In The City – Thursday Gig Round-up

The sophomore day bristled with collective happiness. Beginning with good-natured Radio 6 Music round-table bickering between Peter Hook and Guy Garvey, whose main job was to get a word in around John Robb‘s chipper motormouth babble, the night embraced an In The City which has truly begun to feel like the breezily ‘now’ festival it ought to.

The streets of the Northern Quarter teemed with cheerful gig-goers, all basking in the realisation that virtually any gig they poked their heads into would be a good one.

Lissie Dancefloor Disaster, direct from Sweden, encapsulated this ethos in one unrestrained and crazed performance to a dozen bewildered punters at Dry Live. An OCD/ADHD/MDMA blur of gauche colours, songs titled “You Can Have My TV I Don’t Want It” and, most importantly, tunes that sounded like the best, most rawkus, most pop songs that The Knife never made.

Laser focussed as much on demented, stage-clambering self-expression as on demonically hook-laden pop songs, they may prove to be deeply uncool within the confines of In The City, but are too good to be ignored any longer.

I was so thrilled by their off-the-wall gig that I collared them afterwards, shoved a microphone in their faces and asked them slightly brainless questions:

Lissie Dancefloor Disaster Interview @ Dry Live, Manchester ITC

Back in normality, LA’s Kisses were – indeed – soft, tender and dreamy, while in the Soup Kitchen, Thomas J Speight‘s backing band just looked happy to be joining in the fun.

Walls, confusingly performing at Band On The Wall, began slowly, but rubbished the the fad for instant gratification with a careful and organic set of coiling electronica. Combined with stupendously blissfull visuals that actually drew murmurs of satisfaction from the audience, we drifted home on a technicolour fog of stupified pleasure. This, I thought, as I slept-walked home, is what In The City is all about.

More Photos:

Walls: Soft, beautiful

Lissie Dancefloor Disaster: Insane, Brilliant


Wednesday’s fabulous first day of music at In The City took two casualties in the ANBAD camp – firstly by imparting a thumping booze ‘n’ loud noise-based headache on yours truly (thank you No Age for the noise element), and secondly by instantly eroding my sanity when ANBAD crashed and fell of the internet.

But now all is well, and I’m back in the Northern Quarter to see what’s happening at the conference before heading out tonight to see more great bands. And possibly D/R/U/G/S again.

Here’s what’s happened so far…

18.15 The roundtable is so much fun! Songs are average though…

17.35 Surely we’re close to the start of the Lamacq roundtable now. Everyone’s favourite uncle Guy Garvey is here; and John Robb, he of the cannibal eyes, has turned up too. We’re just waiting for Peter Hook now…

17.05 The chatter in here is totally, 100% music biz networking chit-chat. And boy, can these guys yap. Watching Lamacq doing his show is a true delight, though. What a pro!

16.35 Steve Lamacq hasn’t aged at all. And such a deep voice for a skinny guy.

16.25 So here we all are now, waiting in a lobby area for Radio 1’s Steve Lamacq to emerge from his little cobbled-together studio in the corner of the room and sit at a magisterial desk that is waiting for him, Guy Garvey, Peter Hook and John Robb to settle around and blather about the new releases. Exciting! My 16-year-old self would be wetting his pants.

16.00 The easy way for bands themselves to do this is to spend a couple of hours a day emailing your fans and getting into a conversation with them, and then see what they want.

15.45 Radio 1, is turns out, ‘predict’ the charts by scouring Facebook, Twitter, etc., and see who ‘the kids’ are talking about. So they guess the charts, play that music – which people then buy based on their push – and then report those charts. Hmmm.

15.30 But apparently, using analytics is nothing new in the music industry – it’s just that before, instead of poring over screens of metrics data, they’d call radio stations and ask them what they’ve played and what people have enjoyed.

15.15 And frankly, it feels like this ground has been covered before – the way to foster relationships with fans, apparently is – duh – to get in touch with them.

15.00 ANBAD’s interest was only really piqued mid-afternoon when there was a discussion about the analysis of fan’s behaviour – or as the marketing bigwigs call it, ‘Fanalysis’ and ‘Fanenomics’. Groan.

D/R/U/G/S – Fame, Hype, Responsibility. And Bono.

ANBAD has gone In The City CRAZY, and for the next week or so until the festival/conference/new band orgy begins, bands appearing at the festival will be featured. This is a Good Thing, because while the usual suspects will be getting the attention in the press, there will be some genuinely excellent and genuinely unknown bands jostling for attention there. Though, frankly, today’s probably isn’t one of the latter.

DRUGS – Love Lust (darkmixx) by ITCManchester

Hype is my new band Kryptonite. Its presence instantly renders any new band tainted by it wholly unpalatable and saps my will to live. This is my snobbish quirk, yes, but one that drove me to create ANBAD, which is either a good or bad thing, dependent on your point of view.

