Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Kieran Fest 2015 - Liam Frost / Déjà Vega / Jo Rose / Denise Johnson / Nev Cottee - Chorlton Irish Club - 5th September 2015




Kieran Fest is an annual event set up by the parents of Kieran Crump Raiswell after they lost their son with the aim of raising funds for Manchester charity 42nd Street that offers support services to young people under stress. The second day of the festival included a concert at Chorlton Irish Club featuring a mix of local artists with all proceeds going towards the invaluable work that 42nd Street do for the young people of Manchester.

Opening up Kieran Fest is Mancunian troubadour Nev Cottee. He's not got his band with him tonight, but is accompanied on mouth organ by Clive Mellor. The nature of the evening means he's restricted to only three songs, but those that he chooses - Follow The Sun, Give A Little Love and If I Could Tell You - and Clive's accompaniment frame the beautifully fragile melodies of his songs perfectly and make them feel even more intimate and personal. We would have loved to have heard much more of these songs in this stripped-down form, but the evening's schedule wouldn't permit.



Next up is Denise Johnson, a woman with a CV as long as her arm but who, for some inexplicable reason, has never had the limelight switched firmly on her despite having worked with the likes of Primal Scream and New Order to name just two. Tonight she's accompanied by an acoustic guitar, although she sings the first half of the first song accapella which gives her the opportunity to show off that stunning voice. The second song Nothing You Can Do again shows off her mastery of different ranges and pace. She finishes the set with two covers of Manchester (and surrounding area) standards - first up is 10cc's I'm Not In Love, but the real showstopper is her version of New Order's True Faith, which stripped of its electronics, she completely makes her own.



Third on the bill is Jo Rose, who, compere Tim Cocker tells us, lives just round the corner. It took us a while to get Jo's intense full-on songs, but I think we've both loosened up in the intervening period since we saw him nervously perform in town a few years ago. He's certainly not phased by Carl, who takes it upon himself to dance just feet in front of him during the first song Terrible Liar (from his album Spurs) and then skilfully handle his heckling at the end. Another Name For Mercy and King Of Your Blue Eyes are so sparse, consistently on the edge of breakdown, almost not in the room at points, but delivered with an intimate level of detail that makes Jo one of the finest at this art. Before he finishes with Balcony Doors, the opening track from Spurs, he talks eloquently about the cause and how they have helped people he knows. For that last song he invites his partner Klara Söderberg from First Aid Kit on to the stage to sing it with him. Whether it's the first time Chorlton Irish Club has had a world-renowned artist on its stage is open to question, but the duet is so beautiful we all swoon.



The mood and volume changes completely for the next act Déjà Vega. The three-piece are loud even without the bass amp that blew at sound check. They play four songs - Friends In High Places, Pentagrams, Passageway and The Test - and it's clear that their constant gigging is paying dividends as they've molded their sound into something that's true to their noisenik roots but which you could also imagine hearing on the radio.


Forthcoming single Pentagrams is an ecstatic bundle of metallic energy, the drums incessantly pummeling the listener into submission as the bass stretches itself languidly across the song leading the subtle changes in pace. It merges straight into Passageway, all menacing and brooding to start with before descending into a hard-edged psychedelic wall of blues-influenced noise. They finish with a seven-minute version of their signature song The Test. Urgent, scurrying vocals and an addictive chiming guitar hook lull the listener into a false sense of security until it descends into a beautiful cacophony with vocals through the effect pedals and controlled bursts of sound. It's a bit of a shock for the crowd who's spent the evening listening to mostly acoustic artists but our friend Carl from earlier joins a pal in an improvised moshpit for two and finishes the gig doing a backflip over the monitor that's precariously perched on a chair.


The final act of the evening is Liam Frost. He starts with The Wild Places, the title track from his recent EP and the first of three from it of the five he plays and testament to him not having lost any of the knack to deliver beautiful heartfelt emotional songs that everyone can relate to in some way. The Mourners Of St Pauls, possibly the finest song he's ever written, feels particularly appropriate tonight stripped back to its bones as it's about Liam's struggles with a loss in the family at a young age that 42nd Street is there to help people through.

He's on jovial form, dismissing someone's shout for Oasis when he tells us he's going to do a cover. Instead we get his own unique take on Sade's No Ordinary Love, before then telling us he's going to unplug and then come down into the audience and play without amplification. Circled by the crowd, he plays two further tracks from The Wild Places EP - When I'm Alone and Who's Going To Love You - the first even more tender and fragile in this setting and the second turned into something of a communal coming together as the audience clap along in time with Liam's guitar.



42nd Street is a voluntary sector organisation with 34 years experience of providing free and confidential services to young people under stress and experiencing mental health problems. We share our expertise with other professionals via training, consultancy and research. More information can be found about their work and how they support young people here. They are also on Twitter.

This year's Kieran Fest raised over £6,000 - they can be found on Twitter.

Liam Frost can be found on FacebookSoundcloudYoutube and Twitter.

Déjà Vega are on FacebookTwitter and Soundcloud.

Jo Rose's official website can be found here. He is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Denise Johnson is on Twitter.

Nev Cottee's website can be found here. He is also on Facebook and Twitter.
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