Thursday 1 February 2024

Ist Ist / Midnight Gallery - Preston The Ferret - 31st January 2024

Ist Ist opened 2024 that promises to be their biggest and busiest year to date with a sold-out show at Preston's The Ferret as part of this year's Independent Venue Week celebrations. Mixing songs from across their three albums with tracks taken from their first two EPs that have just been reissued in one package as Everything Is Spinning Now as well as two tracks fresh from their recording sessions from album four. Support came from new Manchester-based band Midnight Gallery.

Independent Venue Week is about supporting the grassroots venues across the country, of which we lost over 120 in 2023 and with many more having their existence hanging from a thread, one rent increase, one act of God or poor couple of months trading away from disappearing. One week packing out spaces like The Ferret, which has seen its fair share of existential threats over the years, doesn't solve the problem but if it raises awareness of the importance of venues as a research and development pool for future arena headliners, where you can see acts up close and personal before they become stars, then it's a step in the right direction.

Midnight Gallery make a positive impression with their short five-song set that precedes Ist Ist. With the release of their debut single Unknown and an accompanying EP they demonstrate a rich awareness of songwriting craft that goes down very well with the Preston audience who've braved the shocking weather and train strikes and come in early to support the support. Opening track Obsessions and their final song Goodbye are the strongest two with there being an intuitive feel and flow to them that goes beyond four kids picking up instruments and making a racket. They're far from the finished article, but the Preston crowd warm to them from the start and they pass the acid test of having people queuing to buy their cds and t-shirts at the end of the night.  A name to look out for.

Ist Ist feel like a band on the brink. They've gone full time in 2024 and have a full year of shows mapped out across both the UK and Europe, where they're significantly outselling many of their more celebrated and connected contemporaries. Album four is close to completion to follow up 2023's Protagonists that was a whisker and one place away from cracking the full UK Top 40 album chart.  They play two songs from that tonight - Lost My Shadow and a first-ever unveiling of The Kiss - that suggest everything is going to get much bigger for them in 2024.

Tonight's show is the first of a four-date Independent Venue Week tour and coincides with the reissue of their first two EPs Spinning Rooms and Everything Is Different Now on a combined CD and vinyl package entitled Everything Is Spinning Now. It's testament to the position they've forged for themselves that an independent self-releasing band can undertake such a reissue of releases that command a three figure sum in their original formats. Tonight's set sees some of the tracks from those releases - I'm Not Here, Exist, Preacher's Warning and the revamped Emily that appeared on Protagonists - brought back into the set for the first time in many years. They show just how much Ist Ist have progressed in that time, the songs have bulked up and out and now feel capable, like the set around it, of filling rooms multiple times the size of the intimate space of The Ferret.

The twenty song set takes us on a journey through their three albums as well, focusing heavily as you'd expect on last year's Protagonists and its stand out tracks Mary In The Black And White Room, Nothing More Nothing Less, All Downhill, Stamp You Out and Something Has To Give. The songs have a raw power to them that has evolved from the recorded versions to make Ist Ist one of the most uncompromising forceful live acts around at the moment. That beefing up of the sound flows through the songs from Architecture and in particular The Art Of Lying tracks. Songs like Black, Night's Arm and Fat Cats Drown In Milk see them mastering the art of building a song to a climatic conclusion.

You sense that they're opening themselves up on stage too in preparation for the bigger rooms that will await them in 2024. There's smiles and laughter at points although Adam jokes that he has to get back into character and Andy says there's a reason they're all dressed in black. But sonically you can hear the development in their live sound, see the confidence that comes with them going full-time and the success that they've had despite virtually no support from the powers that be in the music industry. Their music does their bidding for them, picking up fans by word-of-mouth and then keeping them through the strength of their live show and recorded outputs. A recent press release described them as having a cultish canon of songs, but that cult feels like it's about to go public in a big way.

Ist Ist played Wolves, Stamp You Out, Exist, Lost My Shadow, The Kiss, Night's Arm, Fat Cats Drown In Milk, Preacher's Warning, I'm Not Here, Mary In The Black And White Room, Nothing More Nothing Less, All Downhill, Heads On Spikes, Fools Paradise, Something Has To Give, Black, Under Your Skin, Emily, You're Mine and Slowly We Escape.

They play Milton Keynes Craufurd Arms (Feb 1), Sunderland Independent (2), Huddersfield Parish (3), Paris L'International (March 12), Cologne Blue Shell (13), Berlin Kantine Am Berghain (14), Copenhagen Loppen (16), Stockholm Bar Brooklyn (17), Gothenburg Pustevik (18), Oslo John Dee (19), Hamburg Hebebuhne (21), Groningen Vera (22), Brussels Ways Around Festival (23), Hilversum De Vorstin (24), Nijmegen Doornroosje (26), Rotterdam Rotown (27), Birmingham Hare And Hounds (April 4), Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach (5), London Moth Club (6), Edinburgh Voodoo Rooms (11), York Fulford Arms (12), Leeds Key Club (18), Liverpool Arts Club (19), Norwich Waterfront (20), Manchester New Century (October 19) and Whitby Tomorrows Ghosts Festival (November 1).

Ist Ist are on Facebook and Twitter. Their albums including their new Live In Amsterdam release can be ordered via their website. Digital versions of their previous limited edition releases and a number of live field recordings are available to download from their Bandcamp

Midnight Gallery are on Facebook

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