D/R/U/G/S have been hyped beyond the stars by some people, and are almost a tick-box example of the kind of band I would normally dodge with the same vehemence as Bono would avoid a room without mirrors.

Punctuated name – tick. Remix-friendly laptop-twiddlers – tick. Mysterious online profile (see photo) – tick. And most agonisingly of all – the hype.

And yet here is a good band who justifies high praise: a band who are making music so warm and – dare I say it – thoughtful that they almost demand that you mentally prepare the statement, ‘But of course, I liked them before they were famous’.

D/R/U/G/S don’t shirk responsibility even whilst bobbing along on the deceptive buoyancy of their own hype. They are ploughing on, creating new music that sticks to the original plan – have a good time together, bathing in the chaos of their own music. Excellent.

And all that without mentioning a certain hype-referencing Public Enemy song. Small victories.

D/R/U/G/S are playing on Wednesday night at In The City // More Info + Tickets


Here’s a bonus ANBAD podcast, all in celebration of the upcoming In The City Music conference here in Manchester. I’m getting hopelessly excited about ITC, mainly because there are so many stupendously good bands who I haven’t previously had the chance to see, but also because I was moving flat during last year’s event, and so was under more stress than Beth Ditto’s belt buckle.


In this podcast, I’m talking enthusiastically around songs by bands who are appearing at ITC, and also hailing from Manchester. It seemed like as good a place to start as any. Click their names below for more info on them.

Egyptian Hip Hop // Young British Artists // Golden Glow // Brown Brogues // Plank!

For the full ITC line-up, tickets, pictures, mp3s and minutiae to bore your hipster friends with, all wrapped up in a whizzy website, click here:

ANBAD is back on Tuesday next week

>In The City Special: Egyptian Hip Hop

The opinion heat-haze of In The City means that an unbiased view of a band becomes impossible. As many people will rave over an average, or downright dull band as those who froth over a good one. You quickly realise that listening to opinion at ITC is almost always a waste of time.

For example: I was told that Egyptian Hip Hop were, variously, ‘rude’, ‘piss-poor’, ‘six out of ten’ and ‘a lot of old tits’. I had to see them. And as it turned out – guess what? – they were all wrong. Well, maybe not about the ‘rude’ bit. They weren’t rude as such, but maybe a little easing of the surliness wouldn’t go amiss.

Still, they were more inventive and had a couple of songs that were better than almost all of the showcased bands. Skinnier than heroin addicts, and sporting fringes that started a millimetre above the ear, they ground out one catchy, looping cranky pop song after the other. Wait – let me stress the vastness of their fringes again: one band member was practically 90% fringe – it looked like he had trained a large hairy dog to sit on his head.

The drummer wore a swine-flu face mask. The band swapped instruments for each song. No smiles were cracked at any point. They were so androgynous, they may have been bred in giant petri dishes. Songs like Heavenly were, indeed, ethereal, curious and new, and Rad Pitt (Pun alert!) is a skewed pop delight.

Strange but true: Egyptian Hip Hop are better than anyone wants to admit. Don’t believe the (lack of) hype. Listen here!

>In The City Special: Ou Est Le Swimming Pool

At a music convention like In The City, rumour and hype swirl together to form a noxious fog that can engulf even the most seasoned and cynical new band seeker. Avoiding bands surrounded by hype is one of the basic rules of following rock music, and yet I willingly traipsed along to see two of the main ‘buzz’ bands, drunk on a few begrudging words of encouragement from a middle aged A&R man.

The club was packed on both occasions. One of these bands was actually cheered onto stage before they had even played a note, and yet when their guitars were actually plugged in, they were disappointingly risk-free, and average at best. So when I found myself in another crush of haircuts and PR sweat, I expected little. Half an hour later, after Ou Est Le Swimming Pool had finished, I still wasn’t sure if they were the best or worst band I’d ever seen.

On reflection, I realised that this was the best reaction I could have hoped for. Even ignoring their linguistically challenged of-the-moment name, the band is crammed with weird, admirable anomalies.

The two keyboard players looked like a before-and-after picture of a Pet Shop Boy who’d drunk a pint of LSD. One was in a geography teacher’s grey suit, and the other sported a moustache, vomit-coloured shirt, and a vividly coloured scarf wrapped around his head. They both played thrillingly big music; stabbing chords and huge drumbeats.

Contrast them with the two singers who emerge from the shadows, one a Burberry-clad Simon Le Bon mini-me, the other a boyband escapee. They both sing with a sincerity and passion that jars hard against a band set-up that is so post-ironic it has become pre-irony, and thus sincerity. Clever.

