Gardenback closed off 2019 with their "office party" as they gave the gig-starved of Manchester a Christmas show to send us off into the new decade. Showcasing new songs as well as old favourites, they were joined by The Be Positives and Octopus.
Octopus opened up proceedings but their eight legs had been cut to four by some of the band being unable to make the show because of work commitments, so without a rhythm section they were forced to play as a two-piece with George and Joe playing guitar and sharing vocals. Whilst this changes their sound considerably, the songs still shine through the stripped-down approach. On the likes of Dog Fight, Helmet Head and the final Mumbo Jumbo Sale, the two electric guitars replace the harmonies of their two singles with something a little harder and more direct which goes down well with the audience despite the unaccustomed set-up.
The Be Positives bring a real mix of styles to their twelve-song set, only half of which come from their recent self-titled album including lead singles Like Everyone which opens and the set-closing Goodbye. This mix is due to the fact that the four of them share lead vocal responsibilities at different points in the set and the songs switching from being guitar-led to keyboard-led as Mike sits down and delivers dramatic performances that match the helter-skelter pace and dashing darting nature of the music. Their songs reveal a love of the past, but rather than dwell on it they imbibe it with their own personalities and stamp their musical identities across it as well. Their energy and love of what they're doing is very clear to see as they romp their way through an enjoyable half an hour.
The room's full to capacity for Gardenback as they kick in with LOL and then take us on a forty-five minute musical journey that shows just how far they've developed in the last year. Ellis, Neil and Jacob have crafted a set of fine tunes that fit their three-vocal approach to their art perfectly. They may have not released any new music in 2019 but they've built up a canon of songs - with only two of their previous four releases Health And Wellbeing and Sleepless surviving - that suggests if they've been or are going into the studio in 2020 then we'll be hearing a lot more from them.
Songs like Existential Crisis, Cynical Guy, No Filler, Bury Me and a brand new one called Word Of Mouth have huge hooks and melodies that stick in your head immediately, driven along by the obvious joy they're getting out of being up their on stage and feeding off the audience's response. There's a real intuitive feel to their performance, a sense that their interactions are completely natural and this gives the songs a real flow and energy to them. While their between-song patter is self-deprecating and full of facts like Oldham being the home of the tubular bandage, they sign off with a serious message to be nice to each other as we're all stuck on this island together now before finishing the set with Going Native.
Gardenback are on Facebook and Twitter.
The Be Positives are on Facebook. Their self-titled debut album is available on Bandcamp.
Octopus are on Facebook.