Tuesday, 25 December 2012

A Grey Lantern Presentation: Psychmare Before Christmas Ft. Hookworms @ Soup Kitchen, 20.12.12

There’s a certain amount of symmetry in that the Hookworms gig finishes in the early minutes of 21st December, the date that the Mayan calendar expires, for there is a degree of cataclysm in the sounds created by the band.


The epic, crushing, noises seem more than capable of destroying the solid brick walls of the Soup Kitchen and most of the Northern Quarter.

The number of pedals, keyboards and other equipment used by the Leeds based band means that there are two guitarists stood off the stage, who are almost enveloped within the large crowd. The enigmatic band only use initials of its five members when in public, so it could be any one of MB, EG, MJ, SS or JW who is stood behind the keyboards. He seems very intense. At times his face is tightly contorted, seemingly with pain, whilst at others his hands will obscure his face in the manner of a footie player just after he has missed an open goal.


The maelstrom of frustration and anger seems to flow though fingers into the amps directly onto the masses, all the while the crushingly beautiful noises flushing out any thoughts, demanding that you focus on the music.

Outside, the rain is cool and refreshing, a respite to the aural assault.

Words & photography: Ged Camera

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Bon Iver @ Manchester Arena, 09.11.2012

At first glance, this intimidating venue in the middle of a hiving Manchester city centre didn’t seem like the best setup for such a usually intimate band, suiting more of the archetypal pop groups and rock and roll bands from the last generation. Instead it exceeded my initial scepticism. Half of the immeasurable extent of the Manchester Arena was cut off, effectively bringing the stage forward with it and ignoring the top mezzanine level as if it were an unwanted friend at a 15 year old’s birthday party.

Bringing things down a notch meant the whole audience – mainly made up of beardy, beer-bellied men (the type you want to run at and hug) and lost-looking couples – was guaranteed an ogle at the impressive stage of projections, draping, intricate lighting and Bon Iver themselves.

‘Perth’ saw a surprisingly loud beginning to what would be a predictably emotional gig. The self-titled Bon Iver, Bon Iver album showcased guitar and horn heavy editions of ‘Towers’, ‘Beth/Rest’ and ‘Holocene’. True to form, the For Emma, Forever Ago regulars relieved Justin Vernon and the band of some vocal duties, with the audience singing back every word of the ever-popular ‘Skinny Love’, ‘Flume’ and ‘The Wolves’. A particularly special moment was a song from the Blood Bank EP, ‘Woods’, which saw an impeccable stripped back version from Vernon, who repeatedly looped and overlaid vocals through his mic. As a result the audience fell silent.

After a screaming encore they ended very fittingly with ‘For Emma’, a soundtrack to many a broken heart and after grasping it was almost over and how quickly time had vanquished, emotion falls short and you realise you’ve probably just witnessed one the tightest, intense, thought-provoking, and beautiful bands ever assembled and that this was to be one of the last live performances of 2012.

It’s the small yet contradicting cosmic qualities of Justin and the rest of his multi-instrumental bandmates that stay with you every time they play. It never tires, the romance is captured and portrayed in such a way that it sets it aside from anything else out there, which is why this band has stood the test of time with just two albums to speak for it.

I thank you again Justin Vernon for being so accomplished and consistently humble. For falling in love, living through guilt and loss and deciding the only option was to turn all this despondency and passion into pure poetry. You have been rewarded by travelling the world and seeing these people connect so personally to everything sung and performed and you can now walk away satisfied, knowing you inspired a new generation.

Words: Emma Milton

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Now Then Shebeen Festival Mix

Our next live music outing is now only a week away. We've invited a selection electronic maestros along to Shebeen Festival, an eclectic all-dayer that ticks plenty of genre boxes across six venues, from dub reggae to folk; jazz to hip hop and blues to psychedelia.

Here, in sonic form, is what to expect on our stage, at Trof Fallowfield, in the form of a mix melded in the fires of Acrobat gadget wielder Samuel Twidale's mind:

Below is more information about all the musicians performing on the Now Then stage:

Jason Singh (AV show).
Beatboxer, vocal sculptor and sound artist.

The Age Of Glass.
Trad sounds plugged into the digital vortex, turned up to rhythmical riot.

Acrobat (AV show).
The mesmeric improvisational side-project of Sam Twidale (Sun Drums/Deep Hedonia).

From The Kites Of San Quentin.
Twisted glitch-tronica pilfered from a sci-fi techtopia.

Beatsum.
Hip hop from the heads behind Manchester's Golden Egg Collective.

Forged Motif.
Downtempo soundscapers skilled in the subtler arts of electronic production.

Torotoroka.
Live electronica fused in the same smouldering effervescent vapours as Múm.

$?.
?? Symbolism and mystery abounds.

(murmur).
Remixology and sampladelica from the acclaimed university project freed into the wild.

KA/VAN.
FTKOSQ guitarist LSN’s prog-tronica solo project.

Mind On Fire DJs.
Tune selectors extraordinaire who are about to embark on their ninth year.

For more info about other stages, locations and tickets, click here.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Gideon Conn @ Kings Arms, Tuesday 2nd October 2012

Part Two of our series of ‘self-reviews’ is courtesy of Gideon Conn, who looks back at his gig at the start of October.

I don't normally write my own gig reviews but a man called Ian asked me to and I said yes. Perhaps a little hastily because I don't love writing, but hey ho. The gig in question happened a fortnight ago so I've had time to reflect. The venue was the Kings Arms in Salford, an excellent room where I had played happily before although not for several years. The turnout was low, partly due to torrential rain at 7pm and perhaps also because Man United were on ITV in Europe. John and Andrew (from Dr Butler's Hatstand Medicine Band) thought it judicious to put seats out, which was a good choice because around 45 people would have looked sparse if standing.


Heidi Browne opened the show very well. Her singing and guitar playing are pleasant and easy to listen to. She decorated the mic with felt flowers. I rarely book a support act that I haven't seen live but, as I said to Heidi, she messaged me at just the right time and I felt she would be good. I think the audience took to her.

My own performance was good, not as electric as on some of the other tour dates and I didn't think that I reached the peak of my powers. Perhaps the room was a little dark for close eye contact and the concert atmosphere a touch formal but I was happy overall and I'm confident that the guests really enjoyed their evening. John and Andrew accompanied me beautifully for the majority of the set on mandolin and banjo percussion. Andrew brushes the banjo head like a snare. Particularly enjoyable was the cover of Gil Scott-Heron's ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane', which they didn't know was in the set - we do our rehearsing on stage.

I didn't get a fee for the show, which was a slight downer, but that's my own fault for arranging a venue hire through a promoter instead going to the venue directly and asking them to book me for a show. On the upside, CDs sold fairly well so I didn't leave totally empty handed.

Words: Gideon Conn
Image: tour poster

Monday, 3 December 2012

NOW THEN. ISSUE 2. A MAGAZINE FOR MANCHESTER.

Issue 2 of the Manchester edition of Now Then was printed and distributed last week. You can find copies far and wide in the independent traders of the Manchester area. Or to remain glued to a screen, here's the online version.

We'd like to thank all our supporters for this issue (in page order):

Battery Park Juice Bar.

Electrik.

Apotheca.

The Eighth Day Shop & Cafe.

Épicerie Ludo.

Pokusevski's Deli & Cafe.

On The Corner.

Escape Bar.

The Whim Wham Cafe.

The Hillary Step.

Outstanding Beers.

Marble Beers.

Manchester Academy.

Shebeen Festival.

Wowie Zowie.

The Font, Fallowfield.

Fuel Cafe Bar.

