For the celebration of International Women’s Day, Gorilla and The Deaf Institute have come together for SHE PWR, an event to celebrate women artists of every kind: visual arts, spoken word and music. The Deaf Institute welcomes four bands/artists on stage tonight: ILL, WITCH FEVER, Current Mood Girl (who I missed, unfortunately) and Julia Bardo. This line-up really covers it all from noisy post-punk to soft 60’s inspired pop.

Julia Bardo, one fourth of post-punk Working Men’s Club, is the second act, after Current Mood Girl. Her music is something between indie, 60’s, and folky pop – or as she describes it, “songs for modern cowboys”. It’s just her and her guitar with a young man who’s supporting her on a second guitar. Her soothing, stoner-pop songs harmonise perfectly with her calm voice. They sound overall clear, sometimes somewhat distorted, which creates a warm and summery atmosphere. Bardo seems just as relaxed as her music is, she’s joyful and is talking and joking between the songs. Her support guitarist seems a bit shyer and just fully concentrated on both her and his guitar. As they progress, the songs become more melancholic, just as her voice becomes bolder and deeper, giving a stronger lo-fi indie pop feeling now. Her amazing voice and the perfectly harmonic guitar rhythms make her performance a very stunning one.

Now, seeing WITCH FEVER after Julia Bardo is almost like a shock: in many ways they’re the exact opposite. Just before they are about to get on stage, the room fills rapidly – no wonder, as they are a really good and apparently popular band. Although the Manchester based all-girl punk four piece has a problem with one of their amps, they start their show with an incredible energy and impress even before the first song is finished. Even the interlude of just bass and drums we hear while they fix the amp sounds amazing and keeps everyone in the mood.

They mix really raw punk with slightly more melodic bridges (when Dave Haslam described them as a mashup of The Slits and Black Sabbath, he was right). Singer Amy Walpole’s rather high voice suits well with bassist and back-up singer Alex Thompson’s dark voice, making their vocals sound perfectly balanced. While their songs involve a lot of angry shouting, the way Amy is talking to the crowd can only be described as warm and kind. In fact, making the crowd part of the gig and giving them a bit more than ‘just’ playing on stage is a big part of their show: Walpole gets off stage several times – to walk to the other end of the room and sing there for a bit, to give a performance on the bar (the security guards were not as excited about this as everybody else), or to just perform while standing in front of the stage. Even Thompson gets down to the crowd with her bass at some point – the energy this band has is impressive. Honestly, they’re all so dynamic and fierce, it’s hard to leave anyone in the audience unimpressed by this. Seeing this band is definitely a highlight and I can’t wait to see them again.

ILL are the ones to end this evening of live music. The experimental noise/post-punk four-piece released their well-reviewed debut album We Are ILL last year, and while I can see where the good reviews come from, their performance is somewhat… unexpected. I can’t fully tell if it’s intentional, or because they didn’t have a soundcheck, but their songs sound way noisier than the studio versions and are less coordinated tonight. While the instruments actually sound well on their own, they don’t really seem to fit together, it’s a bit as if each of them is just doing their own thing without any regard to the others. This is especially irritating when it comes to the vocals which don’t really fit together. To be fair, though, the rest of the audience is really into it and enthusiastically dancing for most of the set.

Also, the show is very lively and full of commitment: Harri Shanahan (keyboard and vocals) and Whitney Bluzma (bass and vocals) bring on very expressive performances. While Blumza is just full of energy and dancing around a lot, Shanahan is raging and shouting angrily into the mic, which is exciting, but also slightly disconcerting. A personal highlight is ‘Kremlin’, a song that mixes Russia critique with really dancy rhythms. Overall, I expected to enjoy it more, but judging from the crowd they got exactly what they wanted – an angry and noisy show.

ILL: Official | Facebook | Twitter

Dahlia Owusu

My decision to leave Germany and move to Manchester was most definitely influenced by my love for music and going to gigs. I came here in 2018 and am now studying English and Journalism at Manchester Met. When I’m not at a gig, you’ll usually find me reading or in a café.