Sunday 11 September 2016

Lunar / The Hotspur Press / King Kartel - Manchester Ruby Lounge - 10th September 2016

Lunar's first headline gig for five months saw them pack out The Ruby Lounge on Saturday night with an equally energetic supporting cast of The Hotspur Press and King Kartel, leaving a hot, sweaty and battered and bruised moshpit in their wake.

King Kartel are first up and, surprisingly for a band that's been around a number of years, this is the first time we've seen them. Their riotous set and Northern Irish charm go down a storm with the crowd, and it seems like they've brought their gang with them as well, as they induce singalongs from the start. They also manage the mean trick of getting the word bellend into a song (How'd He Pull That) without it sounding contrived. Their set contains their two singles from 2014/5 Come At Me Now and their last track Gunslinger, but the rest leaves hope that they'll soon be back with new material. Brown Sugar is a particular stand out track, but they leave us mightily impressed and rueing the fact we hadn't seen them previously.

The Hotspur Press are something of a revelation. Having seen them in strange conditions in an office block the other week, we weren't sure what to expect, but with the physical restrictions that put on them lifted they deliver a soaring energetic performance, never standing still, striking big (but never contrived) rock poses. They start as they mean to go on with next single Other People which their fans down the front already know. Their front man Daniel tells us that "Hope you don't mind doing a little bit of dancing" and then leads by example throwing himself around the stage, as do his band mates Tomas and Chris when not delivering songs like Medicine and Radio from their debut EP. They're a band that are not afraid to sound big and make big gestures and do so without ever veering close to the line of it coming across contrived.

Even an unusual instrumental interlude mid-set doesn't throw them off course as it leads into current single All You Know and their natural order is restored. Daniel's voice throws some dramatic shapes in this one that helps build the tension in the quieter moments before the song explodes into life. They finish with a new song, which we think is called Glowing, that starts slow and builds with purpose and the threat of exploding into life at any moment. It's very different to what's gone before and suggests that they've got much more to reveal. On the basis of tonight, they're definitely a band that's going to stretch the parameters of what we think they'll achieve.

There's an air of expectation as Lunar come on to stage.  They open with Come Home, a furious song driven along by Luke Bonnell's guitar which swaggers throughout as it sets the mood perfectly. It's not their best song by any stretch, but then the ones that make a connection with an audience often aren't, but with its simple catchy "are you happy? come home" chorus and the ending where Sam Carson and Christie O'Connell's vocals combine to sing "better than that twat, darling" you can understand why the front rows lose themselves in it. Last single Showboater is dropped early and the bomb explodes across the now heaving mosh pit in the centre.  Again, its brilliance is in its simplicity, it doesn't pretend to be anything it's not and in "you're a showboater and I know that she hates you" they've got that hook line again.

They're far from a one-trick pony though as the next two newer songs demonstrate.  Girl At Home rattles along without pausing for breath until it hits the breakdown and then takes off in a different direction, whereas the debut performance of Say My Name shows how they're developing as a band that's got more at their disposal than three minute hit and run singles without losing that infectious energy that runs through everything they do.

Love And Affection is an older song but leaves the same impression. Notably slower than the rest of the set, it allows us to catch our breath, but also shows a softer side to Sam's songwriting. It's a welcome respite before Gonna Get You Down and Our Way create bedlam. The former again makes great use of the Sam / Christie vocal interchange again. The chorus of their debut single, already massively more powerful than the version that was released as a single last year, is sung back with gusto by the crowd as they bounce off each other. The final send-off is their take on Faithless' Insomnia which allows them to let their hair down and go for it for the last four minutes. And then they're gone into the night giving us chance to get our breath back.

King Kartel's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

The Hotspur Press's website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

Lunar are on Facebook and Twitter.

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