The Deaf Institute / Gorilla / Trof NQ / Salutation / Trof Fallowfield.

The Font, NWS.

Bees Make Honey.

WR Audio.

Midi Sequencing Tuition.

Agapanthus Interiors.

We would also like to thank Sweet Tooth Cupcakery, Trove and Hickson & Black's for providing the recipes in this month's FOOD section.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Lovely Eggs @ Roadhouse, 29/11/12

In 1916 during the ‘year without a summer’ Lord Byron, his physician John Polidori, Percy and Mary Shelly and Claire Clairmont spent some time in a rented villa by Lake Geneva. Kept indoors by incessant rain they spent their days contorted on irresponsible amounts of laudanum telling each other ancient and fabled ghost stories. It was from these rainy days spent in earnest that inspiration seized Mary Shelly and bid her write the great gothic horror story Frankenstein.

Nearly 200 years later a band called the Lovely Eggs played a show at the Roadhouse in Manchester.


The Lovely Eggs are like your cool, boozy aunty and her stay-at-home boyfriend who gives you your first puff on a joint and plays you Sparklehorse on his record player. He wildly points out the best bits and explains that his records and the player were the only thing he managed to rescue from that bitch he was seeing before he met your aunty.

Just then your aunty comes in from the kitchen with half a bottle of Campari, an avocado and a packet of Penguin biscuits and your soul is instantly given the texture your mutilated, teenage body has been crying out for since sporadic hair growth, explosive sweat glands and giddy erections took over.

Back to Manchester and the Lovely Eggs charge through their rampant set with endearing violence leaving punk ditties in carnage, griping all over the stage. Song blood poured out of strangled melodies leaking in trembling pools off the stage and in to the soles of the front row stomping feet. The rest was mopped up by the drum mat, absorbed and recycled into the drum skins, beaten to a pulp like a pair of bruised kidneys.

Middle eights were severed and strewn from their thrashing carcasses. Shrieking vocal lines drove spikes hard through glaring eyeball observations, delivered with grinding copulation against raw, waggish nerve endings. Some literally had to stitch their ears closed to combat the infectious whim. The place was a bloody mess.


The audience was eclectic. A throwback punk, a flat cap folkie, some girl dressed like Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction throwing interpretive dance moves at the shoddily placed pillars. A man in a tracksuit, a man on a horse, some twat with a flag and a couple with no hope. They were all magnificent.

In the midst of all the chaos, the blood and guts and remnants of three albums worth of material, the severed limbs and noxious mix of muso freaks, a hideous monster was formed.

A mash of cyclic verses, crushed rhythms and social misfits held together by grating chords and dirty jagged hooks. Given life with the throbbing heart of punk and the distorted energy of tragedy and joy Frankenstein stood bewildered and grotesque, flapping wildly in delirium and adoration of his Godly revivers the Lovely Eggs.

Words: Samuel Buckley

Monday, 12 November 2012

Preview: Kidsuke @ Roadhouse, 21.11.12

If an electronic artist turns the heads of three of the area’s top promoters, then it’ll be worth sitting up and paying attention. Mind On Fire, Groovement and Hoya:Hoya, have clubbed together to make sure Kidsuke will be calling in Manchester as part of their European tour this month.


Kidsuke is the fusion of electronic music minds from continents apart. UK’s Kidkanevil and Japan’s Daisuke Tanabe treat that distance as arbitrary by tethering their tectonic drifts with lushly glitched rhythms cradled in askew lullabies.

Evoking Baths to Múm, Kidsuke have that same knack of finding rhythm within disparately crafted, yet intricately woven glocks and rattles to bells and squeaks.

For the Manchester leg of their tour, they’ll be joined by Jealousguy, Laurent Fintoni and Danny Drive Thru as well as the promoting trio’s resident DJs.

Words: Ian Pennington

We have a pair of tickets up for grabs for the show at Roadhouse on Wednesday 21st November. Just email ian@nowthenmagazine.com with ‘KIDSUKE’ in the subject line to add your name to the hat. Otherwise, tickets are available for £5 adv. Click here for more information. A version of this post appeared on the Manchester Mule website (the competitions are separate, though).

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Preview: Video Jam returns

The not-for-profit event curator Video Jam is set to assemble another eclectic mix of audio and visual artists for their next Antwerp Mansion showcase later this month.


After a short hiatus, Video Jam has set the date of Sunday 18 November for a fourth instalment.

The event, which has not been staged at its regular Antwerp Mansion home since July, will again create a speakeasy café environment for audience members to lounge in front of a makeshift screen fashioned from a large sheet while a variety of musicians and poets will provide a score. If that sounds ramshackle, then it is charmingly so.

The show will be left open to the interpretation of musicians Adam Hart, Boz Hayward and his Bozchestra, members of Songs For Walter, double bassist Dickon Kyme-Wright, Chris Barrett, opera soprano Lisa Newill-Smith, Fizzy Vickers as well as performances by writer James Leach and visual artist Sarah Hill. All of whom have been allocated a short film with which to work – most are produced by local filmmakers with one having recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the time since their last showcase at Antwerp Mansion, Video Jam has collaborated with Blank Media Collective at Sandbar as part of the Projector Series this summer and have more projects in the pipeline for next year.

Words: Ian Pennington

Video Jam 4 will take place on Sunday 18 November at Antwerp Mansion, Rusholme. 7pm doors, £2 entry on the door. For more information, see their website. This article first appeared on the Manchester Mule website.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Preview: Efterklang @ Bridgewater Hall, 29.10.12

Simon Bray looks forward to Efterklang's performance alongside the Northern Sinfonia at the Bridgewater Hall, having previously lauded their "inventiveness and versatility" as performers.

Manchester welcomes the return of Efterklang with open arms, as they embark on their most ambitious tour to date. Previous visits have seen the band performing at the Deaf Institute and Academy 3, but this time round, they grace the stage of the magnificent Bridgwater Hall on Monday 29th October. They'll be accompanied by the Northern Sinfonia as they look to realise their latest release 'Piramida', an album that's recieved exceedingly high acclaim across the globe and sets them apart as one of the most inventive and accomplished bands of a generation.


The album itself was inspired by a nine day recording session in an abandoned Norwegian mine, from which the album takes its name. The field recordings provide a vast sonic landscape that scatters itself across the final album and this show will be a realisation of this vastly ambitious outing. In typical Efterklang style, it seems the orchestral performance itself isn't enough, with an accompanying narrative leading the audience around the world as the band enlist the orchestra in order to bring each track to life. Combine this with the appreciation that Efterklang deliver some of the most joyful musical performances that I've ever seen and I can assure you that this is an experience not to be missed.

Words & photography: Simon Bray (Simon Bray Photography)

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Why? @ Central Methodist Hall, 10.10.12

Hot on the heels of their latest release Mumps, Etc., kooky alt-hip-hoppers Why? stopped for a night in the centre of Manchester to engage with the rabble (as always happens at Why? gigs) in one big long glorious sing-along.


Let me just say, Central Methodist Hall has to be one of the strangest venues I've visited. Nestled right in the centre of Manchester it's a bizarre mix of musty office corridors and that faded creaking sadness that you find in most church halls. Down one of the corridors to the toilets there's a giant MDF crucifix and the stage is tiny. Yet, for some reason, modestly successful and popular band Why? is playing tonight... Yeah I don't understand it either. Nevermind.

The support was a four piece rap act called Young Fathers. They seemed a bit like the kind of vaguely inoffensive hip hop Blue Peter might put on if it's feeling daring with the censors. Frankly, they weren't great but the poor sound from the speakers made it worse.

