The Deaf Institute, Manchester, UK27th April 2017
By AJ Phink
The Bushmills Tour is a series of four shows across the UK that features four different headliners in four different cities, the tour spans April and May with other cities being treated to The Magic Gang, We Are Scientists and The Wytches, but tonight Manchester is hosting a sold out headline set from Vant with support from Leeds quartet Weirds. It seems there’s no happy medium, either you’re late and you miss a band or the venue isn’t open when you arrive and you’re forced to have a pint in the sunshine on the eve of a bank holiday, tonight had the added bonus of being a Bushmills Whiskey sponsored tour with free samples whilst you’re waiting and on the way in we’re handed all manner of promotional material, and more whiskey, it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.
First up are Weirds, prior to their appearance of the first band, Weirds, we’re treated to a full tilt set of alt rock and grunge that sets the scene nicely with more free whiskey at the bar and I’m starting to get the feeling that tonight might get a bit messy. Weirds take the stage to a crescendo of drums and echoing strings that precede a strident drum beat kicks in along with a full tilt wall of distortion that smacks you right between the eyes, yet somehow Weirds manage to maintain a vibe that is simultaneously spacey, intense and heavy. The Leeds quartet continue to plough the grunge and alternative furrow whilst maintaining a heady edge, to say I’m impressed with their hedonistic set would be an understatement.
Weirds come across as an amped up adrenaline charged band that are informed by the alternative and grunge scenes of the late 80s and early 90s but bought bang up to date and their own heady influences thrown into the mix, this is only the first band, I’m five whiskies down and having a ball, how could I not with the hedonistic combination of Weirds and Whiskey on offer. The Weirds vocalist departs the stage taking in the whole venue to blur the line between band and audience, a second launch from the stage brings the keyboards tumbling into the crowd. The combination of driving bass lines, effects laden guitar, machine gun drumming and the generally hedonistic substance fuelled vibe of Weirds is something that hits the spot perfectly and they leave as they arrive, in an effects laden loop leaving chaos in their wake.
There’s just about time for yet another free whiskey before it’s time for Vant, prior to their arrival an impressive array of effects pedals are set up on stage, enough to open a small guitar shop, and the venue for tonight’s sold out show is now packed from front to back and the bar is several deep with an uncharacteristically high demand for whiskey of an Irish persuasion. Vant open with a high tempo set of bare bones power pop influenced punk rock, from the off that’s its been clear that tonight was going to be a good night, after all free whiskey is very hard to argue with but when it’s coupled with two incredible live bands you really do have a recipe for a perfect storm.
Vant play a high octane set that channels the best of the grunge but when this coupled with infectious adrenaline driven songs you have a winning combination, add to this they have a sizeable live following that have the dance floor reverberating to the rise and fall of the crowd and you have the infectious enthusiasm born of whiskey and two incredible bands, whilst I’m not normally a fan of corporate sponsorship of gigs I’ll make an exception in this case, because, well because it’s whiskey. A bouncer is berated for entering the enthusiatic pit “what the fuck ate you doing in there, it’s a fucking punk show” they also apologise for playing on the night of the Manchester football derby and promise to make it up to the crowd, to be honest I thought they already had as football is one thing, but nights like this only come round every so often and for me football pales in comparison to shows like this.
The crowd are impressively exuberant, and the band play an incredible fifteen song set that captures the combined essence of punk, power pop and grunge that makes for an irresistible combination. This is easily the best crowd I’ve encountered at the Deaf Institute, from my position wedged in at the side of the stage I see my whiskey bouncing across the bar such is the enthusiasm of the crowd, thankfully I collect it in the nick of time. But Vant aren’t just a band that can pack a dance floor, they embrace the spirit of political defiance that is strongly associated with the best punk bands, there’s no theatrics, they just announce an encore from the stage and continue with their charged set, for me this is just as it should be. Vants set has passed by in a hectic blur and their final number is preceded by an endorsement for safe gigs for women, something The Punk Site wholeheartedly supports.
I can’t choose between tonight’s two bands, both offered perfect sets that reflected very different facets of the music we love, nights like this remind you why you fell in love with the scene in the first place, combine this with free whiskey and crowd who reflect the enthusiasm of the music and you couldn’t ask for a better combination. The journey home is a happy blur and I’m just glad I take notes during the gig as my recollections are understandably hazy. My advice would be to go and watch Weirds and Vant, and maybe treat yourself to a whiskey, preferably all three together if you can, there’s not a single thing I’d change about tonight, the following morning however was a different story.
Vant‘s website can be found here
Weirds Twitter account can be found 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