FAC 251, Manchester, UK22nd April 2017
By AJ Phink
Tonight Louise Distras hits Manchester on her current headline tour, she is playing a venue that is arguably at the epicentre of some of the most influential bands Manchester has produced, tonights venue, Fac 251, occupies the building where Factory Records had their offices in the city centre, the building has now been redeveloped into a live venue and nightclub, so whilst The Hacienda and Factory Records are no more the spirit lives on, and who better to occupy a space that was central to Northern England’s punk and post punk scenes than Louise Distras, a singer who is arguably the current voice of Northern punk protest.
Hey Radio open the evening, they are a duo than are comprised of just two guitars and despite the lack of percussion they initially deliver a set of catchy pop punk that is not without its charms and they enjoy a banter with the sparse early evening crowd that’s arrived for their early opening slot. However, their decision to include a somewhat shambolic Busted cover in their set gives you an idea of where they lie on the scale between pop and punk. The fact their set descends into a sea of covers means that I end up heading out for the smoking area to seek shelter from the deluge of poppy cover versions.
The next band up is So Called Friend who step things up with a fuzzy distorted original set that seems to embrace post hardcore and alt rock influences. Their sound is from the distinctly poppier end of that spectrum but that’s not to say they don’t add a bit of muscle to their songs when required. Despite the sparse crowd they play their set with an impressive level of energy and enthusiasm, So Called Friend play a short but satisfying set that started to bring the evening to life, the combination of a set of original material and their energy levels indicates we may be hearing a lot more this extremely talented and youthful trio.
The penultimate set prior to Louise Distras‘ headline slot is The Lymes, they bring a rockier element to the evening that is combined with a few knowing power pop influences, the fact that this is accompanied by some well crafted songwriting gives the impression that the evening is slowly building momentum towards Louise Distras headline set. The Lymes play an impressive set that, like fellow Mancunians Mohawk Radio and La Mode, channels the rockier side of the alt rock spectrum, but it’s all done with style and you can’t help but be impressed by their anthemic and accomplished set, and this is yetanother band to add to the ever growing list of up and coming Mancunian bands, and another band I’m hoping to hear a lot more of.
Quite why Louise Distras isn’t playing the Manchester Punk Festival this weekend is a mystery to me, she’s one of the rising stars of the DIY punk scene and as she’s in the city playing her own headline show this would seem to be a formality, but as with many things in life some things will forever remain a mystery. I’ve encountered Louise Distras numerous times, and to be honest it’s hard not to catch her live such is her work ethic, she’s already on her third tour of the year and she has extensive dates booked throughout the year including an impressive array of summer festival appearances.
Technical problems with ticket sales and incredibly busy weekend on the Manchester gig circuit mean that there is a smaller crowd than Louise Distras would normally attract, but impressively this doesn’t affect her performance in the slightest, she’s as passionate and empowering as ever. Tonight is a first for me as she’s playing a solo electric set, the set comprises established favourites from her debut album, Dreams From the Factory Floor, as well as material from her forthcoming sophomore album, including her 2016 single Aileen and her forthcoming single Outside Of You, that is well on its way with it’s fundraising campaign to make her new album a reality, and on the basis of the material on display in her solo shows this indicates that this album will be something to treasure. The technical problems haven’t stopped at the ticket sales, Louise Distras has to borrow a guitar from The Lymes, indicating that there is already a sense of camaraderie between her and the impressive Mancunian outfit, due to issues with her own prized vintage Burns Cobra guitar.
Despite everything she delivers her set with her customary passion and intensity, and as you would expect from someone as spirited and defiant as Louise Distras she triumphs over adversity and she delivers a passionate stripped down set. Her vocal delivery remains as heartfelt as always and she contains the fury of established punk songwriters such as Joe Strummer and TV Smith, and combines this with her own experiences and dynamics to create something that is truly special and unique in the UK music scene. On her current tour Louise Distras is premiering brand new material that hadn’t previously been played and is destined for her forthcoming sophomore album, her new material sounds as impressive as you’d expect from this prolific songwriter and it sounds like a step forward from her impressive debut album. Louise Distras can deliver songs with an emotional and fragile quality that can abruptly become a defiant roar of protest that only comes from self belief and personal conviction and experience. Some artists would have let tonight’s issues drag them down but instead Louise Distras engages the crowd and turns the evening into a triumphant intimate show that I feel privileged to have been present at.
Louise Distras has channelled her anger, hopes and fears into hymns of love and fury for yet another let-down generation and will be releasing her new single, Outside Of You, via Street Revolution Records on the 26th May. In addition to this Louise Distras has another twenty songs ready to be recorded as soon as the album fundraiser reaches 100%. If you haven’t got involved yet you can help bring Louise Distras‘ new album to life by pledging today, and on the basis of the new material that was on display at FAC 251 tonight then I can’t think of wiser investment for a few of your hard earned pennies.
You can pledge for Louise Distras‘ new album via her website here
The Lymes Facebook presence can be found here
You can stream The Lymes debut track, Here Again, via Soundcloud here
So Called Friend‘s Facebook page is located here
Hey Radio‘s Facebook page is here
Live photography by Michael Maffia