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Wednesday, 27 May 2009 17:38

Sounds From the Other City 2009

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Sunday 3rd May 2009

Showcasing bands who haven’t been trampled to submission and soul-sucked by the music industry yet, the SFTOC festival featured nine venues (thankfully all close to each other) and over thirty acts, compressed into a chronological gridlock of 3PM to 11PM. Therefore, my companion and I decided to adopt a stripped-down ‘Dogme 95’ style of criticism. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Two songs minimum from each band we managed to catch. How very magnanimous of us. However, owing to laziness and drink, we only managed to actually watch five bands. Very unprofessional, but we’re old now and I resent young people. It’s about

as much as I can do to be in the same room as some Ting-Ting lookalike for more than five minutes and not vomit blood.

 

 

The reviewer’s personal issues aside, SFTOC proved a most agreeable environment to spend a day at. The venues were varied, friendly and an excellent chance to explore the ‘Salford Strip’, which, rumour has it, is dead trendy and underrated, like. We kicked off the day in the incredible Kings Arms, which, when I gain control over the world, the likes of All Bar Humanity, Wetherspoons and The Firkin and Whatever will be forced to model their limp and bland venues on. However, I digress. Music. We caught five bands in total, two of little interest, one we liked and two we really liked. My God, with this crisp, witty and well-researched journalism, why NME haven’t yet made me their chief writer is beyond me. Sleeping States were the band we first caught at the Kings Arms and unfortunately they weren’t as memorable as the venue. Two songs. Indie stuff. inoffensive.

Being Sunday, it was only fitting that there were a couple of churches joining in the fun, with the Sacred Trinity Church proving a airy and spacious venue (with excellent acoustics, naturally). There was also a Methodist one, but no one likes the Methodists, so we didn’t go.

Whilst we at Trinity, my enjoyment of the curiously but pleasingly voiced Nia Morgan proved to be somewhat curtailed, as I found myself inextricably drawn to a corner devoted to pictures of Christ on the cross, drawn by local kids. As I stood there between the pews sipping from the can of cider I had purchased from the foyer (well, it was the Church of England), it occurred to me that encouraging kids to draw pictures of a man being tortured to death could be seen as somewhat disturbing, but for some reason, it also seemed rather sweet.

Nia’s music, which was sort of elegantly trippy folk, also seemed to fit as well (the venue, not the crucifixion). As churches are normally built with acoustics very much in mind, maybe there should be more gigs in them. Although I imagine that the black metallers would have to go with the Unitarians. My colleague wanted to get a fruit juice, so I also had the inestimable pleasure of approaching the Trinity Church’s makeshift bar and inquiring whether they also sold soft drinks. Oh, the joy. Song total – Five.

Anyway, back to the subject of torture, previous to this venue, we were in the homely surroundings of the Rovers Return, where, adhering to our agreement, we stood through two songs from a Lost Knives. I can’t really think of anything to say about them. They sounded like Franz Ferdinand. I think. If anybody could write in and let us know their raison d’être, that would be most helpful. All I will add is it was only the fact it was pissing down outside that helped us to adhere to the two song rule.

Addy’s was a pleasant waterside bar, with DJs or some such new-fangled thing. Temporary excitement was had when my colleague lost his phone. But we found it soon after. The rollercoaster of emotions engendered by this traumatic event saw us needing some fresh air, so we strolled back to the Kings Arms, where we were entertained by the rather brilliant Banjo or Freakout (no, we didn’t get it either). One Italian guy, one English. Based in London. The duo produced, with the aid of samplers, guitar and dual frenzied hammering on a shared drumkit, a stupendous and largely indescribable sound. My Bloody Valentine, Cabaret Voltaire and bizarrely, the Happy Mondays were just some of the ghosts of bands past going through our heads. Brilliant.

A particularly nice touch was when my colleague went to buy a recording off them afterwards and was given a vinyl album with a CD of the same in the sleeve. Wasn’t that sweet?

It’s not often you recommend a band whose lead singer physically assaults the crowd (unless Chris Martin decides to go mad with a chainsaw), but Texan hardcore act TODD’s frontman was so endearingly deranged that had the band been playing Athlete covers, I would have still been hooting for more. Looking like Brendan Burns’ institutionalised younger brother, the singer bellowed, roared and wrestled to the Kings Arms floor those foolish enough to stand at the front. He even spilt some bloke’s pint and didn’t get punched. Mind you, I wouldn’t have physically engaged the maniac for a pension. The rest of the band kept themselves to themselves in very dignified, sober, fashion. Comprised of a middle-management drummer, a bass player who looked the spit of my mate Geoff (Geoff is in his fifties) and a death-metal style guitarist, whose tremendous WG Grace facial furniture was worthy of its own show. They made an altogether splendid and ear-bleedingly loud accompaniment to the WWE antics in front of them. The sort of music that Thor might have on his iGod when he goes for his early morning jog. TODD are destined to go places. Although the lead singer might well be going to some other places first. Involuntarily.

The popularity of Sounds from The Other City isn’t surprising. Like so many of the best ideas, it’s simple and effective. SOTOC deserves its growing reputation and next year I promise to get my editor to fire me so that somebody else can review SOTOC properly.

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