Opening with the first song from their new album Mumps, Etc., Why? frontman Yoni Wolf swaggered around the stage throwing down his wordplays whilst the band bounced along joyfully behind him. The bulk of the setlist was from Mumps with the odd classic from older albums Alopecia and Elephant Eyelash thrown in. The biggest cheers were for the famous tracks ‘The Hollows’ and ‘The Vowels Pt.2’ but Yoni and the band held each song together pretty well. Their main foe wasn't each other, nor the song choice, but the venue sound.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the gig. The highlight was... everything. Seriously, every song, even the ones I would have expected to not work so well live, were all incredibly enjoyable. The decision to go for mostly new material and only a few call-backs to the fan favourites was a ballsy one but it worked. The interplay between the heavier and more serious tones of Mumps with the unashamed bombast of Alopecia worked incredibly well in changing the pace enough to always keep it fresh. As an added bonus Yoni’s ridiculous dance moves always raised a big cheer from the laughing crowd.

To see Why? again is always a treat and always fun. But the sound let them down a fair bit making some songs feel lacking when they could have really exploded. Of course, this isn't the band's fault, but sadly Yoni was a ladies man when, with the right sound, he could have been a landmine. (This terrible joke only makes sense if you listen to 'The Vowels pt.2'. Seriously though, it’s an awesome song.)

Words & images: Alex Adams

Saturday, 13 October 2012

MouthMusick to Launch New Video Series

The music industry by its very nature has always had its share of style but, from early televised performances and The Buggles’ breakthrough MTV video through to the internet and new digital media, the technological revolution has facilitated a sheen of superficiality within popular music. Conversely, some artists have deliberately played with themes of anonymity and mystery, and paradoxically achieved fame in doing so.


A new Manchester group named MouthMusick is aiming to strike a balance between those extremes. They have devised a media platform that they believe will allow musicians the freedom to be judged solely by the content of their work and not by what they look like or wear.

The focus will be on the spoken word, bringing to attention the many forms of expression reliant on the mouth.

Ahead of the launch on Sunday 14th October, a MouthMusick spokesperson took some time to answer our questions.

NOW THEN: What gave you the idea for it?

MouthMusick: The idea for MouthMusick initially came from our perception that the majority of music videos are moving towards a highly superficial and overly produced way of presenting ideas and sounds. We thought that with so much going on in these videos, are we able to really listen, understand and appreciate what the artists are trying to say?

We think this can be seen as an issue especially in hip hop, in the heavily commercialised forms that are popular today (no need to name names). Hip hop has moved a very long way from its ideas at conception about making a conscious statement.

MouthMusick is still very much about presenting style and originality, they are definitely something to be watched and enjoyed, just without all the excessive glamour. This project is about offering an alternative. Our videos are deliberately stripped back, and we’ve found that it encourages the viewer to listen in and to give more attention to what is being presented. To focus on the mouth was interesting to us - as the movements of the mouth sculpt our words and there is a beauty in that. It is also entertaining.



NT: What can viewers expect from the videos?

MM: MouthMusick is a combination of oratory and music in all its forms. Each ‘episode’ of this first series is a video titled Mouth#1, Mouth#2, and so on, focusing solely on the mouth. We have a range of artists who believe their work or their featured piece is best understood by what comes out of their mouths. We have lyricists, poets, MCs, beatboxers, and so on – they are all Mouth musicians. Each video will be released weekly on a Sunday evening, starting Sunday 14th October 2012.

NT: Why is it important to disguise the performer in this case?

MM: To create impartiality. We also enjoy this idea as a concept as it creates mystery.

NT: Would an audio track not be impartial anyway?

MM: Yes, completely. Although, if you know who it is – maybe not? This is a ‘Youtube era’; watching music videos online is now one of the main mediums through which we discover new music and listen to songs we like. MouthMusick is also about appreciating film and visual arts but just in a different way, like we say, without all the glamour.

The impartiality brought through initial anonymity of the videos is just one element of what this project is about. We won’t reveal who the artists are, but there is nothing stopping them revealing themselves or others doing so. MouthMusick in this way acts as a platform.

NT: If this acts as a veil of ignorance to make the listener / viewer's choice impartial then does that take something away from the performer's expression?

MM: We don’t think so. There is only going to be one video per contributor, it is in no way all encompassing of who they are and what they do. Everyone involved in MouthMusick wants to see what this idea could become. If people respond well to a video, it can generate interest in the performer’s work that may already be out there or yet to come.

What the videos allow is for the content to be at the forefront, something that we feel is being lost in the music industry. The MouthMusick team have experience working on various multi-disciplinary arts projects and this project is not about limiting expression, this is just an alternative way and concept that we think could really work.

The first MouthMusick video will be released at 8pm on Sunday 14 October.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

NOW THEN. ISSUE 1. A MAGAZINE FOR MANCHESTER.

Out first batch of printed magazines has been distributed, but until you find one there's always this online version.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Hot Sketch Presents L’Amour Des Rêves & The Bell Peppers @ The Salutation, 15.09.12.

“Love is…warm sweat on a time machine”

“All you need for a love story is Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets her back again. The rest is detail,” a Mills & Boon writer told me once (long story). So agrees John Lewis’ new ad campaign, showing a time travel love affair between a Flapper and an Indie Kid. “The important things never change,” goes the tagline.

Time passes, but love stays the same. Lust is the locomotive of history, plunging like a Hitchcockian innuendo into the tunnels of time while empires rise and fall around it. Love & hate are a speedball burning through the veins of forever, base-jumping from synapses into new formations of being.

Time, then, is immutable but ever changing. The two bands here today, Sheffield lovers L’Amour Des Rêves, and Manchester’s The Bell Peppers, play out this paradox with a sound both old & new, borrowed & blue.


L’Amour Des Rêves are the “Love Is…” cartoons made flesh, playing Paradox Pop, a copy of a copy of a future classic. Drummer/singer Jess is a tropicalia glamourpuss with a Bardot up-do and a vintage reporter’s mic, streamlined for thrusting in the pursuit of truth. Guitarist/singer Thomas’ cherub face is framed by ‘The Hair’, a blonde bowlcut so iconic even Rotherham chavs treat him like a star.

They are in love, and their songs are an Escher staircase, ascending and descending the arpeggios of devotion, from the in-out of the hokey-cokey to the give & take of compromise. The first 2 songs sum up this bipolar mood: 'I Couldn’t Live Without'/'You Hate My Guts I Can Tell'.

“There were 27 mistakes in that song,” Thomas admits at one point. In a tweeted world, oversharing is both brave and expected, while choosing a French name is downright dangerous. “You heard that ‘Lammo Des’ree’ band? They’ve got that Dennis Quaid,” you may hear (translation: ‘You heard that L’Amour Des Reves? They’ve got that je ne sais quai’).

“Lean over,” demands my girl when I alight back in Sheffield. “Why?” I ask, expecting a cheeky kiss. “You’ve got travel sweat,” she says, rasping a tissue across my forehead. Love hurts. If passing through space gives you perspiration, what effect does time travel have?
The time sweat L’Amour Des Rêves’ 60s-plundering futurism generates is a sheen of dreams, passing in waves over the audience, a soft focus bubble into which surf pop headliners The Bell Peppers plunge gently at first and then insatiably like a long lost lover.


The Bell Peppers already had a place in my heart for their 90s referencing EP, Saved by The Bell Peppers. They are a Bill & Ted supergroup culled from music history: 50s beatnik, 60s mod and 90s jock. This is Paradox Pop eating itself, wild goose-chasing the provenance of a sound from noughties to 60s to 90s, drenching us in time sweat, gorging on genres and trampling them underfoot. The effect is dizzying but danceable, frenetic grunge with surf finesse.

