The Castle Hotel, Manchester, UK12th May 2017
By AJ Phink
Tonight The 99 Degree are playing a triumphant launch show for their debut EP, Boot Hill Surf Club, that was released today, the 12th May 2017 and is now available via all the major streaming services and digital retailers. Tonight The 99 Degree are accompanied fuzzed up noise merchants Mold and reverb heavy surf sounds of The Echo Rays along with a heady DJ set from the lysergic side of the street by Hip-No-Tyzed. We arrive early and already Hip-No-Tyzed are spinning a selection of sounds from the dark and murky history of garage rock and on a warm sunny Mancunian evening The Castle Hotel is already sweaty as hell and the denizens of Manchester’s underground are present for the launch of The 99 Degree‘s Boot Hill Surf Club EP.
Amongst those present tonight are members of various bands as well as the curious and their established fans, and it appears that Manchester’s underground garage scene is embracing the DIY ethos ,which for me is the way forward for a scene that completely bypasses mainstream sensibilities. First up are The Echo Rays who channel the kind of distorted garage surf that belongs on the soundtrack to the best, and the worst, b-movies. Their sound sits somewhere between The Mummies and Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet and they create a surf soundtrack that makes you wish Manchester wasn’t landlocked, the only thing they’re missing is go-go dancers and an ocean.
The more I attend shows in Manchester’s underground the more I’m impressed with the originality and continued force of nature that’s on display by bands who are playing music that at best is appealing to a niche audience, but they’re up there and doing it regardless and to me that is about as punk rock as it gets. Mold take to the stage and visually appear to be cross between Alice Cooper, before his metal years, The Edgar Broughton Band and The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, that assumption is swiftly dispelled as what they initially deliver is a stripped down primitive set of blues influence garage rock that descends into the insanity that the original garage rock bands delivered.
There is no thought whatsoever given to commercial viability, Mold are playing exactly the music they want to make, and like the bands the precede and succede them it’s clear that zero fucks are given, tonight is bands making the music they want to make. Their songs veer from hardcore intensity, through post punk and into psychedelia inspired grooves, often within the same song, and I don’t know what to make of Mold, but I’m pretty sure I liked their idiosyncratic set. The blend of psych, surf and strangeness that has been served up so far is the perfect warm up for The 99 Degree who are launching their impressive self released debut EP, Boot Hill Surf Club, tonight.
The Castle Hotel is rammed from front to back and they appear to be a band that are well on their way to writing their own unique chapter in Mancunian musical history, ever since I first caught them supporting Kid Congo And The Pink Monkeybirds last year there’s been an irresistible momentum that is born of self belief. The 99 Degree take to the stage resembling The Beach Boys disreputable cousins and they launch into Hey Bo Diddley with vocalist Joe Sartini resuming his role as a deranged preacher to a congregation of the converted in a rammed Castle Hotel. Tonight the sound is perfect and the underlying primitive beat of the rhythm section is perfectly balanced against the reverb and echo drenched guitar lead.
They launch into their deranged debut, the ode to preachercide that is Dead Or Alive, and to me The 99 Degree have achieved a bigger sound that allows the echo heavy Gretsch guitar riffs to stand out in a way that hasn’t previously been present at their shows, Joe Sartini seems in his element tonight whilst Phil Turner occupies an effortlessly cool position on guitar, whilst the rhythm section underpins the whole sound with a kind of spaced out detachment. To say The 99 Degree were on form tonight is an understatement as the sound, the crowd and the sweat soaked venue are the perfect showcase for The 99 Degree‘s brand of surf and garage inspired punk rock.
The 99 Degree to my ears have never sounded finer than they have tonight, they channel the original spirit of rock ‘n roll and combine this with psych, garage, punk rock and a suspicious influence that makes them a band that should be on the radar of anyone with a love for the rock ‘n roll underdogs, the bands that inevitably produce the music that makes life worthwhile. Joe Sartini shambles and shakes his way round the stage giving the impression he’s possessed of the original spirits of rock ‘n roll and you can’t help wondering if this Mancunian quartet have sold their souls and are destined to end up stood at a Crossroads with a horned character waiting impatiently in the wings.
Their new Boot Hill Surf Club EP gets is full debut, from the opening number to closing strangeness of The Pusher, the EP already sounds better than the recorded version, and it was only been released earlier today. The chaos that is The 99 Degree seem to strangely focused in their own shambolic way tonight, The Ballad Of Henry Brown was one of the highlights of the Boot Hill Surf Club EP, but it’s spaghetti western menace is amplified tonight and adds an edge to the song. The 99 Degree‘s new EP is a thing of wonder in it’s own right but for me they are band that are truly in their element live in front of an enthralled crowd in a sweat drenched venue, making tonight the perfect showcase for the new EP.
The 99 Degree are out there on their own, there are obvious comparisons to bands, but they have their own unique sound that possess the primitive spirit of rock n roll and garage, whilst at the same time embodying the fuck you attitude of punk. Something very special seems to be emerging from the primeval basements and rehearsal spaces of Manchester and The 99 Degree are amongst the most original of the denizens that occupy the alternative scene in Manchester. By the end of their set the sweat is dripping from the ceiling and the demons have been well and truly conjured from their resting places, no one is doing anything quite like The 99 Degree and for that I salute them
The Punk Site review of the Boot Hill Surf Club EP can be read here
Mold‘s Facebook page is here
The Echo Rays website can be found here
Hip-No-Tyzed‘s Facebook presence is here
The Castle Hotel‘s website can be found 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