Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Songs for Walter and Playacting @ Yes 28.9.18

Yes is an old prog rock band. Now it’s also a tediously trendy new venue in Manchester. Maybe the name was chosen with the same total lack of originality with which they coined the name “Now Wave” which had already much more appropriately been used by Skin Graft records for music on their label informed by no wave and punk rock. This is of course a case of the pot calling the kettle black as back in the nineties I stole fanzine names off Nomeansno (“Kill Everyone Now!”) and Brainiac (“Cracked Machine”) and this blog’s name is stolen from a Wire lyric (“99.9”). I’ve never found out if Manchester promoters Now Wave have even heard of Skin Graft and their previous use of the same phrase, although judging by the mostly rather bland artists they put on, I’d guess Skin Graft was not an influence. The bevvy of bouncers on the door were very friendly but I guess the students who dig mediocre fluff music might get rowdier than hardcore punks these days as there were far more of them than you’d get at venues where violent underground music gets played. The fixtures and fittings (funded by some Camden company I was told) looked quite fancy, so employing a small squad to keep order is probably quite sensible. On the ground floor the atmosphere was horrible. Young DJs played crap music VERY LOUD: so loud everyone had to shout to make conversation, leading to total bedlam. A few people found it a bit stressful, however there was no relief in the basement where the lighting was so blindingly fierce before the bands played that someone remarked that he felt like he was being interrogated by the Stasi! Fleeing back upstairs we discovered that the only cider available was Symonds carcinogenic toxic artificial sweetener fizzbomb hangover flavour, or two varieties of bottled alcopops that are too sugary to get you drunk (Old Mout and Rekorderlig). Even worse than that, they sell pizza that some fool has decided to name “Pepperoni Playboy.” What on Earth were they thinking when they came up with that name? Let’s commemorate dead sexist pigs? I just hope that some clueless advertising agency wasn’t paid to come up with that stupid name. Downstairs after a more or less standard small gig delay of about twenty minutes trio Playacting played some slightly fey and fussy but technically interesting and emotive music that people like to refer to as “math rock” because they aren’t just banging out barre chords in 4/4 time. Their best song started very quietly, and built to a much louder climax, which was fortunate as the room was filling up with people who mostly seemed to be intent on carrying on shouting at each other whilst the bands played. Whilst this might seem socially acceptable whilst a “support band” is playing, it’s the height of bad manners to do keep on SHOUTING at your friends for the whole gig. If you want to shout, do it between songs. The noise levels were so high as Songs for Walter played that I almost had to put my head in the PA!  The day before I’d seen singer-songwriter-guitarist Laurie Hulme warm up with a solo performance at the Manchester Food Festival on Albert Square. He must have got some good practise in for playing whilst people chat as he didn’t seem at all bothered by the relentless chunder. He’d played a cover of “Total Trash” by Sonic Youth in the big marquee on Albert Square, and dedicated it to me which was nice. There were no Sonic Youth songs tonight, just his new album played in running order by a four piece band which latterly expanded to five. Long time Songs for Walter collaborator Tekla sang backing vocals and played tambourine. Joel Nicholson of Easter and Chew Magna played another guitar and Liam Stewart of NASDAQ, Lonelady and Elle Mary and the Bad Men drummed. At one point Liam remarked that playing drums in Songs for Walter was a completely different skill to what he was used to, as the songs were all so rhythmically simple. Playing the album song by song meant Laurie had to switch guitars continuously but this didn’t lead to any noticeable delay. I got another dedication with “Alien” which also happens to be the film I’ve watched more times than any other! I don’t think the song has anything to do with the film. Laurie introduced “I Don’t Know Who You Are” with an amusing story about events that inspired the song. He’d locked his car keys in the trunk, his phone had died and he’d run out of money. To get help he had to knock on doors at random and hope that someone would let him sleep on their couch. A friendly Spanish guy let him do just that but bizarrely only listened to one song all night, “Losing My Religion” by REM. Things could have been much worse. What if the Spanish guy’s favourite song had been “I Wanna Be Adored” by the Stone Roses? I think I’d have chosen hypothermia!

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