Moon Duo

– The Dancehouse Theatre, Manchester –

Meeting my friend for pre gig pizzas and drinks, thinking we had plenty of time for a natter, our pizzas have to be hastily chomped down upon reading an intriguing message about the gig – ‘the band were on early, no support due to the massive light show’. A massive light show, in the not-so-massive surroundings of The Dancehouse Theatre? After the indigestion tablets have gone down, we speed over to The Dancehouse, to be greeted by what can only be described as a box of screens on stage, into which Moon Duo (a trio for the live shows with drummer John Jeffrey) entered. Keyboardist and vocalist Sanae Yamada starts a solitary synth tune, the audience in some kind of stunned almost reverential silence (is that the effect of seated venues?) before guitarist Ripley Johnson and drummer Jeffrey enter the box. What follows would put Blackpool illuminations to shame.

We’d been warned about the use of strobes, and ‘hazing’, but this was on another level. As the motorik rhythms pulsed, and the synths and guitars blended with gloriously melodic yet hard edged riffs, the screens became projectors with light patterns all over them, creating the most immersive light and sound experience I’ve ever had at a gig, from lights going warp speed through space and time, lava lamp effects, prisms, and beyond. Yes, you couldn’t see the band clearly, but you could see them well enough, their outlines obvious behind the constant dazzling array of lights. Moon Duo aren’t ones for loads of onstage banter or antics anyway, so backed by this light show, they’d evolved into a sort of an art installation-live performance hybrid. Not that the music was taking second place, as in many ways the lightshow matched their synth and guitar driven hypnotic vibe perfectly. Highlights included a mesmerising ‘White Rose’ in all its ten minute glory, and from the recently released amazing album ‘The Stars Are The Light’ we were treated to ‘The World & The Sun’ and ‘Lost Heads’, then ending with a stunning cover of Alan Vega from Suicide’s tune ‘Juke Box Baby’.

Moon Duo have always had a mesmerising sound, which draws on the hypnotic melodies of bands like Kraftwerk, Suicide, and Spacemen 3, which combined with this visual feast, turned their live set into a stunning spectacular. Pioneering and adventurous, this felt like the dawning of a new era for live music.

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From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.