[sic] Magazine

Friends Of Manchester Festival – 29th January 2011

Another year, another cold January day and again [sic] cannot resist the draw of the now third-annual Friends Of Manchester festival. With six stages spread across two neighbouring venues and the potential to catch some of the 50+ bands/artists on display, it’s difficult to say no to this showcase of the Manchester catchment area’s current, largely unsigned crop.

We warm into proceedings at the For Folk’s Sake stage in the company of Songs For Walter , a deconstructed set-up that features members of Beat The Radar , who, themselves, play further up the billing. The re-jigged three-piece offer minimal percussion and female backing vocals to an otherwise fairly straightforward, yet entirely pleasant, take on the one-man-and-his-guitar sound. They’re a couple of notches less twee than, say, Slow Club , but roughly in the same ballpark – enough so to please comparison hounds anyway.

Next, pint in hand, [sic] tackles Mark Nicholls , who, somewhat falsely, also plays an acoustic stage. And the former Keith guitarist immediately proves that a band is unnecessary, jamming with keyboard programmes and his spuriously electric guitar. Nicholls’s set however is a wildly varied, polished one that ranges from clappy new-wavers to 60s-influenced, Rolling Stones -like R&B, all the way to Prince -like soul. If a quality-laden jukebox suddenly gained fledgling AI technology, as well as the desire to dance, it may just sound like this.

Weird Era

Literally turning round to see King Tree And The Roots , the band’s familiar beefy bellow greets us. Just as the band were in support of The Besnard Lakes some months prior, their raucous blues-rock passes the time, if not enough muster to garner more column inches here.

Now upstairs, and improbably young looking it must be said, The Aftershock have brought all their fresh-faced mates with them for their main-stage outing, and, you know what, the kids are alright. With an iconic looking line-up bolstered by a statuesque girl guitarist, they mine a credible slacker / lo-fi / college rock direction, which, if not original, does enough to suggest at an appreciation of Pavement and Sonic Youth , which, let’s face it, is rarely a bad thing.

Blowing away any nostalgia carried over from The Aftershock performance, Weird Era next rip it up with their brand of sludgy punk-rock that courses from the slacker-indebted to the wholly aggressive. With speaker-blown static, heavy reverb and walls of feedback, they ring in the ears for the rest of the day – a good ploy to ensure you’re memorable – even better when you’ve the cuts to back it up, which Weird Era are close to achieving on this showing.

And then, just when we thought déjà vu was upon us with the Weird Era frontman now honing his bass skills in Milk Maid (who themselves feature former Nine Black Alps bassist Martin Cohen ), the lactose-loving band break into a more melodic, fog-free variant of a similar sound, albeit one more song-driven rather than by pure noise.

Milk Maid

Sandwiched between the two are Patterns , and they let roll their swimmy take on post-shoegaze, punctuating their sound with sharp snares, purposeful bass and atypical-for-the-genre vocals that chirrup out of their chilled waves (not chillwave (not quite)) freshly.

After refreshment and replenishment, and at a lull in timetabling, [sic] then plumps to see the hitherto-unknown-to-us Janice Graham Band , who, it quickly becomes clear, are a highly cocksure bunch with a set of thuggish ska and skiffle in tow. Set apart by near-Mariachi brass backing and breaks to dancefloor dub, the band are, to their credit, slying affecting, hugely confident, and capable of going far – they’re just sadly not to our taste.

Jo Rose

More pleasing to us is Jo Rose (formerly of should-have-gone-further outfit Fear Of Music ). Essentially a one man band, his gentle tracks recall the cult lyricism of Ryan Adams , all be them a little lost on the rowdy Bar Stage. Next, on the same stage, are Air Cav , who, despite an endorsement from [sic]’s own Editor prior to the festival, today ring in a mid-paced set of pedestrian indie-rock that fails to excite despite their fiddler’s best efforts.

Air Cav

With the Main Stage now running behind, we’re forced to abandon our evening plans to see Wild Palms and instead plump for scene regulars Brown Brogues on the second stage. A wise choice it turns out, as their two-man, sludgy blues-punk riot is alive with jitters, squawks and solid rhythms. With main draw Jim Noir not particularly being to this reviewer’s fancy, the Wigan boys provide highly satisfactory, highly noisy closure to the day, just as The Witches did so blazingly last year.

Brown Brogues

We call it a night here leaving the late-night revellers to do their thing, soaking up the tale-enders in the company of friends, and accordance with the day, Friends. Hell, with the Weird Era / Milk Maid love-in, we’ve made a few new ones of our own.

Listen to Songs For Walter

Listen to Mark Nicholls

Listen to King Tree And The Roots

Listen to The Aftershock

Listen to Weird Era

Listen to Patterns

Listen to Milk Maid

Listen to Janice Graham Band

Listen to Jo Rose

Listen to Air Cav

Listen to Brown Brogues