The response from everyone who saw them was the same: bewilderment and then a creeping realisation that Ou Est Le Swimming Pool were the most memorable band of In The City.

I could describe the songs to you as usual, but for once, I don’t think words could do them justice. Listen for yourself and feel a band more polarised than a trucker’s Aviators.

>Today’s New Band – The Liberty Ships PLUS! In The City Day 2!

It’s a sign of age, apparently, when policemen start looking frighteningly young. Yesterday, I had a similar experience at In The City when I met The Liberty Vessels, four 15 year olds from Liverpool – a band whose combined age is only just twice mine. It was terrifying. They were accompanied by the world’s proudest mother, whose broad ever-constant smile was one of actual joy.

Just to ram the point home: they were really young. They hadn’t started shaving, for Christ’s sake. They were born after the internet was. They were playing a early gig that night, because they had to be in school at nine o’clock the next day. I cringed at my (relative, ahem) old age when I heard their mature, warm and bold songs.

So, The Liberty Vessels are Today’s New Band, naturally. Songs like Say Nothing practically demanded so. The singer’s voice is that of an adult man, surely. It’s creamy, expressive and true, singing touching words, simply. Digital Covers chugs with confidence and charm. The band are skilled in supporting the lyrical focal point.

This is a band who’ve played a handful of gigs, have only just found their feet, and yet are ahead of much of the pack. They’ll reach whichever destination they desire. Good luck navigating rock’s stormy seas, Liberty Vessels. Listen here!

PS: ANBAD continues to gather MASSIVE CRITICAL PRAISE, or, more accurately: we’ve been featured in Click Ticket’s Top 20 Music Blogs list! Hooray! Thanks Click Ticket!

>Today’s New Band – Dutch Uncles PLUS! In The City Day 1!

Here are notes from yesterday’s ‘action’ at the In The City music conference, the UK’s premiere unsigned band shindig:

  1. Mark Ronson: silent, bored, ubiquitous skinny trousers ‘n’ scarf combo, giant quiff
  2. Steve Lamacq: patient, friendly and his voice is even more delightful in real life
  3. Huw Stephens: see Steve Lamacq
  4. Assorted PRs, A&R people and managers: busy, busy, busy, and ‘can you print my name more clearly on this AAA Pass please, people won’t be able to see who I am’
  5. No free bar/buffet: a travesty

I shamefully collared Steve Lamacq and Huw Stephens and stammered incoherently about how much in liked their radio shows whilst pressing my email address into their hands. They nodded good-naturedly before slowly backing away.

The bands there were a real, friendly delight – untainted by an industry which sometimes seems geared to grind any fun out of a job that ought to be pure fun. As I spoke to them, I sucked in as much of their enthusiasm as possible, and hoped they’d find what they were looking for in the murk of rock ‘n’ roll.

There are literally* a million bands at ITC, and like any music festival, you can only scratch the surface of what’s on show. But Today’s New Band emerged from the haze, and they’re a good ‘un: welcome, Dutch Uncles.

To be honest, I thought that their name was a euphemism for a scatological sexual perversion, though apparently it’s not. They told me that their name comes from the title of a play, and none of the band members have actual Dutch uncles. Such is life.

But their songs are great, quirky pop – hear Steadycam, soak up the megawatt-bright, chiming chorus and wonder where they’ve been all your life. Doppelganger is a curious, scratch ‘n’ sniff pop song; inventive, coiling and sweet.

Oh, and the band wear a range of truly heinous charity-shop clothing. Men after my own heart. Great. Watch them soar: listen here!

*kind of

Photography by Nina Kölle

>Break Thru Radio Blogger Of The Week! PLUS! In The City Music Conference 2009

ANBAD isn’t really used to having awards bestowed on it, but be still my beating heart: here on the wonderful Break Thru Radio, ANBAD is Blogger Of The Week!

The delightful Mimi Kim of Break Thru Radio interviewed me and the results are in this show, which, even if I do say so myself, is lovely stuff. I talk about all these things:

  1. Why I write about a new band a day, and why I haven’t gone crazy yet
  2. The bands I’ve liked writing about, and why
  3. Why I get all soppy and weepy when thinking about John Peel
  4. Plans for world domination, enslaving the human race through increasingly mind-grating Flo Rida records

Though one or more of those is a downright lie. Anyway, inbetween my mindless yapping, Mimi plays all sorts of great records of my choice. In case you somehow missed the link: here it is again. It was a great experience – thanks Mimi!

And in other news: I’ve used all my boyish charm and manly good looks (i.e. not much) to sneak into the wonderful, annual In The City new music conference, which is based in Manchester and is The World’s Premiere New Music Event, according to the website. It is just that, I suppose, but in reality is a good excuse to see some ace unsigned bands and drink too much in a drizzly northern city. I’ll report back to you next week.