Saturday 15 October 2022

Cold Water Swimmers / Urban Theory / Soul Shayka - Manchester Lions Den - 14th October 2022

Cold Water Swimmers headlined their latest DIY-Or-Die night at the Lions Den on Deansgate on Friday night playing their debut album Holiday At The Secret Lake in full followed by a couple of new songs from the follow-up that they're in the process of writing and recording. Support came from Bury's Urban Theory and Liverpool's Soul Shayka.

Soul Shayka opened up the night and the Liverpool four-piece went down well not just with their fans that had made the trek down the East Lancs but with the rest of the gathering crowd. Immersed in a love of classic guitar music (they quote their influences as anything from Tom Waits to Buddy Rich and it shows) they perform a technically impressive set with a real enthusiasm and love for what they're doing. They've clearly been around a while, referencing the sadly departed Ruby Lounge from an anecdote about a previous trip to Manchester, and that shows in the chemistry between them - yet they're still making new music as a new song follows the highlight of the set in Medicine Man.

It's three years since we last saw Urban Theory and they've clearly taken the enforced downtime of COVID to rethink their sound and it shows. Pretty much gone are the Arctic Monkeys stylings that nearly every teenage male four-piece band start off with, they're replaced by something more demanding, groove-based in parts, particularly their very newest songs and it's a transformation that works really well and front man Alex has adapted his vocal style accordingly. 

Some old favourites have been ditched and those that remain like Living The Dream, Discussing The Nightmare have been revisited. But it's the new material that stands out. Demon's Cry and The Making Of A Swine are the sound of a band that's trying to push the envelope of their sound and they're a much tighter live unit than we recall them previously. They finish with last year's single A Poet's World and get a great response from a now-packed Lions Den.

Cold Water Swimmers have been proudly doing their own thing for a few years now, ferociously independent and vocal and actually doing things differently rather than the weak glib statements of people doing the same thing as everywhere else and claiming to be different. The room's packed for their set and there's a huge amount of love from them flowing from audience to stage as they play all the tracks from their debut album Holiday At The Secret Lake that came out last year. 

There's a real tight-knit connection between the three of them once they start to play and the songs have a timeless feel to them that's best appreciated when they're in front of you performing them. The rhythm section is powerful, crisp and the bedrock of the band, Selina's drumming drives the songs along and gives them a propulsive energy, so much so that she ends most songs stood up. Carrie's bass and backing vocals combine perfectly with that, providing Chris's heartfelt sometimes world-weary sometimes up for a fight vocals the platform from which to connect.

Everything We've Ever Had We Had To Fight For is dedicated to the women of Iran and anyone fighting oppressive regimes, but might also be the band's anthem itself. They finish, after performing the album in full, with new material that Chris has been very vocal about on social media. The first, In The Time It Takes For You To Say Goodbye, is announced as their next single. It very much fits into the mould of the debut album, but feels stronger and more focused and the final encore, a song that they're playing for the second time ever, leaves a similar impression. 

Manchester's underground indie scene might have been eaten away at by the promoters taking a bigger and bigger share of the pie by the year by tying in with venues, but Cold Water Swimmers remind us that it's still got a beating heart and a raging pulse.

Cold Water Swimmers are on Facebook and Twitter.

Urban Theory are on Facebook and Twitter. They play Manchester 33 Oldham Street on December 2.

Soul Shayka are on Facebook.

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