Fallow Café, Manchester, UK
2nd December 2016
The Fallow Café lies to the South of Manchester, nestled inconspicuously amongst terraced housing, it has a bar and restaurant downstairs, but upstairs lies an intimate venue that is the perfect setting for tonight’s triumphant headline show by The 99 Degree. In addition to the four band bill there is a DJ set by Wet Dreams, both in between bands and then on into the early hours, that captures the mood of the evening perfectly, the playlist covers everything from sixties garage pioneers such as The Sonics through alternative and indie as well as a few punk classics thrown in for good measure, marking what is easily the best DJ set I’ve encountered at a concert this year.
Due to some of the worst traffic I’ve encountered in a long time we arrive late for the show, by the time we get into the Fallow Cafe Sam Craighan is already approaching the end of his set, but the three numbers I do manage to catch hint at a melodic indie sensibility that carries the spirit of the likes of The Libertines. They alternate between keyboard and guitar led numbers, that can carry the spirit and bounce of Britpop, or convey a more melancholy tone. Despite only catching three songs of his set Sam Craighan marked a promising beginning to an evening that showcases some of finest talent that originates from the fuzzy side of this town.
After some more fine tunes from the Wet Dreams DJ La Mode take the stage, I had no previous knowledge of them and their name didn’t suggest what I could expect. They boast a striking vocalist and what appears to be a modern day Viking on bass, rounding out the line up are two more subdued, but no less talented, members that complete the quartet. What is immediately apparent is that vocalist Millie Sproston has a stunning voice that is backed up by a soundtrack that’s informed by the proto punk and rock bands of the late sixties and early seventies, but crucially with a contemporary feel that stops them from being an anachronism in any way shape or form.
I’m finding that the deeper I delve in Manchester’s underground scene the more I realise there are some incredible bands out there, and La Mode can be added to their number. They skilfully straddle the line between rock, alternative and indie, and importantly they do it in style. Their material defies categorisation, there’s even a brief ska element incorporated into the breakdown one of their numbers. My first encounter of La Mode has made a lasting impression on me, whilst they carry a heavy undercurrent of seventies rock influence it is one that is shorn of self indulgence and excess. La Mode delivered a brief hard edged melodic set that for me makes them another band to watch in 2017.
By the time Crimsons take the stage the Fallow Café is packed to capacity, the temperature is rising and it’s standing room only, and the trio that make up Crimsons bring another dimension to the impressive bill that’s on offer tonight. Crimsons play an echo drenched psyche influenced and lysergic tinged element to the proceedings. They simultaneously channel the best of the psychedelic and garage bands, but they combine this with contemporary influences, in particular elements of Manchester’s post punk era are present in the treble laced guitar style that permeates their set, and this makes for a heady combination that, like La Mode before them, is hard to resist.
The Crimsons build on the impressive opening by the first two bands, the contrast between each of the bands that has appeared tonight’s show is marked, but rather than this being jarring the differing styles compliment each other. The heady psyche the Crimsons play seems to contain a significant influence from Manchester legends The Chameleons, especially in their guitar sound, but there the comparison ends, the Crimsons have their own distinct sound that meld influences that span the last five generations. They bring a welcome slice of paisley inspired treble laced driving psyche that brings another heady element to the mix prior to tonight’s headliners, The 99 Degree, taking the stage.
During each of the three bands that played before them Joe Sartini, the vocalist of The 99 Degree, has been down the front doing his own unique shambling dance moves and yelling encouragement at the bands, it’s this kind of camaraderie amongst the bands that typifies the good natured atmosphere that has been present throughout tonight’s show, now it’s his turn to take to the stage. I’ve caught The 99 Degree twice so far this year, supporting Kid Congo And The Pink Monkeybirds and as a part of a Psychetropic showcase, but tonight they are taking the headlining spot and the support acts, the venue and the crowd have all built up the atmosphere perfectly for The 99 Degree to launch themselves towards 2017.
The 99 Degree have bought their deranged mix of rock ‘n roll and garage, that is all delivered with a spaghetti western sneer, to the Fallow Café. They open with their heavy primitive sound that immediately has the crowd moving, and you can’t help but get the feeling that tonight’s performance is what The 99 Degree have been working towards throughout 2016. Tonight they play their own deranged hallucinogenic surf rock, but despite the influences The 99 Degree are in no way buried in the past, they, along with support acts La Mode and Crimsons, are at the forefront of the latest incarnation of bands inspired by the sounds that originated in the sixties and early seventies.
Vocalist Joe Sartini announces that “the doors have been locked and the drinks have been spiked” and this is the signal for The 99 Degree to launch into a headlining set of their unique brand of garage dementia. Songs such as Losing My Mind energise the sweaty crowd that has packed out the Fallow Café, the set varies from sinister Link Wray inspired guitar lines, embodied in the track The End Of The Line, to full on garage floor shakers. The singers shambolic stage presence is in sharp contrast to the rest of the band who hammer out the kind of authentic razor sharp rock ‘n roll that is in no way designed to save your soul or be redemptive, they are the real deal.
It’s clear The 99 Degree have stepped up a gear, something they have managed to do every time I’ve seen them, which makes them a very exciting prospect for 2017, and tonight they confirmed new material was in the pipeline to follow on from their debut single, Dead Or Alive, which sounded better than ever tonight and brought a taste of the menace of the old west to South Manchester. Tonight they announced that they will be releasing an EP of new material next year and on the basis of the songs they played tonight that will populate the forthcoming The Banshee EP then it can only be a matter of time before The 99 Degree come to wider attention and spread their wings beyond the confines of their hometown.
The 99 Degree are possessed by the original untamed spirit of rock ‘ n roll that follows in the tradition of Vince Taylor, The Sonics and The Cramps, every generation has it’s own standard bearers that embody the primitive spirit of excess and hedonism, The 99 Degree haven’t so much picked up the torch, but they’ve stolen it and are using it light a suspicious smoke. The world needs bands like The 99 Degree that carry the spirit of rock ‘n roll and garage, but they also combine it with the fuck you attitude of punk rock and the meance of a Sergio Leone soundtrack to create something that is truly unique and as a result tonight’s show indicates that 2017 could well be their year.
Sam Craighan‘s Facebook presence can be found here
La Mode‘s Facebook page is here and their debut EP is available via iTunes
Crimsons Facebook page can be found here
The 99 Degree‘s Soundcloud Page can be found here and their Facebook page is here
Dead Or Alive is available via The 99 Degree‘s Bandcamp here
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