Flamingods are first and foremost an intriguing band. With their roots in music from around the world and their passion for unusual instruments they find on their travels, they are the sort of band you go to see in order to experience something a little different.

Upon arriving at Soup Kitchen it is therefore satisfying to see a stage crammed with obscure percussion, stringed instruments I don’t recognise, and a large screen ready for the band’s visuals I have been told to watch out for. There are to be three bands on the bill, all pleasantly weird; none particularly bothered about subscribing to traditional song structures, eschewing these in favour of experimentation, fun and sometimes downright odd.
First up is Conner Youngblood – a welcome last minute addition to proceedings, who commands the stage well, playing his songs solo, breathy vocals accompanied by guitar and synth.

When Aldous RH were announced as support for Flamingods the gig almost became a double headliner as far as I was concerned. Ex Egyptian Hip Hop frontman Alex Hewitt’s musical oddities surfaced online a few years ago, and an opportunity to see them live was welcome. The songs benefit hugely from being played with a full band; of particular note is the phenomenal rhythm section. The wah-heavy guitars that characterise Aldous RH’s woozy funk are augmented by this brilliantly tight unit, and the grooves that these players lock into are one of the most enjoyable things to see all evening. Hewitt is a fun frontman with a great vocal range he’s not unwilling to push as far as it can go – and, humourously, sometimes a little further – and jokes with the gradually swelling crowd. At one point everybody finds themselves crouched on the floor with the band as they takes one song to a quiet point, waiting for the frontman’s command to rise when the rhythm section kicks in again and things get loaded to the end. All nice and daft, and a band well worth watching for their musicianship.

Flamingods‘ formidable live set-up is then assembled on the stage, and the six members – the core five bolstered by a saxophone player – squeeze onto the stage in, backed by psychedelic visuals showing deserts suggestive of the bands native Bahrain and morphing colourful patterns that fit the music well. Playing songs mainly from the band’s debut album as well as some from forthcoming third record Majesty, which is due out on Soundway Records next month. Singles ‘Rhama’ and ‘Taboo Groves’ really work with the lead riffs being mirrored on the saxophone, and the drumming – which is sometimes built from four different band members playing different interlocking rhythms on an array of different drums – is truly thrilling to watch at times.

Frontman Kamal Rasool is a great person to watch, as he plays his strange table of instruments and wails into the microphone. Flamingods are very much a band who see the voice as another instrument, with multiple band members often singing and chanting together to give the music a tribal feel. The members’ extensive travels truly show through their music, and when watching them it is easy to feel like you are being given a tour around the best of their widespread musical discoveries.

Playing live, Flamingods allow their songs to flow into one another, living up to their reputation as a band which formed out of free form jamming with like-minded musicians. Members clamber around stage, swapping instruments sometimes mid-song, allowing the music to direct their performance. When they do stop it is to explain an element of what they are doing – most interestingly to dedicate a song to one of the instruments they regularly use: a Japanese stringed-keyboard-box-type thing called a taishogoto, on which many of the lead melodies are played.

All in all this was an evening of incredibly interesting music played by people with great skill and a lot to share with the audience.

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Lloyd Bent

Manchester born radio-dabbler who burrows away under record and book collections whenever possible. Has interest in an eclectic variety of music, perhaps most significantly funk, post-punk and the more underground indie. Harbors ambitions to be a full-time writer, currently studies at Uni, works as a radio DJ and runs Indie DJ nights in the bars every now and again. Plays and attends gigs all over the place, but preferably in Manchester where independent venues are both commonly found and reliably fantastic.