitch.
The current musical climate is littered with amazing DJ’s come producers – Four Tet, Ben UFO, Floating Points – to name but a few, but Kerri Chandler feels like the engine room on the roster. There’s no effects unit, no all singing all dancing lighting rig, projector screens, lasers et al. It’s six hours of straight up, soulful house, disco and garage on two turntables and it has the clientele in Gorilla eating out of the palm of his hand.
For the pessimists that think that house music all sounds the same, they should let Kerri Chandler take them on a journey. It will make them take a step back and realise it’s time to have a quiet word with themselves.
The Joy Formidable released their first EP A Balloon Called Moaning just over 10 years ago, and have only perfected their lively brand of indie rock since then. With four studio albums under their belt, the band has amassed a great deal of success, including supporting Foo Fighters in 2018.
The Welsh trio, hailing from Mold in Flintshire, ignite the intimate Gorilla with their infectious energy as a boisterous start to the weekend. Electronic beats and rapidly oscillating lights fill the room as the band – Ritzy Bryan on guitar and vocals, Rhydian Davies on bass and backing vocals, and Matthew Thomas on drums – take to the stage and launch into the intense YBluen Eira, the Welsh-language opener of their latest album AAARTH. Bryan’s fast-paced, monotone vocals interrupt a heavy guitar riff that’s enough to knock you off your feet. This spirited set-opener certainly sets the tone for the rest of the night, with none of the members losing this vivacity.
The trio hark back to their early days with I Don’t Want to See You Like This, a gripping track from the band’s first album The Big Roar (2011). They have everyone’s rapt attention by this point, with Ritzy chanting ‘A bridge splits November’s sky, I’m in two halves inside, this is the past right here, I choose to leave it here’ in her sugary yet resolute vocals that still sound as fresh as ever. The single’s B-Side, Ostrich, is played a little later; the fuzzy guitar riff echoes around the room, the type of signature Joy Formidable riff that was a motif for the entire debut album. The crashing cymbals and and a thunderous, rolling drumbeat gel perfectly with the constantly moving crowd, who continue to do so as the band launch straight into yet another non-album track, Passerby, a bonus track from the trio’s third album Hitch (2016), which admittedly had its issues, evidenced by its reluctance to feature much on the setlist . The band’s dynamism and the reception of their fans, however, is proof that even a knock such as that isn’t enough to faze them.
The night soon undergoes a shift in tone as Davies swaps out his bass for an acoustic guitar. The usually raucous A Heavy Abacus is substituted for a more subdued acoustic version; it’s charming, but seems like an odd choice for a song that has such potential to be a real crowd pleaser at its maximum volume. It could be justified as a segue into another acoustic track; this time it’s Underneath the Petal from Hitch. Despite the track’s softer tendencies, The Joy Formidable’s intensity refuses to wane. They’re always impeccably in sync with each other and with the crowd; between songs they banter with each other and audience members rendering Gorilla even more intimate than it already was.
The encore is a delightful mix of the band’s back catalogue, including The Leopard and the Lung, Y Batteg Ateb, and Whirring. It’s the latter track that gets fans most excited; a lot of people have presumably been waiting for this all night. The joyous guitar and tinkling of the keyboard, almost filled with a kind of childlike wonder, reeks of pure nostalgia. It’s amped up by Bryan’s crisp vocals, belting out ‘All these things about me, you never can tell, you make me sleep so badly invisible friend!’ as many sing-alongs.
It’s a fun-filled set, but the unexpected absence of early track Austere is felt, and the darker, heavier Buoy would have been a welcome addition to an otherwise mostly upbeat second half. But if there’s one thing for certain, The Joy Formidable are still as tight as ever, and they know how to put on a good gig.
The stuffy, drab-skied Sunday evening that backdrops this leg of Manchester Psych Fest rather lends itself to the bleaker, more tense strains of tonight’s headliners, elusive Danish art-punks Iceage. Fittingly, disaffected art students and older punk musos mill around Gorilla’s square, brick-lined room, mulling over drinks and chatting animatedly, until an eerie silence falls overhead. Billowing out onto the stage then comes the spectral Nordic figures of Copenhagen-based collective Josiah Konder, whose presumed eponymous frontman starts by teasing a soft balladry on an acoustic guitar. The band gradually push into dark, swirling noir, formed by harmonised choral singing, dynamic stop-start percussion and elaborate storytelling, while grand, sweeping piano flourishes and snaking distorted guitar add layers of gritty texture. When not steering this with a Cave-esque croon, Josiah Konder wildly conducts his band’s proceedings with his hands, lending some urgency to stretches of explosive chamber-pop, but the simplistic, back-and-forth structures become somewhat meandering after just a handful. Steady applause follows each number, but the audience remains relatively muted until the pre-headliner gap builds into feverish excitement. The crowd swells to three times its size; a small-statured girl takes a Snapchat picture of the empty stage and tags the Iceage account, seemingly excited to share the evening with her myriad of post-punk-leaning contemporaries.
