Sounds From The Other City 2016

Sounds From The Other City 2016


Sounds From The Other City (SFTOC) is in it’s twelfth glorious year now. Every May bank holiday, Chapel Street and the surrounding area is turned into a wonder of new music and arts performances, with everyone from the pubs and local community centres to the Cathedral (for the first time this year) getting involved, putting on a stellar line up of new bands and artists, many of whom you will never have heard of, but some of whom you won’t forget. It’s Salford’s showcase of the best new music around, and what a showcase it is.

Despite the inclement weather (it’s May FFS, I shouldn’t be wearing a thick flannel shirt and waterproof coat, never mind carrying an umbrella with me, sort it out yeah?), when I arrive at Islington Mill to pick up my wristband there is already a queue of 70 or so people who have heard there are 100 extra tickets on the door. This is a popular, sold out event, and even shitty May rain and plummeting temperatures aren’t going to stop the good people of Salford and Manchester potentially discovering their favourite new band. Armed with my wristband and (beautifully produced) schedule, I head off into the fray, with only a loose sense of what I want to see – I want serendipity to play some part in today’s proceedings, just stumbling across stuff that is amazing appeals to me – and head into ‘Unit 5’ on the Regents Trading Estate where promoters extraordinaire Now Wave are hosting.

First up is Oscar, a man with a touch of the Morrisseys or Ferrys about him, floppy hair and an old skool Miami Dolphins jacket to die for. He and his backing band have a nice line in dark summery vibes, Oscar’s baritone soaring into the corrugated metal roof of the unit. He’s quite endearingly awkward on stage, but when he opens his mouth for songs like the brilliant ‘Beautiful Words’, he has the assembled crowd in the palm of his hands. Props to Now Wave for having a Cloudwater brewery bar in their venue too, excellent beers all round.

Next I head over to the superlative St Phillips Church where Hey Manchester are curating, to see She Drew Her Gun. It’s nice enough, but after a couple of songs I decide it’s not for me, which is the beauty of an event like this; there’s so much on you can just head elsewhere if you’re not into something. I see on Twitter that Seize The Chair are getting a rapturous reception back at Now Wave, so I head over to catch the second half of their set and it’s a doozy. They have the intensity of Hookworms, all thrashing guitars and walls of noise, but they also have the tunes as well, slightly less buried than Hookworms tend to do. They’re a brilliant find, all energy and pretty full on, and the end of their set is made even better when a dude rushes to the front and dances in a fashion not seen this side of the peak of a 90s rave in a field in Derbyshire. This is the kind of shit I came for.

When bands aren’t on the main stage in Unit 5,  smaller stage to the side hosts a roster of bands and DJs soundtracking short contemporary films. After Seize The Chair, Family Ranks accompany Pas De Deux, a beautiful French film that focuses on two ballet dancers, where all the moves are layered on top of each other to produce a kaleidoscope effect. Family Ranks back this with subtle, incredibly moving music that absolutely floors me. I’m mesmerised, and well up significantly, it’s definitely ‘a moment’.



After that, I head to the unit next door on the estate which is where SFTOC TV are broadcasting from, as I can hear some drone noise coming from there: I LOVE drone noise. As I walk round the corner I’m faced with five men and one woman, all dressed in hooded black capes, the guys all wearing shiny metal discs on their faces, pulling noises out of their instruments the likes that I haven’t heard before. This is Bonnacons Of Doom, and they are mental in the best possible way. It sounds like the end of the world, all ear splitting doom metal post rock with added banshee wailing, I could have stumbled on some weird cult brainwashing potential joiners if it wasn’t for the cameras recording it and the energetic dancing going on. Needless to say, it’s amazing, and ears slightly ringing I go off to the Old Pint Pot still trying to figure out what I’ve seen.

