King Kartel


After spending the summer abroad and finally having returned, seeing King Kartel will be my first gig back in Manchester. The Mancunian band hailing from Northern Ireland (mostly) are playing Band On The Wall with support from local bands Global and Narrow Margin. As soon as we enter, we see loads of people wearing inflatable crowns, ready for the Kings.

Global are the first band to hit the stage. Although the room is only about half filled with people, the mood is good and cheerful. Everyone is applauding even before they’re halfway ready to start. Many of the audience, especially at the front, seem to be friends and family of the four young guys – they keep shouting and waving at them collegiately. A few girls even brought a flag with the band’s name and logo, and others are kicking a ball around. Without an introduction really, they start their set. The band seems a bit awkward and uneasy on stage, but still play well. For some reason, the vocals aren’t very decipherable and we don’t understand much of the lyrics.

Musically, on the other hand, the sound is distinct and can easily be described as 90’s Britpop-based indie. Basically, if you’re looking for the reminiscent atmosphere of the 90’s Mancunian band with a touch of early noughties indie, Global is the band to look out for. After their first few songs, the guys seem to get into it more and the set is really fun. It just seems as if, at the moment at least, the guys hold onto past times a bit too much to stand out.

The other support band, Narrow Margin, is made up of five young guys from Hyde in Manchester. Within the short break between the two bands, the room has gotten visibly more packed. Not only their music itself but also their vibe is very different to Global, they are much more vigorous and especially lead singer and guitarist Ian Spiller seems to be a natural performer. With his all-white denim suit and his somewhat 80s quiff he has something of a musician of that era.

The stage almost seems a bit small for all of them and having three guitars up on stage always makes me wonder at first, but they manage it well by playing different styles. They definitely have a pretty unique sound, which is harder to pin down. While I’d definitely see it as ‘classic’ indie rock, their intros often sound like pop-punk songs, while their basslines and guitar riffs convey a bit of glam rock. The only thing that is a bit annoying is the feedback which is very noticeable after as good as every song. Also, towards the end, more and more people in the crowd start to chat, some of them trying really hard to be louder than the music, which is especially in such a small venue as Band On The Wall really annoying. On the other hand, loads of people are dancing excitedly, so I guess everybody is enjoying the evening in their way. Altogether, they put on a dynamic and infectious show, and I’m sure we’ll soon be hearing more of them.

Shortly before King Kartel start, the venue gets really packed. Obviously – the show is sold out. The five guys make a majestic entrance as they walk on stage while the Game of Thrones theme song is playing. The mood is even better than before and the crowd is cheering and whistling excitedly. The guy stood in front of us actually seems to be having the best time of his life, I’ve hardly ever seen anyone dancing this passionately and intensely at a gig. Even though frontman Hugh McCleesh seems to have issues with the sound and isn’t able to hear himself that well, it doesn’t stop the band from delivering a good show. The guys are really energetic and their rock ’n’ roll-based indie rock is received very well. The band puts on a riveting show with their catchy songs, which sound like proper rock tunes alongside catchy and pop-ish melodies.

It seems like big parts of the audience, especially in the front rows, know the lyrics to every song. With ‘Sometime Sally’, their newest (acoustic) single, they set a calmer and more Britpoppy vibe. As always, McCleesh captures the gaze of the audience. While he’s playing he not only delights them with smiles, but between the songs he actually leans over and chats with the crowd. It’s not only the crowd that is in a good mood though, you can feel that the band is passionate about performing live, as seemingly everyone on stage is having a good time.

One of the highlights is definitely towards the end of their set, when McCleesh, having just accompanied the band with a tambourine instead of a guitar, slams the drums with his tambourine, preparing a rockstar exit. The crowd applauds and big parts leave – only to come back to hear an emotive cover of The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’. Overall, their set is ecstatic and it’s great seeing the crowd so involved and excited. All three bands made this a really pleasant evening with different styles of indie rock!

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Dahlia Owusu

My decision to leave Germany and move to Manchester was most definitely influenced by my love for music and going to gigs. I came here in 2018 and am now studying English and Journalism at Manchester Met. When I’m not at a gig, you’ll usually find me reading or in a café.