In The City - Manchester
Live Review

In The City – Manchester

It’s All About The Music Stupid. Three Nights Of Your New Favourite Bands, You Just Don’t Know It Yet. In The City 2008

From such promises comes much frustration and, as it turns out, a handful of Britain’s most significant new artists. Anthony H. Wilson’s creation has been breeding and exporting talent since 1992, but you have to wonder if industry fat cats gorging themselves on Glasvegas’ success, company credit card accounts and Nokia goody bags is quite what he had dreamed of when he schemed this showcase to life. Wilson bled for Manchester music, In The City oozes schmooze. “Music is the food of life, company man,” so, in true In The City style, let’s get down to business. Here’s what we heard and what you must hear from all corners of Britain.

England: The inevitable rise of Royal Treatment Plant

With the last embers of Monday night the crowd was thinning before Royal Treatment Plant – pictured by Ben Rimmer – could capture their hearts and minds. What they were missing was a rare thing; great lady fronted rock bands have been thin on the ground in England, leaving a world centered on the USA to bring us what we have lacked. Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Raveonettes are special, of the modern ones, but it is Blondie who RTP look to emulate. Indeed, Mike Chapman – the producer of such classics as ‘Parellel Lines’ – stood entraced by Paula Steel and her band. Chapman mixed two tracks from RTP’s debut album ‘Hope Is Not Enough’ and is lining up to take full control of the follow up. This was one of RTP’s best live performances and Mike was elequently waxing lyrical to us, promising another hit record. “These guys are so special. They don’t need a record label, they are going to reach the top of the charts with or without them, it’s inevitable. Paula is incredible, whether she is on stage or off it she has magnatism and nobody can take their eyes from her. She is such a beautiful girl who has everything going for her. This band is destined for greatness.” Royal Treatment Plant recently signed to Universal in Australia and are heavily backed by the same label in the UK. Whoever grabs their signature will have hits screaming from the radio. At Ruby Lounge the band smashed out the best of their catalogue, which is pretty much all inclusive. Grunge, heavy bass and incessant drums make way for high rising guitar lines and pure pop punk vocals that range from beautiful crystal clarity into yelped passion fuelled outbursts. Royal Treatment Plant have simply the most addictive hooks and choruses of 2009.

Scotland: Climbing the ladder, presenting Down The Tiny Steps [link]

Squashed in to the corner of Picadilly Records Glasgow’s electro-folk-pop trio Down The Tiny Steps splutter in to glorious life on the final evening of In The City. At once there is weirdness and homely familiarity and despite the never ending array of instruments and styles this never, ever becomes twee. The sometime spoken word delivery recalls Aidan John Moffat, although here the delivery is full of melody as well as humour. The guitar, keys and percussion shimmer with beauty but it is the oddness of the music that takes this to another level. With voice samples played in to muddled sequence on keyboards, vocal warping megaphones and tiny boxes upon which beats can be formed and then instantly put to work on repeat in song, minds are constantly being pushed and always to happiness. From sweet Scottish pop folk (‘Handstand’ and ‘Summer Is For Going Places’) to metronomic and mind-bending electro (‘Bed Bugs’ and ‘Photosynth’) Down The Tiny Steps have emerged from nowhere with the most wonderful lyrics and eclectic arrangements. Almost bashful for slips of the tongue and false starts, their joking chat and goofy inexperience only endeared them further to those hanging off the record shelves to get a peak at this brilliance.

Northern Ireland: Three Kings of Belfast’s burgeoning rock scene

Mixing twanging country guitars with sometime sludgy, often sweet folk vocals, Cashier No.9 are the undoubted stars here. Beautiful harmonies and tuneful bass and guitar lines take this towards Teenage Fanclub territory with the same vacant delivery proving utterly compelling. The inventiveness of a set swinging between northern soul funk, breezy West Coast vibes and ominous alt-country affirms them as Belfast’s great hope. Able apprentices to Cashier No.9’s throne, the Panama Kings and Ed Zealous bring modern sounds to Studio without quite the same assuredness. Panama Kings’ euphoric guitars produce real time stopping moments. At their best with two guitars soaring, less successful were the songs led weakly by keys and synths. Steve Mcavoy of Ed Zealous brings great variety with his rowdy and strained vocal, which is matched by his band’s playful mixing of straight up rock and genuine jaunty electro. The crashing drums, LCD Soundsystem keys and howl the house down wailing makes for indie dance floor friendly tracks and an enrapturing live show. The Northern Ireland showcase gave a rare opportunity for these bands to play together and it was disappointing, with Northern Irish music blossoming, that Studio wasn’t bursting with delegates ready to give further rise to the Belfast collective.

From the Blues to the Boots: The best of the rest and boos plus rouse for those without hope.

Hundreds of bands were on bills across the bars and venues of downtown Manchester. Many came on merit, others proved why they had to pay their way on to line-ups. This should be the end for the most middling, dullard indie band Barn Owl who, if trends have taught us anything, will probably be headlining the NME stage at next year’s festivals. Let it be Down These Tiny Steps. It is also time for Grammatics and their weedy leader Owen Brinley to hang up the posturing. It is hard to believe in their self-confessed melodrama and pretension, which kind of defeats the object of a rock band. Screaming his guts out with a faux serious expression and a perfectly placed bottle of wine in hand, Owen seems to have gone to the Jarvis Cocker school of dramatic movement, only to be expelled for being too camp. Unbelievable. Detroit Social Club didn’t do anything interesting enough to justify their hype and were easily upstaged at South’s Sunday NME showcase by Eugene McGuiness and Little Boots.

Liverpool’s Soft Toy Emergency keep collecting unsavoury comparisons to the Ting Tings, which is way off line. STE are the real electro glam pop deal with the music and Jen Davies in the spirit and league of CSS’ Lovefoxx and YSP! WSD!’s Becky Ninkovic. They are easily In The City’s best totally unsigned band. [link]

Josh Weller, Polly Scattergood and the barmy blues of The Jassocks all played interesting to keep our attention beginning to shows’ end. Other’s lasted but a verse or a song before our restless feet marched us on to find the great ones. These New Puritans, already discovered and destined to continue their assent, wrapped up this year at Night and Day with a set both visually and vocally epic. Their wall of noise has so many interesting layers and levels, that had they played on Sunday they might just have stolen the show. Yet In The City is all about finding your favourite new bands, which we did. So let’s celebrate them and In The City in all it’s flawed glory.

Share this!