Free Vibes is a (who would have guessed!) free-entry event at Band On The Wall that seeks to introduce new and emerging artists a few times every month. For this week’s edition, Band On The Wall teamed up with Shell Zenner from Amazing Radio to bring Sugar, Spengler, Haha Sick, and Cynthia’s Periscope on stage – four different artists with four very different sounds.

It is a shame that only a few people make it down to Free Vibes tonight, because the shows are so good that I wish more people were here to enjoy them (really, catch any of them live if you have the chance!)

The first act is Cynthia’s Periscope, an experimental synth-pop artist from Manchester. It consists of just Paul Morrice, his synth, his laptop, and different props used as instruments – such as a small radiator. The combination of his voice (which reminds me of Ian Curtis’) and the synth gives his songs a post-punky feeling. His expressive vocals match perfectly with his avant-garde electro-pop sound.

It’s not only his sound that’s experimental though – his performance is quite something: during the last few songs, he jumps down the stage several times and dances around the audience while drumming on different kinds of drums. Or, he just (softly) smashes his head on the synth and uses that sound for an instrumental interlude – not something you see at every gig! Although some songs seem to drag on a bit, it as an overall very interesting and unique show.

Haha Sick

Haha Sick, a duo which previously described their music as ‘stoner-pop’ but also as ‘shit punk’, are next on. Judging by their show, genuine (if a bit folky) punk seems to be the most fitting term here. The two young lads, of which one is on the drums and the other on a classical guitar, give a really energetic and rough, but also slightly playful performance. While the guitarist is fully in his element, headbanging and dancing when he’s not shouting into the mic, the drummer seems to be concerned about the fast tempo the guitarist has fallen into and starts throwing his cap and shoes to catch his attention (it works, the next songs are not as rushed).

Two highlights of their performance are a less punky song dedicated to ‘Jacky Boy’, who’s also in the audience, and a song with lyrics taken from a poem the singer randomly found. Although the drummer seems a bit nervous at times, the overall enthusiasm and fun they both have goes over to the audience and make it a really enjoyable gig.

Spengler bring a whole other vibe on stage now. They start their set with a rather lo-fi instrumental jazzy song which is quite the opposite of Haha Sick. The four guys have a soft and somewhat dreamy lounge-pop sound, in which not only the audience (which is getting larger at this point) but also they themselves seem to be caught up. They appear a little shy and to be playing for themselves rather than the audience; only a few glances meet the crowd. They only speak a few words to the crowd and even only whispered “We are Spengler”. Their songs fade into one another, instead of leaving pauses for applause. Their partly melancholic and soothing songs create a very intimate atmosphere and, probably because of that, an outstanding show.

The last ones on stage are SUGAR: a synth-pop five piece with alt rock influences. The audience is even larger now and the upbeat songs put everyone in a dancy mood. Especially the performance of their song ‘I Never Said’ (2017) is a pleasant surprise: the recording of the single is an electronic song, but with the extra guitar and the full drum-kit that’s part of the band now, it sounds a bit like an indie-rock song. Mathew Petit, singer and guitarist, is definitely made for the stage and very drawn to the crowd. For the songs he’s not playing the guitar in he comes down to the audience and gives very expressive performances. SUGAR definitely has a talent for combining serious lyrics about mental health with upbeat music and they are enjoying themselves on stage just as much as the dancing crowd is (Haha Sick’s singer seems to have the best time dancing as well). They end the gig with taking a photo of the crowd, which quickly gathers around Petit’s mother who’s been supporting him all evening long – a cute ending to a passionate and exuberant show.

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.