Day 2 of A Carefully Planned Festival and we're heading around Manchester's Northern Quarter without much of a plan (we lost our guide sheet twice and hadn't done our research) but the beauty of such a diverse, well thought out festival is that you'll always find something you weren't expecting to blow you away. We caught eight very different bands across five venues.
After a later start than planned, our first act is TVAM in Gullivers. We're intrigued by the bank of VHS recorders sat below a TV set that's at least a decade old, but once Joe (aka TVAM) sets up his backing track and starts to play guitar over the top of it, all becomes crystal clear. The TV crackles to life and shows a series of montages of crackly footage from days gone by accompanied by the lyrics to the song flashed on the screen where appropriate.
This could all end hideously and it come across like a low-budget Public Service Broadcasting (which would admittedly be better than the real thing), but there's something we can't put out finger on that makes the whole thing brilliant. There's little subtlety to the guitar playing, it's loud and gutteral and the words Joe sings are almost commentating on what's going on behind him on the screen. There's even a clever song called Rewind Repeat where all the footage shown so far gets played in fast reverse set to a different piece of music.
We head over to Coasts at AATMA (the venue formerly known as Kraak), but their schedule has been completely thrown out by cancellations, including the aforementioned Coasts so our random band generator throws up Annabel Allum at Cord. We're lucky we get there when we do as the venue is half the downstairs room but we secure one of the few seats at the front whilst our friends come later and are stuck at the back. One of the few criticisms of the festival is the number of people who stand with a huge gap in front of them before the stage and get arsey when others try to get past to allow the room to fill up properly. Not the festival organiser's fault of course, but we've said it now.
Annabel Allum is a revelation though. It's her first time in Manchester and we hope she'll be back soon as her music is so meticulously intense as she loses herself completely in what she's doing. Her six-song set is made up mostly of tracks from her debut EP which we acquire copies of at the end. Absent has already prickled the attention of John Kennedy at X(FM), but it doesn't stand out above the others as is often the case early in an artist's career.
Her lyrics are intelligent and socially aware. Foxes is about how humans waste so much food yet are unwilling to let foxes eat it and could almost be a metaphor for how some humans treat other humans, whilst Shreds is based upon a story where she was out in a club and was mistaken for a boy and verbally abused in a toilet which inspired her to go home and write the song filled with anger. Festivals like these are about surprises and chance discoveries and we struck gold down in that cramped back room of Cord.
We're winging it at this point and head to The Castle for The Sisters, which is frankly an appalling choice of name in the internet era as trying to find anything about them is a lottery. However, there's nothing appalling about their set. We walk in during the middle of a catchy upbeat track about not wanting to be skinny that piques our interest immediately. Front man Joe Gorman is a natural band leader. He asks if anyone has read Murder On The Orient Express as an introduction to a song about the nightmares of Manchester bus travel that is Murder On The 86 Bus To Chorlton. Rather than being a novelty song though, it's a cutting and accurate piece of social commentary set to a piece of music that it's impossible not to find yourself tapping your feet to.
They play a new song, which Joe asks the audience for a title to and ends up with Graham. When the scamp who suggested it demands royalties at the end, he's told Kylie got nothing for the next track called Better The Devil You Know. A broken guitar curtails their set early, but they finish on the raucous spiky But I've Got A Girlfriend and we forgive them hours of fruitless Google searches.
No such name issues for the next band as we head back to Gullivers for A Sudden Burst Of Colour and the room is packed. They're from Glasgow and this is their first trip to Manchester and it doesn't start well. The guitar amp blows during the first song and they take time out to replace it and as if he's jinxed the guitarist then promptly breaks a string. But you can always tell a lot about a band by how they react to adversity and this they do with aplomb.
Once everything's sorted out they deliver a set of breathtaking psyche-tinged instrumentals that have the audience transfixed. There are sections where the songs soar and lift the audience before bringing them back down with an admirable poise and control. It's always difficult for bands that trade without words to hold an audience's interest, but A Sudden Burst Of Colour have no such worries and they tell us they'll be back in Manchester in the New Year when they'll be more than welcomed by the admirers they win over today.