Armed with the additional instrumentation that defined the band’s sound on their excellent 2018 release ‘Beyondless’, Iceage take to the stage, and after a quick few hellos, triumphantly launch into the album’s high-octane opener, ‘Hurrah’. Vocalist Elias Rønnenfelt contrasts his languid drawl with a Libertine-esque swagger, while the band play with a loose, garage-rock feel, kept in line by the songs’ blood-pumping energy. Well-received single ‘Pain Killer’ – minus featured artist Sky Ferreira – follows, eliciting a roar of recognition from the room, but the brassy wail that makes up the song’s main instrumental thrust can’t help but feel a little thin in a live environment. The menacing crawl of ‘Under the Sun’ – which threads needling violin and an anguished vocal through a punishing staccato beatdown – and ‘Plead the Fifth’’s morose, guitar-driven march cap off a string of hits from the band’s latest record. Until the unveiling of older noise-punk stormer ‘Morals’ triggers a small moshpit, which gradually expands towards the walls before petering out. Basking in the chaos, a rhythmic guitar noise grows faster and faster, before bursting into the frantic cowpunk of track ‘The Lord’s Favourite’.
As the night goes on, ‘Beyondless’ is further repped by the skeezy Broadway stylings of ‘Showtime’, whose misery-tinged cabaret rock suitably fits the venue’s rousing, sweaty atmosphere. As well as ‘The Day the Music Dies’ noise rock stomp and the rattly, doom-laden shoegaze of the title track, with a small pool of pumping fists keeping momentum throughout. Elsewhere, the washy, melancholic soundscapes of ‘Take It All’ and ‘Catch It’ find themselves fading into aimless, flickering sax and plucked violin, riding out any grooves until they leave a formless, slow-burning ambience, and highlight the band’s capabilities for more abstract sonic depths. Snapping back into life for a final push, old-school track ‘White Rune’ breaks with a claustrophobic, choppy guitar rhythm – a welcome snap of energy that propels the set towards a fiery close, proving both the group’s versatility and onstage hunger.
Under the Sun
Plead the Fifth
The Lord’s Favourite
Thieves Like Us
The Day The Music Dies
Take It All
At the back-end of 2017, indie folk act Kevin Morby and his band sadly cut short their European tour and didn’t make it to our shores. Now he returns with a clean bill of health and his personified status of an age-old literary symbol that captures an audience. You’d be forgiven for thinking that live, the band would cut a sombre shape – particularly as this was the day after they’d just played Brecon Beacons’ Green Man Festival. However, the evening was anything but sensational with a hive of activity that swallowed Gorilla‘s dancefloor whole.
Ahead of Kevin came Shannon Lay, who also just played Green Man Festival. Signed to Morby’s label ‘Mare Records’, she brought unassuming lyrics and pearls of unconventional folk wisdom to the table for an easygoing pre-headliner act. Before then still was the turn of Kevin’s guitarist Meg Duffy’s live act Hand Habits. Duffy set the scene for the evening with eloquently portrayed, bittersweet lyrics echoed by her band members that she calls her ‘continuous amoeba’.
Taking to the stage every inch the archetypal literary wanderer – dressed in a suit and bolo tie complete with ‘CRY BABY’ (the second track from his recent album) painted across the back of his jacket, Morby knows his strengths and where he stands.
His fourth studio album ‘City Life’ provides the bulk of the set of the night’s entertainment and is impeccable throughout but Morby gives earlier material a look-in too, with stand out tracks including ‘Parade’, ‘Beautiful Strangers’ and ‘Harlem River’. What took us by surprise though and boosted the tone of the night ever more was the entrance of fellow American singer/songwiter Waxahatchee. The artist joined Morby for the female vocals on her own track ‘The Dark Don’t Hide It’ and for a cover of the legendary ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ originally by Bob Dylan. Comparisons between Dylan and Morby are indisputable, both bring a natural, gentleman-like ease to playing and have the method fine tuned to a tee.
