‘Hello Manchester, we’re Blossoms from Stockport.’

A swelling of lights, then smoke fills the bosom of The Albert Hall. From the balcony, straps that hold the bulge of the room, I scream back ‘SK2’.  This is postcode code.  We can locate Blossoms more precisely than Stockport.  These blossoms sprouted from the cracks in the suburb that is SK2.  Davenport and Cale Green.  I know that because that’s my manor. They are named after my local, The  Blossoms.

Their rise from SK2 to M1 has been both rapid and exhilarating.  My guitar teacher knew of them a year back as they formed from the ashes of three local bands.  Since then they have sold out The Ritz, toured with The Inspiral Carpets and knocked Adele off the top of the iTunes chart. They don’t have an album out but this is already the real deal.  Something special.  I haven’t seen a crowd like this one in a long long time – hungry, happy, harmonious.  True energy.  The energy that bursts from that heady cocktail of music from the stage, and love coming back from the floor.  The band launch into ‘Across The Moor’ and the room sways like a football terrace rather than a Victorian dancefloor: tops off, men on one another’s shoulders, moving as though one beast with a thousand legs.

Albert Hall is battered, frayed and gorgeous – like someone has taken the Royal version and… distressed it a little.  The vaulted ceiling seems flimsy, insubstantial when set against the music and the atmosphere attempting to tear it clean off.  It’s completely sold out.   The band are lithe and youthful.   Lead singer Tom Ogden has somehow shoehorned his bone skinny legs into impossibly tight trousers.  Despite the circulatory restriction he seems at ease whether behind an electric or acoustic, or naked to the crowd.  His vocals are rich and rounded, not squeezed falsetto.   The rest of the band are beat tidy, a mix of frayed indie chords over which soars the clean keyboard stabs that elevate the music into something that also has echoes of 80s pop and rock, the synths on ‘At Most A Kiss anthemic indie pop.

Blossoms had been gigging with Warrington based band Viola Beach, the band that tragically died in Sweden.  Blossoms have left their name on the playlist, and play out a live gig through the speakers for their set.  Apparently family members of Viola Beach are in the crowd.  Strange to hear a crowd applaud a song emanating from an empty stage, lights sweeping over tragic absence; and to hear the voice of lead singer Kris Leonard say ‘thanks’ from beyond the grave. Blossoms also dedicate their most complete song yet, ‘Charlemagne’, to Viola Beach, another song held together by the keyboard riff, picked up in the vocal melody. For the umpteenth time tonight the place erupts again: more lager spun through the air, more lads crowd surfing on bodies and bonhomie.  It’s smoky, rowdy, vibey.  Still no album and yet Tom can leave the crowd to pick up the melody and return it like a football chant, reminiscent of Oasis a their new lad best.  There is magic in the room.  When Tom steps to the front and the crowd surge as though a goal has been scored.

Something of a duff note rings out when Tom sits at a piano, a little like Chris Martin, perhaps because the track is a maudlin affair called ‘Misery’. The song he sings kind of meanders into nowhere until he turns it into Bluebird’s ‘You’re Gorgeous’, which then morphs into Noel Gallagher’s ‘Half A World Away’. The crowd join in again, fill in the blanks, tick the boxes.  Another question mark hangs over not the infamous ‘tricky second album’ but the as yet invisible first. Will Blossoms hold it together over 8-10 tracks?  Not the complete deal then, but we’re in the 90% bracket, for sure.

At least from where I’m sat: on the balcony with the eldest lad in my Stockport family.  It’s his 15th birthday and it’s our first gig together.  He seems suddenly proud of his roots, at what remains possible in our southern corner of this urban sprawl.  There are no encores.  At the gig’s end Tom leaves the crowd with the start of a lyric and lets them finish it off, as an amp hums.  Blue smoke snakes around the room.  Maybe it’s for City, in the League Cup final the very next day.  Maybe it’s the blue of Stockport County.  Maybe.

But Spring is nearly upon us, for sure.  And Blossoms have already bloomed.

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Simon is a writer, broadcaster and countercultural investigator. Over the last 15 years he has written for everyone from The Guardian to Loaded magazine, presented television for Rapture TV and hosted radio programs for the likes of Galaxy. He has also found time to earn a Masters Degree in Novel Writing and write three books (a collection of journalism, a guidebook to Ibiza and one on financial planning for young people – the most varied publishing career it’s possible to have) and establish and run a PR company, Pad Communications, looking after a range of leisure and lifestyle clients.He currently splits his time between researching his PhD at Leeds University, looking into various countercultural movements; consulting freelance for PR clients; writing for the likes of Marie Claire in Australia, The Big Issue and the Manchester Evening News, where he reviews concerts, theatre and is their Pub & Bar Editor. He is also broadcaster, appearing regularly on Tony Livesey’s late night 5Live show for the BBC, and also for BBC Radio Manchester Gourmet Night food and drink show.Simon’s main focus has been music and travel. His career has included editing Ministry of Sound’s magazine in Ibiza for two summers and also writing two long-running columns for DJmagazine – ”Around The World in 80 Clubs” (which took him everywhere from Beijing to Brazil, Moscow to Marrakech) and “Dispatches From The Wrong Side”. A collection of the latter was published in the UK and US as the book Discombobulated, including tales as varied as gatecrashing Kylie Minogue’s birthday party, getting deported from Russia, having a gun held to his head by celebrity gangster Dave Courtney and going raving in Ibiza with Judith Chalmers. He has recently written for the likes of Red magazine, Hotline, Clash, Tilllate, Shortlist and the Manchester Evening News. Pad Communications has recently consulted for clients as varied as Manchester nightclubs and New Zealand toy companies.On a personal note, Simon is a Londoner who left the capital at the age of 18 and never looked back. He sees himself as a citizen of the global dancefloor having lived in Sydney, Los Angeles, Ibiza and Amsterdam. However his life is now rather more sedentary. After all his adventures he bumped into and subsequently married his highschool sweetheart from their North London Grammar. They now live in Stockport with their four children and four chickens, trying to live the good life. Simon recently turned 40 and is steadfastly refusing to have a midlife crisis – as in, growing a ponytail and buying a shiny red sports car.OK, maybe he’ll buy the sports car…