I meet an old schoolfriend at the gig. While I still live the irresponsible life of a student, he has two kids and a mortgage. “You haven’t changed,” he tells me, “but I think I have.” Truth be told, he always was more adapted to adult life than me. We’ve both changed and stayed the same. And that’s just the way it should be.

Words: Vienna Famous
Image: Hot Sketch Poster

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Interview: The Family Wolves

So, Family Wolves – is it with or without the ‘The’?

“With the ‘The’, definitely,” asserts Matt Williamson, co-ringleader at Rusholme’s eclectic arts house Antwerp Mansion and the crux of The Family Wolves, a rock band formed from within the Mansion’s decrepit walls. “You need a run-up to it,” adds lead guitarist Dan Jones.

A fair point; it would be unwise to dive straight in. So, some key facts: there are six of them, they play music for the love, they have been gigging for less than a year, they’d pack it in to be able to make cheese and pate platters at the Mansion and they go by The Family Wolves.

Given Williamson’s proclivity towards more complex verse, it comes as no surprise to discover that this name derives from a Sylvia Plath poem named ‘Manor Garden’, which contains the line: “two suicides, the family wolves.” Of course, there’s more to them than odes and hors d’oeuvres.

As with any of the third Millennium AD’s heaped recycling centre mound of music, there are influences; part of the trick is being able to delve deep enough into the mound so that it’s as freshly repackaged and unrecognisable as the last time it successfully emerged. For The Family Wolves, this is a 1960s USA West coast jam band psyche folk feel, paralleled of course by others before and since using the media du jour but placeable geographically and temporally both in its outward appearance and stated nurture.

Neil Young’s legacy crops up in the ‘sounds like’ column as his is a smartly presented grunge. Grunge’s Godfather, in fact. And not the FF Coppola crime syndicate variety, but a less ill-tempered model. Aesthetically, the Godfather’s apparel is apparent with the Wolves' trilbies and waistcoats rather than a scruffy demeanour more fitting with Young’s Godsons and Goddaughters of the late Twentieth Century stoner rock.
On top of this, the vocal angle is more choral than growl, much indebted to Celine Belli’s reprise of Emmylou Harris’s collaborations with the Canadian Young, or more currently Mimi Parker with Low, Amber Webber with Black Mountain and until 2010 Rachel Fannan with Sleepy Sun. Indeed she carries her double x chromosome like a lone star, shining it as crucially as those fellow psyche maelstrom brewers. Again, although more modern, the appendices are North American.

Although relative Luddites compared with the loopers and vocoders and Ableton Live sequencers of Twenty Twelve, Gibson SG wielder Dan Jones boasts a well-populated pedal board featuring an oft-used Wah Wah wailing with near-crescendonic dominance. But even as lead guitar he stays in line with the Family’s values; the bluesy garishness of the late 60s with post-“Judas” folk amplification is still more team than I. Ivory tinkler Bradlie Houldsworth too is an example of FX in a land of Americana.
Sticksman Alex Grindulis (also of post-rocker locals Peak District) remains untouched by technology as he thunders his skins with a furious fortitude, as if revenge is perched intently in his mind’s eye, just as he is perched intently behind the more upright Wolves.

Then there’s Matt Williamson taking on the burden as the central figure, calm and in control but mindful of scenarios beyond his grasp, which are verbalised with clamour to enamour. His shouts and bawls about who-knows-what deliver in paradox to the poetic eloquence of a classical bard itching within. The polysyllabic articulation is often lost in the sheer depth of the compressed strata emitted by all six, including his own acoustic guitar, plucked rhythmically in tune with the lupine dogmatism rather than aiming to stand out as a lead.
It’s a wholesome broth that can easily lose key ingredients. With this in mind, the motorik certitude of audio density creates another angle aimed towards the stoner rock dial; it’s easy to forget the folk and blues foundations when you’re treading water in gluttonous drone, but for Kris Extance plundering the sonic depths of bassline with rigid reliability. With tides rising vertically all around him it could easily become nonsensical dirge, trailing off into aimless tangential self-indulgence. That rhythm section rudder provides both structure and direction, deliberately guiding towards the sirens luring the Wolves’ bonnie voyage to a final destination.

But it isn’t quite the end. Shouty vocals with messages hidden amidst a crepuscular rhythmic elegy energise a steadily pounding regularity for the hip-swaying shoegazers ebbing across the rattled floorboards. They don’t hear what Williamson says until WHAM; silence hits harder than noise. It clears the room of the all-encompassing muggy miasma enshrouded, before he unflinchingly continues, “I’m your maaaaan!” And in these words he speaks for the whole sextet.
If it’s an unremittingly infectious groove enclosed within clamorous cacophonies that you’re after, then, tonight at the Dulcimer venue in Chorlton at least, he is your man and they are your band.

It hasn’t always been that way in their short history. But as Kris runs through a veritable nightmare of a debut outdoor festival slot at Leek Summer Jam you can tell by his tone that they haven’t taken the experience to heart.

“We got told, ‘2,500 tickets have been sold, you’re on the main stage, at a good time,’ and we were thinking ‘oh, great!’”

“We turned up; three glorified marquees, ours was the furthest one away and the only one without a bar in it as well, the weather was shit, Matt snapped a string before we went on then two when we did go on, the power cut out halfway through the set, the crowd had just witnessed a covers band who played Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name’ before we went on so that obviously set the mood for us...”
It’d be misguided to blame only external forces every time. Matt’s vocal is often off-key in the same way as Bob Dylan but that’s rock’n’roll, as it is told. Precision discarded for pure, raw emotion; the odd bum note lost and forgotten whether sung, strummed, thwacked, grooved or tinkled. After all, to make genuine mistakes is more meaningful and true than hiding behind auto-tuned, over-produced sheen.

They’ve grown tighter both musically and emotionally. Together, they present more than a group; family is indeed a more apt description. They are a synchronous unit, starting as one and pausing in unison, understanding the emphasis of a strategic collected breath before rising to song finales.

Taking account of the root of their growth, the comparisons between Antwerp Mansion and Andy Warhol’s Factory HQ also point towards the equally ramshackle collective The Velvet Underground. Indeed, Lou Reed’s troupe’s early backroom dirges harvested a fine crop of recordings and so will be the case for The Family Wolves, with a debut EP pressed through their Animal Sounds label and ready to go later in September.

Words: Ian Pennington
Photography: Andy Minotaur

The Family Wolves next perform live at the Nothin’ But Abattoir Blues Festival on Saturday 8th September, shared across Oldham Street’s Castle Hotel and Gulliver’s. The free entry event also features fellow Now Then gig alumni The Bourbon Words, The Calimocho Club, Death Vignettes and many more besides.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Review: To Be Confirmed at Three Minute Theatre, Monday 6th August 2012

TBC @ 3MT. It could be a code, it could be a meme. It could be a cypher spoken using the phonetic alphabet across a long-wave radio frequency. What it actually stands for is a group and a venue at a specific time and a specific place. How else do cultures culture?

To Be Confirmed is a poetry project that is in its infancy but forms part of a tapestry of Manchester that is much older; diverse people coming together. It attracts a rich multiplicity of persons applying poetry, first-and-foremost to their lives and then in performance on the monthly night. A Monday. But not your typical Monday.

3 Minute Theatre is a relatively new venue to the city of Manchester. It occupies a place on the ground floor of Afflecks Palace - which, as we know, is seminal to Manchester culture as a site for the alternative consumer and poignantly was recently threatened with foreclosure.

