Sounds From the Other City is an independent, new music festival based around Salford’s Chapel Street area; uniting the cream of local talent with some of the city’s best loved club nights for a super duper musical extravaganza. Now Wave, Postcards From Manchester, High Voltage and Hey! Manchester were just some of the regions hottest promoters hosting stages at this year’s event and my god it was good.
For me, working at Salford University for the last year has given me the opportunity to really explore this area of the city and understand some of the rich heritage and culture attached to Salford. Some of the pubs along Chapel Street have played host to Mancunian legends in their own right in the past and although #sftoc itself has only been running since 2005, it’s seen occasions such as the first ever gig by the Ting Tings (2007) and career-making sets by Marina and The Diamonds (2009) and The Whip (2006). Despite all this culture and fantastic history, I had yet to attend a #sftoc so was really looking forward to the day’s events and was quite happy to drift from venue to venue, taking in some of the industries brightest new talents.
First up on the bill was Money playing for Now Wave at Islington Mill. Whilst researching Money, I came across an interview with them for Dummy Mag earlier this year, in it, when asked about whether their environment has an affect on their music they say this:
‘Manchester is interesting. It is a melancholic but strangely beautiful place – a kind of gloominess and gritty attitude and landscape…It’s artistic heritage is world-renowned as well as it being known as a place of menace and violence… You are constantly being forced to mix with all kinds of people here. It is a confrontational city…It’s poetry is in the REAL Manchester pubs full of real people, in the rain, in the hedonism, its boisterous intellect, attitude, community, a struggle, a hopelessness. These sentiments are synonymous with the music and art that has been produced here.’
This dark, intellectual commentary is reflected in their music and really came across particularly through the lead singer, who frequently lost himself to the music throughout their set. Closing his eyes and drifting away to that higher plane, their ambitious and abstract melodies are extremely complex with multiple layers of sound and depth. In all honesty, at first I wasn’t sure whether it worked, but after a couple more songs, I really started to get it. It was hedonistic, over indulgent and almost orchestral at times. These guys have only touched the surface of their capabilities and I definitely think there’s much more to come from them. They seem less bothered about the success or recognition that comes with being in a band and more focussed on making a commentary on their surroundings and ideas – an admiral quality for a band relatively new to the scene. Definitely ones to watch.
Next up, we luckily stumbled upon Those Dancing Days‘ sound check at The Old Pint Pot. Having loved this band since they released their first self titled EP back in 2007, I was extremely eager to see them live. However, looking at the line up of headliners that evening, I was finding it increasingly difficult to see how I was going to make their set. Although I’m fully aware a sound check is no comparison to the real thing, they were still excellent. Their catchy, summer anthems can’t help but make you tap your feet and get up and dance. Won’t say too much more on them, except that they’re totally ace and you should all have a listen to their new album Daydreams & Nightmares available on Spotify and iTunes. Here’s their latest single ‘I’ll Be Yours’…
After a swift pint in the glorious Salford sunshine we made our way back over to Islington Mill for Breton. A prime example of the mp3 generation of musicians created from open access software programmes and collaborative playlists, this group of 5 young lads have been around for a couple of years in different guises, before forming the multi-instrumental and visual collective they now call Breton. Their in your face, thumping beats and matching hoodie/luminous shoes combo at first comes across as a little too ‘scene’ and try hard, however once they get into their stride they actually produced some surprisingly abstract yet catchy tracks. I did feel that some of the tracks had a bit of an identity crisis half way through and didn’t necessarily flow in the way you expected them too, but I guess this is not necessarily a bad thing. Overall I was fairly impressed by them – the crowd at Islington was fairly subdued, however in a bigger club like venue I think they could really blow the roof off. Below is their track ‘December’
After trying to get into Willy Mason and failing, we made our way over to The Salford Arms for From The Kites of San Quentin– having not heard of them before, I had no idea what to really expect from their set. I can honestly say I was seriously blown away by how good this band are live, at times I felt like my head was genuinely going to explode into a thousands little pieces all over the small grimey pub in Salford. It was such a surreal atmosphere to hear a band like this play, they wouldn’t be out of place in a much bigger venue, the likes of the Warehouse Project or a huge dance festival tent. To compare them to any one person would be foolish as it’s blatantly clear this band can’t be pigeon holed into one specific genre, but if I was going to give it a go I’d probably throw around names like Burial and Tom Vek but with a much harder, bigger edge at times and yet the eerie, warped vocals by their female vocalist definitely channels that of Beth Gibbons at times. I found this interview with them from City Life and thought it was amusing that even the band themselves fall massively short of explaining exactly what it is they do:
How would you explain your sound to someone’s 90 year old grandmother?