Next up are Bakewell's The Hipshakes in Mint Lounge, another space that's criminally under-utilised as a gig venue, and they make a big deal about where they come from at the start. Quicker on our feet, we'd have called them tarts, but their high-energy adrenalin-fuelled set means they're nothing of the sort. They don't pause for breath for the duration of their half hour set - everything seems to last no more than two minutes, they share vocal duties between the four of them and one of them finds it impossible to stand still for more than a nano-second.
Their songs though are infectiously catchy, even if you can't catch the torrent of words. It's impossible not to be drawn in by the ferocious energy that they create and the fact that they're clearly having the time of their lives up there, something too many bands forget to do.
We stay in Mint Lounge for a band closer to home, Blooms, and their set bears all the hallmarks of their home town, whilst also crafting an individuality of their own as well. There's a genuine love of classic melody that runs through their set, be it Alaska and Head Is Spinning with its repetitive ear worm "head is spinning, sky is falling" line that runs throughout it.
They finish with Waves, the demo track with which they announced themselves to us with last year, and it's six minutes of surf-tinged brilliance that suggests that there's much more to come from them. A lot of the bands we've seen this weekend bowl us over with sheer force of nature, but Blooms approach us with their more subtle insistent harmonies and by the end of their set they have the audience won over.
We finish the weekend off at Texture, another fantastic venue that the organisers have found and utilised this weekend. LIINES are the first beneficiaries of possibly the best sound set up we've heard in Manchester outside Band On The Wall. They're loud and direct and you can hear every note they play in crisp accurate detail which accentuates LIINES's impact even more. The over-zealous use of a smoke machine and austere use of lights does mean it's harder to see them than hear them though.
They mix tracks from their demo EP including a ferocious Liar, where you think Zoe's about to rip the head off the song's subject such is the intensity, and Cold, but the rest of the set lives up to its billing too, including future single Never There that closes the set. For a basic approach of Zoe's guitar, Steph's bass and Leila's drums they create a full on sonic assault, but one which trades in its angular subtlety as much as its power. The drums change the direction of a song in a beat and the bass dropping sends them on a different course and Zoe's guitar playing packs the biggest punch in town. Of all the great bands and solo artists we've seen this weekend, none quite pack the same power.
LIINES's star is slowly rising. They're headlining the Night And Day in November, but their sound has already outgrown these small stages and needs the bigger audience they're getting in the more open and appreciative European venues they've been playing this year. The male dominated Manchester rock scene needs to open its eyes, ears and minds to LIINES because they might learn something about how to do this thing properly.
The Orielles have been on the circuit a few years, steadily building a following and it's hard to recognise their still tender years now such has been their development. Their set shows a love of classic rock music merged with the surf scene that's both fresh and invigorating. There's a interesting contrast between the two vocalists. Henry's full-on head down hair swinging guitar playing that makes you wonder how he actually manages to do it whilst Esme-Dee delivers both icy cool bass and vocals that fit perfectly. Sid's drumming drives the whole thing along, despite her shrugging off part of the kit failing her towards the end, keeping the other two in check.
They have the songs to match too. Recent singles Bitchcraft and Space Doubt plus new song Joey Says We Got It and another untitled one (New Jamz on the setlist) are the stand outs in a set that impresses both those familiar to them and the intrigued first timers. They're ready now to make the step up from ones to watch to being regular headliners and to lead a scene.
And that's us done for the weekend. There's so much to commend the organisers of A Carefully Planned Festival for from the diversity and quality of acts, the insistence on running to schedule, the compactness of the location, the sound systems they brought into non-traditional gig venues, their social media activity, the general friendly vibe of the volunteers and the paying punters and lastly the exceptional value for money. We saw 14 acts for £17.50, with a bit more stamina on the Sunday and no clashes with other gigs on Saturday evening it could have been 25.
TVAM is on Facebook and Twitter.
Annabel Allum is on Facebook and Twitter.
The Sisters are on Facebook and Twitter.
A Sudden Burst Of Colour are on Facebook and Twitter.
The Hipshakes are on Facebook and Twitter.
Blooms are on Facebook and Twitter.
LIINES' official website can be found here. They are also on Twitter, Facebook and Soundcloud.
The Orielles are on Facebook and Twitter
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