The Probes


It’s the first gig after the Christmas break and it’s great to be back in Manchester for an evening of live music. Tonight’s entertainers are Liverpool band The Probes, made up of Jack Greene (vocals, guitar), Ray Badger (guitar), Justin Forman (bass) and Elliot Ferguson (drums).

Arriving at Oldham Street’s Night and Day Cafe, it’s a welcome haven from the bitter northern chill that the current winter has brought. Luckily, once the Tuborg has been poured, an energetic opening performance from singer-songwriter Mark Pratt warms my insides in a way equivalent to necking a glass of whiskey and perching yourself down next to a roaring fire. At this stage most of the pundits are chatting away by the bar or sat in the dingy shadows this small venue provides.

After a 10 minute interval however, next act Pleasures certainly get a few more people on their feet with their fast-paced, punk-flavoured indie rock. Again, the energy is fantastic and the four piece really give it the bifters which is a welcome sight. I can certainly see this band doing well in the future, especially on the festival circuit and hope to see them on summer billings around the country sooner rather than later. Then again, even if it takes them a few years to reach that level, their sound will hopefully be developed enough to carve out their own path in the UK scene, rather than become another mediocre group for the landfill site.

Next band on – another four piece called Babylon – are also solid despite their sound lacking in originality. Surprisingly they seem to garner the largest audience so far but looking back, after their Arctic Monkeys inspired set was over, those very same people all left including the band themselves which, frankly, is a bit fucking rude. Sure, if you had to go that’s fine and I could be completely wrong about them, however when the other acts stay and watch and try to take an active interest in your music, you should return the favour if possible.

That’s certainly what the lads from Pleasures do when The Probes finally take to the stage, their set comprising old tracks and new, making sure the audience get a nice range of material from their psych-inspired repertoire. The Liverpool act, who have supported Echo & The Bunnymen and are set to play with singer songwriter Kelly Stoltz very soon, have a sound which immediately makes me think of home. The shimmering guitar reminiscent of that 80s post-punk explosion alongside that pulsating, tight as fuck rhythm section, is definitely the biggest sound of the night. There just seems to be so much space and scale in the music that it transports you to scenery involving glaciers, deep chasms of echo and places were birds soar and screech, rather than a small Manchester bar who specialise in four quid pints. You may think that’s a bit hyperbolic but I was really impressed with the musicianship and originality. Greene’s vocal performance in particular is a plus as his enthusiasm for the words, despite the dwindling crowd, really gives the impression that even if only one person was watching, they’d give it 110%.

Even when shit goes slightly awry, such as guitarist Ray Badger losing his glasses midway through a song, the lads carry on with the same vigour and professionalism they started with. And because they’re scousers, who as you already know are all funny as fuck (and better at footy), Greene’s dismay at someone shouting “Virgil Van Dijk!” as they exit the bogs is a real tummy tickler, and it’s the little things like that which add to their feel good performance.

Another highlight is in between songs Greene saying to Badger, “you’re outta tune you lad”, and it’s those on stage interactions which say to me that they don’t take themselves so seriously that the music loses its natural flair. Their talent and ability can be clearly seen in the songs themselves, and not through band image or gimmickry.

It is a thoroughly enjoyable set and with the mood I am in at the time, due to the quick consumption of five or six pints and the intention to get leathered and loaded, I could have watched them play for another hour easily. Sadly, it isn’t to be and after a rather chaotic yet glorious crescendo, the lads fuck off back to Liverpool, definitely leaving a permanent dent on the N&D stage.

Their 2016 release Autonomy is available to stream on SoundCloud and I highly recommend you see this band if you get the chance.

The Probes: Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter

Liverpool born music writer with passion for punk and Everton FC