Manchester's finest urban music festival is still A Carefully Planned. Held over two days each October across Northern Quarter venues and a proper DIY effort rather than corporately funded, it showcases bands that might never get the corporate success its bigger and better funded contemporaries put on for that exact reason. It's a vehicle for discovering new bands, opening up to genres that you wouldn't ordinarily go and watch and in its most inspired moments an introduction to bands that will become your favourites.
After a couple of false starts (we hadn't carefully planned so had no real idea of a schedule for the day), the first band that grabbed us was Lake Komo. We'd been slightly critical of their main stage billing at Ramsbottom Festival as we felt their intimacy and their intricate songwriting had been lost to the field, and today's exquisite performance would support that notion. They're a band that trade on harmonies, particularly when Jay and Jess's vocals combine, and beautiful melodies and the more intimate surroundings of Soup Kitchen allow those to blossom and charm the packed crowd. Songs like Think Tank, Resurrect and 4th July are perfect for this type of surroundings where you can see the whites in their eyes and fall in love with them.
Next up for us is Laura J Martin in a packed upstairs room in Gullivers. Alternating between flute and keyboards, Laura delivers a beautiful set of off-kilter songs that stop, start and move from place to place at will without ever losing their sense of purpose or continuity, all delivered with a charming Scouse accent and humility. Do It, My Landing Place and Green Grey Grim, her ode to the destruction of Northern cities in the name of progress, are particular highlights of a set that kept the audience captivated and respectful throughout,
It feels like The Orielles have been around forever despite their still teenage years. The trio manage to pack out Mint which is no mean feat in itself as one of the festival's larger venues, but that's no real surprise once they get started and their 80s influenced surf pop with a modern twist washes over us. Their newer songs Subliminal Spaces and a fabulous stretched out Sugar Takes Like Salt that concludes their set show that they're still developing. Esme's voice is developing a depth to it that works with the likes of 48 Per Cent and Joey Says We Got It and she takes the lead on most songs, leaving Harry to leave us worrying about the onset of sciatica such is the way he throws his head around to the music.
Next up is Peaness and one of the band we'd be highly anticipating seeing for the first time and they exceed all our expectations. The Chester-based trio have an infectious love of playing together that can't fail to transmit to the audience and we're left at the end with smiles as beaming as theirs have been throughout. Balla and Jess share vocal responsibilities throughout providing a thrilling contrast to the songs. The two they introduce as new ones - Skinsurfing and Same Place, Different Time - are the two stand out songs in a set full of highlights. Oh George, aimed at our former Chancellor, shows that they're not just interested in writing about relationships as well. Soup Kitchen is utterly and totally disarmed by their brilliance.
It's matched by The Tuts whose trip up from London ended in them being rammed by a car thief trying to escape the vehicle's owner after running him over and writing off their van. Unshaken they deliver a wonderful high-octane set that never takes its foot off the accelerator. Tracks are drawn from their recent debut album Update Your Brain which does a roaring trade at the merch desk at the end. They take no shit either, songs like Dump Your Boyfriend, Always Hear The Same Shit and the political demand to give us Something Worth Voting For take no prisoners neither does recent single 1982 about their experiences with the music industry. Nadia and Harriet share vocal responsibilites which at times add some pop tones to their fiery punk, particularly when they go for one of the best covers we've ever seen - turning The Spice Girls' Wannabe into a perfect riotous anthem. They might just have stolen the festival with their performance.
Cowtown were due to play at 57 Thomas Street, but that inadvisable scheduling given their recent profile was rescued by Joanna Gruesome's late withdrawal and an upgrade to Soup Kitchen, where people are being turned away such is the demand to catch them. It's not difficult to see why either. Although they're on their fourth album, it feels like their latest Paranormal Romance, from which most of their set is culled, has suddenly made them an overnight sensation in the psyche scene. Songs like Emojicore, Motivational Speaker and the thirty seconds of Captain Planet sit hand in hand with tracks such as Perfect Sound Forever and Monotone Face from their previous albums. They end up with Hilary lifting Jonathan in the air and then repeating it with David's drums as if they're on some form of victory parade and the crowd's reaction welcomes them home as heroes.
We then head off to the Night And Day where we stumble across the hazy magnificence of Brighton's Calico. Wholly instrumental with guitar, keyboards, sax and drums they create a beautifully ambient warming soundtrack for an imaginary arty film, the waves of sound washing over the listener, with an air of familiarity and a frisson of excitement at the soothing calming tones that they create. For a random pick we're delighted to have come across a band that wouldn't necessarily float our boat, but that's the beauty of A Carefully Planned.
Our final band of the evening is The Capital in the newly repainted music room of The Castle. Even though it's now half eleven and a lot of buses and trains have already departed, the Chorley five-piece play only their eleventh gig to a full room. They mean business too, armed with three guitars, bass and drums, to create a huge sound that stands unashamed at its boldness, its heart on its sleeve approach taking no prisoners as they run through songs from their debut EP, the highlight being Rumour which builds slowly before exploding into life. They impress with their directness, lack of pretence and love of good old rock and roll shapes and poses, particularly their bass player Andy. They're a perfect way to finish Day 1 for us.
Lake Komo's website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Laura J Martin's official site can be found here and she is on Facebook and Twitter.
The Orielles are on Facebook and Twitter.
Peaness's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
The Tuts' official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Cowtown are on Facebook and Twitter.
Calico are on Facebook and Twitter.
The Capital's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.