Overall, the gig felt like a surprise parcel that contained all manor of delectable delights when opened, a glad welcome that more than made do for the cancellation of his last slot. It was an indisputable (if unnecessary) indicator of the emphatic step forward Morby has taken this year. He’s emerged as a distinctive voice greater than the sum of his influences. He now plays with the hunger and confidence of a man out to make an impression, worth every bit of his self-mythologised persona.
They’ve been missing in action for three years, but tonight is the night, the grand re-opening of Drenge. For those unfortunate enough not to have experienced Drenge before, Drenge are, or rather were a two-piece alternative outfit that tore through the airwaves and the ear canals of listeners with snarling tunes like ‘Bloodsport’ and ‘We Can Do What We Want’. Think the bastard child of ‘Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not’ era Arctic Monkeys and Grunge Legends Mudhoney gestated in the womb of Courtney Love. After a three-year-long hiatus, the Loveless brothers have returned now decked out with a fancy new bassist and have even made themselves a four-piece. They’ve set out on an international Grand re-opening tour, and on Wednesday last week they played a show to a sold out Gorilla, packed out to the rafters.
Opening for them tonight is Kagoule, a Nottingham born three-piece made up of Cai, Lucy and Lawrence. I really can’t express enough how perfect the band were for this slot. On too many occasions supporting bands can feel futile in their attempts to warm up the crowd or even interest them, with Kagoule it was quite the opposite. Singer and Guitarist Cai looks like an albino 80’s pop singer, his guitar jangles from alt-pop jams into Nirvana-esque solos and parts in a strangely transitional and seemly manner. He displays a shyness that is present in the lyrics and music, yet is alleviated from when he’s in the moment playing. The band’s second singer and bass player, Lucy, offers a much wider range of sound vocally. She weaves a distinct essence of Riot Grrrl into the enigmatic tapestry that is this band. Spacing out into her groovy yet still effortlessly grungy Bass, rocking out with her fishbowl earnings and her Beth Ditto haircut.
Drummers can often be ignored when evaluating any band, in this case though, that mistake simply cannot be made. Lawrence, the band’s drummer is what holds the entire surreal experience that is Kagoule together. Having two lead musicians and vocalists, who share songs but are perfectly comfortable to compete as opposed to harmonising whilst also employing genre moulding and switches can lead to some chaotic music. Lawrence’s playing is just so damn tight that he holds the band together amazingly, and really allows his partners to shine. The product is a distinctly funky brand of alternative rock, equal parts with a closest living relative in X-Ray Spex. Expect Pixies vibes, 80’s fashion and grooves if you run into this outfit on the road, if they sound up your street, give them a listen here.
With the gauntlet laid down by their talented opening act, the room filled up to the rafters as Drenge burst onto the stage to make their big return. After cutting a ceremonial red ribbon to mark the momentous occasion, they wasted no time in getting to the nitty gritty. Blazing through a new track; Bonfire, before declining into classic Face Like a Skull. A note for Drenge fans is that live they are much heavier than on the record. It really highlights the tidy production values employed on their recorded material. Live they owe more to Johnny Rotten than indie, they would do just fine playing next to bands like Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes. Their mastery over this acidic vitriol that sounds the way blood from a busted lip tastes is what sets them apart from bands like Blossoms and Slaves, they have something genuine that these two bands fail to replicate.
A crowd that was mild mannered when jamming to the groovy, bass and drum driven sounds of Kagoule is no more. Security struggle to stop crowd-surfers and several people light up. New offerings are received well and fans scream back at the band despite not knowing a word of the song. Loveless breaks into prophetic punk-poet ramblings and lyrics range from relationships to life philosophies and politics. Their set is accompanied by a lot of on-stage antics, including a lovely happy birthday song for one of their members featuring the iconic caterpillar cake and a gorgeous interpersonal encore
Grunge is a dirty word in many alternative scenes, for two contradicting reasons. Grunge is a sound that was perfected and a bubble frozen in time, it was a cultural phenomena that has lived and died, and some accuse the revisionists of the grunge emo revival we are seeing as beating the corpse with a stick. Also, Grunge had some of the greatest alternative rock musicians of all time, with names like Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Kat Bjelland and Eddie Veder in the mix, those can be some big shoes to fill. Speaking of big shoes, Drenge are playing a stage that has been touched by several Grunge legends, including Babe’s in Toyland, Jack Off Jill, Mudhoney and Melvins. Drenge manage this triumphantly however, because instead of trying, they simply say, this isn’t grunge, this is Drenge. Their patent combination of American and British alternative cultures allows them to retain a clear and distinct identity whilst blowing the crowd away with deep mosh pits and blistering wails. They end their initial set on an energy high, but are immediately dragged back on for an encore, where they give the crowd a soft touch of intimacy their set lacked.
