Saturday, October 16, 2010

IN THE CITY 2010: Thursday 14 October 2010

Klaus had only three CDs to sell at the end of his set at this Fantastic Artists showcase at Night & Day. That’s all he could hand-write following a late night label-printer failure. This out-of-luck tale matched his songs: sob stories of cold winters, sleeping lovers and lifelong master-plans. Despite the despondency this suggests they are all delivered in richly warm tones – just deep voice and (borrowed) electric guitar. On this showing he should avoid joke-telling and stick to his barefooted and impish indieboy version of a more polished singer-songwriter.

Several of the songs from The Wobetides started as slow measured chanting over drum machine before bursting into noisy post-punk guitars and feisty live drumming. Initially this impressed but with what felt like brutally loud sound for such an early show and a creeping predictability, I was left feeling more ambivalent at the end of the set.

Napoleon IIIrd’s short set opened with loud crunchy guitar over looped samples and some animated drumming. Following songs had less guitar and slowed things down a bit but were still highly engaging even when he disappeared behind his Mac or crouched on the floor adjusting effects pedals. At least that’s what I think he was doing. Less raucous and less lo-fi than I expected – here he came across more like fuzzy-edged Caribou gone all hobo.

And a late running schedule meant that I once again had to miss out on seeing My First Tooth live. One day, one day. Instead I will just have to get on with ordering their debut album out this Monday.

After a break I re-entered the ITC fray only to spent a good thirty minutes watching sound-checks or arriving late, joining queues or being shut out completely. For Chad Valley at Soup Kitchen there wasn’t even room on the pavement outside to peer through the window.

So I took a flyer on Holden at Umbro Design Studio. The Edinburgh-London four-piece play a rough-edged roots-rock. There’s an occasional hint of Americana but their songs about freedom and escape remain distinctly downbeat and rousingly British. Sadly the mandolin promised in the programme did not appear.

At An Outlet whilst waiting for Golden Glow to set up The Pains of Being Pure At Heart were playing over the PA. How apt because Golden Glow deliver an excellent appropriation of their Brooklyn brand of classic indie-jangle, albeit all-male, slightly downcast and with a distinctly Mancunian streak. And Mancunian accent too – when Pierre Hall introduced one song I thought he’d called it ‘Bugs’ until I realised it was ‘Books’. And there was much more than jangle on offer - they finished with a song mixing sixties acoustic psychedelia with bursts of white-noise guitar. Excellent stuff. This was my first live encounter with them – and most definitely will not be the last.

The upstairs room at Gulliver’s, yet another refurbished Northern Quarter pub, is impressive. A spacious rectangular carpeted room, the high ceiling retains some original Edwardian features but the black painted walls are more starkly functional. One entire side wall had been stickered with black and white photos of bands from the last four decades. Without being deliberately scuzzy or decayed it still felt rock ‘n’ roll. And for once a late running programme was working in my favour. I arrived expecting to see the second half of Exlovers to find the band before them still on stage.

When Exlovers took to the stage they didn’t look too happy – but this could just be their stage demeanour. The London-based five-piece play a sombre indie-rock both dreamy and a touch noir at the same time – lush boy/girl vocals overly gently discordant guitars. They had to battle feedback and chatty Egyptian Hip Hop fans but I really warmed to their sweetly detached sounds. Another band to track down live again.

And on back outside on the pavement last night’s young hopefuls had set up and were playing again. Oh go on give them a plug for their persistent efforts – it was Shoshin.

The scale and inevitable stage clashes of In The City can be frustrating. But the broad selection of bands matched with the intimate Northern Quarter venues is a winner. And what really struck me about this year’s In The City was how good the many upgraded or refurbished venues looked and worked out. I only got to parts of two out of the three days and still managed to see fifteen bands. Next year need to make sure I have the stamina for all three days.

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