A bright neon sign leads you through from the entrance on Oldham Street to a quaint room filled with staggered rows of seats that acquires a cosy yet vibrant atmosphere as the place fills up with warm bodies and hot air.
Here are some of the voices of the TBC professionale coterie:

Daniel Clayton: Existential.
“I like to think a lot. Sometimes I over-think things. I like to encourage other people to think about things that are interesting or things that are not necessarily conventional; philosophical questions like why do we exist?”
Dan performs a surreal spoken word piece about a fruit bowl that personified fruit - making them kill each other and getting drunk, etc. - and another piece that brings us to question the senses in their interpretations of the world:
“Everything we see is light, and what we hear is just vibrations, so how do we know that you're not just a brain in a vat?”

Anna Percy: Rhymes in the middle.
“Some friends of mine, well, John G. Hall, the poetry guy in Manchester, started up a thing called the Arran Poetry Adventure. Basically, I started going three years ago, but it's been going a bit longer than that. What we do is, because writing retreats are really expensive, we have six hundred pounds and we hire out some houses and all you do is pay for accommodation and travel and then you can join in the workshops or go off and adventure around the island.” “We run workshops but it's relaxed; like a holiday with a bit of writing thrown in. They've been going since 2009.”
Anna classes her writing as confessional. As with time and writing about life, the same as with Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, who mostly wrote about what was going on with their lives at the time, Anna believes that:
“…writing saves lives.”
“Similarly to Anne Sexton - she wrote 'cause she was a bit mad - I suppose my stuff is confessional but as I've gone on I've kind of got more into doing experimental stuff like found poems. It basically just means that you nick the text from somewhere else.”

Above: The To Be Confirmed compere.

Ren Coulson: Extreme tactility?
“I write a lot about nesting and homes and cocooning yourself. I like limbs and wool!”
Ren says writing verse like this creates a visceral image, deep inward feelings, rather than intellectual garblings, aroused by things like looking at skin.
“I like exploring texture and elbows and feet, being wrapped in wool.”
Wool, visceral wool. Can wool really be visceral? Ren says:
“If you have a feeling that's based on raw and non-intellectual roots towards an inanimate object then, yes.”
Can poetry be aspirational?
“My ultimate dream is to have a narrowboat and to create that space, that tiny space, woodsmoke and the way it clings to clothes,” she says.

Fat Roland: Macabre scenery involving animals.

Roland doesn't consider himself a poet; he admits that he is a short story writer above all.

Roland goes to the printers and gets paraphernalia done up previous to shows. For the latest TBC, Roland went to the printers and got twenty Peppa Pig cards made, which he used as props for his latest thought experiment, taking participants through macabre scene which involved a narrative surrounding animals.
“The story comes first and the props come later,” he says.
Roland tells us that laughter works as a defence mechanism, if, sometimes, Roland takes us to dark places, people laugh because they have to.
“Dark is funny,” says Roland. “Peppa Pig is very light and colourful and fluffy and really nice, so I thought I'll have her having a major LSD psychosis, murdering Porky Pig and having sex with Christopher Robin from Winnie the Pooh. Why not?”

David Loy: Docker (apparently the same thing as a scouser); quixotic or realistic?
“What reflects through my poetry is how I see the world and things I live through,” especially, he says, “how information lives through me. That's everything that comes out of my poetry.”
What David has to say about Facebook is appealing: a virtual fax roll upon which each of us is writing our own story, each successive status contributing to that. But just because you're making a statement through Facebook doesn't make everybody else's statement any less of a status, from the quixotic to the realistic:
“Each to their own, kinda thing,” he says. “Some people might want to write something poetic, or provide a motivational quote, or a Bible verse, and some people just want to write, like, 'I'm going to the shop for a pint of milk'.”
Soliloquies are often followed by a silence of recognition and on Facebook this translates to them being 'liked' via the Like button more so than they receive comment upon. Does this tell us anything about their interpretation?
“I'll only write things that people can relate to,” says David, “I won't try and baffle people.”

TBC also features Manchester-based poets Des-Lexic & Alvin Sawdust as well as Karen Little who have spread their prosaic wings further abroad at other venues across the city. It's an exclusive group but an inclusive scene for anyone interested in poetry to a unique night out at one of Manchester's hidden gems of a venue.

Words & photo #3: Elijah James
Photos #1 & #2: courtesy of 3MT
Photo #4: courtesy of Fat Roland & FlashTagMcr

Friday, 10 August 2012

Bad Language literature event: Deadline for submissions

Today is the final day for submissions to be in with a chance of performing at the Bad Language literature event scheduled to take place at Manchester Museum on 22 August.


Manchester literature and poetry group Bad Language have organised the opportunity for writers to secure a five minute slot on the same bill as Helen Mort and Jenn Ashworth, who are both spending the month of August developing new writing based on the museum’s exhibits.

Entrants may submit a new piece written specifically for the occasion or an existing work, but will be judged on suitability for the event with the Manchester Museum venue in mind.

The headlining pair of Mort and Ashworth, both previous prize-winners in their field, will perform these pieces to an audience in The Living World gallery. In 2010, Mort became the youngest ever poet in residency at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, having previously earned the Manchester Young Writer Prize in 2008. Ashworth’s debut novel, ‘A Kind Of Intimacy’, was published in 2009 and the following year gained the Betty Trask Award. She has also been featured as one of BBC Culture Show’s Best 12 Novelists.

Words: Ian Pennington
Poster: Bad Language

The Bad Language event will take place at Manchester Museum on Wednesday 22 August. Deadline for submissions to appear on the line-up is today, 10 August. Email badlanguagemcr@gmail.com to enter. Ticket information for the event can be found here.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Preview: Inspector Norse & The Knitted Autopsy

A woolly jumper sported by a character in a TV series seems a rather unlikely source of inspiration for a stage play in the UK but that's exactly where the idea came from for the Manchester-based Lip Service Theatre Company's latest dramatic endeavour - Inspector Norse.

Billed as a self-assembly Swedish crime thriller, the seeds for this new play - to be taken on tour around the UK early next year - were sewn during an episode of Danish series The Killing. The two members of the theatre group, Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding, found themselves very taken with the Faroe sweater worn by lead detective Sarah Lund and started pondering the idea of a production with a knitted set.


As the story goes so far - and the plot is still under discussion so nothing is set in stone as yet - a former pop star takes herself off into the Swedish countryside to escape the trappings of celebrity life and becomes a bit of a recluse, living in a house where absolutely everything is knitted, right down to the tiles on the roof. There she stays in peace and quiet until one day she discovers a body in the woods and has to call in a female detective and her male sidekick to come and solve the murder.

"We thought, if there's going to be a body, perhaps it could be knitted," Maggie says. "We could do the first-ever knitted autopsy. I started doing research into knitted body parts and found that there are lots of knitted intestines. Someone even knitted a digestive system - apparently, it's really common for medical students to knit their own body parts to help them learn."

Always keen to include the local community in their work, Maggie and Sue decided to set up a knitting group at the Tea Hive in Chorlton so people could contribute to the set, making leaves, icicles and other props. "I feel like we're tapping into a very rich theme," Maggie remarks, adding that she had no idea just how popular knitting had become. "We keep getting leaves shoved under our door and we don't know who they're from. It's quite sweet, really."

And it's not just Manchester's knitting finest helping the show go on - one woman in Brighton has volunteered to knit the Faroe jumper for the lead detective, while someone in the Cotswolds has been truly inspired and is knitting a coffee pot that pours knitted coffee.

