Expectations are high tonight; three of the northwest’s finest contemporary, yet traditional music acts are on the same lineup. Homelife are playing as I walk in. Paddy Steer is tucked in the corner, in amongst a large selection of percussion and electrical equipment. Anton Burns sings with his guitar, centre stage as they glide through their chilled set. Songs from the album ‘Exotic Interlude’ have an effortless, hypnotic charm. This is the kind of music you could happily spend time getting to know, without it overstaying its welcome. Subtle playing from harpist Rachael Gladwin, borrowed from Nancy Elizabeth, adds to the bliss.

I’m surprised to see that Nancy Elizabeth looks so young. As a fan of her album ‘Wrought Iron’, due to the maturity of the songwriting I was expected someone older. She talks honestly between songs, endearing herself to the amused crowd after revealing she had eaten too much before coming on stage. Nancy switches between acoustic guitar and piano, both of which she plays delicately and with notable skill. Her voice soars and additional sounds from the trumpet, harp, Paddy Steer and the backing vocals are sensitively draped around her.

‘Feet of Courage’ is the highlight for me. Nancy taps her microphone stand with a drumstick and uses a shaker while stomping her foot. The additional vocals compliment her voice beautifully as the song builds momentum and emotion before a sudden end and heavy applause.

Denis Jones is on stage alone this time. A few months ago at the very same venue he had three additional band members and an army of visual effects to cause a distraction. Denis builds his tunes through looping his voice or his guitar or sounds made from a table full of electronics. He sharply taps the effects pedals at his feet with his socks as if teasing mousetraps, building a tune and mixing as he goes.

He shouts into his guitar, taps an amp plug with his thumb, twiddles a noise box that looks like a Super Nintendo and screams, mouth open wide into the microphone. His stool goes flying. The performance is hectic; he understandably appears rushed as if struggling to trigger the next bars worth of sound in time. The red lighting on his face is appropriate as the tunes build angrily with heavy beats that shake the foundations, at one point dropping into a 4-4 dance anthem stomper.

The much delayed forthcoming second album ‘Red + Yellow’ misleadingly appears from this evidence to promise a more industrial effort than the fundamentally folky debut ‘Humdrum Virtue’. The acoustic tunes go down well here and Denis admits he wishes he’d played a quieter set. But the best tune of the night judging by the crowd is ‘Rage’. The samples and layered vocals build to a furious crescendo that stops violently, momentarily leaving a stunned silence before deafening cheers.

Peter Rea

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