The great thing about following a predominantly amateur music scene like the British synth pop movement, is that as most band members hold down full time jobs (or studies in a few cases), gigs are mainly reserved for the weekend. This frequently presents the opportunity to combine 2 of my passions; Birmingham City and concert going.
This weekend was such an occasion with the Blues game at Blackburn coinciding neatly with Analogue Trash’s latest live event in Manchester. I have to admit AT was a new name to me, but a quick look at their website reveals they’ve been staging and releasing electronic music since 2009, so they’re certainly no strangers to the scene.
Saturday’s gig brought together 3 acts from Northern arm of the genre with Sheffield’s Voi Vang and Promenade Cinema joining Wales’ Future Perfect on the bill.
The only remarkable thing I can say about the football is that I sustained a bizarre injury when a fellow supporter of, shall we say, slightly larger build slipped on the steps and crashed agonisingly into my knee, which not only made standing for 2 hours at a freezing Ewood Park a less than comfortable experience it also severely restricted my infamous boogieing skills later at the gig.
Game over, I made what should have been the short trip down the M61, however, I hadn’t bargained on the total tech clash which is SatNavs and Manchester. Judging by the complete absence of many of the roads my machine tried to send me down I can only assume it was either going off a map produced in 1850 or the city’s planners take a perverse pleasure in sending unwary travellers down blind alleys. I took the safe option of parking up and proceeding (slowly) on foot!
Tonight’s venue, The Castle Hotel, is certainly unprepossessing from the outside when compared to some of Manchester’s cooler venues located just down the road, however, the modest exterior hides a welcoming traditional bar area to the front and a small music venue to the rear, with a rather unique 2 storey ceiling height above the stage, which no doubts helps the sound, which is excellent throughout.
A healthy crowd has already gathered for first artist, Sheffield’s Voi Vang who bravely performs her whole set solo to a backing track freeing her to showcase her enigmatic dance moves and fine vocals. Her brand of clever Ga-Ga esque tunes goes down a storm, with the biggest receptions reserved for Cards and new single Mirror both of which have received extensive air play on electronic music stations such as Rusty Egan’s Electronic Family Tree and Rob Harvey’s Synth City.
Next up are Promenade Cinema, another Sheffield band, who must be one of the hardest working acts on the scene at the moment, following up dates last month at Eclectic Electric in London and Brum’s Synthetic City with tonight’s show and another next weekend at Leeds’ Fenton, not to mention a forthcoming trip to Poland. Regular gigging has obviously paid off as they deliver an accomplished set of melodramatic but catchy Foxx-ian (sorry!) numbers with vocal duties shared between Blurred Girl, who also plays electronic percussion and keyboard maestro, Dorian. Again, the previously released tracks A Chemical Haunting, As The World Stops Revolving and Words Of A Stranger attract the most enthusiastic responses, however, new song Norway is possibly the highlight of the set, an intense brooding slab of gothic electronica complete with a delicate piano coda – gorgeous and a real appetiser for the upcoming debut album.
In contract to the first 2 artists, who so far have just a clutch of singles to their name, final act Future Perfect are relative veterans with 3 successful albums under their belts and a 4th, Touch, slated for release later this year. Despite this, live appearances are relatively rare and this has certainly proved an attraction for the healthy crowd, most of who seem to know all the words from a career spanning set by heart. The combination of Vince Clark influenced melodies wedded to a infectious disco beat is enough to start a mini rave down the front and concerted head nodding amongst the less mobile of us. Neo Rom Com, Fall, Protect and Survive from the latest album sit comfortably alongside old favourites such as Paradise, War of Words and Hunter in a high intensity (and very warm) show that had the audience demanding more, which was duly obliged with a 2nd airing of a brand new song.
Music done, I hobbled off into the Manchester night and a tortuous journey back down the M6 consoled by the fact that the electronic music scene continues to thrive with more promoters putting on events featuring a growing roster of younger artists supported by enthusiastic audiences – bring on the next one!
For more information on the artists check out:-
For more synth pop events try:-
Synthetic City: https://www.facebook.com/events/1790656237816802/
Synth Wave Live: https://www.facebook.com/events/684501525037863/
Seventh Wave Festival https://www.facebook.com/groups/1421350938094173/
Other social media sites are available