"What's really nice is that women are coming with their daughters and they're learning to knit. I'm not a knitter and I've had a go and it wasn't a complete disaster," Maggie adds.

The play also looks set to have a lasting effect on the Manchester craft scene, with the Tea Hive knitting group likely to grow and continue, long after the curtain falls on Inspector Norse. A community choir - which featured in a previous Lip Service production, Desperate to be Doris - has also picked up its knitting needles and sent in a leaf or two.

Knitting aside, it certainly sounds as though Maggie and Sue's quirky sense of humour - for which the double act is renowned - will be in full force for Inspector Norse. Plans are apparently being kicked around to introduce a delinquent moose into proceedings, stumbling about drunk on fermented apples. As Maggie says, however, they're still writing at the moment so it might all change completely. "Between now and October 15th - when rehearsals start - anything could happen," she predicts.

Words: Sarah Adie
Image #1: courtesy of Lip Service Theatre
Image #2: Zion Arts Centre

Inspector Norse opens on 15th January 2013 in Bristol, before heading to Oldham Coliseum and the Lowry at Easter. More information can be found on the Lip Service Theatre website.

The knitting group meets fortnightly at Tea Hive Cafe in Chorlton with the next scheduled for Wednesday 1 August.

Monday, 30 July 2012

World first: Manchester's LomoWall

Manchester is now the proud owner of the first permanent outdoor LomoWall in the world, a structure made up of 14,000 photographs of the city.

The world's first permanent LomoWall has been erected - and Manchester's Northern Quarter was chosen as the perfect location.


One of the walls on Tariff Street is now covered in 14,000 lomograph photos, easily distinguished by their light leaks, lo-fi grain and distinctive blurriness.

All images have a watery theme to tie in with the 2012 Canal Festival, with the official unveiling of the 30ft LomoWall taking place last Thursday 26 July to mark the start of the event, which features a range of activities along the canal from Calderdale into Manchester city centre.


"The theme of water was chosen as it fits in well with the 2012 Canal Festival and also as it reflects the surrounding area of the wall. The photos were generated via our online community and through workshops taking place at Lomography Gallery Store Manchester. Every photo that has been used has been taken in and around Manchester. We had a great response, as always, from our community," David Tester of Lomography Manchester remarked.

Words & images: Sarah Adie

The lomography photo mural stands on Tariff Street in the Northern Quarter. The sixth annual Canal Festival runs from 18 to 26 August and more information can be found here.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Canned Music. Now Then Manchester Presents, feat. (murmur) & Raikes Parade @ Antwerp Mansion Festival, Saturday 14th July 2012

The last time I entered these premises it was by traipsing through an overgrown garden littered with empty beer crates and then climbing over a fence. All done under the hours of darkness. The main area in the building comprised of a large, dust filled, poorly lit room where the artists performed.

This time the approach is in bright sunlight and along a path of sorts, though there appears more beer detritus than last and a temporary BBQ stall has been set up. The vast size of the premises is now apparent. The access door to the inside is more of a challenge as it has been painted to form part of mural that extends from the ground floor up to the roof. The location has always been a ‘work in progress’ type of development and the owners / users have now managed to repair another section of the roof, allowing an upstairs toilets room to be created. The layer of dust has increased in depth.

The reason for the visit is that the venue has been hosting a three day musical festival and today is the middle day. This section comprises of a series of solo performers, organised by Now Then Manchester, that utilise electronics to develop their tastes.

First up is (MURMUR), aka Rick Hartley, who has previously appeared as one half of Bug & Leaf. As the warm, pulsating beats grow and fill the room, there’s a constant stream of musicians walking in front of the raised stage to collect their instruments that were used the previous day. Putting this visual disruption to one side, the air starts to fill with Japanese style chimes and ethereal notes. Layers of ska beats are then mixed in as the morphing of the different strands into something new and attractive continues.
A more robust and aggressive product is displayed by Raikes Parade. Hunched over his decks, Andy Blundell, who has worked as a soundman for GNOD, unleashes an explosion of noise. The sound bounces out, hits the wall and slides down. Those present feel the beats flow though the room and eventually their resistance to move and sway along begins to crumble, although it’s not quite an outbreak of dancing. The recent sound proofing (i.e. bricking up the windows) is put to the test, but those outside sampling a few rare rays of summer sun are still able to sample the intensity whilst partaking in the barbecue.

Words & Photography: Ged Camera

The next Now Then Manchester gig sees an audio-visual show with Disney's timeless feat of imagination, Fantasia, remixed in a live headlining performance by experimental band TheBrokenDoor. Special guest Paul Green will support by adding his ambient electronica to an edit of Gaspar Noé's cult hallucinatory classic Enter The Void. All at Dulcimer bar in Chorlton on Sunday 22nd July.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Interview: The Imploding Inevitable Festival

Even some of the largest of the UK’s annual music festivals have decided to sidestep this year’s sporting attractions by taking a year off, but The Imploding Inevitable Festival will embark on its third year this weekend, bringing together some of the North West’s finest musicians and poets.

Of the larger festivals, Glastonbury has taken the opportunity for a fallow year while Sonisphere announced its cancellation in March. More locally, organisers of LadyRock had to pull the plug on their south Manchester based event, in an interview blaming the decision on a mixture of factors from poor Springtime weather to the Olypmics, whilst also pointing out the surfeit of nationally marketed, large weekend events, such as the Jubilee.

But The II Festival, as it is often shortened to, has persisted through the range of issues and will tomorrow (Friday 29th June) welcome fans of a variety of folk, blues and psychedelic music to its setting near Lake Windermere at Fell Foot Wood.

Director and curator Baz Wilkinson describes previous years and what to expect this year.


Now Then: Why did you begin the festival originally?

Baz Wilkinson: It seemed the next step up to celebrate a year of promoting the bands that we love. Not only that but it brings everyone together who love the bands, spoken word-ers and, well, we like to drag people from the mundane of everyday life and provide them with something that they can really enjoy and relax with.

NT: Do you have a festival philosophy?

BW: I suppose our festival philosophy follows on from the philosophy that we have created for our regular events. It basically revolves around putting the artist first, keeping things as cheap as possible, which means being non-profit, and ensuring diversity across the weekend and nurturing creativity. For example, in the first year we had the audience contribute a line of poetry to a mass ‘Exquisite Corpse’ surreal poem and last year we had a very good open mic section. This year we are doing the open mic again but also offering woodworking classes and even a crocheting group haha! It’s all good fun…!


NT: There seem to be ten festivals every weekend across the UK during the summer months these days; has it proved difficult with the competition? Why (not)?

BW: I think that’s always going to be a factor with these things. The only thing I can say from experience is that many of our ticket holders have been three years on the trot so we must be doing something right! Not only that, but the feedback we get each year has been superb and is great to read through after the event. I guess the most difficult thing is the weather; we’ve generally been lucky and had great weather but that’s always a wee bit of a worry. I’ve yet to try out my naked sun dance that I learnt when I was trekking in the hills of Wigan – maybe this year, it may catch on, who knows?! We could call it The II Festival With A Wink then ha!

NT: What made you choose the setting of Fell Foot Wood?

BW: Five words: Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty. That is all.

NT: The festival remains very low key and independent; is that likely to change as the years go by? How big is it likely to grow?

BW: I’ve been asked this quite a bit which I like to think is because people can envisage it getting bigger, but for now we are quite happy with how it is. The atmosphere and vibes of the place has a really calming effect on the audience; it seems to put them at ease, forget their worries and have a great time! And, rest assured, if it did become bigger it would still remain true to its ethos in supporting locally sourced materials and food, being totally independent and supporting truly independent artists.

