Saturday 21 January 2023

Dirty Blonde / The Lotts / Barstaff / Ruby J / Overpass (This Feeling Big In 2023) - Manchester Bread Shed - 20th January 2023

This Feeling's Big In 20xx nights have often been a place for new bands to really make their mark before heading off to bigger venues and record deals. The Manchester leg of this year's series took place at Bread Shed with a massive line-up of seven bands, of which we caught the first five - Overpass, Ruby J, Barstaff, The Lotts and Dirty Blonde.

Overpass open up the evening and the Birmingham four-piece lay down a marker for the other artists to follow.  They recently released single 3am via This Feeling and they very much fit the mould of bands that the club night has broken over the years. Strong anthemic songs with big leads into soaring choruses are their forte, at their best when bassist India adds her vocals to Max’s powerful lead. Guitarist Elliot isn’t showy but you hear his contribution and drummer Joe is the rock solid glue that holds these songs together and powers them forward. Final track Other Side Of Midnight is a particular stand out.

Ruby J is the second artist and her distinctive vocal style is very much in evidence from the start as she opens with a couple of recently written tracks, the second Backtrack being the strongest alongside another new track Don’t Care and the Motown-tinged Home. Recent single The Game sounds different stripped down but she tells us that she’ll have a band soon to flesh them out more which should give her voice more room to breathe and fluorish and these songs to blossom fully. She’ll also avoid the pitfalls of any solo artist of fighting against the talkers. She finishes on her own take on Seal’s Crazy that she makes her own.

Wigan is a hotbed of new bands right now and Barstaff are another to add to the list. Shorn of their drummer Jack, who they tell us in a short interlude where they throw a Free Jack t-shirt into the crowd is in HMP Hindley for three weeks, they start with Outta Your League, the opener on their upcoming EP Don’t Tell. They show a sofer side with Know Now, their second single and an unreleased song about unrequited love for a girl called Tracey and wider influences with a ska-tinged track where Ben ditches his guitar. At their best when Ciara adds vocals that complement and lift Ben’s, their set bodes well for the future assuming they can stay out of trouble. They’ve already got an enthusiastic group of fans down the front.

The Lotts, all big hair and loud guitars, make no bones about their aim to rip your head off with huge energetic riffs and quickfire dual vocals. They get louder and fiercer as the set progresses. The relentless pace of the set is only really slowed by between song sound niggles. They don’t say much preferring to let their music do their talking for them - and whilst they’re technically excellent and the hooks have an immediacy that draws the front rows in, it feels like that lack of engagement might hold them back as they grow.

Dirty Blonde are a four-piece from Manchester around the core duo of vocalist Izzy and guitarist Hayley. They've only been a band for around a year but have already racked up impressive achievements including play on Radio 1 and it's no surprise why once they start to play, opening with Don't Mess With Mother and the eponymous Dirty Blonde. With songs like Girls Just Want To Have Guns and recent single and set closer Come Over they've already got a very tight half-hour's worth of songs even so early in their life as a band. They also show a real joy in performing, Hayley amused by the crowd in front of her and their reactions to the songs and Izzy showing signs that she will develop into a powerful front woman with an uncompromising message as they develop their craft further.

Unfortunately other commitments mean we can't hang around for The Juice and The Cavs but we leave safe in the knowledge that This Feeling is still pushing new talent to the fore not just in Manchester and across the country and that the post-pandemic lull in new artists coming through might just be starting to turn.

Overpass are on Facebook and Twitter.

Ruby J is on Facebook and Twitter.

Barstaff are on Facebook and Twitter.

The Lotts are on Facebook and Twitter.

Dirty Blonde are on Facebook and Twitter.

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