Strange Waves III


This is the third time music promoters Now Wave and Strange Days have brought their pysch rock night to Manchester and the line up certainly doesn’t disappoint,

Despite the blistering bank holiday sun outside, the first act, Boy Azooga, must have had a pretty sizeable crowd because by the time I get there (just after they finished) the floor is filling nicely and the incredible setting of the Albert Hall is feeling the summer – sunlight streaming through the huge windows, open beams for days and the cavernous standing floor are in their element. It’s truly a sight to behold.

I’m there just in time to see the second of the five bands on tonight. Sam Evian’s unique New York sound fills the venue. Some insane guitar solos combined with some fun maraca action and a committed drummer (with seemingly the longest arms I have ever seen) and we’re off to a great start. The crowd is eagerly anticipating the rest of the night and they’re sinking beers in true bank holiday style.

Black Lips grace the stage after a pretty long set up time (the only negative I would say about the day – there doesn’t seem to be any sharing of kit between these five bands so there’s quite a long time between acts) but oh, what a gracing it is! They spent much of the set up time getting their volume up as high as comfortable and man alive does it come through when they start. An explosion of sound and the flamboyant characters in the band get to work having what is clearly a great time. ‘NoTown Blues’ and ‘Can’t Hold On’ show off the sax player and serious vocal talents of the whole band and the theatrics make their show a real spectacle. The hillbilly rock is an acquired taste, Black Lips are clearly very comfortable expressing themselves in whatever way they want – be it from lead guitarist Cole Alexander’s red cape to saxophonist Zumi’s leather two piece they’re a sight to behold. They’re obviously a tight knit group – I don’t know if I have ever seen so much interaction, love and communication between such a big band. There’s no real lead here but they’re all winners to me.


Deerhunter are up next. Just beginning a pretty impressive world tour (show four of 19) they’re primed and ready to go. Again, there’s no hanging about once they’re ready and the sound of guitar on amp feedback fills a full but still bright Albert Hall.

We’re treated to some tracks of their upcoming studio album and volume wise we’re now into the loudest gig I’ve ever been in. The head’s ringing. The Deerhunter set sees so many beautiful instrumentals you find yourself drifting off into the clouds, with ‘The Most Cursed of Hands’ setting me spine off.

They switch it up for oldie ‘Helicopter’ with the gnarly industrial sound I always associate them with but they quickly switch it back up again with the melancholy of ‘Take Care’. They make it easy to keep up though – it’s effortless.
They bring things to a close with the perfect choice just as the sun is coming down outside – the drum intro on ‘He Would Have Laughed’ suits it wonderfully.

Then we’re on to waiting for the headliner.

The venue is now packed, hot and on tenter hooks waiting for them. Those with a view of the VIP area have been able to see Ruban Nielson watching a couple of the previous bands, nonchalantly as he does, but he’d disappeared long before Unknown Mortal Orchestra were due on.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

They’re worth the wait.

No words I write could ever do justice to the dirty guitar riffs juxtaposed with the high pitched vocals. The dramatic stops that leave us hanging at the end of every song do just that.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Ruban in particular, are known for understated talent with an untainted love for music. Ruban himself has said he’s not interested in fame or millions, but his talents are born out of a genuine respect and passion for music. And music that he liked.

He’s an absolute machine as the show goes on, running around the top floor of the gig, exciting many a fan as he goes past. He’s leaning over the bannister shredding it up to huge applause. Absolute hero.

Tracks off their latest album, Sex and Food, go down really well (a theme for musicians at the minute – the discussion of the advancement of technology – is prevalent in ‘The Internet Of Love’) and we’re all in.

It’s been an epic day, real musical talent and real passion on one stage is thankfully not too rare these days, but the Strange Waves guys have done it yet again. Roll on Strange Waves IV later on in the year.

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