NT: Has there been an Imploding Inevitable Festival performance or moment that is particularly memorable for you?

BW: There’s been quite a few actually! Paddy Steer being unleashed on a totally unsuspecting audience in 2010 was absolutely fantastic. He had a dancing robot (which was actually Men Diamler), lazers and loads of flashing lights – it looked like a UFO had landed. Earlier that day Men Diamler performed waltzing through the audience on the most beautiful of days I’ve seen at Fell Foot – again, that took the audience by surprise and they loved it!

Last year, Magic Arm was the epitome of ‘aceness’, as were Driver Drive Faster. Regarding the poetry/spoken word, Mark Mace Smith put an incredibly gripping performance in showing his class yet again and I particularly love the diversity of that aspect of the festival each year. A truly memorable… memory was last year’s get-together after the bands had finished when we stayed up quite late laughing and drinking through the night with PICO (the comedy puppet act who will be at the festival again this year!) and some of the bands; I’ve never laughed so much I don’t think and those memories will stay a long time with me!

NT: How do you select the line-ups?

BW: It’s a tricky affair as we’d love to book everyone but obviously we have to say sorry to quite a few. But let’s start at the beginning – we’ve always booked based on three main underpinning aims: integrity, creativity and originality. All the artists we promote have these by the bucket-load, so then it’s a case of seeing who’s free, looking at the logistics and seeing what will work, etc. And if we still can’t decide we put all the names of the bands we love down on the floor and our mascot, the nocturnal aye-aye (as in The II Festival), points to the ones he’d prefer.

NT: What do you have lined up for 2012?

BW: We have another cracking line-up with Laura J Martin, Jonnie Common, Jess Bryant, Colorama, Denis Jones, Dave Rybka (Victorian Dad), Meursault (solo and a late addition), the eccentric and lovable Oddfellow & I, Harvey Lord, The Woven Project, David A Jaycock, Rob St John, two artists from Brooklyn, New York, in Jo Schornikow and Scott Rudd, Jo Gillot and not forgetting that Saturday morning we have a harp recital by Rachael Gladwin to wake people from their slumber. Alongside the music we have a superb selection of spoken word performers from comedy to story-telling to straight up poetry readings and then there’s the aforementioned Wood Craft and Crocheting circle to take part in. It’s going to be a cracker!

Words: Ian Pennington
Images: Courtesy of The Imploding Inevitable Festival

Tickets, including student discounts, are available from the site owner at Fell Foot Woods and you can avoid a booking fee by calling 01539 531014. There will also be an option to turn up on the day. For more info see the website and for ticket info follow this link.

An edited version of this interview previously appeared on Manchestermule.com

Monday, 25 June 2012

Free For Arts Festival Submissions Deadline Tomorrow

Manchester’s Free For Arts Festival returns later this year for its fourth programme of events and already the deadline for submissions has almost arrived.

The festival, first staged in 2009, is a not-for-profit enterprise focusing on the idea of positioning a diverse range of arts and performances in unique city-based locations, while making them accessible to the general public. The curators of the festival, including new directors Ali Gunn and Emily Songhurst, will spend the remainder of the summer months organising and scheduling in order to showcase local art across Manchester from Friday 19th to Friday 26th October.

But hurry – now is the final opportunity to submit a proposal for artwork, music, exhibitions, events or any other creative outlet as the online form closes tomorrow, Tuesday 26th June.

Words: Ian Pennington
Image: Free For Arts Festival

This article first appeared on the Manchester Mule website.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Chorlton Arts Festival 2012


Chorlton Arts Festival launched on Thursday 17th May and if you haven’t yet attended an affiliated show then you’ll have missed the likes of Stuart McCallum, The Tourists, Jesca Hoop and the preview night for Liz West’s curious Trolleys exhibition, as well as promotions by Manky Poets, Chorlton Film Institute and Playback Theatre. But there’s plenty more to follow during its second week, as the festival director Philip Hannaway describes.



Now Then: Last year Badly Drawn Boy opened the festival from the precinct balcony overpass; are there any plans for similarly inventive spectacles?

Philip Hannaway: Well we launched this year with secret performances from Alan Cochrane and John Bishop, which was pretty special. Coming up this Sunday [27 May] we have an outdoor performance on [Chorlton] Green complete with grand piano. There also are a few surprises over the Chorlton Weekender so keep a look out on the streets! You should also look out for the work of our Digital Arts Collective; there will be happenings all over Chorlton as the festival comes to a close.

Badly Drawn Boy

NT: One of the more complex multi-arts shows was the gig featuring Swimming, Dallas Simpson, headphones, video links and a detached audience at St Ninian’s Church – can you explain how this worked?

PH: This was a really amazing night. The band actually performed in the Church Hall away from the audience who were in the main church. We watched video of them performing live in the other room. Dallas Simpson (a sound artist) moved around the room and we pick up through our earphones what he is listening to. He used all kinds of tubes and equipment to pick up various sounds of the band. It was a totally unique event and a first headphone only gig in Chorlton. If you had walked into the church there would have been complete silence. It sounded amazing.


NT: The festival is also about highlighting the local arts and music in the area and many of these shows will be free entry. For those spoiled for choice, could you personally pick out and recommend any of those to attend?

PH: There have been so many great events in the community this year and in the last few days of the festival there is even more to look forward to. I’d make sure you check out our street art exhibition by local artist Trafford Parsons – you’ll find his work on shop shutters around Chorlton. Perfect for a stroll in the evening. There’s also our visual arts exhibitions in Electrik, Marble Beer House, Battery Park and Oddest and a really bold art installation at Creative Corner Café from award winning Elysion Productions. There’s also loads of free music going on around Chorlton over the weekend including some parlour sessions at Dulcimer. All the information can be found on the festival website. Of course you would not want to miss the Weekender headliners as well, including Dutch Uncles, The Handsome Family, Chew Lips and Lanterns On The Lake.


NT: How can the festival benefit local artists and musicians?

PH: I think by firstly providing a platform for local artists to show their work. But also the festival provides an opportunity for their work to be seen alongside artists from around the country and the world. We try to be an outward looking festival, which never forgets that it has the community at heart. We hope that local artists will be inspired by what other people are presenting at the festival as they develop their own practice. As for music the festival gives an opportunity for local bands to perform alongside some of the best talent from around the UK and beyond, giving them an opportunity to be part of a great line-up right on their doorstep.


NT: Venues such as Dulcimer are locally renowned for staging regular and dependable live music; what can we look forward to there during the festival?

PH: There’s loads going on in all our venues. Over the Weekender at Dulcimer you’ll see local bands Blind Atlas and I Am Mechanical perform, there will also be an all day event on the last Sunday of the festival [27 May] with loads of local musicians performing. Also in Electrik on the last night of the Weekender you can enjoy a One Deck Session from club night Pop Till You Drop.


NT: How closely do you work with venues when deciding the festival schedule?

PH: Very closely, the festival would not be possible without the support of the venues.


NT: Are there any less frequently used venues to look out for?

PH: There are loads of events at Creative Corner Café this year for the first time; it’s a great space, with great people running it for the right reasons. Everyone should check it out.

The FlashTag team

NT: How important is it for the festival to accommodate initiatives such as the FlashTag flash fiction writing competition into the programme?

PH: Really important; any event that allows people to take part creatively is really important to the festival. It’s a fantastic way for people to get into writing and as a festival we are all about people getting stuck in and trying new experiences. FlashTag flash fiction delivers on all of these.

