Kill Pretty, Poppycock, Factory Acts
The Royal Oak, Chorlton
I don’t normally travel further south of the Mancunian metropolis than OT (Cricket), places south of the city centre are a bugger to get to from the west end of things, i’m sure that there is some convoluted tram route I could use these days, but frankly I’m getting a bit too old and lazy to be gadding around the fleshpots of student land. However, in this instance Mr Morse (names have been changed to protect the guilty) has booked a gig for Kill Pretty at the Royal Oak in Chorlton along with what appears to be an unmissable line-up of Poppyock and Factory Acts. So it’s a car job, for the aforementioned reasons, and also to assist DJ extraordinaire Stephen SD Doyle and his grand-son Mitchell in attending. The streets of Salford/Eccles/Swinton are slick following a biblical down-pour mid-afternoon and the street lights are seeming dimmer than usual as we traverse the highways and by-ways west to south with Mr Springsteen entertaining us from some gig back in the mid-70s. Seems appropriate somehow to be listening to Bruce on the cusp of uber-fame before attending this gig.
The Royal Oak is a monolithic establishment perched on the end of Barlow Moor Road offering “pints of chips” and “pints of onion rings” as part of it’s bill of fayre, and the smell of grilling meat hits the nostrils almost immediately. After parking up and watching some chap relieving himself on the side of the pub (clearly too tired to venture inside to the latrines) we trundle upstairs to the large concert area of said establishment. Imagine a working mens club type room with a long bar along one side and rows of refectory like tables. Hellos are swapped with various band members and colleagues as Mr Doyle and grandson get themselves acquainted with several lagers and I bide my time with a diet coke.
First up are Salford (via Cork) band Factory Acts who I last saw a couple of years back at the Salford Music Festival. I’ve been an advocate of Susan and Matt’s work for some time and their unique and memorable take on “dark electronica” is a perfect start for an eclectic evening of music. The duo were great when I first saw them and they have improved somewhat since then. Moving through the existing releases including Fantasy and Animal Spirit they conjur up an immense wall of sound and Matt’s growling bass, and Susan’s impressive keyboard magic and stunning vocal talents build the atmosphere in an appreciative audience. The set is added to with some impressive video work and concludes with a great song I had not heard before about gun control in America where images of Charlton Heston, and the National Rifle Association create a chilling scene as the pair deliver an intense and memorable closer. I urge you to see this group, they are offering up a new style of music which demands to be heard. Which is a bit of a theme for the evening.
The next band up are Poppycock, who I saw a couple of weeks back at the Kings Arms in Salford and who impressed me then. Even more so this time around with a more relaxed feel to their set they deliver a fascinating collection of memorable songs lead by the legendary Una Baines. The strong point of their work is the juxtaposition of the duel vocal talents of Rose Niland and Anne Marie Crowley offering the more psych end of their work, and Joey Mutant who delivers a more punk approach. What captivates me about this band is the quality of the song writing – often built around a couple of chords, but building out of that garage tradition into delightful melodies and sometimes anthemic choruses. The band swap instruments many times during the set, which tends to disrupt the flow, but generally this is a band you need to see, as with Factory Acts, they are offering a completely new approach to music. An appreciative audience is always a good sign of success and the now full room gives them a warm receptiion.
And so to the cuddly foursome known as Kill Pretty. A couple of nights before, and this is a warning to myself really, I had been discussing musical matters with the aforementioned Mr Doyle and for some reason we had strayed into the world of Bob “The Tray” Blackman (you’ll have to google him to see the relevance) and SD, always one to create the right sort of entrance to a gig, decided he would entertain the crowd with his own personal interpretation of Mr Blackman’s stage act. That set the scene for a muscular, and very loud, set from Kill Pretty. Starting with three songs from the forthcoming album (due for release in February), albeit altogether more intense versions of those tracks, it was clear this was going to be a bit special. Having seen the band many times over the last two years I can honestly say this was the best show they have done in terms of audience participation and support. With many of the watchers either dancing in a frenzied fashion or standing wide mouthed with amazement this was KP at their best. Active support from Josh’s college chums added to the overall fervour, and with the notable exception of a slighly awry (which probably only I would notice) version of “Mirror Factory” this was the band at their best. They are rapidly achieving the accolades they so rightly deserve and if the feedback on Facebook when I got home was anything to go by then this was a triumph. With an audience packed with legends from the Manchester Music Scene all fulsome in their praise it has to be said that Kill Pretty are reaching the parts other bands cannot reach.
I truly hope that similar evenings of this nature can be arranged – and congratulations have to go to Moet, Matty who did the sound and Steve Shy for some great inter-set DJIng. This was a great night which was free, but was generously supported by all who attended from a voluntary collection. My normal despondency about the general state of the music scene, and the issues surrounding some venues, was somewhat lifted by what was a memorable evening’s entertainment.