Socialist Sunday was dreamt up, planned and delivered within just three weeks as a means of trying to encourage young people to get engaged in the political debate ahead of the December 12th election and specifically to champion the Labour Party. Headlined by The Blinders, as part of their For The Many tour with the same purpose, Manchester's Ritz played host to a thousand or so people to listen to nine hours of bands and speeches on Sunday.
First of all the bands we missed. The subsidy-high service-low rail service of cash cows Transpennine Express and Northern Rail meant that we missed Ventrelles and Dollie Demi who opened the event as well as Eccentronic Research Council with Maxine Peake, Loose Articles and Gerry O'Gorman later when we ventured out of the venue around tea time. That still left us with seven acts to cover as well as some inspiring speeches in between.
Cold Water Swimmers opened our day, the three-piece looking and sounding very much at home on this stage that's far bigger than they're accustomed too. Front man Chris is no stranger to politicising music, referencing gigs his band The Reptiles played during The Miners Strike in 1983. Despite carbon-dating himself with that statement, the music sounds remarkably fresh and current with Carrie's bass and Selina's drums providing the robust framework for singles Burn Your Idols, Robots and I'll Be Your Witness, whilst an unnamed song that declares "don't get old, don't get sick, don't be black, don't fightback" is one of the day's most appropriate lyrics as it rephrases Labour's "for the many, not the few" mantra.
The Pagans S.O.H. bring a completely different vibe to the room and get people dancing. Mixing hip-hop, funk, jazz and guitars, they create a sound that's very difficult to ignore because of its energy and the feeling of love that they aim to share. They wear many of their influences on their sleeves, coming close to sampling within songs whilst it still feeling natural within the flow of them. Front man Marcus renames their song Lazy Nigger as Labour Nigger for the day before adding "no offence." They finish on their frst single BANANAHAH which goes down a storm as the venue starts to fill up.
Space Monkeys are the next band we catch, Richard introducing them with Acid House Killed Rock And Roll and they deliver a six-song set that's full of sunshine and love, songs with huge hooks, whether it be Sugar Cane, March Of The Scarecrows or We Are The Supercool from their 1996 album The Daddy Of Them All or their new single We Are Together from their forthcoming album Modern Actions due out on New Year's Day. It's the first time they've played The Ritz, where Richard tells us he's seen the Jam and The Clash at the age of 17 which inspired his generation to be more active. Their set is a fun one, a band clearly enjoying their moment and creating a positive sunny feeling in the room with songs that immediately make you warm to them.
The Rhythm Method introduce them as the "token Southerners" on the bill and then chide us for booing them, remonstrating "we're not all cunts" - before the duo launch into a set that's heavy on synths and lyrics about taking care of each other, Brexit (the articulately observed Continental Breakfast), their home city of London and sex in the suburbs. They manage to keep the engagement levels with the audience high despite the more subdued nature of their songs than the bands around them on the bill and very much get their message across, finishing off by advertising their poster "if you voted Tory you're a nonce" which gets one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon from 99% of the audience although you suspect there might be one or two interlopers.
There's then a speaker who introduces MC Mad Rush (aka Owen Haisley) to perform a song after he has told his story about being arrested and set to be deported as part of the Windrush generation by the Conservative government before a petition forced a change of mind. He had lived here since he was 4, worked since the age of 16 and has three children here. It's a real-life insight that you won't hear in much mainstream media.
Scuttlers have been used to much smaller venues than this until they supported Twisted Wheel here the other week and they've taken to the place like a duck to water. Their sound fills the hallowed hall and the bouncy dance floor is given a stern test by the younger members of the audience forming circle pits to the likes of Nobody Knows, Lies In The Sky, their cover of Funky Town, next single Leaders Of The Lost Generation and Bringing Me Down. Kaiden seems to have grown massively in confidence too and looks fully at home on the big stage as do the rest of them. They'll have won plenty of new admirers with this set and promoted themselves rapidly through the Manchester bands to watch in 2020 list as a result.
Cabbage are a band with a point to prove and the three new songs they play suggest they are coming back with the bit between their teeth especially on Once Upon A Time In The North. The first two tracks Uber Capitalist Death Trade and Fickle as well as their set-closer Necroflat In The Palace are from the trio of EPs that made their name whilst the appropriate Arms Of Pleonexia (about arm sales to Middle East regimes) is the only song to come from their debut album Nihilistic Glamour Shots. They're angry, their songs are politically charged (Necroflat declares "I was born in the NHS, I wanna die in the NHS", something that might not be possible if the evidence that was produced last week turns into policy.) Their energy transmits from the stage to the crowd who are letting loose at the front.
The Blinders headline the music element of the evening, a fifty minute set of songs primarily taken from their debut album Columbia which is almost played in full, other than two new songs, one called Rage and the second Something Wicked This Way Comes, a direct attack on the haves vs have nots in society, one of the key battlegrounds in the election whilst the Columbia songs have many echoes from the book 1984 into the country we're in today.
Without the big light show, it feels like a stripped-down show. Matty's drums feel very raw and tribal, Charlie prowls the stage with his bass as his weapon and Thomas is lost in the world he's created as he plays out the Johnny Dream character of these songs. Gotta Get Through and L'Etat C'est Moi start things off at an electric pace, only slowing down for Ramona Flowers before Brave New World and the final duo of Et Tu and Brutus bring the night to a frenetic conclusion, band and audience lost in the music. They don't say much about the politics, only a short statement about taking homelessness off the street, permitting equality and defending the NHS. The lights go down, the crew run around and set up for one final Terrorist Synthesiser with a Blinders / Cabbage supergroup.
In between the bands there's plenty of speakers with a range of approaches to the election, from taking a Tories Out, Tories are cunts / wankers / twats stance to a more measured approach from others that calls for talking to those who have different opinions, dispelling the media lies (that poet Patrick T Davies so eloquently describes) and talking to the people who disagree with your viewpoint and using facts to convince them, playing on their sense of human decency and thought for others rather than themselves.
As Kallum Nolan, the Middleton Labour councillor who along with Ben Taylor put together this perfectly run hitch-free event in three weeks, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Reverend And The Makers' Jon McClure passionately talk through the Labour manifesto and how it directly contradicts the current government's policies and manifesto, they make very clear the stark choices the country faces and how persuasion rather than abuse and shouting into social media echo chambers might just make a difference to the result on December 12th. If a thousand people walked out of The Ritz with that one thought in their head and adopt it now and in future, then Socialist Sunday was a success in its intent as well as its music.
The Blinders' website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter. Their For The Many tour continues at Woodford Seasons (December 4), Newport Le Pub (5), Stourbridge Green Duck Brewery (6), Lincoln Labour Club (9), Norwich Epic Studios (10) and Stoke Underground (11).
Cabbage's website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Scuttlers are on Facebook and Twitter.
The Rhythm Method are on Facebook and Twitter.
Space Monkeys' official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
The Pagans S.O.H are on Facebook and Twitter.
Cold Water Swimmers are on Facebook and Twitter.