Saturday 20 August 2022

Seb Lowe / Cobain Jones / The Lanks - Hyde Pop - 19th August 2022

Seb Lowe continued his short series of dates around the southern and eastern outposts of the Greater Manchester music scene with a sold-out show at Hyde's intimate DIY space POP on Friday night. With the audience singing along to every word of his best-known songs and captivated by the stage presence of the teenager and his band we left with the sense we'd just watched a future star completing the last stages of his apprenticeship before moving to the much bigger rooms of the city centre. 

It's our first visit to Pop, in fact it's our first visit to Hyde in about thirty years. The high street, like most others, is now full of old pubs, takeaways and the remnants of what was once a busy shopping street with a all-purpose supermarket hidden away just behind it. Pop, like many other similar places around the country, is fighting to keep culture alive here, away from the city centre that acts as a one-way magnet. It's a volunteer-run multi-purpose space, foodbank and community centre by day, event space at night and it caters for all-ages because it's not driven by the profit motive that's increasingly prevalent to the detriment of the experience in town. It has a bar, a stage, a surprisingly good sound set-up and everyone from the doorman to the bar staff is friendly and welcoming. It's warm because we're told they're not allowed to open the windows. It's real though, everyone's here to enjoy themselves and it's free of the dickhead that populates the city centre venues to be seen and heard.

The Lanks are first up and their between-song chat is worth the entrance fee alone. Trying to get audience interaction by offering a pint to someone who follows them on Instagram and constantly picking someone underage, chastising an old teacher who told front man Liam he'd never be a musician by getting everyone to chant "Fuck you" during a cover of Jake Bugg's Two Fingers and with most of Liam's family joining in between songs makes it an entertaining half-hour. The duo, Josh accompanies Liam with an acoustic guitar and stomp box, are about a lot more than that - their own songs break free from the limitations of their set-up, which they might need to expand for bigger stages down the line, because they're heartfelt and personal and Liam's voice is strong, direct and powerful. The likes of Bigger Man, Take Me Home and On My Mind Girl feel like anthems just waiting for a bigger audience to sing them, but it's Terrified Of Men that really stands them out and shows them to be more than just two lads with a guitar and a penchant for bucket hats. Written from the point of view of a woman who's been taken advantage of by a man when drunk, it should be force-played to any man who sees women as objects for their taking until they see the error of their idiocy and the consequences.

Cobain Jones was one of a number of artists who had their forward momentum taken away from them in the blink of an eye when the pandemic hit and in many ways he's starting again from scratch. Tonight his strength also is part of his problem in a room of friends on a night out. His songs, meticulously crafted in his bedroom, born of a love and influenced by some of the greatest songwriters of all time, demand attention and in a hot sweaty room that's not always forthcoming. He alludes to not being very good at promoting himself, but he's being genuine and a true version of himself up on stage. His songs are his outlet and they'll provide inspiration and hope to those that connect with him - Realistic Dreams tells the listener not to cling to the image expectations of the likes of Love Island, Damaged Love talks of unrequited love and the heartbreak it causes whilst he gets a little political on How The Other Half Live. 

Seb Lowe appeared out of nowhere last year, his initial traction driven by short videos on Tik Tok and then his debut EP Half Decent which he swiftly followed up with a single Terms And Conditions and another EP called The Other Half. Rather than simply get up on stage on his own, although there's a four-song stripped down section mid-set that is mostly him solo, he's formed a band around him that flesh out these songs, adding light, shade and darkness where it's needed to the songs rather than just being a backing band that fills the stage as can often be the case. There's beautiful flourishes of violin that lift the songs, subtle keyboards that soften the edges, drums that drive and power them along such as on the quickfire Kill Him He's A Socialist towards the end of the set and the finale of his breakthrough track Iphone that ends with a short excerpt of Franz Ferdinand's Take Me Out.

What stands Seb out is that he's able to jump from the quickfire almost rap style of those two songs to something much more evocative and tender without breaking stride. Generation Suicide is a thoughtful intelligent consideration of the pressures that face people finding their way in the world today whilst a new song Killer For A Day takes us on a journey that suggests he's only just starting to explore the boundaries of his songwriting. The likes of God's Monkeys and Rat Shit, which he tells us was one of the first songs he wrote, will soon not need him to sing them because the audience will drown him out - the simplicity of the songs permits an immediate connection as you look round the room and people already know every word. 

As the set finishes he's mobbed as he leaves the stage, signing everything and anything. Whilst he's got the confidence in himself that he'll need as his career moves on, he's also got the humility that's equally needed to succeed. In twelve to eighteen months time, when Seb's name is known far and wide, those signatures will be proudly displayed with the question "ah, but did you see him at Pop?" It's a reminder why venues like this one are absolutely essential for both artists and audiences.

Seb Lowe is on FacebookTwitter and Tik Tok. He plays Stockport Bask (September 29) and Stalybridge Zeroes (30).

Cobain Jones is on Facebook and Twitter.

The Lanks are on Twitter and Instagram.

Pop's website can be found here.


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