Night People has made its mark on the Manchester live scene throughout 2018 and the relative newcomer was the place to be on New Year’s Eve as they put on an all-night collection of some of the city’s leading underground bands headlined by the world’s worst kept secret headliner The Blinders returning to their adopted home after a triumphant year touring the country to an intimate setting where it felt like everyone knew everyone else in the building.
The Big Peach open up proceedings and as we look forward to 2019 it’s quite apt that the night starts with a band that is dragging the past into the here and now. Prodigiously talented and making this music thing look oh so easy their sixties influences are flaunted shamelessly, but they do it with a style and panache and a precise understanding of exactly what made that such an exciting groundbreaking period for music that they stand out like a beacon against bands that are trying to recreate any vibe from the past fifty years.
They’re prolific too. They might have only just released their hook- and harmony-laden self-titled debut album, but tonight’s set sees them introduce their forthcoming single All You Gotta Do Is Ask as well as Run And Hide alongside some of the debut’s standout tracks in Give Up Tryin’ and Game We Play. The gathering crowd warm to them immediately, drawn in by that familiarity they foster and then held by the discovery that The Big Peach are repainting their own canvas.
Carnival Club are next up, fresh from headline shows at Bread Shed and Deaf Institute in recent months. They’re a band that’s bursting at the seams with confident, with Kai and George both out amongst us at points in the seg as they seek to give us a more theatrical and visually appealing set than just plugging in and playing.
Like The Big Peach they want to try out new material and similarly it demonstrates a band on the move forwards and not looking backwards. Stubbornesque showcases a much harder-edged sound whilst their forthcoming single Making Time might be the best thing they’ll have released to date. They’re willing to use their rock star moves to emphasize their songs and the likes of House Of Cards and Follow The Sun sound bigger, bolder and more swaggering than they’ve ever done before.
Secs are billed as something of an indie supergroup featuring Jess of Calva Louise, Bobby of Strange Bones and Matty and Thomas from The Blinders. They blast their way through a twenty minute set of high-energy non-stop headrushes fuelled by the adrenaline of performing to a packed room on the back of three short rehearsals. The crowd react in the spirit of the collaboration, throwing themselves around down the front as a spontaneous reaction to an exciting set that could collapse under its own weight at any moment.
The Blinders have hotfooted it from Victoria Warehouse where they’ve played as part of Kendal Calling’s corporate new year party event. That they’re billed alongside the likes of Everything Everything shows how far they’ve come in twelve months, but everyone in the room knows that these tiny intimate spaces are the place you can really get The Blinders experience. 2019 will be the test of whether they can translate that kinetic whirlwind energy to places like The Ritz and Scala, but tonight is about celebrating the end of a successful with their musical friends and family.
They come on to the strains of their now familar Columbia street poem and are greeted like returning heroes by a crowd intent on leaving every bit of remaining energy in the old year. Thomas ends up amongst us for Gotta Get Through while Brave New World and Hate Song paint a solemn picture of modern day Britain in a way other bands have tried and failed. They are sung back to them with a gusto that confirms the connection they’ve made, that their manifesto has found an audience and that music can still point us in the right direction and not just be a bland three minute whimsical flowery distraction to the ills of the world.
Ramona Flowers and the cataclysmic duo of Et Tu and Brutus possess a belligerent but not arrogant awareness of their power, kettled to bursting point in the now sauna-like conditions of the basement. New song Wither sounds like a progression from Columbia, another ride on a rollercoaster journey that’s approaching the top of its ascent and who knows what on the other side of its peak. It's a fitting end to the year as we break into a new one, a band that has made the crossover from playing venues like this to daytime radio playlists and bigger venues without having to compromise on their principles, dress as they're told not how they want and staying true to themselves. As our compere John Hall, one of the band's biggest champions, sees in the new year for us in his own inimitable style, it feels like 2019 might just be alright if we stick together.
Carnival Club are on Facebook and Twitter. They play Manchester Star And Garter (March 16).
The Blinders' website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter. They play Birmingham O2 Institute (April 26), Manchester Ritz (27), Glasgow St Lukes (28) and London Scala (30). The Blinders photos by Paul Tansey.