Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Carefully Planned Festival 2011

The aptly named Carefully Planned All-Dayer has been a fairly regular occurrence over the past couple of years. Handpicking a variety of acts to take the stage, the brains behind Everything You Need first took up a whole chunk of Manchester’s daylight hours back in 2009 – and before that entertained Huddersfield. The modus operandi is merely ‘alternative’, which remains pleasingly vague and probably translates as: ‘a bunch of stuff you haven’t yet heard of’. This time around that equates to 66 acts scheduled across two days and four Northern Quarter venues.

My route through the above format isn’t the most extensive – in fact it’s a particularly small percentage of the total music on offer – but it gives a taster; a few bites from the festival buffet, bouncing between platters with an open mind and receptive palate.

For starters, I’m jumping in on day two; Sunday. Shen is downstairs at Centro, retuning his guitar as a mid-set adjustment on his debut show. The hawkeyed amongst a modest early audience have identified his cohort for the slot as the Dr Mahogany’s Goat Circus guitarist. He watches as intently as everyone else during Shen’s intricate acoustic picking combined with heartfelt lyrics partly aided by echo, before adding beats to a Bill Callaghan cover and incongruous bleeps to an anomalous set closer, which could be likened to Thom Yorke’s electronic tendency in the same way as Shen’s deep, straining vocal emotion to simple yet loquacious lines.

Sitting around for Mount Fabric entails a bout of high pitched Matt Bellamy-isms and a wilful reliance on effects pedals to add flesh to bone-shaking rhythmic skeletons. Following that, an exploration is in order. Inter-music prep at The Castle Hotel leads to a brief dalliance with the post-post-post-noise guitar-string mistreatment advocates Crash Of Rhinos; a popular choice whose curtain soon closes to herald a stroll to calmer climes down the Bay Horse’s stairs.

The Gardenelles’ classical folky vibe recaptures Sandy Denny and Vashti Bunyan through finger-picked tales related to Whitehaven’s episode of ‘Coast’ and its tinted specs of invasion reminisce. What is striking is the almost immaculate behaviour of an audience who receive songs with the respect the duo’s delivery deserves.

And that attitude remains (barring the occasional twitter or phone chirp) through Greta Santagata’s sparse yet involving compositions. The harpist sings in the languages of English, music, wonder, lust and her own personal diction as delicate chimes resonate, sandwiched between the face of anticipant stillness reflected back out by the mirror behind her.

With a fleeting glance back into Centro, where Decadence In Berlin are bashing out high octane thrashy punk numbers about the recession with a pleasing insistence on cowbell for percussion, my not-so carefully planned path through Carefully Planned comes to a close. An enjoyable path, although maybe next time I’ll take the event moniker’s advice and better prepare.

Words: Ian Pennington

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