On Friday 26th May, over 2,000 people made their way to Old Granada Studios to exchange their tickets for a wristband which would give them the opportunity to see a bunch of really cool bands at venues across Manchester city centre, for less than £20. Sounds like a no-brainer to me – this festival is perhaps the best value-for-money music event in the country.
From there, I headed to arguably the prettiest venue in Manchester – The Albert Hall – a former chapel-turned-music venue, to see 2017 Scottish Album of the Year nominees Honeyblood. They certainly kicked off the festival with plenty of energy and later in the day, I even heard someone saying that their set was their favourite, so clearly they’re doing something right!
After that, I made my way to the hip Northern Quarter, where most of the venues for the festival are located. It was somewhat difficult to find some of the venues and it must have been even more confusing to non-Mancunians, but we eventually managed to find the Mint Lounge on Oldham Street, where I saw the minimal techno-inspired duo Otzeki give an exhilarating performance, complete with floor humping and beer-fetching.
It was only a short walk, less than a minute, to the next venue Soup Kitchen, where Nilüfer Yanya had taken to the stage to perform tracks from her upcoming EP ‘Plant Feed’. She gave an impressive, emotional performance and sounded *exactly* like she does on record. No wonder Pitchfork have been so supportive of her latest single ‘Golden Cage’.
This festival is a great way to experience the great venues that Manchester has to offer, especially independent ones, such as Band On The Wall where I headed to see the wonderful brother-sister duo Ardyn, from Gloucestershire. Their set showcased the new material that they have been working on, including the incredibly catchy ‘Together’ which they worked on with Tourist.
Liv Dawson took to the stage after Ardyn, opening with the powerful ‘Open Your Eyes’, produced by Disclosure. A humble young talent with a stellar voice, she’s certainly a contender for the ‘next big thing’. At this point, I was absolutely starving, so I wandered around the Northern Quarter until I stumbled upon Slice, a restaurant/bar/takeaway in Stevenson Square which serves quality ‘pizza al taglio’ (by the slice). Feeling revived, I speedwalked to The Ruby Lounge, where Tom Grennan was wowing the audience with his unique vocals, at times soulful and other times rock ‘n’ roll. The venue was packed and filled with people getting very merry, and tracks such as ‘Praying’ were the perfect accompaniment.
To end the evening, I managed to see the festival headliners Sundara Karma who were giving an interactive performance at the Albert Hall, where fans viewing the concert via livestream could change the lighting and add inflatable donuts, bananas and dolphins to the crowd. Frontman Oscar Pollock performed in a dress and neon yellow tutu, proving himself to be the coolest frontman out there, and the band even payed respects to the victims of the terror attack at Manchester Arena by honouring them with a minute of silence, followed by a minute of noise. They were worthy headliners and provided the perfect euphoric ending to a day of celebrating Manchester’s self-proclaimed status as the UK’s capital of live music.