Sound Control, Manchester, UK25th May 2017
By AJ Phink
Manchester has been hit by an unexpected heatwave meaning that all the beer gardens are packed and Sound Control, a place that normally has a reputation for sweaty intimate shows, is like a furnace. The venue is sparsely populated prior to Demob Happy taking the stage, it’s hard to tell whether this is the allure of the beer garden or whether people are deterred by the attack on the Manchester Arena, that occurred less than a week ago. Regardless Demob Happy take the stage and hit us with a wall of fuzzed up indie noise that to my ears owes a significant debt to the MC5, their anthemic blend of fuzzed up indie rock, harmonic vocals and garage and psyche overtones is a welcome return to live music after what has been an emotional week.
The crowd slowly grows throughout their set, indicating that the rare appearance of summer in Manchester is more responsible for the initial sparse attendance rather than any sense of fear or trepidation regarding attending live shows. Demob Happy have given it their all tonight in an overheated venue, and I note that not one single person is in the bar area, everyone is up to the front for their set. Their mix of indie rock, garage fuzz and proto punk roots is one that is impressive, to put it mildly. Their set veers into alt rock occasionally, recalling elements of early Muse, but thankfully without the self indulgence and prog influences that seems to populate their shows these days. Trying to pin down exactly where Demob Happy are coming from is like herding cats as they skip between influences and styles without batting an eyelid.
At times Demob Happy border on hardcore intensity, others they’re channeling late 60s psyche and fuzzy proto punk, all of this is wrapped in a sheen of indie cool with a raw alt rock veneer, that makes Demob Happy a unique act that I would encourage anyone with a love for the idiosyncratic side of alternative music to go and see live. Their final number is introduced by “we’re Demob Happy, thank you for coming, we think it’s important that you did” and I couldn’t agree more. Tonight Demob Happy played the kind of accomplished genre spanning set that few can deliver, tonight this Brighton based trio of displaced Geordies played an eclectic set that ups the anticipation for their forthcoming EP.
Gang Of Youths are a very different prospect from Demob Happy, they are darker and richer in sound but with the same tendency to incorporate different styles and influences into their set. Tonight they are showcasing new material from their forthcoming sophomore album, Go Farther In Lightness, to the appreciative crowd, and between songs they release their rhetoric and world view. The first exposure to their new material comes across as Gaslight Anthem viewed through a dark and intense lens that is tinged with the distinctly blue collar feel of heartland rock that is distorted through their unique worldview. Glittering guitar riffs sit alongside the driving rhythms and passionate vocals to create a hypnotic and heartfelt sound that is the kind of uplifting soundtrack that Manchester needs this week.
Gang Of Youths displayed a level of openness, honesty and personal disclosure that you rarely encounter, and it was one that you can’t help but be moved by. Towards the end of their all too brief set Gang Of Youths encourage the crowd into an anthemic refrain of “I’m not afraid” during the track Poison Drum, this is a song that has the perfect feel for tonight’s show, a defiant and danceable number that makes me think that this really is a song that should be owned by Manchester, and it’s one that will always remind me of tonight whenever it rotates itself back into my playlist. On this hot mancunian night I can’t think of a better show to have attended since the events of Monday, simultaneously defiant and heartfelt, and in places heartbreaking,
During their final number vocalist David Le’aupepe leaves the stage and enters the crowd and they finish the set as though they’re closing a show to the usual packed crowds they play to in their native Australia, to see a band of this stature in a small grass roots venue is a privilege that you don’t get very often. Tonight was a wonderful mix of styles from the alternative music of the past, present and possibly the future, both Gang Of Youths and Demob Happy delivered near perfect sets tonight and for that I can only thank them, this was my first concert after the events of 22nd May and it reaffirms exactly why music matters and underlines Manchester’s defiance.
On the way to Sound Control we passed the Arena, the site of attack on the 22nd May, the floral tributes and ongoing Police presence are a sobering reminder of the price 22 people paid who just went out to watch live music. The Punk Site‘s response to the Manchester attack can be read here
Gang Of Youths website can be found here
Demob Happy‘s website is located here
Live photography is by Dean Unsworth, his Instagram account is located here,
You can click on any of Dean’s photos to view a slide show of the images