Depends if that Grandmother has her wrinkly old finger on the pulse of “forward thinking electronic music with warped female vocals and live guitars that don’t really sound like guitars” or not.
I honestly cannot recommend this band highly enough, if you do one thing off the back of this blog post, GO AND SEE THEM LIVE. This is a band that really does need to be experienced in the flesh to fully understand the sheer impact their music has. Watch out for their digital EP release coming later this summer, but in the meantime, get your ears around this recently released remix collaboration with Borland on Gulf Records. It’s dirty.
After being pretty blown away by From The Kites Of San Quentin, we thought we’d get a bit of fresh air and walked up to The New Oxford to catch the second half of Brown Brogues set. They were playing in a tiny little back room covered from wall to ceiling in beer mats – the perfect setting for this famously quaint gig loving duo. We barely made it into the room as it was absolutely rammed and couldn’t see the pair at all, so I stood leaning against the wall, furiously nodding my head and tapping my feet to their drum thrashing excellence. I don’t think I need to describe the band’s sound as they’ve received a lot of attention recently in the press and blogosphere so I’ll their music do the talking. Nice video recorded for MCR Scenewipe in a toilet in Fallowfield. Classic BB.
After the Brown Brogues we were all feeling pretty shattered from the constant walking up and down Chapel Street so decided to head over to St Phillips Church a little early and take a well deserved rest in a pew ahead of the headlining performance for High Voltage by Glaswegian band, The Twilight Sad. The church itself is a fabulous venue and backdrop for gigs, having seen Perfume Genius here late last year, I was intrigued to see how a much bigger, rockier sound would come across in this huge open space.
The band didn’t mess around, they launched straight into 2 numbers before even saying hello and pretty much kept up this pace throughout their performance. Their passion and genuine emotion and sentiment portrayed in their performance was second to none, with their lead singer James Graham delivering an enigmatic stage presence. Already 2 albums in, I’m amazed this band hasn’t received more attention within wider circles than it has, as their sound seemed fairly accessible to those outside of the underground scene. Their music’s very atmospheric, with Graham’s raw Glaswegian accent soaring above the building buzz of guitars and carefully intertwined piano. Lyrically suggestive and metaphorical, their songs give glimpses of bitter experience and romantic failure, with their songs at times verging on the anthemic or celebrative. It’s all very emotional and inspiring, if I hadn’t of been so tired, I think I probably would have got rather overwhelmed by them. The video below is of their track ‘Wrong Cars’.
The final band of the night were Rainbow Arabia at The Old Pint Pot. In all honesty I was ready to go home after Twilight Sad as I was just so exhausted but had heard good things about Rainbow Arabia and wanted to check them out. Predictably, most other people had also heard these good things and as such the Pint Pot was absolutely rammed. We managed to get into the room but couldn’t see a thing. We stayed for a couple of tracks, and I really liked what I heard – a kind of upbeat Warpaint, mixed with a bit of MIA and a dash of CSS for good measure, but I found it really hard to connect with them without being able to see them perform. As such, we took the view to leave and vowed to try and check them out another time. Unfortunately, after checking their tour dates this morning it seems they’re not returning to the UK any time soon which is a bummer. Below is the title track of their recent album Boys and Diamonds.
We finished our night watching drunken skinny white boys dance to indie classics upstairs at The Old Pint Pot and reminisced about our day. Highlight for me had to be From The Kites Of San Quentin, however there wasn’t one band I saw that I wasn’t really that impressed with. The organisation of the festival itself was brilliant and everywhere you looked people seemed to just be really enjoying getting together with like minded people to share a day of wonderful music and gorgeous sunshine. Sounds From The Other City really is a true asset to the city of Salford and something which I hope continues to get bigger and better in the future. Coinciding with the regeneration of the Chapel Street area, and the opening of MediaCity, I can only hope that more events like #sftoc start to pop up throughout the year to really put Salford on the map as a innovative, creative and inspiring place to be. A city which, even those sceptical BBC employees may now think twice about…
For more information on the artists and bands as well as the festival itself, please visit – http://soundsfromtheothercity.com/