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LIVE: Ben Fenner @ Gullivers


Ben Fenner’s first Manchester headline gig was a triumph. It was clear he had the support of the audience, it really did feel like 300 of his closest friends had turned out to support him. Support came from DIIVES; bringing Frank Turner-esque acoustic punk sounds, followed by Sam Leoh whose airy vocals and synth-y dream pop is reminiscent of CHVRCHES.

Fenner took to the stage with his 7-piece band including backing vocals. Each musician brought something unique and created an all-encompassing sound captivating the packed-out room by opening with 2017 single ‘Made to Love’ starting with sparse keys and leading to an explosive harmonic crescendo, it has slightly darker undertones than his other work but shares the same themes of heartbreak and lamentation.

Multiple times Fenner stopped mid-set to thank everyone for the support and to give background on the songs he’s written, it’s obvious that his heart and soul goes into the lyrics he writes, and it takes guts to share that on stage. He explains how ‘I’m Yours’ was the first song he ever wrote and how it led to him moving to Manchester to pursue music.

A break up was the catalyst to most of his songwriting which is what makes it so emotive and so universally relatable. A man excuses himself from the back of the room, picks his way through the crowd to in front of the stage just to shake Fenner’s hand and give words of encouragement. I think that sums up the feel of the entire show. It’s hard to deny that he has a good voice, it’s classically good, strong and impressive. Each song reaches a timely crescendo and his voice builds with the music, it’s a big sound and one which easily fills the venue.

A highlight for everyone seemed to be ‘Perfectly in Love’, his defining single from summer 2018. More upbeat but still as emotive as the rest of the set, he introduces it as a song which celebrates love in all its forms. It appears to resonate with everyone and bring the whole room together. Everyone chanted for more as Fenner exited the stage, but with nothing left to give but love and appreciation the gig was over. The vibe afterward was one of overwhelming goodwill and pride.

Fenner is London-born but now Manchester-based and the support from those he’s met in his *now* home city has led to features on BBC Introducing and having his first packed out headline Manchester show this early on in 2019 at Gullivers NQ it seems a sure-fire that he’ll continue on to sell out venues and most importantly, create music that people connect to.a

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LIVE: Francis Lung @ Gullivers


Being the first glitter party hosted in ex Wu Lyf bassist Tom McClung’s hometown of Manchester, this evening had to be as big a hit as it was in London. McLung and co have been releasing music under the moniker Francis Lung since 2015 with their last song released 3 years ago now. Gold streamers were pinned to all four walls of Gullivers’ ballroom creating a very faux decadent seedy atmosphere from the outset. The addition of free records, glitter and sweets went down a treat with the crowd too making the event feel like an adult school disco.


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Secret Admirer walk onto the stage looking like a group of post-grad pub goers fit with beards and glasses they certainly dress the part for their Americana tinged jangly indie pop. After a couple of lackluster standard guitar pop songs, the band plays ‘Perfect Specimen’ which is exactly that of a song, with moving melodies and a captivating structure, the band seems to be hitting their stride at this point in the show. Sun-drenched Kurt Vile esque love song ‘Reassure Me’ sees the bassist taking the role of vocalist with a smooth, rich voice this song feels like a Californian day dream and features a very Velvet Underground inspired guitar and organ solo which takes their set even higher.

After finishing the song the singer makes a great musicians parable “teach a man to fish he’ll eat and he’ll eat for a lifetime, teach a man to jam in C and we’ll be here 15 minutes later” filling a room with hearty laughter. A highlight of Secret Admirer’s set for me was ‘The Dream Isn’t Over’ which really made use of the Club Silencio feeling stage, fit with Stop Making Sense trademark standing lamps. Stunningly somber, the song began with guitar and electric piano, before the addition of drums and second guitar to build up to something that sounded like a lovelorn deep cut from Beggars Banquet.

Francis Lung mount the stage with singer and guitarist McClung looking the most Thom Yorke he ever has, with his signature cream Fender Mustang and tied up long hair, soon to be extravagantly let down in an immeasurably rock and roll fashion. The band played largely new material at the glitter party, which marks a notable shift from the glossy, funkier pop songs of their EP’s, to a more psychedelia inflected Rundgren style of songwriting.

‘Too Right’ with its woozy guitars and flawless vocal harmonies sounds like it was made for the silver screen and would fit perfectly on the soundtrack to an American indie film playing at Sundance festival. A rendition of ‘Give It Back’ from the band’s first EP is a foot-stomping classic sounding a lot fuller and more powerful than the recorded version. After a couple of new songs, McClung announces they have just finished recording an album which will be out later this year with a single coming out on February 1st which gains a thunderous response. Among the new songs ‘Necessary Love’, seemingly a nod to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, fit with mellotron strings and an interesting chord progression is a clear indication that the band has polished and redefined their sound.

Commanded by McClung, upon the notion that it was high time for some audience participation, the audience begins clicking, shadowed by a reverb-soaked guitar which emits sonic secretions of what is to be fan favourite ‘Selfish Man’. A note for note display which transports the crowd back to the indie heyday of 2014, with palm muted riffs à la Foals and Klaxons. ‘Dance 4 Sorrow’ is another flawless rendition which everyone in the seedy, red-lit ballroom moving and, in turn, cheering on a rambunctious drum solo.

No glitter party would be complete without a best-dressed competition, which is incited by McClung, urging those who believe they’re the best dressed to the front to be showcased by the crowd. Amongst the glitter-clad girls is a stereotypical polo wearing dad who, when asked his name, replied ‘old man’, to booming applause and laughter. An unexpected turn proceeded this party contest as the band moves through a 70’s soft rock cover of Roy Orbison’s classic ‘You Got It’, where both keyboard players in the band really shine alongside gorgeous vocal harmonies. Francis Lung played a brilliantly tight set, showcasing their new material which will be out this year, the glitter party theme along with all its trappings made for a night different to that of a normal gig and resulted in high spirits from everyone.

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LIVE: Belako & Slow Knife @ Gullivers | 18.09.18


Post-punk Spaniards Belako presented an intriguing set for a Tuesday night at Manchester’s Gulliver’s. Currently on top of their game and looking to finish 2018 with a world tour under their belt – over twenty concerts, a dozen countries, across three continents – as well as a new album to boot. You’re not likely get a more heavy-weight act in your local boozer any time soon – we can thank Strange Days.

Slotted in to build up the act ahead of their main stage set were Warrington-based locals Holy Drone with their alternative approach to shoegazer with a dream-pop spin. Their hypnotic brand of alt-rock, takes cues from the fuzzed out guitar interplay of Deerhunter fused with something heavy, leaving their own original sound. Opening for a masterful act from across the channel, the female-fronted five-piece presented themselves as a complete force-to-be-reckoned-with that have plenty of steam in them to go all the way with their project.

Bringing a heightened atmosphere to the room, next up were Manchester favourites Slow Knife. Taking to stage – despite a minor Saxophone malfunction – with their trademark poker faces, the five-piece begin their explosive set featuring furious spoken work poetry from frontman Daniel Tasker and a multitude of instruments. Armoured as they are, each time they play a gig it’s an electric calamity that caters to many a reputable music fan.

For the final frontier, Belako themselves take to the stage, reminiscent of almost Wolf Alice-like qualities. Fierce and punked up, theirs is a frantic affair that clearly defines their point of success by way of an amped up affair that creates a revelation for gig-goers that hadn’t seen the Spanish act perform live before. Pacing keys prompted by the thick vocals of lead singer Cris Lizarraga are enough to propel any evening into a wild event of epic proportions. After the set their touring only continues back out to Europe and we can only wish they’ll grace us again.

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