Holiday Ghosts


I was slightly disparaging about aspects of YES on account of my visit to it on its opening weekend but it’s clear that the rest of Manchester stand in firm disagreement. Walking in to the sound of Joy Division this Saturday night it’s clear that it has managed to sustain the buzz it had created on its opening weekend when I penned my initial thoughts. The bar is still heavily populated and we quickly escape the more aurally mellow environment of the basement to grab a spot to see tonight’s action. If the popularity of YES this evening hadn’t already prompted me to reconsider my initial thoughts, this underground branch of the venue certainly would have. The stage is much more visible to the audience and there are even benches built into the side for a quick sit down if all the standing up gets too fatiguing. As much as I still have my reservations at least I know now that there is always a bench in the basement waiting for me, a place to sit down and commune with my pint rather than with people discussing whether you’d starve to death rather than eat only celery or whatever other gems of pub conversation have been selected for debate that evening.

A depleted Fruit Tones line up tonight (their bassist has contracted bronchitis on holiday) doesn’t detract from their bouncy and irreverent rock & roll which is always a joy to hear live. Fruit Tones haven’t released anything for a while since their 2017 EP Ripe & Ready but there seem to be some new songs scattered around tonight’s set list. It is announced toward the close that these have been taken from a forthcoming debut album to be released in “the next couple of months.” I always feel privileged to catch a band live who are about to release a debut album as the gig transforms into a kind of preview night, an access to something as yet unheard by the majority of other listeners. With the music market having become a saturated and competitive slog as a by-product of easier and instantaneous access to it, it’s greatly encouraging that bands are continuing to persevere with recording music in the traditional physical album format and teasing it through their live shows. This keeps these traditional mediums fresh and will hopefully mean the live music experience is one we will continue to be have for a long time. With an album also forthcoming from Mush this year, 2019 looks to have a few debut gems waiting in its locker.

Holiday Ghosts are also embarking on a time worn tradition of a live tour to promote an album, this one titled West Bay Playroom, which is a blend of various elements of blues, country, surf rock and various other well-established genres. Just as tonight’s acts are freshening up moulds of musical distribution they are doing equally well pursuing the same task within their music itself. It would perhaps seem odd that bands continue to persevere with the tropes of rock & roll in an era of music where experimentation and originality are highly revered qualities but sometimes a reworking of established modes is what is called for. Holiday Ghosts’ music feels comforting for this reason, welcoming the audience to delight in its simplicity of tone.

The message from the band’s body language is still as positive as the last time I saw them as this is an outfit who visibly enjoy live performance and allow their shows and the audience to be carried along by this. It is easy to feel resistant to this notion of unadulterated pleasure in music, as is the case in any artform, as it can feel like an affront to serious critical contemplation. Holiday Ghosts never really allow these bad feelings to linger by delivering consistently well-structured and performed tracks. Lead singer Sam Stacpoole clearly has an ear for melody in the way that somebody like Tim Wheeler of Ash has the consistent ability to know which chords follow which and in exactly what order. Songs like ‘Take Heed’ and ‘Slipstream’, both sung by acoustic axeman Charlie Fairbairnon, are based around what on paper are relatively simple chord progressions but what stems from this is far greater than the sum of its parts. The song ‘Thinking of You’ also has a fantastic cheeky wink toward ‘Bohemian Like You’ in its bass line which further situates the band in music’s overall historical trajectory. These songs really draw in the listener and immerse them in their sonic space, a quality which many bands I have heard working within these genre parameters simply don’t have. Holiday Ghosts have placed themselves into the niche of modern retellings of classic musical stories and I hope they continue to tell these tales long into the future.

Holiday Ghosts: Bandcamp | Facebook 

Matthew Bellingham

As an English Literature student it seemed almost a prerequisite that I should pursue some form of writing, so apologies for any undergraduate pretentiousness that is detected. I try to catch concerts in both my hometown of Manchester and my adopted University hometown of Sheffield. I started regularly attending gigs as recently as 2015, and since then have continued to turn up as frequently as possible. Personal highlights include Horsebeach's debut Manchester show and Eagulls' gig at the Broomhall Centre in Sheffield.