Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Youthmovies/This Town Needs Guns @ Deaf Institute, Wednesday 24th March

Tonight sees Manchester’s Deaf Institute play host to two of Oxford’s finest bands, Youthmovies and This Town Needs Guns, the former playing their last ever gig in the city.

First on stage however is American talker-songwriter and serial Youthmovies collaborator Adam Gnade (guh nah dee). Hailing from southern California but based in Portland, Gnade’s work is spoken word layered over bluesy-folky guitar strumming. With a delightfully haunting yet romantic feel to his releases, the Deaf Institute is set for an interesting start to the night as Gnade steps out on stage. And oh yeah, he’s hammered. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a drunk, touring artist who plays guitar and doesn’t sing, Gnade talks a lot. A lot, a lot. Rambling semi-coherently between songs for minutes at a time, Gnade’s set is still enjoyable even if it is hard to fully justify his presence on tonight’s bill. After leaving the stage to an appreciative round of applause, Gnade disappears back stage for a time before later reappearing and consuming most of a bottle of wine to himself. Straight from the bottle itself, no less.

Next on is This Town Needs Guns who, despite coming from the same town and being part of the same music scene as tonight’s headliners, have only shared a stage with Youthmovies one or two times previously. Opening with 'Chinchilla' the band set the stalls for an energetic performance with drummer-a-thumping, guitarist-a-twiddling and singer-a-gyrating. Within thirty seconds of opening however, it becomes clear that the sound man is having a disaster, which of course means that pretty much any chance TTNG had of delivering a sterling set is out the window. Try as they might the drums are far too loud, the vocals far too quiet and feedback keeps on rearing its ugly head. As this was a support slot, their set was relatively short, focusing on songs from their 2008 album, Animals, with 'Baboon' and 'Lemur' receiving particularly favourable receptions from the gathered crowd. TTNG do their duty in plugging tonight’s headliners and leave the stage in seemingly high spirits but I, and probably they, can’t help but feel disappointed with the end result.

By the time Youthmovies step onstage, the Deaf Institute is packed and there’s a tangible sense of anticipation in the air. Darlings of the music scene, Youthmovies are a band whose influence will long outlast their name and while it’s obvious the band were never in it for anything other than the music, it’s also a shame they didn’t get more recognition for their contribution to progressive music over the past seven or so years.

Picking up where TTNG left off, high energy performances are the order of the day, with singer and guitarist Andrew Mears in particular taking the bull by the proverbials and getting stuck in. Favourites like 'The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor' and 'Soandso and soandso' are dispatched with ease to the backing of a crowd in full choral flow, some old tracks are thrown in for good measure and Adam Gnade even appears on stage to join the party and play a track with them. By the time the set draws to an end the night takes an emotional turn and Youthmovies step off stage for one last time I can’t help but think it’s a shame they’re calling it a day. But in the words of the woman who sits behind me at work, “You should always leave a bit on your plate.”

Words & Images: Golibe Omenaka

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