To conclude, Drenge rock hard, harder than their recorded music would ever tell you. The boys are funny, dynamic and sure of who they are, and it shines through. They were a pleasure to watch and should be an idol for any musician hoping to ride the wave of the grunge revival on how to create your own thing and run with it. Mothers, lock up your labour MPs, because they’re back and they’re not going anywhere. They’ve released a single to accompany them on this tour, you can give it a peek without a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday after it right here.
Think of garage-rock and you’d probably not think of tranquil Spanish beaches or Madrid’s heritage.. that is until you’ve heard Hinds. The five-piece hail from the Spanish capital and are the latest installment in a new breed of girl-band, amongst the likes of their reputable sisters Goat Girl, Dream Wife and Black Honey. Now with their second album, the group have completely come into their own compared to having just four songs three years ago.
Released in 2016, ‘Leave Me Alone’ debuted Hinds as something fresh, understated and equivocally cool. The harsh edges of tracks like ‘Castigadas en el Granero‘, saw raw English and Spanish vocals tangled together with high-pitched interludes from lead singer Carlotta Cosials set against a backdrop of fast guitars and powerful drums. Raw and ready, Hinds had arrived. Now with their second studio album ‘ I Don’t Run ‘ released just ahead of their upcoming UK tour (which included a set at Manchester’s Gorilla on Tuesday 17th April), we see a more refined side to the 4-piece. In place, we have a matured Hinds. Still with the treacle-thick, aerated Spanish accents with a feel of care-free fun and effortless cool, but the sense that the band are taking their talents more seriously with a zealous and pretty un-faultable album.
Tracks including ‘Linda’ and ‘Echoing Your Name’ have an almost Mac DeMarco-esque vibe with soft electric guitars, a background of drums and sickly-sweet (yet strong) lyrics. The band show an impressive range when comparing songs from ‘New For You’ to the aforementioned ‘Linda’ – both have the quintessential Hinds passion and beat but are crafted in a different manner with opposing complexity within their lyrics.
Linda: ‘”The satisfaction of the inundation when you ring my bell and I wanna be ready for your hell”
New For You: “Because I wanna be somebody new, because I wanna be somebody new for you”
There’s the irrevocable theme of impassioned, heated, femininity surrounding Hinds. In an age where there is a heavy, sedating air of snobbery surrounding the music industry, it’s refreshing and uplifting to listen to a group of artists that collectively and consistently manage to crack a smile on any audience members’ face. A friend of mine called them “those crazy Spanish girls” when we caught them at 2017’s Green Man Festival, with no better summary seeming to suit. Now two studio albums in and with an impressive live reputation in tow, it seems like Hinds can only get better. Selling out venues – including the aforementioned stint at Manchester’s Gorilla that you were very lucky to get in on – time has certainly been kind to the energetic girl-gang who have come a LONG way since their inception, with their second ever show denounced a disaster and saw the band disbanded for two years. ‘I Don’t Run’ is a fantastic record and in 2018, they’ve certainly got their shit together. Viva la Hinds!
I rocked up to isaac gracie’s gig at Gorilla – quite the tongue twister that – with next to no knowledge, info and no expectations. A very unusual state to be in considering I am usually quite at it when it comes to knowing the bands I plan to see: knowing their albums, their songs, their potential setlists, their general demeanour and attitude. On those latter points, I base my expectations and am quite rarely disappointed – I usually know what I’m getting myself into is what I’m trying to say. Not this time.
I first saw Isaac’s name as the first act of a 3 act bill in a great small venue called Café de la Danse at Paris’ Pitchfork Festival, preceding (Sandy) Alex G and Big Thief (I even remembered seeing him pack his stuff up outside the venue whilst we were queuing to get in to see the latter). They were all part of the Avant-Garde section of the festival, a 2-day pre-Festival event with a plethora of up and coming bands I suppose, with 3-4 acts playing in various cute venues in the 11th arrondissement. Not particularly wanting to run from venue to venue and queue to see bands, we opted to stay in a single one and having my mind solely set on Big Thief, I YouTubed this mysterious name (at the time) of isaac gracie.
