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Photo by Nigel Lupton

– KRAAK GALLERY, MANCHESTER –

Hidden away almost as though it’s meant to be a secret, Kraak Gallery is a strange little venue, but it has a level of charm. The bill for this evening has 5 acts, unfortunately my arrival is delayed and I only catch the last three of these.

The first of the three is Stephen Hudson & The Fiat Pandas. Hailing from Lancaster they produce an enjoyable set. In amongst the guitar, bass, drums and occasional keyboard they use a violin that accentuates the sound well. Hudson’s vocals are confident throughout, my only minor criticism is a slight lack of conviction in his voice during the noisier moments.

Second from top is The Devil In My Bones. They lull us all into a false sense of security with their relatively quiet two guitar and vocal opening track. For the second song a drummer and bassist join the stage, they immediately ratchet up the tempo and volume level and I like what I hear. The set contains a few more of these shifts in volume and the gritty vocals of Leonard Hammersley work well throughout. The shift in volumes adds a good contrast to the performance and it holds my attention from start to finish.

So on to our headline performers Gerard & The Watchmen. Consisting of Dave Gerard, drummer Tobias Humble and two singer-songwriters in their own right Sophie Jones and Alex Bayly there is a lot of talent on show. After setting up their stage they break into ‘In The Summer’ without so much as a drinks break. An immediate hush comes over the room as everyone turns their attention to the stage.

Introducing the second song of the set ‘Hesitate’, Gerard announces “I’m losing my voice already”. Maybe this is the reason he delegates the next track to Rosie Jones. She brings her 3/4 size acoustic guitar centre stage to take over the lead and play a song written only last week for the first time. It goes down well and I’m impressed enough to be watching out for a chance to see her touring as part of her duo Worry Dolls.

Returning to lead vocals, Gerard now sits at a small electric piano and after confessing “I know I look like a child” behind the piano, he plays ‘Final Waltz’. Title track of the debut album Wooden Castles follows, Gerard back with a guitar in his hand.

Alex Bayly takes over lead for the next song, with Gerard leaving the stage. ‘Quietly On’ is the song Bayly has chosen to perform, it’s more upbeat than the other tracks in this set and it works well. Another performance that will have me seeking out more from the man behind it.

It’s getting late into the night and unfortunately Gerard’s return to the stage does not command the same hush as the opening song. There is a noticeable chatter now and it does detract a bit from the closing two songs of the night. Nonetheless I’ve enjoyed the performance, even if it was brief.

The whole evening has been enjoyable, it’s a shame I missed the first two performances, judging by the quality of the closing three I’m sure they’d have been entertaining. It isn’t often I see 3 bands and end up with 5 acts to look out for in future, but I will be keeping an eye open for Stephen Hudson & The Fiat Pandas, The Devil In My Bones, Alex Bayly, Worry Dolls and Gerard & The Watchmen on gig listings again soon.

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Adam Smith

There is nothing I'd rather be doing with my evenings than watching excellently crafted live music. In fact, there isn't much I'd rather be doing than watching half-decent live music. Having too often seen excellent bands fail to garner the attention I believe they deserve, I'm here to spread the good word of the under-appreciated musical performer. I encourage everyone who is reading this to do the same.