Vikesh Kapoor

Vikesh Kapoor


“It’s kind of weird but stranger things have happened”, quips Brett Sparks, the bearded half of the critically acclaimed husband and wife duo the Handsome Family. He’s not wrong; in the world of this delightful, yet dark and twisted Alt County band – anything is possible. With his lady Rennie Sparks, they tell vivid tales from the wild wilderness, romance, broken hearts to substance abuse and death.

Although beyond the dark Americana, something odd did happen, twenty years into their music career, HBO called; they were using their song as a the title track for a new TV series, True Detective. Fast forward a few months later and their latest tour is upgrading to larger venue’s left, right and centre due to ‘exceptional demand’. Including tonight’s gig, that’s been switched from the Deaf Institute, to Gorilla.

It’s an early one tonight, starting at bang on 7.30. Vikesh Kapoor , the Family’s Loose Music label buddy, takes the support slot, making his debut appearance in the UK. Armed with just a guitar and harmonica, Vikesh harks back to good old US roots, captivating the crowd with beautiful folk songs about working class heroes. This talented lad from Pennsylvania has totally won over the Mancunian crowd this evening, with an awesome preview of his debut album The Ballad of Willie Robbins.  Stand-out tracks include the gorgeous I Never Knew What I Saw In You and Down By The River, inspired by the Pete Seeger version of Dinks Song (who he dedicates the track to tonight).

A little over a year since their last trip, the Handsome Family (and drummer) make a welcome return to Manchester this evening, as they take to the stage to a roar of applause and whoops. Their flawless performance tonight is a real showcase of the band’s vast back catalogue of strange, musical adventures.

Despite the often morbid undertones of the lyrics, the banter between this cute couple is spot-on. Clutching her banjo, she lovingly describes each of her self-penned songs, including how her favourite sound “is the amplified noise of a chipmunk eating a nut.” The first track My Sister’s Tiny Hands from their 1998 release Through The Tree’s, is a song about “snakes and training them to rob banks”. The track also features on another of the Family’s telly box appearances; the incredible Searching for The Wrong Eyed Jesus.

The Handsome Family

The Handsome Family

Mrs Spark is the lady responsible for the gorgeous, ‘off the beaten track’ lyrics, whilst her better half wraps the melodies around them. She remains cool, calm, content and totally in control tonight – all the c’s. Whist Brett’s deep, chocolaty vocals and accomplished guitar playing is just what you’d expect of over two decades of practicing and playing together.

So Much Wine, from 2000’s In The Air is a Christmas Song as dark as Dr. Seuss, “There’s only so much wine you can drink in one life and it will never be enough to save you from the bottom of your glass” sings Brett, with perfect harmonies from the pair.

Brett’s guitar-ness playing gets a chance to shine with Bottomless Hole, about, you guessed it, a great big bloody hole and the slow country number Somewhere Else to Be, that gives a typically Handsome account of a drive-thru waitress that catches his eye.

They take us back to the first song Rennie ever wrote Arlene, when they lived in Odessa. Whilst keeping the new fans pleased with Far From Any Road, a track tucked away in their 2003 Singing Bones release, is all about eating stuff in your back yard and it having the most odd side effects. It’s also the song that’s seen them gain a few new admirers of late.

The band get a triumphant response from the Manc crowd tonight; and deservedly so, it’s a severely polished performance, with every lyric is as clear as crystal, as Brett brings to life Rennie’s beautiful poetry. Or maybe it’s Brett’s Joy Division t-shirt that does it for them.

As I leave the gig at a very reasonable time of 9.55 tonight, I’m struck with the thought of how I’ve just paid £4 for a can of lager and secondly, I wonder if the Handsome Family are looking to adopt, say like a niece? I want to be invited around to their gaff for BBQ’s, roast some squirrel, eat hallucinogenic cacti, tinkle on the banjo and share scary tales of yesteryear around the campfire. Obviously they’d have to adopt Matthew McConaughey as my cousin, not blood related though.

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Co-founder, Producer and Presenter of the weekly Silent Radio show. Part of the Silent family since 2010.Over 10 years experience of working with national, award-winning youth charities and in the creative industries. She’s the former Deputy Director of, Europe’s leading promoter of emerging creative talent. Here she helped secure new creatives secure massive media exposure (BBC R1, 1Xtra…), showcases at mega impressive locations (Downing Street, V&A...) and kudos from the best in the business (Brian Eno, Boiler Room, Peter Saville…).She also flies the flag for women in the media as Director of Manchester’s independent music website Silent Radio and co-Founder, Exec Producer and Presenter of the Silent Radio show on MCR.Live; Further radio includes BBC 5Live, BBC Radio Manchester, plus the odd bit of TV Production Management with international broadcast credits (BBC, ZDF / Arte, Smithsonian…), she also dabbles with playing records to people and her first podcast is currently in pre-production.Bestest gigs: Pulp, Sheffield Arena, ’12 | Micah P Hinson, Sheffield Lantern Theatre, ’12 | Dream Themes, Manchester Star & Garter, ’14 | Patrick Watson, Manchester Gorilla, ’15 | Less Than Jake, Nottingham Rock City, ‘01 | Frightened Rabbit, Manchester Deaf Institute, ’12 | The Decemberists, Manchester Academy, ‘11 | Passion Pit, Manchester Academy 2, ‘09 | Iron and Wine, The Ritz, Manchester, ‘08 | The Verve (with Beck), Wigan Haigh Hall, ‘98 | Take That, Manchester Eastlands Stadium, ‘11 |Worst gig: Fall Out Boy, Manchester Roadhouse ’05 (subject to change)