The Old Pint Pot is split in to two areas – upstairs The White Hotel will present ‘Salford & Gomorrah’  later on (more of that later), but downstairs T’opp Collective are hosting, and I’ve come to see Her’s (‘we’re called Her’s, with an apostrophe, because we’re edgy’ frontman Stephen Fitzpatrick deadpans). Her’s are a wonderful two piece from Barrow and Norway (yes, really), and are just a bassist and guitarist, backed by a drum machine. They play lo-fi, jangly 60s pop, and it’s absolutely brilliant, endearing stuff. Bassist Audun Laading has Fonzie Bear hair and a permanent huge grin plastered across his face throughout, Fitzpatrick is kinda shy and very dryly funny, they are magnetic to watch. Definitely my find of the festival so far, I can’t recommend them highly enough.

One of the big coups for the organisers this year is getting Salford Cathedral involved as a venue for the first time, and they made sure it hosted something special. For only two performances (the only thing you had to pick an extra free ticket up for), Ex Easter Island Head and members of the BBC Philharmonic collaborated on and extraordinary half hour piece that defies categorisation. It’s ambient music at it’s pinnacle, barely there but incredible affecting, guitars used as xylophones, extracting sounds from them that you’ve never heard, a harp, violin, trumpet and cello accompanying them. The exclusive crowd (there must only be 70 people allowed in) are stunned to silence, and give the ensemble a standing ovation at the end. This, readers, is another ‘moment’, and it’s glorious. The only thing missing was the predicted sunset, which I can only imagine would have taken this to another dimension if it was streaming through the Cathedral’s stunning stained glass.

How to follow that? With some rock and roll, of course. I head back to the Old Pint Pot to see Church Party and their brand of riotous noise, and they are probably the most fun band I see all day. The crowd are well up for it, stood on chairs and benches to get a glimpse over the packed masses, kids down the front half a metre from the band, having a ball. The band themselves are a sweaty, happy mess, and the crowd are too. Afterwards, I head upstairs to ‘Salford and Gomorrah’ to catch the start of Act II: ‘The Land Of Fuck’. I’m confronted by a dude reading a really (purposefully, I think) boring monotone story, accompanied by a completely naked woman in a Bill Cosby mask, before a man in hoodie stalks through the crowd to present the speaker with a magnum of champagne, which is duly sprayed everywhere and passes round the room. I have no idea what the hell is going on, but like a car crash I can’t stop looking. Pretentious? Yes. Entertaining? Jury’s out. Glad I saw? For sure.

Church Party at this year's festival

Church Party at this year’s festival

The only band I really wanted to make sure I got to see were the headliners back over at Now Wave. Pumarosa have made one of the best songs of the year so far in the incredible ‘Cecile’, and their seven minute opus ‘Priestess’ from last year is just as good. The unit is absolutely packed as they take the stage, and it’s every bit as brilliant as I’d hoped for. Front woman Isabel Munoz-Newsome is absolutely magnetic, I can’t take my eyes off her, it’s a star making performance that the crowd lap up. Their music reminds me of loads of bands, it’s kind of all over the shop in a good way, and if they aren’t huge after festival season I’ll eat my proverbial hat. Cecile and Priestess get outings of course, and it’s testament to the strength of their songs that they don’t completely stand out from the rest of the more unfamiliar ones. I love Pumarosa very much indeed, and you should to – they’re the best new band in the UK.

Finally, after a full day of new bands, I head down to the Kings Arms where Grey Lantern and music site The Quietus are holding court to see Chrononautz and get my fix of some beats. It’s not showy, just two guys banging out some gloriously scuzzy techno that you can stand around and get lost in. The lighting in the venue is gorgeous, and I spend an hour alternately staring into it and closing my eyes and nodding like a madman. It’s a perfect end to this new music odyssey that I’ve been on.

SFTOC is a brilliantly organised, extraordinary programmed festival that makes Salford a richer place. It’s a community event where everyone pitches in and pulls together, and it has introduced me to some bands who I’m sure will become favourites over the next few months. I haven’t even mentioned the little tents around the town hall square or the afternoon disco in the New Oxford, but these are things to discover yourself next year. A tip of the cap to the team that put this on every year, it’s a special event that holds a dear place in my heart. Long live SFTOC!

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