Sunday saw the second day of Scruff Of The Neck's Pop Up Festival located at the King's Ransom in Sale. We spent the afternoon and early evening watching nine great bands from both Manchester and further afield that have performed for the label this year on the outdoor stage by the picturesque setting of the canal.
Proceedings start just after 1 in the afternoon with Fliiis (three i's) and the two-piece provide a fun up-beat start to proceedings. For a duo, they make a lot of noise mixing the electronic keyboard sound with guitars and drums, at times sounding like bright and brilliant eighties pop and at others showing a darker side heading towards prog. It's an excellent mix and they're a great opener with recent single Sonder and its successor Conversation being highlights. They're being hotly tipped in some parts of the Manchester scene at the moment and it's no surprise based on today's performance which admittedly wasn't the best situation for them to be in given it was still very early afternoon.
Control Of The Going seem to be blossoming before our eyes and opening themselves up to their audience, the lack of darkness and light show forcing them to in today's conditions. Opening with Star, one of a batch of new songs that demonstrate just how much they've come on in just over twelve months, their sound is powerful, raw and in your face and some of the assorted people of Sale are a little taken aback with this onslaught as they sip their afternoon part. They've revisited early single The Message and converted it to the multi-headed monster it always promised to be and Wild Flower and In Line have also grown and blossomed as both front man Liam and the band have gained in confidence and stature. They finish with future single She and have set the bar high for the rest of the day.
Cultures are next up and the three-piece that have been steadily building up a following in and around town with singles like Away From Us, Marlone and this year's Ghost demonstrate just why that is with a set full of songs with big chiming guitars and uplifting choruses. They trade in three minute songs that grab the listener, sweep them off their feet, spin them round and place them back on the floor and they do it perfectly.
I Set The Sea On Fire have come over from Sheffield and they bring an almost carnival-like atmosphere to the banks of the canal with two lots of brass and a flute thrown into the mix on songs like Romeo Is Dead (and Juliet's a junkie, the next line goes) and their recent single Tastes Like Funk and other tracks from their album Sleep Now Surburbia, although that's the last thing that's going to happen around here as they let loose. They say they might not be our cup of tea, but they stop people chattering and make them listen and we enjoyed them as much as they clearly enjoyed playing.
Happy Daggers have also made the trek across the Pennines from Leeds although seem coy about that fact. They have a great mix of vocals throughout their set, lead man Sinclair's deep soulful voice has quite a range to it and it's backed with great harmonies and some scorching guitar work from Jordan stage-right. They're fun as well, trying (in vain) to get us up and dancing. Their recent single Need Your Love is a stand out track from the set as is a previous one Get Yourself Together, which is both soulful and funky and lifts the crowd from their Sunday roasts, and they finish with a cover on Ride On Time that even has the passing barges singing along.
Next up are Altar Flowers, a band we haven't seen for a while, and in that time they've undergone a few line-up changes, but front man Jay brings a constant to the band that really should be getting more attention than they have either under this name or their previous incarnation LVLS. Hopefully new single Laugh and their final track Glory, both of which are big, bold tunes, will help to redress the balance, because they're still a mighty fine live band and Jay's sense of humour is still very much intact - "you look pretty, but not as pretty as me."
Mayflower have been on our radar for a while now and they're a band that trade in songs that you could imagine being blasted out in arenas and stadiums. They're not afraid to reach for the sky and deliver huge anthemic songs that tug at the heartstrings and threaten to rip them free. Previous single Sienna set the bar high for them, but their latest track I'm Not There raised it even further and the rest of their set suggests that there's far more to come - particularly the likes of Many Clouds which they demoed last year but feels like it's been bulked up and fleshed out since then - and we don't even notice the throat issues Olly complains about near the end.
Festivals need star headliners even though set by a canal in Sale and Louie Louie's Rita provides exactly that. We haven't seen Louie Louie for a few months, but to be honest they now look and sound like a completely different band. All that latent promise has suddenly exploded into life and they seem ready for festival stages much bigger than this. As dusk falls, they're lit up in purple and yellow, but it's Rita that illuminates the stage, a proper rock star, guitar slung over her shoulder at points and at others strutting with that confidence that comes with the certainty of knowing you and your band - and they're far from a one-woman show as Pedro, Paul and Tom all contribute to the powerful sound that echoes around the town - are good, no great, and delivering a set full of big songs that it's easy to pick up on and have stuck in your brain within minutes.
Out Of My Head, Leaving Home, Carry The Man and Nostalgia are just some of the highlights, but it's their final track The Lighthouse that really marks them out as a band that can connect with an audience that needs to be won over. Rita's voice merges with Pedro and the songs soar away into the night sky. If they can do it on a warm Sunday night by a canal in Sale then you can do it in a hot and sweaty venue in the city centre. Louie Louie's time is just about now.
Fliiis are on Facebook and Twitter.
Control Of The Going are on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud. Their two EPs are available from their Bandcamp page.
Cultures' website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
I Set The Sea On Fire's website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.
Happy Daggers are on Facebook and Twitter.
Glass Peaks are on Facebook and Twitter.
Altar Flowers are on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.
Mayflower are on Facebook and Twitter.
Louie Louie's official website can be found here and they are on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.