With 13 stages and over 100 acts playing during 12 chaotic hours along Salford’s Chapel Street, each reveller is likely to have a very different experience on this bank holiday weekend. All music genre’s are covered, including dance, rock, classical… there’s comedy and art on display, a variety of food to sample, and a whole bunch of random drunk people are wandering about. Maybe Salford is always like this?

My plan of attack involves taking in as many loud punk/garage/psych/shoegaze bands as possible. After collecting my wristband from Islington Mill, whose entrance has been transformed into a kitsch Christmas grotto with a twist, I head to the Old Pint Pot, by the river – Wotgodforgot have compiled the roster here, along with Fat Out, who are to curate Islington Mill’s live programme for the next couple of years (Fat Out’s Burrow).

Creeping Heat are up first – there’s a decent turnout for 4pm as the drinking starts – the sun has replaced the morning rain and this leafy riverside venue is as good a place as any to kick things off. The singer growls in a Tom Wait’s fashion, disturbing the peace, occasionally screaming manically over deep garage psych beats and basslines, accompanied by shimmering Americana guitar chords. This is right up my street.

Lakes Of Snakes follow – the crowd swells. After a couple of instrumentals, this post-hardcore band with a saxophonist are joined by the sax players brother, or maybe twin, who adds vocals and a Rage Against The Machine vibe. They finish with a cover of Hoover’s ‘Electrolux’. The response is pretty emphatic and people wander away nodding their heads in approvement.

I go for a stroll for a while, to sample the various venues – The Angel Centre’s hosts Grey Lantern are showcasing record label Faux Discx related artists; Tense Men’s set appears rather subdued after hearing Lakes of Snakes, but an elderly gentleman in a 3 piece suit livens things us between songs by shouting “Zed… are you in here?”, and then wails along to the music, adding more life to the performance than the actual singer.

Back at the Old Pint Pot – Denim and Leather up the pace with a punk set that’s full of enthusiasm, but isn’t really my thing. Back to The Angel… Housewives are huddled around the drum kit, making lots of random noises. Maybe I’ve come at the wrong time. Sham Bodie introduce Sam & Tom in The New Oxford’s back room – they’re wearing sailor outfits and have a ‘kids entertainment’ vibe about them… so I leave before they start. The TV in the bar reveals that my team are losing 1-0. This is a dark hour.

Hey! Manchester are running things in the largest of the venues, St. Philips church, so hopefully they can turn things around. Russia’s Pinkshinyultrablast are exactly what’s needed – they’ve drawn comparisons from Slowdive and The Cocteau Twins with their shimmering twist on shoegaze – a genre that’s made something of a comeback of late. ‘Umi’ is a highlight – bright thrashing chords echo around the space accompanied by a pounding beat, as tender female vocalist Lyubov rocks back and forth on the pulpit, in a comfy brown jumper. These are certainly one’s to watch, and can be seen at Liverpool’s Psych Fest in September.

BBC’s Philharmonic ensemble can be heard coming out of Vimto Gardens as I stroll past – there really is something for everyone. Irma Vep‘s set in Islington Mill’s gallery space, however, provides a more suitable place for me to chill. The door is pushed shut to block out the noise from the corridor, and most take to sitting on the floor so they can properly enjoy his set of kookily delivered progressive folk songs. ‘Somethings Are Best Left Undone’ and ‘I Wanna Be Degraded’ are top picks from a range of intriguing, soulful melodies that contain heartfelt lyrics. There’s barely room in here for everyone. His recorded material is full of artistic flare and experimentation – well worth checking out. I miss the end of his set only because the band I want to see the most are on elsewhere.



While leaving, I manage to get a photo of a man/woman in a green wig as he/she poses out of a bay door. Also, news that Shield Patterns were the band marked as ‘Special Guests’ on Gizeh Records & Little Red Rabbit’s stage at The Crescent, comes as a big blow.

In The Angel Centre again – Sauna Youth wrestle with the sound engineer, who’s having a tough night. All of the tunes come from their forthcoming album ‘Distractions’, so most here will be new to this material. Richard Phoenix drums and sings for the London/Brighton based four-piece, with vocals doubled up by Jen Calleja as she simultaneously triggers samples. Cold Puma’s bassist plays guitar… and if they all switch instruments you get another band called Monotony… and one of their songs tonight was originally by Monotony – it’s called ‘Monotony’.

The venue is almost full and there’s plenty of dancing – girls with long hair look at the floor and jiggle frantically from side to side, immersing themselves for no more than 3 minutes at a time in a stream of glorious garage-punk tunes. ‘New Fear’ is an exhilarating starter, slapping clever songwriting in our faces, and setting a precedent. ‘Transmitters’, ‘The Bridge’ and ‘Try To Leave’ have lyrics that will in no time at all become ingrained in your brain as you shake it about. ‘Future Tense’ does the same… and then there’s ‘Creeping’, which is another highlight. The album is out next month and it’ll blow your mind.

According to themselves, local 4-piece Sex Hands “…are not a garage pop band”. Tonight, they’re playing 5 years after their first SFTOC appearance. Guitarist Irma Vep is joined by his album cover artist Alex Humphreys, on drums (he gave her a plug during his set, earlier). It’s not long before moshing ensues, and hand claps are encouraged – it’s all rather tongue-in-cheek, though. Personal favourite ‘Gay Marriage’ from last year’s album ‘Pleh’ is a highlight… they end sounding a lot like The Pixies. A great time was had by all.

Cold Pumas admit it’s been 6 month’s since their last gig, in a set riddled with mistakes and sound issues. Their superb 2012 album ‘Persistent Malaise’ attracted me to Faux Discx, leading me to discover Soft Walls, and more recently – TV Wonder, so I have a lot to thank them for. Grey Lantern’s headliners produce sporadic moments of magic through extended, plodding tunes that are driven by deep basslines and snarling guitars – a great way to end my evening.

The pedometer on my phone seems to think I’ve walked 20 kilometres, today. Maybe it was all the foot tapping. Any fan of new music must have surely come away from Salford tonight with a new favourite band, and plenty of experiences to share with their mates. There’s a whole other side to the festival that I didn’t even see and would’ve probably enjoyed as well… including Shield Patterns. Club nights continue the party until 4am – we have a bank holiday to use for recovery. This annual event is important for local bands, as well as drawing attention to the rejuvenation of an area that is riddled with urban decay. Long may it continue.

Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.