The 99 Degree


It’s another cool Summer evening and the Night & Day Café awaits us, tonight playing host to a few of the North-West’s freshest and exciting bands. Kicking off tonight’s proceedings are The Attic Doctors, who embody a strong indie aura, with all the traits and sounds reminiscent of the many bands who have lived and played through the city of Manchester. Although not blowing the entire crowd away, with many clearly more interested in their pint glasses, the four piece certainly warmed up those front and centre. With arms aloft and hips a swinging, early door punters are in jovial mood.

The next band, who possess a much heavier sound to the previous act, keep the fire roaring with some catchy and chunky riffs fans of QOTSA would be pleased by. Known as Manalishi, a word which has baffled my tiny brain as for some reason I cannot pronounce it, they certainly impress as a few heads start nodding with a violent action known in some circles as head banging. You don’t often see this at a gig whose advertising looks psych through and through, however it was a nice change of pace and helped create a successful night of eclectic music.

Carrying on this seemingly never-ending bag of live musical treats are Burnley’s Goa Express, their fresh faces and cool leathered image making even me, a 21-year-old, feel old as fuck. You don’t get many bands out of Burnley of this ilk and its usually a place popular for the drum and bass/donk movements. The lads of claret persuasion tonight however, did their hometown proud, showing lots of potential to be a big NW band in the future; with ‘Reincarnation of the Lizard Queen’ specifically sounding like a psych garage classic.

With most of the punters a few drinks deep, meaning spirits are high and anticipation grows, The 99 Degree finally take to the stage and deliver a short but sweet (ish) set of rustic and spaghetti western-like music. Playing tracks from their debut EP Boot Hill Surf Club, the four lads donning the same blue and white shirts play well and play strong. The drumming and guitar work in particular catch our eye with renditions of moody, dirt laden tracks such ‘The Banshee’ and ‘Dead or Alive’ really hitting the mark. I’ve seen this band a few times now and never once have they sounded out of tune or out of whack. Despite being unsigned, they look like a group who’ve been at it for 4 or 5 years and in my opinion, should get picked up soon. They already have some serious experience under their belt with support slots with The Fall and Kid Congo & The Pink Monkeys Birds, so they know what the fuck they’re doing. Local promoters and critics clearly think highly of them, as do the people inside Night & Day, with frontman Joe Sartini performing with such an exuberance that it’s drawing out the wallflowers to let loose and get involved.

During a set which displays how strong their early backlog of songs is, with my personal favourite ‘Losing My Mind’ standing out as a contender for song of the night, it becomes clearer why they may not have been signed yet. I feel labels don’t want the risk. It’s clear they’re talented as fuck and the reaction of the crowd tonight proves they’re liked and enjoyed, but because of this pure psych revival stuff, which The 99 Degree have been linked with, perhaps small labels think it’s safer to side with a band more in tune with the look and on stage presence more familiar with the classic psychedelic imagery and ideologies.

Granted, The 99 Degree have taken on a look, with the whole Boot Hill Surf Club and matching outfits reminiscent of Beach Boys and many garage bands of the American 60s, but their sound is definitely a progression on the psych revival train. Their sets do act as an extra carriage on a locomotive which soon may cascade into a pit from an unfinished railroad bridge. In much simpler terms, where the fuck are these bands gonna go when the movement runs out of steam? To be honest, I think many will struggle when a new wave of music revival comes around but Sartini, Phil Turner, Craig Trickett and Paul Fetherstone seem to have an edge. I feel like they could easily become a band more like The Lucid Dream or Control of the Going but for me, they’ve taken it to another level. Their sound is truly dark with that western imagery and general squalor heard in the lyrics managing to take me on a much more stimulating trip that those boys in floral blouses and Gallagher like haircuts ever have.

I hope to see The 99 Degree again soon and I recommend anyone a bit fed up of wishy washy, liquid backdrops and dark sunglasses indoors to go and witness the black surfer music which is rising, with this band in particular carving the way for a new avenue of garage and psych to explore.

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Liverpool born music writer with passion for punk and Everton FC