Brain Queen, the first support of the evening, were into their set when we arrived at the freshly spruced up Aaatma (the venue formerly known as Kraak Gallery, but that’s another story.) A pretty decent crowd had already gathered and there was certainly an atmosphere of mounting excitement for the evening ahead. Brain Queen weren’t my cup of tea being a grungy, punky, electric guitar group. Stylised wailing rather than discernible vocals seems to be their raison d’etre, but it was clear that some of the audience were well into them. Their angsty tune ’Guilty’ was rich in emotion, but I would’ve liked to actually hear the lyrics. That said, both Brain Queen and second support act, Seize the Chair were good choices being energy laden bands who built up the momentum to set the crowd fizzing for the main event.
An interlude before the second support gives an opportunity to soak up the atmosphere. Aatma is another brilliantly intimate Northern quarter venue and one of the more polished. Tonight it was literally sparkling ….from Nile Marr’s ubiquitous sequinned jacket, to the coloured fairy lights strewn around, and a disco ball. I believe gold glitter was available on the way in. Looking around, it felt like a cool crowd who know their musical onions. Many looked like they could be in a band, but in an original way; it doesn’t feel like a trotting out of the old Manchester music scene, and this is precisely what I love about the music in Manchester- there’s always someone new and fresh to listen to.
Second support band, ‘Seize the Chair’, were instantaneously likeable, but this waned after a couple of tracks as their tunes started to feel a bit samey. This was a shame as I feel they have it in them for more variation, but I didn’t hear this enough. Less noisy than Brain Queen, but still pretty noisy, they were bassy and catchy enough to make me dance a little, but again, lyrics are important to me and I couldn’t hear them.
After their set, I chatted with the keyboard player, Steven Mullins, about this and he said they wanted to be more about the sound than the lyrics. OK, they sounded great and they had bags of infectious energy, making for a great build up, but they didn’t do it for me. They certainly did it for a lot of the crowd though. And how great to be in a venue small enough to get up close and personal to chat to the band and meet with a friendly response. Again, another reason I love the smaller venues.
Next up, Man Made – which consists of Scott Strange on bass, Callum Rogers on drums and singer, songwriter, Nile Marr on guitar. I was hooked from the start. This was a homecoming gig and the brimming excitement for both band and crowd was tangible. Man Made oozed style with glittery frontman, Nile Marr, interacting confidently with the crowd from the off, regaling us with tales of starting their day in Norwich and what a schlep it is to get to the gig. This was the last leg of a tour, ahead of the release of their debut album ‘TV Broke My Brain’. One I am keen to buy.
I was eager to hear Marr’s guitar playing and to my relief, I was in no way disappointed. It was mesmerizingly effortless. It’s clearly in the genes. As my friend commented: ‘’how can such a sound come out of the guitar that way!’’
‘Bring Some’ absolutely blows me away – an exquisite indie mix of beautiful melodies with catchy ebbing and flowing changes in tempo making for perfection – lyrically rich with gorgeous guitar sounds. One I will play over and over. Whilst the music got me, I found myself focused on Marr most of the time, as his presence seemed to command the stage. Although musically tight, it’d be nice to see more of a rapport between the trio, and bassist Scott Strange really needs to work on a smile!
‘Slowdance’ is a beautifully haunting tune (reminiscent of Vinny Reilly’s wonderful guitar sound). ‘TV Broke My Brain’ with its brilliant intro and ‘Raining in My Head’ with its engaging lyrics – both exactly my indie cup of tea.
I had a chat with Nile after the gig – mainly about what a schlep it is to get from Norwich. Lovely, friendly chap.
It was friendly, it was intimate and it was exciting. There was a sense of being one of those gigs that will be talked about in time to come and I’ll get to say, ‘’yeah, I was at that gig…top wasn’t it!’’