Thursday 2 February 2023

Sprints / Thus Love / M(h)aol - Manchester Yes Basement - 1st February 2023

Sprints, Thus Love and M(h)aol's sold out show in the cramped packed surroundings of the basement of Yes in Manchester showcased three extraordinary bands capable of headlining much bigger rooms on their own. Each coming with their own distinctive slant on their art, but with plenty of common defining themes and the aim of blowing the head off anyone within range, they combined to deliver a night that'll be talked about by those who attended for as long as the gig round the corner.

The hottest gig in town label has probably been taken by The 1975's intimate show round the corner at Gorilla, but most of the audience tonight are more than happy to be here instead of witnessing a band that started off in venues like this one going back to their roots. Here we have three bands destined for much bigger things, in fact two of them already have much larger engagements in the very near future, on their way up. It's a three-band bill of some of the most exciting new bands around from Ireland and the US

M(h)aol open up the night ahead of the release of their debut album Attachment Styles this Friday, a record about queerness, social connection and healing and personal experience. They're not afraid to address difficult subjects. Bored Of Men addresses toxic masculinity and the impact it has on women. Period Sex is about wanting to fuck while menstruating and questions why it's taboo to be shocked by blood in that situation when it's seen as normal in violent films and elsewhere. Bisexual Anxiety is a poem about coming to terms with your sexuality set to a bass guitar being played by a violin bow and screeching guitars. 

What M(h)aol do so perfectly though is be provocative but with balance. Roisin states on a couple of occasions that not all women are feminists and not all feminists are women and corrects a call from the audience that assumes a review she references was written by a man. They teach rather than preach and they recognise that anyone can be an ally and anyone can be an enemy - and it's a refreshing message in a world where lines are drawn and people are put in boxes.

Unusually they have two bass players - Zoe and Jamie who alongside a single guitarist Sean who spends the gig with his back to the audience and Connie on drums providing tribal non-linear beats which gives them a sonic unpredictability. Two of their first three songs - Kinder Bueno and Kim Is A Punk Type Dog - last about thirty seconds, whilst the aforementioned Bored Of Men ends up in Roisin conducting the audience in singing along with the song's title before bouncing around the stage with an energy that's exhausting to watch. They're a band with a serious message to impart, but they insist, for the most part, that you have fun whilst listening to it.

American trio Thus Love hail from the small town of Brattleboro in Vermont and are on their first UK tour, but it's unlikely to be their last. Their album Memorial pricked the ears of 6 Music and they followed up with recent single Put On Dog with more to come with forthcoming single Centre Field and On The Floor included in their forty-minute set. After this short tour they head out supporting Dry Cleaning in venues many times the size of this and they possess the ability to size up even if this dark and dirty brand of rock and roll is perfect for basement clubs like this.

Echo is leaving out her rock and roll fantasy up on stage, lost in the music as if it's consumed her completely whilst her band mates play almost oblivious. Nathaniel on bass and Lu on drums are providing the robust rhythm section framework around which the likes of Repetitioner and In Tandem are built and which made them favourites on 6 Music already and Memorial such an instant accessible album. Live, they're harder and harsher sounding, but the tunes underneath everything still shine through. It's a trick that bands from their part of the world have played many times over the years, but Thus Love make it feel fresh, invigorating, exciting and real.

It's a very tough pair of acts for Sprints to follow, but the Irish four-piece have undergone a thrilling transformation since we saw their two sold out shows at The Castle and here almost twelve months ago. Most of the set is made up of the same songs as they hold back on much of the album they hint at. There's just one new unreleased song Up And Comer as well as last single Literary Mind that didn't feature this time last year, but the Manchester crowd don't care.

They've beefed up their sound considerably, Karla has become a potentially iconic front woman, irrespective of what some pathetic Irish politician might think, vocally and visually commanding the room, demanding more from the audience and chastising us ("come on you fuckers" when the chanting back isn't loud enough and telling us we're teetering on the edge of being decent craic half way through) as the set progresses. Their songs and the energy behind them is relentless and by the end there's a mosh pit that verges on the edge of losing control.

These are songs about living in the 2020s. A Modern Job lists a series of wants in a world that's obsessed by possessions and status while Delia Smith proclaims "who wants to be special? me, fucking me" and the crowd, women and men, young and old, gay or straight, mouth along as if it was written for them. Debut single The Cheek, introduced by Karla as their bisexual anthem and their oldest song, feels a world removed from when it was the introduction to the band just as the world went to shit in 2020 and a sign of just how far Sprints have progressed. 

The four-song finale sees the Manchester crowd finally lose their inhibitions - Manifesto's "I don't need nobody to tell me what to do" feels like a call to arms. How Does The Story Go's hook line has the whole room bouncing along as Karla ditches the guitar and heads out to mosh with members of M(h)aol who've been gently heckling for the past few songs. Literary Mind builds and builds, Karla and Sam's vocals combining with increased intensity before they finish on Little Fix which threatens to blow the room to pieces. Ireland might be best known right now for male post-punk bands, but Sprints, along with M(h)aol are smashing that myth to pieces.

M(h)aol are on Facebook and Twitter. Following on from this tour they play Newcastle Bobiks (May 19), Glasgow Hug And Pint (20), Leeds Hyde Park Book Club (22), Manchester Yes Pink Room (23) and London Boston Music Room (25).

Thus Love are on Facebook and Twitter.

Sprints' website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter

The triple-header tour continues at Bedford Esquires (February 2), Brighton Komedia (4) and Bristol Strange Brew (5).

Follow Even The Stars on Twitter at @eventhestarsuk and like our Facebook page for all the latest updates

No comments:

Post a Comment