524876_364907703557172_827867501_n– NIGHT & DAY CAFE, MANCHESTER –

My arrival at Night and Day cafe on a rainy Thursday night coincides with that of a group of lads, all clearly in good spirits, bearing guitars & snare drums wrapped in plastic bags to keep out of the rain.  Their good mood and familiar greetings to friends and other bands somehow sets the scene for the evening to come, which has the feel of a coming together of a like-minded community.

The evening opens with Fruit Tones who are by all accounts the Mancunian surf-slacker supergroup, comprised of various members of The Bell Peppers, Peace Signs and Daily Life.   Despite Manchester’s lack of surf, they do a great job of generating a “classic” sound that still seems fresh, with shared vocal duties, layers of reverb, upbeat yet primal guitar lines, and a fantastic range of dynamic and tempo.  I’m reminded in some ways of the Lime Spiders or Scientists, but with a healthy dose of Creedance Clearwater thrown in for good measure: If John Fogerty had been born in Levensulme he might have sounded like this.  Full of character, good musicianship and a great attitude – a fantastic start to the evening.
MiSTOA POLTSA come on stage carrying a great selection of guitars – which apparently leaves them unable to afford a haircut – and there’s a tangent shift to another (good) place.  Intensity and volume seem to be the main agenda (I’m told afterwards they have been deemed by the noise police as being too loud to play the Northern Quarter), and while the first song concludes with some odd looks between the band – as if glad to have carried it off – they launch into the rest of the set with focus, energy and abandon.  The sound is the type that initially seems one dimensional and basic (my friend Paul describing them as being “a bit red meat and mountain tools”), but the guitar lines that can be heard show some depth and complexity, and some moments – in particular from the drummer who plays (and looks!) brilliantly on the edge – take them beyond the psychpunk stereotype which was my first impression.  Hindsight will show them to be the most distinct sounding band of the night.
Those Rotten Thieves I discover are another Manchester band, but they immediately seem out of place compared with1458539_538287312929157_1964789059_n the other bands on show tonight.  They are clearly experienced and talented musicians and are comfortable on stage, with the singer/guitarist offering up some entertaining Marty McFly style duckwalks and a nice one-liner about “the guy upstairs” sabotaging their amps.  I also find myself warming to them as they encourage the crowd to move forward, if only to allow more room for the drinkers at the bar.  The music is unashamedly blues-rock which in itself this is no bad thing, and they create a great sound.  However, it is always going to be hard to bring anything new to this style of music, and I find myself thinking midway through their short set that they do not offer anything “different”, unlike the other bands tonight.  However one tune towards the end of the short set (Psycho?) suggests to me their sound and song-writing could develop into more interesting places in the future – one to watch I think.
The main band of the night are Sex Hands.  My limited knowledge of them – provided by my friend Louise who appears to be the official Sex Hands überfan and stalker – is that they don’t take themselves too seriously as a band, and yet can still generate low-fi scratchy classics.  Certainly a listen to Season 1 shows they can write a great tune.  However tonight I’m frustrated. The melodies are there but with the live set-up of 3 guitars there doesn’t seem to enough space for the music.  They can clearly play and the guitar lines look like they are varied, but the sound that is coming out is muddy and confused, and the songs just seem to drift from one to another, only being differentiated by the swapping of vocal duties.  They might play themselves down as a novelty band, and there’s some great bandy-legged shapes being thrown and it’s entertaining enough, but tonight I’m left feeling a little disappointed, as I really want to like them for what I think they stand for.   Post gig however I’m quickly and loudly corrected on my opinions by Louise, before she runs off to accost the band and demand merchandise.   I decide if they can generate so much passion I should see them again.  Jurys’s out for now.
But overall, on a wet Thursday night in Manchester, Night & Day deliver four such diverse yet complementary bands for less than a fiver – What’s not to like?

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