Four bands playing for free on a Thursday night? When it's the calibre of established acts such as October Drift and Larkins playing a venue much smaller than their previous Manchester headline shows, then it's too good to turn down especially when highly tipped local acts Plastic House and Sly Antics are also on the bill.
Sly Antics open up and once a few teething sound issues are ironed out in the first song deliver a powerful set built around their recent Captive City EP. The three piece set up gives them space to create something thrilling at moments where the drums sound like machine gun fire and the guitars mirror the ensuing chaos. It's at these moments when they're at their best, letting loose and taking the audience with them. They save the best for last though - the final song (possibly called Motion) sees their raw energy shaped into something that can blow people away.
Plastic House are next up. Their EP Hold On won them plenty of admirers earlier in the year and it's immediately clear why. Their songs aim striaght for the heart and are delivered with a very focused passion with front man Oliver delivering words that you can see and hear he's living every syllable of. There's less of the showmanship of the other three bands on the bill but that doesn't dilute the impression they make. The highlights of the set for us are Does She Matter (apparently being played for the last time), Stockport Syndrome and their final track and next single City Don't Sleep.
Larkins are next up on what must feel a small stage for them compared to Club Academy and The Ritz where they've played recently. They're now at that difficult point where for a half hour set they're stuck between playing their singles that people know and the excellent new material they're rightly quite excited about.
They get the balance right though so Hit And Run, the luscious Velvet and the imposing set closer Sapphire sit hand in hand with new songs, including one obvious future single they'd finished earlier in the day and another that slows things right down, a brave but successful move in a space where chatter carries easily. It feels the only thing that could derail Larkins now is their refusal to allow themselves to be typecast through the ambition, range and diversity of their set.
October Drift are quite frankly astonishing, a force of nature, unconstrained by the limitations of the venue to deliver a set as bold and as fuck you confrontational as you're likely to witness this side of Ist Ist. We start stuck at the back struggling to see past the coachload they've brought from Sheffield but the power they transmit is nothing short of overwhelming. They dispatch a set of songs from their growing collection of essential EPs as well as a few new ones, full of the confidence that their constant touring will give them as a live band. By song three, Kiran charges through and past us on his way to the back. He spends half the show surrounded by adoring fans having moved the pointless barrier as a moshpit forms in front of him.
Songs like Cinnamon Girl and Get With The Times were built for spaces much bigger than this such is their sonic ambition. Alex and Daniel on bass and guitar never stand still, creating a stunning visual spectacle against the strobes and through the smoke machine. The adulation they get during and after the song is almost overwhelming and it's impossible not to get drawn into the intoxicating atmosphere they create. They finish with a cover of Joy Division's Atmosphere, one of the few songs that only the brave or stupid would attempt, but close your eyes and you feel transported back thirty five plus years to the dingy clubs that they frequented.
The reception they get at the end tells its own story. October Drift are one of the few bands out there doing their own thing in a world that runs parallel to commercial success - one of the finest live bands around with a growing cult following.
Sly Antics are on Facebook and Twitter.
Plastic House are on Facebook and Twitter.
Larkins' official website can be found here and they are on Soundcloud, Facebook and Twitter.
October Drift's official website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.