Monday, 30 June 2014

Quippopotamus @ Odd Bar, 03.06.14

On the first Tuesday of every month, Odd Bar in the Northern Quarter is home to a free comedy night. Taking up the top floor of the bar, Quippopotamus has been running for the past eight months, successfully expanding from nights they also run at Fuel Café in Withington. In that time, it’s become a platform for some of Manchester’s more out-there comedians.

Compèred by joint organiser Jack Evans, this month’s offering started well. It was refreshing to see Evans’ ability to bypass the getting-to-know-you awkwardness that stagnates some comedy events elsewhere; this one felt lively, casual, enjoyable and, importantly, genuinely funny. Evans worked the crowd with aplomb and his off-the-cuff humour was impressively sharp. When he and his fellow organiser Jon Whiteley played a more rehearsed half-time sketch it showed great versatility. Crucially, the pair knows what people want from an alternative comedy night, and they showed it by booking two great acts.

The first, Edy Hurst, was kind of a character-comedy bit. His enthusiastic and childlike humour won the crowd over when he picked up a guitar to give parody renditions of any James Bond song at the audience’s request.

The main act, Phil Ellis, took to the stage with a world-weary demeanour and a tragic likability that the crowd instantly enjoyed. His set seemed to be mostly unplanned mischief that the audience lapped-up. His time on the stage segued from cleverly told life stories to impromptu furniture interaction, and finished with an attempt to casually assimilate the comedic spirit of Rik Mayall as he was encouraged to digest a newspaper clipping of the recently deceased’s face. It could have seemed daft or contrived, but with Ellis’s inclusive demeanour, it became a raucous social event.

Quippopotamus works really well in its essence – a free night to celebrate alternative comedy. It’s good to see it done with a light-hearted and non-commercial approach, and a real spirit to make people laugh. Whiteley and Evans clearly love making people laugh and the night is well worth checking out.

Words & photo: Mark Hattersley

Quippopotamus is staged at Odd Bar on the first Tuesday of every month and at Fuel Café Bar on the fourth Sunday of every month.

Hulme and Rights @ Work for Change Co-op, 31.05.14

Playing to a packed audience in the small but strangely cavernous space that is The Yard at Birley Street in Hulme, Daniel Kitson, Josie Long and Molly Naylor came together for the Hulme and Rights fundraising gig in aid of Freedom for Torture, a cause which clearly doesn’t merit any humour but whose important work gained wider prominence among a hugely enthusiastic, ‘up for it’ audience.

For fans of wryly observed narrative humour on the minutiae of everyday life, Kitson, Long and Naylor have clearly honed their comedic craft to perfection with each of them providing whimsical, sometimes anarchic and hugely self-deprecating observations on the trials of modern life.

Daniel got the evening off to a great start in his role as compère and warm-up merchant for Josie Long. He explored a mix of narratives, including his paranoiac outsider observations from taking a solitary trip to a campsite in North Wales the day before the gig and making boastful reminders of his globetrotting exploits as a comic (“Did I tell you I was in New York?”), ricocheting mercilessly off his heckling audience to fuel his ironically immodest fire of self-importance. Effortless and genius.

Josie Long, meanwhile, provided a quaintly acerbic counterfoil to Kitson’s humour with some touching and profound observations on personal relationships. I always get anxious when comics – or any performer for that matter – seek audience participation, but I found myself charmed by Josie’s entreaties to join her in her fatalistic, guitar-accompanied elegy to disappointment and heartbreak. It was funny and touching in equal measure.

Finally, Molly Naylor had me in stitches with her all-too-honest and self-knowing observations, amongst other confessional narratives of her failed attempt to get to the right airport for a flight to Berlin for a gig. All based on the heroic wrong assumption. I loved the way she conveyed that self-righteous ‘London’ sense of knowing her stuff and her insistence of being right, even at the checking in desk, when clearly arriving at Stansted for a flight taking off from Southend was wrong, wrong, wrong. Hilarious.

Laughs all-round from a trio of comics whose narrative craft deserved the energy and adulation from a crowd who believed in them as much as the cause they were supporting.

Thanks also to Laura Harper, a volunteer, who talked about the work for Freedom From Torture and to the artists who donated their work for the fundraising raffle.

Words & photos: Tom Warman

Friday, 27 June 2014

COMPETITION: Beat Herder 2014

This year’s Beat Herder is just around the corner now – due to welcome revellers within its gates from 18-20 July. Outside of the headline grabbers of 2ManyDJs, Happy Mondays and Vitalic, they always have room to showcase lesser known artists from the North West , a policy that has been retained from its very first outing back in 2006.

This year their line-up features a host of acts representing Manchester’s shores. On the bands front, there’s a return for indie pop rockers The Loungs after a three-year hiatus and we also recommend Debt Records signees Snow Apple, indie shoegazers Patterns, acoustic hip hopper with a grin Gideon Conn and of course the beanie wearing Chorltonite Badly Drawn Boy.

Looking at the electronic music on the bill, Beat Herder favourite Vieka and avant-garde drumming animal Paddy Steer both join the fun, while on the bigger soundsystems they have Dub Smugglers, Dub Phizix & Strategy, unreal Stockport DJ Mr Scruff and a live set for Herbal Sessions and Gnod cohort Raikes Parade. Add to the list a full band show for hip hop wordsmith Skittles and reggae stalwarts Nucleus Roots and it’s a sizeable Manchester contingent.

Of our other picks, jazz duo Colman Brothers visit on the back of a debut album via the excellent Wah Wah 45s label and our issue 7 interviewees The Orb are lining up a live show for the Sunday.

Try squeezing all that into your weekend.

