“Do you know who the support act are tonight?”



“No, Radstewart.”

I can’t pretend I’m not slightly disappointed that the support act for tonight’s gig isn’t Rod Stewart. Sadly he’s headlining arenas in Glasgow for fifty quid this week, not playing the support slot at Manchester’s Deaf Institute. Ah well. I don’t think it would be fair to hold their not being Rod Stewart against them really.

We go up passed the Deaf Insitute’s downstairs bar, up further into the main venue, and then seeing as we’re a bit early and no one else is about yet, up even further to grab seats on the balcony overlooking the stage. There’s also a clear view of the rows of bleacher-style seats at the back of the room, so we notice when a small group enters and sits down ahead of the crowds- is that the members of Sky Larkin? Would they mind if I went up and did an impromptu interview? What if I interrupt some kind of important pre-show ritual? Can I even think of any decent questions that fast? Sadly, while I’m wasting time interviewing myself, they disappear again. I’ve missed my chance.

There’s no sign of Radstewart either (not to mention Rod Stewart), and as as the crowd begin to filter in, their scheduled stage time is fast approaching. A duo speed in and quickly set up their drum kit and amp – as it turns out this isn’t Radstewart but Manchester’s own Bad Grammar filling in for them, in an alteration to the previous schedule. Guitarist and singer Ben Forrester plugs straight into his amp, and along with some extremely fierce drumming from Lucy Brown, launches into primal, fuzz-heavy rock. It turns out they only found out they were playing two hours ago and Ben’s come straight from work, leaving no time to pick up pedals – which explains his back-to-basics (borrowed) guitar and amp set-up. It would be easy here to make comparisons between Bad Grammar and other raw, aggressive, blues-tinged guitar and drum duos, but I don’t see why I should let that stop me – they remind me heavily of The White Stripes and The Black Keys, but with a bit of screechy Placebo style in the vocals, and sounds that show some pop-punk leanings in the guitar and melodies. They sound powerful enough with two hours notice and not all their gear, so they must be something else at full strength. Luckily for you they’re playing two more Manchester shows just this month, which you can find on Silent Radio’s October Gig Guide.

After Bad Grammar have cleared off and we wait for Sky Larkin, we pass the time by playing games like “Is a larkin a kind of bird too, or are we just thinking of a lark?” and “Has someone turned on a smoke machine, or is part of the stage on fire and if so should we get help?” but before long it’s time for Sky Larkin’s set. It turns out this is the same trio we saw hanging around before, and they get right into the indie rock with ‘Still Windmill’ from their second album Kaleide. There’s a really compelling, vibrant energy to the music; front woman Katie Harkin communicates all the strengths of Sky Larkin on record and then some, especially on current single ‘Loom’, which she’s said before is less positive than the upbeat sound of the music itself would suggest- ‘pop on the surface, but with a darkness that the casual listener might not pick up on.’ The dark side of ‘Loom’ definitely comes out more when you can see the emotion Katie puts into her singing, especially on the last chorus, squeezing out every syllable of ‘PER-SO-NAL’ and letting them hang in the air before the rest of the band drop back into the song with her.

Sky Larkin’s drummer Nestor Matthews looks more equipped for a marathon than a gig in sky blue running shorts and a sweat band. Katie on the other hand is practically camouflaged against the deep blues and reds of the Deaf Institute. “I’ve never seen it up here, it’s beautiful. Although I am matching.” She says, referring to her similarly deep blue and red clothes. “Someone told me this jacket looks like I’ve cut it out from a cinema seat. Like I’ve skinned it alive.” The crowd (maybe scared they’ll be skinned for more stage outfits) are still scattered around the room- “Come forward, we want to see the whites of your eyes. Closer to the man in the sweatband. So you can see the whites of his knees.”

This is Sky Larkin’s final show of their UK tour, spanning the UK at “Peak Freshers’ flu time.” Lucky for us they managed to fend off the plague long enough to finish up, thanking Bad Grammar for stepping in (although they said the would have been at the gig anyway) and signing off with a “Ta very much.” No sign of Rod Stewart, but I’ve decided by now I can let that go.

Sky Larkin Official | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube

Bad Grammar Facebook | Twitter Soundcloud