I don’t know if it was the first song that came up or if the title called out to me, but I put 2017’s ‘reverie’ on. Less than 2 minutes in, I had to stop it. It was enough. That paltry minute was – in itself – sufficient: sufficiently, mindbogglingly beautiful enough for me to know we were definitely not going anywhere else than Café de la Danse that night. As you may have gathered, we missed him. Circumstances, chance, fate, the Parisian metro, general life encumbrances or whatnot made it so. There was no point getting hung up about it. That was 5 months ago.
Since then I have seen his name thrown about now & then, here & there, with little remembrance of that minute-and-a-half but a whole lotta feeling left about it. So when I saw that Isaac was playing the up-close-and personal-Gorilla for a most affordable price, I thought why the hell not. Having no remaining inkling even of that one track, I left – befuddled – pleasantly floating around in the space of unknowingness, with zero worries about what he might and might not play and with an inner glee at discovering a full set of new songs for the first time. Not through the comfort of headphones or speakers, but from the stage.
What. A. Voice.
Such emotion, resonance and depth all with a hint of fragility. Launching straight into “all in my mind” and that was it. I was pretty much hooked. I’d read an article about Isaac on the BBC the before the gig comparing the singer-songwriter to Jeff Buckley and I can understand the comparison, quavering throughout the opener. Comparisons are useful in that they give an idea about something, but the more the gig went on the more Isaac came into his own, throwing off any comparative shackles with him. With a deeper voice and a tinge less delicacy – doing his name justice with a good deal of grace (forgive me) – slightly more pop-leaning sensibilities (slightly! seen during the chorus on second track in his set-list, ‘running’), Isaac flirts with certain Buckley-esque features, drawing from the late artist but ultimately taking it as his own. ‘terrified’ was a good blend of both facets – with a soft first verse morphing into a catchy pre-chorus prior to the main of which turned the volume up a notch thanks to his two-man backing band. I was digging the diversity, finding my feet and enjoying the ride so far.
Isaac then quavered into the budding – and sombre – ‘all the burning lovers’, a track that sparked and sizzled into life before casually wrenching all of our hearts with the softest of beautiful lullabies in ‘love ain’t always so good’. So beautiful in fact that it made me want to create a playlist solely with that very song on repeat to rock myself to sleep. I shan’t corrupt you with comparisons, but there’s a timeless beauty to that fingerpicked ballad which sounds as if taken from the thralls of some long lost folk-country love tale. Though Isaac Gracie is only a mere 23 years of age, his persona onstage belies that by years. However, when Isaac addresses the crowd, in an incessantly humble fashion, his tender age pierces through with such an adorable aura that it’s quite hard not to feel at least a little tug at your heartstrings.
Seeing an Isaac Gracie gig is an ascending experience made up a multitude of peaks. After every few songs, I thought to myself “this is the highlight so far” with that lullaby definitely the first. Isaac and band then launched into the poppy – and unavoidably endearing – ‘one night’. In an article I’d read prior to the gig, the musician mentioned that he had trouble keeping the essence of a demo and didn’t want ‘one night’ it to become too “James Bay – Hold Back The River”, although it might share a certain feeling with it. ‘one night’, in fact, definitely felt like the opposite though fitting in quite comfortably alongside that song.
A lingering and heartfelt ‘silhouettes of you’ kept the high-vibes rolling before I hit another personal peak in the (apparently) rarely played ‘darkness of the day’. Akin to the previous folky and fingerpicked ‘love ain’t always so good’, both songs seem to hover between country and folk with an old-timey feel to them. The latter completely lulled me into the fuzziest, most comfortable sense of happiness. Simply stunning.
As soon as the first notes played out for the next in the set-list, my friend turned to me to say “this one sounds like The Doors” and oh how true that rang in, showcasing an altogether different sound by combining the soft, playful, sultry sounds to the loud with the powerful voice Isaac has at his disposal. The 3-pronged assault of the titular chorus line is in-your-face, adrenaline-pumping, rock’n’roll royalty before the last third amps up the groove with shaky bass & drums. All of this is then coupled with – dare I say it and use another comparison – Morrison-like vocals, before one last explosive chorus.