We’ve teamed up with Beat Herder to secure a pair of tickets to give away to one lucky Now Then Manchester reader. All you have to do to enter the competition is to like and share the image via this link (making sure it’s set to ‘public’ so we can see that you’ve entered).

We’ll notify the winner on Friday 11 July. Good luck!

Words: Ian Pennington
Images: courtesy of Beat Herder

For more information on the line-up and tickets, visit the Beat Herder website.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Marble Brewing Day - Photo Blog

A fortnight ago we found ourselves under the Victoria railway line arches in our wellies, gazing down a chute into the depths of a mill where freshly poured malts were filtering through the first stage of Marble Beers' brewing system.

Here's Joe demonstrating.

We were still digesting an earlier brewery tour courtesy of Matthew Howgate, the Head Brewer here who has been captaining a sturdy ship since taking the position at the start of this year.

This has included increased production of the core Marble beers, including Lagonda IPA, Manchester Bitter and Pint, along with less frequent, more selective specials.

Our brewing expert and guide for the day is Slav (above), whose work behind the bar at the nearby Marble Arch pub has led to a successful transition to become a respected brewer within the company.

Also working on the Marble team was Johnny (above), who originally applied to a part-time bartending advert and subsequently became a Marble van driver, taking the finished ales to several pubs and bars both near and far. He is now embarking on a traineeship to become a brewer himself and is due to take his exams next May.

As the natural starch in the malts was converted to sugars in 66°C brewing water in the first tank, our ale was still a distant pipe dream. 50 minutes later and with a malty mash now formed, we had the basis of our future alcohol.

But after the sugary liquid has flowed from that tank to the copper kettle, the addition of hops started to offer the scent of our end product. We used Herkules, Simcoe, Riwaka and Columbus.

While all these ingredients are brewing, Slav checked a sample of the yeast under the microscope ahead its inclusion at the final stage.

The used malts were cleaned out of the first tank and deposited into barrels to be taken to a local farm and fed to cows, which apparently follow the sweet scent of the barrels in the delivery van on its arrival. I climbed inside the tank to finish the cleaning process.

Once this process has been completed, the all important final stage begins. As the nascent beer lowers to the correct temperature, it was migrated to its brewing container.

Yeast is added along with oxygen to stimulate the yeast.

Last but not least, we can have a taste of the final mixture with its week of brewing ahead.

The limited edition 3.7% pale ale brewed with oats and five hop varieties will be on rotation in pubs across Manchester from Friday 27 June. Look out for the pump clip above.

Words & photos: Ian Pennington

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

He Had Hairy Hands @ The Lowry, 05.06.14

Picture the scene: 1950s London, a backstreet abortion clinic, an actor in a sailor's suit and a woman giving birth to a particularly hairy baby... It certainly doesn't sound like the start of any ordinary piece of theatre, does it? It is, in fact, the beginning of He Had Hairy Hands, the first original production to come from acting company Kill The Beast, previously known for its adaptation of Tom Baker's The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, which received rave reviews.

Back treading the Lowry boards, the group has done it again, selling out both shows for He Had Hairy Hands, a production that definitely doesn't disappoint... if you're into a taste of the macabre, the supernatural, the weird but utterly wonderful, that is. Think League of Gentlemen-style humour without the more disturbing elements.

A 1970s mystery thriller set in the aptly named rural town of Hemlock-under-Lye, the story centres on the puzzling deaths of some of the townsfolk and Detective Eglentine Whitechapel, queen of the supernatural, who is called in to crack the case. At just over an hour in length, the high-octane play moves at lightning speed, so keep your ears open or you'll miss some amazing lines, and watch out for the slick costume swaps and scene changes, which are seriously impressive and make the production particularly original. There are only four actors but God knows how many characters in the play and the cast's ability to move between their different parts seamlessly is quite a feat.

Whether you're a firm believer in the paranormal or have both feet firmly in this world, you'll definitely leave He Had Hairy Hands a big fan of Kill The Beast. After all, as Detective Whitechapel would say, "if there's no such thing as the supernatural... then, how come there is?"

Words: Sarah Adie

Pictures: Richard Davenport

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Removed and Destroyed @ King's Arms, Salford, 22.05.14

Removed and Destroyed by writer Matthew Gabrielli follows the troubles of a young and successful man Ted (played by Kevin Dewsbury) whose briefcase goes missing. When he seeks the assistance of the authorities to recover it he becomes tethered in a dystopian dilemma, a world where you’re guilty because you’ve been arrested and you’ve been arrested because you’re guilty. This authoritarian theme puts it in sync with a lot of other future worlds that we are all familiar with through books, television and film, and so the question here is this: what does Removed and Destroyed add to the picture?

The premise in this case is that the reduction in freedoms following the terrorism scares of the early 2000s are taken to an extreme. The police, played here by David Garrett and Ethan Holmes, will use any form of abuse to get what they want, while minor discretions from the young man’s past are spat back at him with a tainted twist. The problem is that I found the story too unbelievable to engage with. There were subplots that felt tacked on, like one of the policemen turning out to have a hidden heart of gold, and a swear jar that was too gimmicky to make any political point. Further, it is very difficult to act out violence in such a small space like the King’s Arms, as pretend violence often looks playground-esque when it is only a few feet away. While I agreed with much of the political proselytising, which was well-worded, it felt just like that – preaching, rather than actual dialogue. In terms of direction I found some of the choices, like the swear jar and the violence, complicated rather than corralled the play’s elements. The acting itself was fine, especially given the difficult job of portraying the physical elements in an intimate venue.

To answer my original question, while Removed and Destroyed makes some valid points, and was entertaining enough, it does not offer enough fresh insight to justify going over these subjects again.

Words: Andrew Anderson