Whyte Horses

Whyte Horses


Manchester band Whyte Horses who formed in 2014 are debuting their first album Pop Or Not in their hometown at the wonderful Dancehouse Theatre in the hub of the city centre. Having already been given the gong of Piccadilly Records 2016 album of the year, for the fans and newcomers the expectations are pretty high. I’m intrigued to experience a gig at the Dancehouse, an all seated venue that is most commonly utilised for film screenings, stand-up and productions.

As I walk into the auditorium, the lights dim and the support act is ready to take to the stage. On walks Craig Sinclair, he sits onto a wooden kitchen chair in the centre of the stage, a spotlight shining on him and murmurs into the mic ‘I’m going to tell you some horrid stories this evening.’ And he’s right, he does just that. He’s a writer, an artist, a storyteller and for the next half hour he takes us on this weird, dark and funny journey of twisted tales. The finale of which focuses on a sexual torture room with someone who reminds him of Jeremy Clarkson, but, who in the end, is actually his dad; not a bedtime story or one to recall around the family table at Christmas. I’m surprised and pleased that the tipsy audience haven’t heckled him much, and instead seemed to have embraced, as I have, probably the oddest support “band” any of us have ever witnessed.

As the stage lights dim again you can just about make out the silhouettes of Whyte Horses taking their positions on stage, the cinema screen hanging at the back band begins to play old clips, including an anti-smoking advert featuring R2-D2 and a Fred Dibnah documentary on chimneys. Starting their set in darkness it soon becomes clear they are performing Pop Or Not in its recorded order, the latest single ‘The Snowfalls’, ‘She Owns The World’ and the wondrous ‘Peach Tree Street’ really are showstoppers. Whyte Horses friends including The Go! Team and Josefin Öhrn join them intermittently on stage for various songs and then disappear when their job is done. Stealing Sheep perform in illuminous fluorescent yellow and pink tights holding glow in the dark artwork in front of their faces for ‘When I Was A Scout’ and Badly Drawn Boy, still in his infamous hat reading the words from a song sheet, lends his distinct vocals for ‘Elusive Mr Jimmy’.

Continuously the performances feel a little shambolic, endearing, but, a touch chaotic, as if they are taking place without any prior planning or rehearsals. Although, perhaps that’s to be expected from the debut show of an album that was written in the Italian countryside; just one man, a female vocalist, a few guitars and some old recording equipment. It only adds to the wonder of the evening, as does the cinema screens visual exploration of psychedelic shapes and colours mixed with scenes and adverts, ranging from Babycham to horses eating apples on a sandy beach. I instinctively want to dance and sway along, yet unfortunately the venues set-up means this isn’t quite possible.

This isn’t a gig we are viewing, it’s a performance, an experience of trippy visuals and an adventure of vast musical genres spanning not just decades and time, but different cultures and global influences. As the band glide through the rest of the 17 album tracks, there remains no interaction with the crowd, it’s almost as if they’ve wanted to be second to the music, solely allowing the music to do their talking. Even after a brief disappearance and return for the encore they silently bow, curtsy and applaud the crowd and then skip off stage into the night.

As it finishes I feel a little bewildered and stunned, I don’t feel like I’ve just been to an average gig, it was anything but average, unusual and unique; a one off. Pop or Not? It sure was interesting.

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Sarah Starkey

I am a Freelance Writer who is a bit music obsessive. Previously written for the likes of Music Vita and Planet Ivy. Life highlights include winning £2.50 on the Euro-millions.