It was then that Gracie’s diversity, and the potential there at 23 years of age, struck me and left me open-mouthed and dumbfounded. ‘the death of you & i” is a very well-written song and showcased a deeper knack and wit that surpassed mere singer-songwriter, folky tunes, by mixing with louder more-poppier tones: it showed great eclecticism and promise.
To best convey the vibes and style Isaac Gracie gives off for newcomers to his sound, comparisons (it seems) are an incredibly useful tool. ‘running on empty’ kicked straight off with something that wouldn’t go amiss as a Killers-esque intro, both fun and catchy and not over-complicated.
And then came ‘reverie’. At first, I hesitate, then I wondered and less than 2 minutes in I was certain. This was the song. The little YouTube song that got me on the path to being at this very gig and it was 6 minutes of pure bliss. No comparisons can do this song justice because it flies high at its very own level in the stratosphere of your mind and no better representation of Isaac’s talent. It is simply bliss. Graceful, heavenly, musical bliss.
We then witnessed a wonderful encore in ‘hollow crown’. Fragile and delicate, before Isaac ended the night with what might perhaps be his most popular song as far as the crowd are concerned, encouraging the first proper audible singalong with ‘last words’. A fitting finale to end the night with its nostalgic, slow yet happy vibes – ‘last words’ is an endearing slow-burner that seeps into your soul and makes you want to croon along to Isaac’s beautiful voice, and then share a smile and a laugh with the humble and passionate man that he is.
Hailed as one of the biggest acts of our generation, Wolf Alice have been in the running for Grammys, Mercury Prizes and Brit Awards across their eight year reign. Having stated this, the thought that the alt rock quartet would ever again play a 600 capacity venue (especially at five pounds a pair of tickets) is one which wouldn’t have graced your mind. Take to centre stage; War Child in collaboration with The Brit Awards.
Since 1993, the acclaimed charity has worked tirelessly to bring aid to children affected by the circumstances of war-torn countries. In 2016, their support – as funded by generous donations – touched the lives of 109,000 children, young people and adults across the globe. The efforts of their teams of volunteers and aid-workers helps to re-home, protect and educate children after it seems like all is lost. In recent years, War Child have captured the attention of music fans in collaboration with The Brit Awards and O2, through a series of gigs performed by huge names including Florence + The Machine, Richard Hawley and The 1975. Each gig has been unique as they were each performed at local, low-capacity London venues for a considerably low ticket cost with all proceeds going to War Child UK. This year artists included Alt-J at The Garage, Jessie Ware at Bush Hall and Ed Sheeran at Indigo At The O2 amongst other fated acts. To please us Northerners and share the support for such a good cause, this year (for the first time) War Child and The Brits chose to venture outside of London and showcase one of these gigs at an independent venue even further afield – Wolf Alice at Gorilla, Manchester’s independent venue as run by the Mission Mars group.
Having recently released their renowned second album; Visions Of A Life, Wolf Alice are thriving & seemingly going from strength to strength. The whimsical enchantment of the album proclaimed a new lease of life for the affirmed brit-rock band and their Brits night itself showcased the fantastical relevance that the group still hold over many an audience. After an introduction from War Child UK CEO: Rob Williams and a survivor of the 1990s Bosnian war and now member of the War Child youth council: Leila, Wolf Alice took to stage with the otherworldly trio of ‘Heavenward’, ‘Yuk Foo’ and ‘You’re A Germ’. The tracks initiated the aghast crowd into a frenzied awakening of movement and lip-syncing word-by-word to each song. This initial opening was unfortunately precluded with a technical glitch from guitarist Joff Odie’s pedal board, resulting in a twenty minute break to resolve the problem – though thankfully this only lead to one song being missed off the set-list.
The evening was a unanimous success and brought upwards of seven hundred pounds in funding for War Child, through the likes of conclusively indie power ballads like ‘Bros’, which lead to adoring glances between friends, fingers entwined and arms wrapped around waists with the hum of ‘Oh, I’m so lucky, you are my best friend’. Other anthems that tantalised the raucous energy that emulated from the front row were the likes of ‘Fluffy’ the invigoratingly sensational ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ and ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ from the latest album. To close the set, lead singer Ellie Rowsell eloquently took her crown as a rose amongst thorns as she began the mesmirsing husky vocals to the second song of their encore: Giant Peach, from the debut album. The finale saw her straddle the crowd, with their eyes a gaze and admiration a plenty, the sing-along came to an end with the final swoop of ‘My dark and pretty town’ which set feet to a standstill and a breathless post-excitement beam across faces.