For my first visit to The White Hotel in Salford, it is fitting that both acts I witnessed are themselves Manchester bands – though not at all in the Madchester sense of the phrase. Not that there’s anything wrong with a bit of 90s nostalgia, mind you, but the descriptor comes nowhere close to encapsulating the punky inclinations of support act Slap Rash or the fresh experimentalism of headliners Mandy, Indiana.

Comprised of singer/songwriter and producer Valentine Caulfield, guitarist Scott Fair, Simon Catling on synths and Alex Macdougall on percussion, Mandy, Indiana have been pushing the musical boundary since their earliest releases: two bone-rattling singles in 2020 and an alluring EP the following year, both of which showcased the band’s standalone blend of industrial music and club-bound beats.

Delegates of the group’s cult fanbase at this gig will certainly have heard their much-anticipated debut album, May 2023’s ‘i’ve seen a way’. This is an idiosyncratic LP that never hesitates to veer into unexpected directions – jumping from synth-pop to garage rock and the full-on avant-garde – some of the 11 tracks of ‘i’ve seen a way’ were destined for the setlist.

A setlist that was, however, preceded by the similarly hard to pin down brother-sister duo, Slap Rash. With the former on bass and synths and the latter multitasking her impeccable drumming ability with her shouted vocals, the twosome whipped up a sonic storm; an effect only enhanced by their infectious energy. They relayed material from an EP apparently released the day of the concert, whose intensity reflected that of the thrash metal and punk acts by which they are so clearly influenced. Judging by the cheers they elicited from the crowd, Slap Rash’s EP will surely be racking up the streams post-gig.

The noise-induced high prompted by the support act was hardly given the time to dissipate before the opening song of Mandy, Indiana’s debut, ‘Love Theme (4K VHS)’ began to sound from the speakers and three quarters of the band took to the stage. Quite hilariously, it looked as though Caulfield was supposed to finally enter at a climax point of the track, but this was impeded by the sudden cessation of the music – a technical issue that, unfortunately, was not to be the night’s last.

Laughing off the slight setback, Mandy, Indiana swiftly broke into ‘Nike of Samothrace’ – taken from their 2021 EP – and Catling’s spine-tingling sub bass thrumming beneath Macdougall’s heavy drumming rendered the awkwardness of the introduction wholly insignificant. Alongside the incensed strumming of Fair, Caulfield relayed her first set of lyrics – which, acting as the band’s USP, are always delivered in French – with a degree of animation that commanded the audience’s gaze.

Contrary to the seriousness with which one might assume Mandy, Indiana would approach their music, what with its artistic quality, the band (and Caulfield in particular) typified enjoyment: the vocalist danced erratically around the stage, surrounded by her equally enthused bandmates, as they bounded through the setlist.

Standout performances were those of the album tracks. ‘Pinking Shears’ – a song introduced by Caulfield with the disbelieving chuckle of “did you know this song’s on Fifa?” – was a delightful demonstration of the band at their most powerful; sending the room spinning with a potent combination of mantra-like lyrics repeated rapidly and the wonderfully chaotic coalescence of the band’s instruments.

‘Injury Detail’ and ‘Drag [Crashed]’ followed suit with regard to Mandy, Indiana’s ability to raise not just the roof but the very hairs on one’s arms. Both tracks were expressed electrically by the foursome, no less by Fair in his vociferous manipulation of his guitar tone and Caulfield in her animated and enthralling singing – broadening into a scream in the latter song.

While no technical issues affected their performances noticeably, it became apparent near to the midpoint of the setlist that Macdougall was not able to hear himself playing; a fault that, after Fair alerted the sound technicians, was resolved soon after. Not a major issue, but one that made for another disruption of the concert’s electric flow, so to speak.

Other instances of this flow being hindered slightly were when, unannounced, Caulfield would exit the stage while her bandmates would round off a song or continue onto the next. This could be expected in the case of one of the album’s largely instrumental tracks, ‘Iron Maiden,’ but other occasions were just confusing.

The singer’s antics could also be endearing and funny. During the final song of the setlist, ‘Alien 3,’ Caulfield descended from the stage into the crowd, where she delivered lyrics mere metres from audience members’ faces and at one point, from the floor where she sat cross-legged.

Mandy, Indiana are an exhilarating live act whose performers emanate warmth, enthusiasm and a sense of dedication to their craft. In other words, they are a must-see group of musicians for anyone who has a taste for the forward-thinking and experimental. And rest assured: when they, and they will, reach further heights, we Mancunians can always claim them as our own!