– Band On The Wall, Manchester –

Walking around Band On The Wall, it’s not difficult to see where the multi-million pound investment money has gone. Visitors are treated to plush white carpets and decorative plasterwork that make the entire venue feel like a VIP section. If you squint, the sound desk (in front of the bar) looks like a night time aerial view of Manhattan. The support DJ pumps out some heavy reggae that tests the bass capacity to its limit, which produces a sharp, deep and crisp sound that lives up to the expectation set by the décor.

The stage contains 3 screens behind drum kit, guitars, and a table covered in electronical paraphernalia, whose wires cascade to the floor and a selection of foot switches. Denis Jones, the controller, arrives onstage sporting his distinctive folk beard.

He starts his set by blowing short bursts of air into one of two microphones and then loops the deep sound to create a beat. He adds a vocal clicking noise before picking up his semi acoustic guitar and layering some chords. The orchestration builds as he works hard to simultaneously create new sounds and adjust their levels to balance the mix. With the beat box rhythm and guitar parts running smoothly on their own, he is left free to sing in a bright and northern accented voice, reminiscent of a bluesy Guy Garvey.

His second tune is from the 2007 Humble Soul debut album ‘Humdrum Virtue’. ‘Four Water’ is played with just his guitar this time, sounding purely folk and blues. Two songs into the gig and my head is already juggling dozens of possible influences. Is this folktronica? Electrolk? It’s a record shops nightmare, they may as well stock his CD under every classification. One thing’s for sure, it is incredible. Witnessing the music’s construction is intriguing and entertaining in itself.

There’s a red spotlight on Denis and his gear, which make him stand out from the yellow, blue and green images on the screens behind him. Small cameras dotted about the stage feed the backdrop, as well as coloured footage of ball bearings bouncing on a speaker. The efforts that have been made on the visuals are like those you’d expect to see at a stadium gig.

Three extra band members take to the stage for the third tune, including Luke Flowers (Cinematic Orchestra) on the drums. Luke’s jazz background makes him a perfect choice when it comes to dealing with Denis’s ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ live experiment.

After a brief break, due to the headline act being a smoker, the second set builds in momentum and volume with pounding, grinding beats and raucous noise coming from all of the previously mentioned methods. Denis creates a beat using feedback from his guitar jack plug and his thumb, and screams into the microphone as the band follow suit and get the dance floor jumping. I heard of a new classified emotion called ‘elevation’ on the radio this morning, I guess this must be it.

The eagerly anticipated second album will be released within the next couple of months. I’m not the kind of person to over use superlatives. This man is a genius.

Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.