Words: Ian Pennington
Images: Courtesy of Chorlton Arts Festival

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Interview: The Calimocho Club

Bluesy rock duo The Calimocho Club may be named after a drink whose ingredients of Cola and red wine seem like chalk and cheese, but as a band they’re a cohesive unit despite the project’s nascent age. For Gary L Hope (vocals, guitar) and Tommy Pickford (drums) are no strangers to the live music circuit around Manchester and Salford, having appeared until recently as the stylish and memorably suited The Black Knights.


The shift into a new gear was a result of pure “gut feeling”, amongst other reasons, but a host of live shows and an accomplished debut EP have seen them accelerate since.

Conversely, debut EP Whoa Whoa, Hey Hey seems to want to slow down in title at least, but its content is juxtaposed with such an interpretation. Staccato grooves, screaming riffs and soulful rhythms are delivered with the force and unflinching starkness synonymous with the very best of electric blues and all with an urgency that keeps the fleeting running time under 15 minutes.

Musically, Tommy’s drum rolls are reminiscent of The Black Keys’ early records – in particular Pat Carney’s stick work on Thickfreakness – while Gary’s guitar and lyrics fit with the spirit of blues that they define as “raw, sometimes violent, melancholy, sarcastic, wry, hopeful and hopeless [and] mostly governed by feel”.

Their next show is a headline slot at the next Now Then Manchester show at Dulcimer bar, bringing the curtain down on another folk and blues showcase and they shared a few thoughts with us in anticipation.


Now Then: Why did you change your band name and aesthetic [from The Black Knights]?

The Calimocho Club: It felt right to do it – a combination of musical reasons, where we sat in the universe, a gut feeling and other behind the scenes issues definitely pushed us toward it.


NT: Do you have a favourite musical reinvention?

CC: Bowie has been the king of reinvention, killing Ziggy and going all 80s cocaine kid is up there for me.


NT: What have the experiences of support slots with the likes of The Jim Jones Revue, Those Darlins and Dave Arcari taught you?

CC: It helps break you out of your own bubble. They all tour like beasts – Bog Log III is the same. Band of Skulls have gone on to support The Black Keys. It’s a reality check that no two acts do things the same way. Some have more backing (team, press and monetary), some go totally DIY, some sit between the two. What is clear is that it is still a slog - you still have to be great.

What else has it taught us? That we can sit comfortably in that company. It forces us to raise our game. We always get a better reaction at these types of shows – to put it into crude numbers, we sell more CDs, and get more fans. It’s also good to see how other acts do things; you can always pick up something useful.


NT: You’ve just finished a tour of your own; which show was the pick of the bunch and why?

CC: They were all great shows but I’d say the Puzzle Hall, Sowerby Bridge for the performance and audience reaction. Bristol for the aftershow party!


NT: Lightnin’ Hopkins or The Black Keys? Do you prefer the blues of old or new – or are they not comparable?

CC: They are all the same ballpark. It’s more the spirit of the blues that draws me in – by definition it is raw, sometimes violent, melancholy, sarcastic, wry, hopeful and hopeless. It’s also mostly governed by feel rather than robotically learning patterns. Same ballpark then, but, like anything, if you can add your own personal twist onto it you’re away...


NT: What do you have planned for the near future? Are there any new recordings lined up?

CC: Unfortunately/fortunately our imagination exceeds our budget at times. We are putting together another tour at the moment, UK, but may look at some European shows.

We will be getting some new photos done, do another music video – not too concerned with having new recordings at the moment, there’s the artist in me that wants to record, fighting the businessman in me that says: “create more demand first”. We have a good EP that has still got legs and have some acoustic demos floating around.


In fairness the world is laden with recorded music; it’s ten-a-penny. It might be fighting a losing battle, but we want to try and keep music special, an experience. It’s another debate entirely, but the series of 0s and 1s that the digital marketplace has squeezed that thrill somewhat.

However, a great live show cannot be beaten. Playing live has always been our forte. You experience it in the moment and you can change things around in a way that a recorded artifact literally cannot. Yes, there are an ever-growing number of people who spend the show recording it on phones for posterity, sharing and using at as an honour/social ‘badge’ (and so miss out on the immediacy of being in the moment), but there’s still loads who long for that buzz that a live show can generate in them. That’s the fucking money!

Words & edits: Ian Pennington
Flyer design: Craig Brown Beards Club Illustration
Photos & logo: courtesy of The Calimocho Club

The Calimocho Club headline Dulcimer bar in Chorlton on Thursday 17th May. The free entry blues and folk showcase will also feature performances by Rory Charles, Eleanor Lou and Mathew Gray.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Interview: Death Vignettes

It’s easy to forget in the age of mp3s, laptop DJs and vocoders that modern recorded music dawned to a soundtrack of the blues. The blues in an emotive sense has certainly never left through the subsequent years, even if the sound itself has been largely discarded in favour of polished production gloss.


The Abattoir Blues nights at The Gaslamp bar seek to redress the balance by curating live blues line-ups and recording the results to capture the unrestricted sounds of musicians including Old Hands, Tyler Hatwell, Jackie O and bluesy garage rock duo Death Vignettes.

Death Vignettes headline the next Now Then show at Dulcimer bar and their guitarist Dave Brennan, who runs the Abattoir Blues nights, took the time to tackle our teasers.


Now Then: Can you give us a potted history of the Abattoir Blues nights?

Death Vignettes: Ourselves and Amelia Dean started the night back in October last year, we wanted to play a gig with artists that we respected and complemented our blues-inspired sound. The quality of the acts is very important to us. The atmosphere at each Abattoir Blues nights has been different as we have carefully considered which artists would work well together. We have tried to create each night to stand out and to have its own identity.


NT: What made you start hosting those nights and do you have any standout memories?

DV: There is a serious shortage of blues based nights in Manchester and we wanted to put a night on that we would want to go to. Our friends also have a passion for the same genre of music. We wanted to use the night as a platform for us all to perform our separate projects. Every night has had a standout moment due to all the great artists that have played. We strive to preserve these moments by recording each night. Listening back to the recordings also highlights our resident compere and his ability to get the crowd involved and creating a unique atmosphere in a small, unique venue.


NT: Who or what encouraged you to pick up an instrument?

DV: An inherent passion for the blues.


NT: Are there any blues musicians in particular who inspire you? Do you take ideas from other genres of music as well?

DV: Everything from classic blues musicians such as Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins right through to contemporary blues artists such as Jon Spencer, Nick Cave, Iggy Pop, Johnny Walker and Jack White.


NT: Where does lo-fi blues stand in these days of increasingly hi-tech music production?

DV: The blues will always be relevant. We believe that capturing the live raw sound and energy is more important than a polished recording. This sometimes gets overlooked in favour of a radio friendly production. We take inspiration from the way that the old blues artists used to record with a single mic. The recording techniques used back then would not be considered hi-tech yet captured the raw emotion of the music.


NT: Since reading High Fidelity, the messages in blues music often remind me of this quote: “What came first; the music or the misery? Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” Can you answer it?

DV: The misery inspires the music and the music inspires the misery.


NT: When is the next Abattoir Blues night and what else do you have lined up?

DV: The next Abattoir Blues night will be the end of May and we are also hoping to put on a festival around September time. Check our Facebook for details.


Interview & edits by Ian Pennington
Now Then flyer design: Craig Brown Beards Club Illustration
Posters: Courtesy of Abattoir Blues

Death Vignettes headline the next Now Then Manchester gig at Dulcimer bar in Chorlton on Thursday 10th May. Family Wolves, The Acoustic Conquistador and Dan Melrose are also performing at the show focussing on blues and folk music. Entry is free but any donations to support the musicians will be very welcome.